If you're in the market for a powerful, portable business machine, it's hard to go wrong with a new Windows 8.1 tablet.
Microsoft's Surface Pro line used to be the only option for full-featured Windows 8.1 tablets. But now, the Dell Venue 11 Pro tablet, which launched in the U.S. this week, is a serious contender for the business tablet crown.
Dell's new machine packs most of the functionality of Microsoft's new Surface Pro 2 tablet at a lower price point.
So should business owners opt for the Venue 11 Pro over the Surface Pro 2? Read on for a head-to-head comparison of these top-tier business tablets.
Surface Pro 2: The newest high-end tablet in Microsoft's Surface line features top-of-the-line hardware and a distinctive look. It packs a sharp, 10.6-inch, 1080p display and a built-in kickstand to transform your tablet into a business-ready laptop, as long as you purchase a keyboard add-on, sold separately.
It also comes with a built-in stylus for easy note-taking on the tablet's capacitive touch screen.
Dell Venue 11 Pro: Dell's new Windows 8.1 tablet features a high-quality build, but it may fall short of the premium feel of the Surface Pro 2's magnesium-alloy shell. However, its 10.8-inch, 1080p display is even bigger and just as sharp as Microsoft's offering.
The Venue 11 Pro lacks a kickstand; instead, the kickstand is built into the tablet's keyboard add-on.
Performance and Pricing
Surface Pro 2: There's no getting around it: Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 is the most powerful Windows 8.1 tablet there is. If you need to perform processor-intensive tasks — such as graphic design or video editing — on the go, the Surface Pro 2 can't be beat, and the tablet's fourth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, and either 4GB or 8GB of RAM, will speed up everyday tasks.
All that power comes at a price. The Surface Pro 2 starts at $899 with 64GB of internal storage.
Dell Venue 11 Pro:Unlike the Surface Pro 2, Dell's Windows 8.1 offering comes in a variety of hardware configurations.
The cheapest model starts at $499 and uses an Intel Bay Trail processor with 2GB of RAM. It's not an especially powerful machine, but with a long 10-hour battery life, it could fit the bill for business users who have only basic computing needs.
On the higher end, users can spring for one of several Intel Haswell-based processors, up to a Core i5 processor with up to 8GB of RAM for $849, but even that machine isn't quite as powerful as the Surface Pro 2.
Surface Pro 2: The Surface Pro 2 stands apart from the lower-end Surface 2 because it ships with a full-fledged copy of Windows 8.1, the latest version of Microsoft's desktop OS. The Surface 2, meanwhile, runs on an updated version of Microsoft's stripped-down mobile operating system, dubbed Windows RT 8.1.
That means the Surface Pro 2 has all the functionality you've come to expect on a home or office PC. If you rely on a specific piece of Windows software to keep your business running — and need quick access to that program when you're on the go — the Surface Pro 2 is a good option.
Venue 11 Pro: Every version of Dell's tablet also runs the full version of Windows 8.1. Even the lower-end Venue 11 Pro runs the full-featured version of Microsoft's new operating system, and it starts at $499; compared to the $449 Surface 2 running Windows RT 8.1, that's a great deal.
Like the Surface Pro 2, Dell's Venue 11 Pro is fully compatible with every piece of legacy Windows software you need to run your business.
As an added bonus, the Venue 11 Pro ships with Microsoft Office Home (including Word, Excel and PowerPoint) preinstalled. That software must be purchased separately on the Surface Pro 2.
Surface Pro 2: Microsoft's Type Cover 2, a snap-on keyboard accessory that doubles as a screen protector, is a must-have for every business user.
But it's the brand-new docking station — sold separately for $200 — that makes the Surface Pro 2 a truly great business tablet.
Users can simply snap their Surface Pro 2 into the dock to take advantage of external peripherals, like a full keyboard and mouse, and seamlessly transition between a portable tablet form factor at home and a more functional PC setup at the office.
The dock is compatible with the Surface Pro 2 and the original Surface Pro only. It can't connect to the Surface 2 or the Surface RT. It packs three USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet connection and audio input/output.
It also makes it easy to link your Surface up to a full, 3840 x 2160 resolution monitor so you don't have to squint at a small screen while you work.
Venue 11 Pro: Dell offers several snap-on keyboard accessories for the Venue 11 Pro, including a model that is very similar to Microsoft's Type Cover 2.
A docking station for the tablet is also available, and features all the functionality of the Surface Pro 2 dock, including extra USB ports, a mini DisplayPort, an HDMI port and audio input/output.
The accessory makes it possible to connect an external mouse and keyboard, as well as one or more external monitors, so the Venue 11 Pro easily makes the transition from tablet to work-ready PC.
Unlike the Surface Pro 2, Dell's tablet doesn't come with a stylus; the accessory is sold separately for $34.99.
The new class of Windows 8.1 hybrid devices is hard to beat for serious business users who need a pick-up-and-go work device. Your specific business needs will determine which tablet is right for you.
On the high end, Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 is hard to beat, with its premium build and the fastest processor you'll find in a Windows 8.1 tablet.
For business users on a budget, the $499 Venue 11 Pro is an enticing option, and its lighter frame and longer battery life could make it the most portable tablet in its class.
And the higher-end Venue 11 Pro is a solid device that's a bit cheaper than Microsoft's tablet and nearly as powerful.