Dell's new Venue 10 7000 is a hybrid tablet that pairs impressive hardware with average performance and a price tag that's slightly too steep for what you get. Still, it's hard not to be wooed by the slate's vibrant 10.5-inch display and gorgeous design, not to mention the fact that it pairs with the best keyboard dock I've seen for an Android tablet.
The big sticking point is that this laptop/tablet hybrid runs on Android. Sure, Google's mobile operating system has garnered some decent productivity credentials, but Android still lacks basic features such as split-screen multitasking. That alone should give you pause before you choose the Venue 10 7000 as your next work device.
So can an excellent keyboard help this Android slate stand out among some impressive Windows-powered competitors?
The first thing you'll likely notice about the Dell Venue 10 7000 is the big, cylindrical protrusion along the tablet's bottom edge. The reason for the unorthodox design is simple: In addition to containing the tablet's battery, the cylinder makes a sturdy hinge when it magnetically attaches to the keyboard dock that comes with the slate.
Things get a bit awkward when you want to use the device as a stand-alone tablet, though, since the cylinder gives the slate an uneven weight distribution. While it makes a nice handle for gripping the device in portrait mode, the cylinder all but forces you to hold the machine by the bottom when viewing the screen in landscape mode. I could get used to that, though.
The design is unusual, but not new. Lenovo's Yoga tablets were the first to sport a big cylinder along one edge. But while the Yoga tablets have flip-out kickstands that let you prop them up on a tablet or desk, the Venue 10 7000 lacks a kickstand. On the other hand, Dell's tablet is much, much more stable when docked with its keyboard (more on this later), which is one of the things that makes this a much better productivity device overall.
If you associate the Dell brand with cheap-feeling, plasticky notebooks, get ready to be impressed by the Dell Venue 10 7000. The slate just looks and feels great, with a rigid ABS plastic body and matte-black paint job with metal accents. And the device feels extremely solid and well-built, without a hint of flex in either the tablet or keyboard dock.
The 10.5-inch Venue 10 7000 is a bit on the hefty side, but not outrageously so. At 1.32 lbs. without the keyboard attached, it feels a lot heavier than the 0.96-lb. iPad Air 2, which has a smaller, 9.7-inch screen. Microsoft's Surface 3, meanwhile, weighs about as much as the Venue 10 7000, at 1.37 lbs. As previously mentioned, having most of the weight distributed to the Venue 10 7000's side cylinder actually makes it comfortable to hold in portrait mode.
Adding the keyboard boosts the Venue 10 7000 up to about 2.3 lbs., making it a bit heavier than the keyboard-equipped Surface 3 (2.1 lbs.).
That big cylinder isn't just for decoration. It actually makes an ideal hinge when it magnetically attaches to the included keyboard dock. The magnetic connection is really, really strong, unlike the weak connection between Lenovo's Yoga tablets and their keyboards.
The barrel hinge links to two sturdy pins on the keyboard, firmly locking the keyboard into place. Once connected, the tablet display becomes as adjustable as any clamshell notebook, giving you a good view of the screen, even when the device is resting on your lap. And while most keyboard-equipped hybrids are extremely top-heavy, the Dell Venue 10 7000 is never really in danger tipping over, since most of the weight is in the hinge.
The Venue 10 7000's keyboard feels really good. In fact, it's easily one of the best tablet keyboards I've tested. The standard QWERTY layout is actually only a hair narrower than it would be on a standard desktop keyboard, though punctuation and function keys like Enter, Shift and Backspace have been shrunken down a
There are plenty of tablet keyboards out there, but this is the first one I've seen that offers both a sturdy hinge and a fully adjustable design. The kickstand-equipped Surface 3 comes close, but let's be honest — balancing a kickstand on your knees is far from ideal. If you want a portable, 10-inch hybrid that you can use as a laptop — as in, something you can comfortably use on your lap — the Venue 10 7000 is pretty hard to beat.
The Venue 10 7000's keyboard feels really good. In fact, it's easily one of the best tablet keyboards I've tested. The standard QWERTY layout is actually only a hair narrower than it would be on a standard desktop keyboard, though punctuation and function keys like Enter, Shift and Backspace have been shrunken down a fair bit, which can make them easy to miss. I got used to those quirks quickly, though, and had no real issues typing the bulk of this review on the Venue 10 7000.
The keys themselves are a bit on the shallow side, with only 0.9mm of travel. That's slightly less than on the Surface 3, which offers 1mm of travel. In both cases, deeper keys would provide a more comfortable, desktoplike feel, but that's one trade-off you make for a machine this compact.
Many Android-specific function keys have been incorporated into the keyboard, including a Home key, a Back key and a key that acts as a shortcut to your app drawer. And if you're used to using Alt+Tab to switch between open apps on a Windows computer, that shortcut functions identically here.
The keyboard dock packs a pretty good touchpad, too. At 3.5 x 1.75 inches, it's bigger than the Surface 3's 3 x 1.45-inch pad. Mousing around feels more responsive than on the Surface 3's touchpad, and gestures like two-finger scrolling work really well, even in the Android environment.
My biggest issue is that the touchpad has poor, or perhaps nonexistent, palm rejection. That means I was constantly seeing the on-screen mouse cursor flit around the screen while I was typing, as my palm rubbed up against the pad. Fortunately, palm touches are almost never registered as clicks, so it's mostly just a visual annoyance.
Detaching the keyboard is also really easy: just tilt the display back until it separates from the keyboard. It's a far more elegant method than on other hybrids, which rely on cumbersome locking mechanisms. I also liked the ability to attach the slate to the keyboard in the opposite orientation, so you can use the keyboard dock as a makeshift kickstand. That could come in handy for using the touch screen on a cramped airplane tray, for example.
While most modern computer and tablet displays have a 16:9 aspect ratio that matches the most common wide-screen video format, Dell opted for a slightly wider (or taller, in portrait mode) 16:10 aspect ratio for the Venue 10 Pro. That's good for productivity, since the wider view is better for viewing documents and browsing email, even if it's not quite as good for watching movies.
With a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, the Venue 10 7000's OLED screen is sharp and vibrant. Text is nice and crisp, and colors look nice and saturated. It could be a bit brighter, though; it tops out at 249 nits of brightness, which is about 40 percent dimmer than the average tablet. That's fine for indoor use, though.
Lenovo stuck a big battery inside the barrel of the Yoga Tablet 2, providing all-day longevity. Unfortunately, the Venue 10 7000 can't quite measure up, despite its similar design. The tablet died after just 6 hours and 55 minutes in our battery life test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. The Yoga Tablet 2 lasted almost twice as long (12:03). Other competing machines also last longer than the Venue 10 7000, including the Surface 3 (8:01), Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (8:57) and iPad Air 2 (9:20).
Competing tablets also offer slightly better performance for the money. The Venue 10 comes equipped with a quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor with 2GB of RAM. Its performance felt fine in practice; apps opened and closed smoothly, and switching between apps felt zippy for the most part.
Other systems fared better on our benchmark tests, though. On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the Venue 10 7000 scored a middling 2,900. The Surface 3 easily beats that (3,531), and so does the iPad Air 2 (4,547). The Galaxy Tab S 10.5 scored just 2,776 on the same test, though.
Dell sells the Venue 10 7000 in just a handful of different configurations. The baseline model starts at $499 with 16GB of storage and no keyboard, while the 32GB model is $549 without the keyboard. You can add the keyboard to either version for an extra $130 — and business users should, since the excellent keyboard is the main reason for anyone to consider buying the Venue 10 7000 in the first place.
Can you work with Android? That's the main question you'll have to answer before even considering the Venue 10 7000 as a productivity tool. If you depend on a particular piece of Windows or Mac software, forget it; this tablet only runs mobile Android apps.
If you're not familiar with Android, you might be surprised to see how many full-featured productivity applications the operating system has. That includes excellent ports of Word, Excel and PowerPoint; they're not quite as functional as their desktop counterparts, but they have all the features the average user will need.
The Venue 10 7000 ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. Compared to older versions, it adds a bunch of nice productivity-boosting features, like a Priority Mode that lets you customize how and when you are interrupted by alerts, plus new ways to quickly act on notifications and other features like native wireless printing.
If there's one big downside to working in Android, it's the lack of split-screen multitasking. While some manufacturers such as Samsung and LG add that functionality to their Android slates, Dell opted to release the Venue 10 7000 with a nearly stock version of the operating system. That means that apps will always take up the entire screen, and there's no way to view apps side by side. If you need to reference a Web page or email while typing up a document, you'll have to jump back and forth between apps. Depending on your working habits, that could really slow you down.
Microsoft's Surface 3 (Windows) offers better battery life and better performance, and runs on a more versatile operating system than the Venue 10 7000. It also has excellent inking capabilities if you buy the optional pen accessory. Its kickstand-based design isn't very comfortable to use on your lap, though.
Lenovo's 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows) looks and feels a lot like the Venue 10 7000, and costs about $200 less. It's a bit slower, though, and its keyboard and overall build quality can't match Dell's tablet.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab S 10.5 (Android) offers longer battery life than the Venue 10 7000, as well as handy features like a fingerprint scanner and split-screen multitasking. Samsung's keyboard isn't as good as Dell's, though.
Apple's iPad Air 2 (iOS) offers longer battery life and a more portable design than the Venue 10 7000. But again, there's no iPad keyboard that can match Dell's.
The Venue 10 7000 makes a really strong first impression, with a slick design, premium build-quality and excellent detachable keyboard. But the glow starts to wear off when you consider that this Android slate costs as much as the Surface 3, a hybrid that offers better performance, longer battery life, excellent stylus support and the versatility of the Windows operating system.
The Venue 10 7000 has one big advantage over the Surface 3: Its keyboard is better, with a design that's a lot more practical to use in your lap. If lapability is one of your top concerns, and you're unfazed by the inherent software limitations of Android, then the Venue 10 7000 is a reasonable option for hyper-mobile business users. Most people will be better off with the Surface 3, though.