Surface Pro 2 vs. Dell Venue 11 Pro 01/18/201501/18/2015 Sam Gadgets, Review This is a wildly outdated review of 2 Windows 8.1 tablets that I have adapted from a comparison I did for someone on reddit. Background After deciding I was going to embark upon a PhD, I realised that I would have to return my trusty Dell Latitude laptop to my employer. With the increased travel I thought it would be useful to have something very portable, but also had good enough specs for image manipulation, light gaming and to handle the ridiculous number of browser tabs I keep open when browsing/researching. I also wanted something that could annotate my notes and pdfs with. So a tablet seemed like a perfect choice. At the time, I also thought I couldn’t be without a proper, laptop-style keyboard. The Surface Pro 3 had just been announced, and as such the Pro 2 was being heavily reduced. I managed to get a return from John Lewis for £615. Just out of interest I looked at the Dell outlet website, where I have purchased from before and been really happy with the service and quality, and managed to find their competitor, the Venue 11 Pro, with very similar specifications, for £415. So I decided to purchase both, do this comparison, and return the loser. Specification Comparison As mentioned previously, they have very similar specs (compiled from their respective websites) Dell Venue 11 Pro Surface Pro 2 Processor i5 4300y (3MB Cache 1.6GHz 2 Cores) i5 4300u (3MB Cache 1.6GHz 2 Cores) RAM 8GB 8GB Hard Drive 256GB Solid State 256GB Solid State Cameras 2 MP Front, 8 MP Rear 1.2 MP Front, 1.2 MP Rear Dimensions 298mm X 177mm X 12.2mm 275mm X 173mm X 13.5mm Battery 36WHr 42WHr Weight 835g 900g Stylus Synaptics – About £20 Wacom – Included Price (on website ex. Delivery incl. VAT) as of Aug 2014 £915 £939 Price Paid £415 (Dell Outlet) £615 (a return in the John Lewis clearance sale) Warranty 1 year 2 Years Size Almost nothing in it Surface is a little thicker, Dell is a little wider and taller. Surface Pro 2 on the left Venue 11 Pro on the right Surface Pro 2 on the left Venue 11 Pro on the right Weight In the hands they feel almost the same, Dell feels less dense, being slightly larger and lighter. I don’t have any method of weighing anything nearby so I can’t say for sure. Build quality I will admit that upon inspecting the Surface Pro 2 in the shop, I dropped it from over 5 foot in height onto the hard floor (very embarrassing) and it landed on its corner. Luckily it sustained only really minor damage (a slight bend on the corner and tiny chip in the paint) I did not subject the Dell to the same rigorous testing! It is still of a good quality, but it’s plastic case is not up to the same standard as the magnesium of the Surface Pro 2. I would recommend a protective case for it, (but I would probably get one anyway in an effort to cover up the annoying Dell/Intel/Windows branding combo on the back) The Surface also benefits from a 2 position kickstand, which is quite useful. However, its build quality must be weighed against another key feature of the Venue 11 Pro, its reparability and accessibility. You can pry the back off of it to easily get to many of the common components (including the removable battery) very easily. Further disassembly looks to be fairly simple (screws are visible inside the case) Compare this with the Surface where in order to disassemble it you must first remove the screen, using a myriad of prying tools, and a heat gun to loosen the sticky, tar like substance that is used to hold components together, this often results in damage being done to the unit (see the iFixit teardown) Charging/Battery The Dell uses a 24W Micro USB to charge the unit, this has the benefit of also being able to charge your other devices. A lower wattage Micro USB (like a regular phone charger) can be used to charge the Dell, but will not charge when it is in use. The Surface uses a magnetised port on the side of the unit. When not charging, the stylus can be attached to the same port. The small charging brick also includes an additional powered USB port for charging additional devices. Battery life too was fairly similar, 3-4hrs intense use. Apparently 7-8 light use (browsing etc.) This evening I played games on them, mess around with some bits and pieces, installed software, over a period of about 4hrs, with periods of brief standby, and they are now both at 50%(ish) battery. Screen Same resolution, same brightness (I have not compared them in direct sunlight yet as I have not had the opportunity yet) both have pretty good viewing angles, Speakers Surface Pro 2 speakers are very good, not just for a Tablet, but even when compared with a lot of laptops. The Dell was MUCH louder but did not have the same range of sound as the Surface, fairly good speakers still though. Performance Booting is very quick on both, mostly due to the OS, surface Marginally quicker than the Dell I used Portal 2 to test its gaming potential, using its (surprisingly high) defaults, at 1280 X 720. The game ran very smoothly on the Surface Pro 2 (it was a triumph), in the graphically intense parts the Dell Venue struggled at the very intense bits until I turned down the settings slightly. Stylus Apparently the Dell had some serious problems with early versions of the stylus. I think this was Synaptics first foray into the world of tablet styluses, and it shows, it’s fairly jittery, requires AAAA battery, and the palm rejection does not always work. I think it is sufficient for taking notes and sprawling on PDFs, but if you are expecting artist quality you will be disappointed Text in green is Surface (Wacom), Red is Venue (Synaptics) and the blue was just me with a cheap capacitive stylus. The Wacom stylus on the surface is very good, and when you are not you are not using it, it attaches to the side of the tablet via the magnetic charging port The Dell stylus also attaches to the bottom of the Venue 11, but I am not sure if this was design or fluke Camera Didn’t really look at them, they work, you can use the front facing one for skype, I really don’t care about cameras on tablets, I can pretty much guarantee that your phone will have a better camera. Available Accessories Both are available with a cover style keyboard with mechanical keys that look very similar and are very similarly priced (around £110ish) which I think is really expensive. Additionally, the surface can use a touch cover, which offers no feedback at all, and is only about £10 cheaper than the type cover. For a time Microsoft also offered a “power cover” similar to the type cover, that provided an additional battery (however, this has been discontinued) All of the cover/keyboards mentioned above seem a bit deficient to me. The ace in the hole for the Dell (in my opinion) is the “Tablet Keyboard – Mobile” which pretty much transforms the tablet into a traditional laptop. It also provides an additional 28WHr battery. I imagine it adds significant weight but this is probably necessary to stop the combination from being top heavy. They could have improved upon it is to add additional USB ports to the base. At £176.78 on the Dell website, the price is almost prohibitive, however it can be found for around £90 elsewhere (e-bay, amazon). In general, Dell seems to have better discounts at other retailers. In terms of docking station/port replicators Dell offers a dock with 3 USB3 ports, Ethernet, HDMI, Displayport, audio and an adjustable viewing angle. On the Dell website it is listed as £160, but can be found for £60 elsewhere. The Surface Pro 2 Docking station no longer on the Microsoft website (at least I couldn’t find it) I think it was around £150, but can be found elsewhere for about £100. It offers the same connections as the Dell dock, minus the HDMI, and 2 of the 3 USB ports were USB2. Other stuff that I couldn’t think of a heading for Haptics – Much better on the surface, the vibration from the Venue 11 Pro feels like from a phone from 2005 Cooling/Fans – When I first started up the Dell, I thought it had a serious problem, I installed a few bits and pieces and started browsing using IE and the fan kicked into overdrive, and didn’t seem to want to stop! It was louder than the old air conditioning system at full tilt in the office. Luckily after installing all the recommended updates (including BIOS) it settled down. The fan is still louder on the Dell than the Surface, but it only engages when doing CPU intensive activities. The Dell also runs a little hotter, but it seems to be much more localised (to the exhaust port area) the Surface gets warm, but it is spread over a much larger area of its case. Summary At the time it was too close to call, so I decided to live with both of them for a few days to see if I could put up with (or improve) the Venue 11 Pros temperature/fan issues, or if I desperately needed a laptop style base. If they were the same price the surface would have definitely won outright, but as it was, at £200 cheaper, the Dell remained in the running, flaws and all. I eventually realised that the build quality, and seamlessness of the Surface Pro 2 far surpassed the Dell. I found the screen on the Dell sometimes froze for a second when scrolling, or that it would miss letters when typing quickly with the onscreen keyboard, also, booting is about 5 times longer with the Dell (apart from when I was testing) It’s just no-where near as polished an experience as using the Pro 2. The Venue 11 Pro reminded me of everything I used to hate about Dell (and which they worked so hard to dispel) – slight design flaws, poor driver support, shipping with serious problems. The fan issue was better after I updated the BIOS, but it was still nowhere near as good as the Surface, and I would imagine with it working overtime, and the localised heat, it would have got worse with age. I’ve now had the Surface Pro 2 for about 5 months, it has been getting almost daily use and I’m very happy with it. I couldn’t bring myself to purchase the official Microsoft type cover so instead bought a Logitech K810, which I found for £30 at PC World of all places, and it has only taken a little change in my usual laptop working style (putting the tablet next to me, or on a table and having the keyboard on my legs) which usually results in a better, more desktop like, writing position. I am really surprised by the lack of hybrid or “tablet transformer” style laptops on the market, especially after the apparent success of Asus Transformer T100. The flexibility of having a touch screen laptop, but being able to ditch the keyboard when it is not needed is a selling point that shouldn’t be overlooked. I believe that manufacturers (other than Asus) may have now realised this, and that there will be much more in the near future (e.g. Dells Core M powered Latitude 13 7000) If I was making this decision now, I would probably look at getting something less powerful and cheaper, and then doing the more intensive work on either my work or home desktop. I recently bought a Linx 8 Intel Atom tablet as a gift for someone (I’m not going to say for how much as they might read this), and it is surprisingly capable.