Hands-on review: Dell Venue 10 7000

Since the iPad made waves in the business world years ago, its rivals have spent countless hours and dollars on sprucing up their slates to make them worthy of companies’ BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, plans. Dell is one of those companies meeting Apple on the frontlines, and it’s latest weapon is its sharpest tablet yet: the Dell Venue 10 7000.

Upon first glance at this 10.5-inch Android slate, I had to ask the representative showing it off: what’s up with the name? (Especially given the recently released Venue 8 7000.) I was told that the “7000” in the name denotes Dell’s most premium, cutting edge line of products. (Note the “7140” in the name of Dell’s Venue 11 Pro.)

Whether its a laptop or a tablet, the “7000” series of business-focused devices is where Dell tries out the latest technologies and designs. If they prove successful, those features will trickle down into the company’s “5000” and “3000” lines. The name is still goofy, but at least we know what it means.

Dell Venue 10 7000

And knowing that, this is shaping up to be Dell’s most unique, impressive business tablet to date. With a super slick design packing a 2,560 x 1,600 OLED display and Intel’s quad-core, 2.3GHz Atom Z3580 processor, this slate is ready to work (and play).

Digging into Dell’s design

The first thing I noticed about the Venue 10 7000 during my short time with it was what Dell calls a “barrel edge.” This interesting edge features two metal openings that reveal smaller metal rods within. These rods connect with the optional, Bluetooth Dell Venue Keyboard – the key word here being “optional” – to make for a 2-in-1 laptop-like device that runs on Android.

Using the magnetized keyboard, like many hybrid devices before it, opens the Venue 10 7000 up to offer more use modes. Dell claims to offer five modes, but really you have tent (standing on its two edges) and stand (sitting on the keyboard face down) configurations. The other three are ways in which you’d already use the device, e.g. as a laptop or a tablet.

Dell Venue 10 7000

But here’s the thing: Dell will sell the Venue 10 7000 both on its own starting at $499 (about £335, AU$648) and with the keyboard bundled starting at $599 (about £402, AU$778). I was even told that the company expects to sell more units without the keyboard and see customers return for the accessory.

For as sharp as the design ID is here, the tablet just looks and feels off without the keyboard attached – like it’s missing something, which it is. Given its orientation and how tough it is to reliably touch type on any tablet, you’re going to want assistance here.

That’s for no other reason than how it looks and feels without the keyboard. The Venue 10 7000 is more than capable, offering some punchy, flashy components. Rounding out the Venue 10 7000 spec sheet are 16GB of eMMC storage (32GB is available), 2GB of RAM, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an 8MP camera on the back and a 2MP shooter up front.

Dell Venue 10 7000

The tablet also houses a microSD card slot (up to 512GB), a micro USB port for charging and a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack. All of those components run on a 7,000mAh battery and under Android 5.0 Lollipop with a rated battery life of 15 hours. That’s with the keyboard attached, by the way. (As for battery life without the keyboard, we’ve asked Dell and will update this page as soon as we learn more.)

Pack all that into a 0.24-inch (6.2mm) thin frame weighing just 1.32 pounds (598g) and clad in deep gray aluminum, and you’re golden. But without that keyboard, the tablet simply looks incomplete. Though, that barrel edge is a boon for subway reading, as the device feels like one of those spiral notebooks when held by the edge – only smaller and more dense.

Lenovo has worked around this problem by turning its barrel hinge into a kickstand on its Yoga tablets, but those too feel weird at times. At the very least, Dell has made good use of the barrel edge, packing front-firing stereo speakers in there that deliver a pretty full sound.

Dell Venue 10 7000

Dell wants to make work look (and feel) good

Permeating through everything about this device – from its design to the features and software – is Dell’s desire to, well, sex up work life. For instance, the company has brought Intel’s RealSense 3D depth cameras to the Venue 10 7000.

As we’ve noted before, the technology is cool, but it’s use cases are rather niche at the moment. The Dell representative showing off the device offered an anecdote about a grocery store owner using the RealSense cameras to measure out end caps. Super cool, but I’m sure most grocery stores have a tape measure handy, too.

Another example is the choice of Android as the operating system – one that people don’t immediately associate with productivity. In 5.0 Lollipop, Android for Work launched, which Dell uses here in the Venue 10 7000 to a great extent. Essentially, the technology allows for IT departments to manage app access and use on Android devices on their network and create custom app stores for their teams.

Dell Venue 10 7000

Early verdict

With the Venue 10 7000, Dell is clearly hitting its stride in regards to tablet design. While lacking in appearance and feel when without a certain accessory, this is a unique-looking and feeling slate with a clearly recognizable design ID. But more than that, it simply looks good at doing what it does.

Starting at $499 or $599, the Venue 10 7000 is reasonably priced, especially when you consider that sharp, rich OLED screen. The paltry amount of local storage is about the only bummer here in terms of specs. And 15 hours of battery life while powering a Bluetooth keyboard? We’ll have to see that figure in action to believe it.

Dell hopes to capture the interest of entrepreneurs and executives of SMBs and startups with the Venue 10 7000. And, with a device this gorgeous and capable (at least at first glance), it has a fair shot of doing that. Let’s just hope that more people pick up that punchy, surprisingly spacious keyboard along with it.