Dell Venue Pro Preview

Dell Venue Pro Preview

Dell comes roaring back with some Windows tablets that actually make sense

In the coming weeks, Dell will unleash a new generation of its Venue tablets that run Windows 8.1 on top of modern Intel Atom "Bay Trail" and "Haswell" CPUs. The results look promising, and with two screen sizes and several options to choose from, Dell suddenly offers one of the more compelling Windows tablet lineups anywhere. And yes, I include Microsoft in that list.

Previous to this past week's announcement, Dell quietly dropped its Windows RT-based XPS 10 tablet, triggering another round of hand-wringing over Microsoft's ill-fated ARM-based Windows platform. But Dell is right to back Intel chipsets for its new products, and when combined with Windows 8.1, these new designs should offer better performance and compatibility in addition to stellar battery life.

So what did Dell announce?

For Windows users, Dell is offering two new tablets this holiday season, the 8-inch Dell Venue Pro 8 and the 10.8-inch Dell Venue Pro 11. I've not had any hands-on time with either device, though I did of course out both devices back in early September in my Fall 2013 Windows Tablet Preview.

Here's what they've revealed.

Dell Venue Pro 8

Codenamed "Bellair," this new 8-inch "Bay Trail"-based device has suddenly established itself as the gotta-have-it Windows mini-tablet. It features Windows 8.1 "Core" and comes with a free version of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013. Dell describes the screen as 720p, but as I wrote in that earlier preview, it features a 1280 x 800 IPS screen, and not the 1080p display some other sites had inaccurately reported.

The Venue Pro 8 will get over 10 hours of battery life, and weighs less than one pound. You can optionally purchase a Dell Active Stylus, though it's unclear at this time how the accessory compares to the powerful Surface Pro Pen. There's also an optional keyboard, which I'm very curious about.

The best news about this device is the price: It starts at just $299. Dell says the Venue Pro 8 will be available for order on October 18: I've got the date marked in my calendar and intend to purchase one of these immediately.

Dell Venue Pro 11

Codenamed "Midland," this "Haswell"-based device is curiously similar to the Surface Pro 2, with a 10.8-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080, or 1080p) display, 9 hours of battery life (and, gasp, a removable battery), and a detachable Slim keyboard that looks an awful lot like a Microsoft typing cover. It also features a Dell Active Stylus, and comes with optional accessories like a Mobile Keyboard with integrated battery (shades of Power Cover), and a Tablet Desktop Dock for additional connectivity. Right, it's another take on the Surface Pro 2.

But here's the kicker: Where Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 starts at an Apple-like $899, the Venue Pro 11 starts at a far more reasonable $499. It will ship sometime in November.

I'm a bit less interested in the Venue Pro 11, but I suspect this device will be good enough to steal away from Surface Pro 2 sales. More info soon.

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