Plenty of tablets come with detachable keyboards, but not many tablet offer business-class security and durability. That's what Dell's Venue 10 Pro 5000 has to offer. The 10.1-inch tablet was made for work, and it comes with a bright display and solid stylus support to boot. But its heavyweight design, below-average battery life and restricting keyboard dock hold this 2-in-1 tablet back.
The Venue 10 Pro looks and feels like it means business, which is to say that it's plainer and bulkier than sleeks tablets like Microsoft's Surface 3 or Samsung's Galaxy Tab S2. I am a big fan of the tablet's soft-touch back, though, since it gave me a sure grip when I carried the device around in one hand.
As a standalone tablet, the Venue 10 Pro is definitely on the chunky side. At 1.5 lbs., the 10.1-inch tablet is noticeably heftier than the 9.7-inch Galaxy Tab S2 (0.86 lbs.), as well as the 9.7-inch iPad Pro (0.98 lbs.) and 10.8-inch Surface 3 (1.37 lbs.).
And the Venue 10's 1.38-lb. keyboard nearly doubles the weight of the device when attached. In comparison, the Surface 3's keyboard accessory weighs just a little over half a pound. The bottom line is that while commuters won't exactly feel weighed down by the Venue 10 Pro, there are definitely more portable options.
The trade-off is that the Venue 10 Pro is by far the most durable of the bunch. Dell says the system offers military-grade durability credentials, so it can withstand drops, dings, extreme temperatures and high altitudes. We put the system to the test by dropping it from 30 inches up multiple times, and it showed no signs whatsoever of physical wear or hardware failure.
I found the Venue 10 Pro's selection of ports to be reasonably generous for a 10-inch tablet. The right edge houses the tablet's microSD card reader, which lets you expand the tablet's internal storage by up to 128GB.
The left edge includes a mini HDMI port for connecting to a monitor or projector, a USB 3.0 port for plugging in accessories and a USB Type-C Port that serves as the tablet's power port. If you pick up Dell's USB Type-C adapter dongle, the port can also accommodate Ethernet, a full-size HDMI port and an extra USB 3.0 port. The dongle can be purchased at checkout for $74.99, or picked up later for $122.
The Venue 10 Pro offers stronger security than do competing slates, including hardware encryption via a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 chip. That's good enough to satisfy corporate IT departments, and can keep your private business data securely locked down if the Venue 10 Pro is your personal machine.
Meanwhile, Dell's Client Command Suite software also comes preloaded on the Venue 10 Pro. The software allows IT departments to customize installations to meet company policies, as well as remotely manage individual tablets on the fly.
The Venue 10 Pro's keyboard dock is technically optional, but the accessory is mandatory for anyone who plans to use the machine for business. When you buy the tablet from Dell.com, the keyboard costs an extra $119 over the base cost of the slate; it runs a whopping $259 when purchased after the fact, so make sure you pick it up as an add-on.
Compared to the kickstand-based keyboards that pair with the Surface 3, Galaxy Tab S2 and iPad Pro, the Venue 10's keyboard has one big advantage: since there's no kickstand to deal with, the rigid accessory is easier to balance on your lap.
Unfortunately, the Venue 10's top-heavy design severely restricts your viewing angles. The display can only be tipped back about 20 degrees from the upright position, which means you'll be gazing down at the device from a steep angle when using it on your lap, or on an airplane tray table. The angle is fine for typical desktop use, though.
On the bright side, the keyboard provides a pretty decent typing experience for a 10-inch tablet. The keys are a bit on the shallow side, with just 1.16 millimeters of travel. That's well below the 1.5mm we look for in a laptop keyboard. But at least the keys are well-spaced, and they provide a satisfying level of tactile feedback on each stroke. It's not cut out for marathon typing sessions, but the keyboard is more than good enough for light, on-the-go productivity.
Most tablets and laptops force you to buy a stylus separately if you're interested in digital note taking. That's why I was pleased to see that the Venue 10 Pro comes with an active stylus out of the box. The short, slim pen slides out of a slot on the right edge of the keyboard.
Writing on the Venue 10's display with the pen felt smooth and fluid. Since the system offers full pressure sensitivity, I was able to feather my lines and vary my line width, just like with a real pen. And since the tablet comes with Microsoft's excellent OneNote note-taking software preloaded, you can start taking notes right away with no need to purchase extra software.
Dell also sells a thicker Active Pen accessory for $49.99, which is much easier to grasp than the flimsy included stylus. As an extra bonus, this version lets you launch OneNote quickly by pressing a button at the top of the pen. But while the Active Pen is a good investment for serious note takers, the smaller stylus works just as well for jotting down the occasional note.
The Venue 10 Pro's 10.1-inch display is nice and sharp, with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels that's slightly taller than the typical 1080p tablet. The screen is closer to the dimensions of a sheet of paper, which makes it a bit nicer for viewing documents. Taking notes with the tablet in portrait mode also feels more comfortable.
The Venue 10's display is quite bright, topping out at 373 nits of brightness. That beats the tablet average of 363 nits, though rival slates were slightly brighter. A bright display is a perk on a tablet, since it makes the display easier to view outdoors or in direct sunlight.
Of course, a 10.1-inch display like this one can feel cramped to work on. The Surface 3's 10.8-inch display is slightly larger and has a higher resolution, so it's more comfortable for split-screen multitasking. Thankfully, the Venue 10 Pro can be docked to a larger monitor via HDMI, even if that functionality is only enabled with Dell's optional USB Type-C adapter.
The Venue 10 Pro will probably make it through the end of the workday without a recharge, but that still doesn't change the fact that this machine's battery life is below average. Dell's tablet ran for 7 hours and 52 minutes on our battery test, which simulates continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's hardly terrible; the Surface 3 ran for just a slightly longer 8 hours and 2 minutes, and the Galaxy Tab S2 died after just 7 hours and 32 minutes.
All of those fell short of the average tablet mark of 8 hours and 52 minutes. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro walloped the competition in that department, running for 10 hours and 53 minutes on the same battery test.
The Venue 10 Pro offers plenty of power for basic work tasks like editing documents, and it can stand up to light or moderate multitasking. Still, rival slates are speedier. My Venue 10 Pro review unit was equipped with a 1.4-GHz Intel Atom Z8500 CPU with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. I didn't notice any lag while typing up sections of this review on the Venue 10 Pro with about a 10 tabs open in my web browser.
But Dell's system showed its limitations on the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance. The Venue 10 Pro racked up a middling score of 2,892, which does beat the tablet average of 2,809 but trails rivals, including the Surface 3 (3,531) Galaxy Tab S2 (4,175) and iPad Pro (5,151).
On our spreadsheet test, the Venue 10 Pro showed itself to be particularly unsuitable for serious number crunching. It took the tablet 14 minutes and 27 seconds to match 20,000 names to their addresses. That trails the Surface 3 by only a little bit (13:31), but the tablet average is quite a bit quicker (11:18).
Dell sells the Venue 10 Pro in a handful of hardware configurations, but no model offers better performance than any other; all variations come equipped with the same Intel Atom Z8500 processor with 4GB of RAM. The differences among models come down to storage space and wireless features.
The baseline model comes equipped with a meager 64GB of storage and sells for $499. The midrange model doubles that storage to 128GB and sells for $549, while the top-end model has 128GB of storage plus wireless 4G connectivity, selling for $699.
Those prices include the tablet only. If you want the keyboard, add an extra $119 to the price of your model. Meanwhile, the thicker Active Pen costs an extra $49, and the USB Type-C adapter costs $72.99.
The Venue 10 5000 is a capable companion for mobile workers that offers stronger security and better durability than its rivals. You also get a bright, sharp display and very good note-taking functionality with the included stylus. On the other hand, the system's modest performance makes it a poor choice for heavy multitasking, and its battery life is a bit below average. And while its keyboard provides a sturdy platform that feels balanced on your lap, its limited viewing angles are frustrating.
When both are purchased with their keyboard accessories, the Surface 3 costs just about as much as the Venue 10 Pro while offering faster performance, a bigger 10.8-inch display and a flexible kickstand. Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro, meanwhile, costs $129 more than that but provides blazing-fast performance and an extra 3 hours of battery life. It's not an option for users who need to work in Windows, though.
The bottom line is that buyers who want a 2-in-1 work tablet with strong security and durability should give the Venue 10 Pro 5000 a serious look.