Last month I looked at the Dell Venue Pro 11 Inch tablet. I was enthused about it but noted that to get anywhere near the best out of it you needed to have a bluetooth keyboard. I have one that worked fine but it meant carrying around two separate things and having two sets of batteries to keep charged.
After the review was published this issue was picked up on and I received in the mail a keyboard. Many tablets these days have add on keyboards so this wasn’t a shock.
The Venue Pro 11 has two types of keyboard – the Slim and the standard. Both connect via the set of pogoplugs on the base of the Venue Pro Tablet. The Slim is a simple keyboard with an integrated stand but the Standard (which I received) is rather more.
The Standard is a very solidly designed accessory. It mirrors the shape of the Venue Tablet and uses the extra space under the keyboard to add in batteries. The top of the keyboard has an integrated hinge that opens to 117 degrees which is a little less than might be ideal for lappability and low tables but feels solid and it stays exactly where you put it. When you have the two units plugged together you would not know that they could separate. Separation is controlled by a single hardware button in the centre of the top of the keyboard which requires a good hard push to unclip.
So that’s all great but how are the actual keys? Very nice. They’re chicklet style and have a well defined have a good movement and feel solid. The keys are somewhat compressed to fit in to the available space but it’s a minimal reduction and after a minute or two I didn’t notice the reduction. The keyboard has a row of half height control keys above the number set to control media (volume, play/pause) a search button, reload, system info and contrast / brightness. These keys also have a extra mode as Function Keys (F1- F12) and wifi on/off.
There is a separate set of arrow keys in the bottom right but they like the Insert key and Delete key are half height. The arrow keys also have alternate functions as Home, End and Page Up and Down.
Underneath the keys is a trackpad that is clickable and tappable and has a left and right click area at the base. I was surprised how well it worked. It’s not a rival for high end Apple touchpads nor for a decent mouse but when you realise it’s more of an extra for the touch screen it’s a nice addition.
Price: RRP £129.99
Included in the box: Keyboard.
Dell is a privately owned US PC manufacture started by Michael Dell in 1984. The company employs well over 100,000 worldwide and depending on how it is measured may be the worlds largest PC vendor. It has been a staple of enterprise and government PC sales for many years and focuses on producing reliable business focused systems.
As with most very large companies they have complicated and detailed environmental social policies – here. Of particular note is their recycling program that repurposes older systems no longer needed to charitable causes.
The Ergohacks Evaluation
The Standard Keyboard is only designed for a subsection of the models of the Venue Pro range but within those adds significantly to the tablet’s versatility. The keyboard is great to type on but the addition of the battery which extends battery life by around 8 to 10 hours is very significant.
The first time you fit the Standard Keyboard you find yourself having to be very careful to line it up but after a time or two it becomes straightforward. With the keyboard added and the unit closed the whole thing feels very good and solid in the hand.
The screen tips back to 117 degrees on the hinge which is just enough for most situations but is less than would be ideal. I found myself wishing it went back just a little further when typing on my lap or low table. Unfortunately it’s limited to prevent the whole thing tipping over backwards – the battery in the keyboard is a good counterbalance but the scree/tablet is still heavier
Environment & People
Dell has a wide range of environmental and social policies that are commendable but there are no particular policies or practices that relate to the keyboard. Post use the keyboard is effectively a large battery with some buttons on top so should be be recyclable.
The keyboard is not the most economic way to interact with the Venue 11 Pro Tablet. Window 10’s onscreen keyboard works, although it’s not brilliant. The first intermediate step would be a bluetooth keyboard which could cost anywhere from £20 to £50 and then a Venue 11 Pro Slim Keyboard which costs around £70.
The Standard keyboard has an RRP of around £130 but I’ve found it for around £100 with a little shopping around.
Docking: Pogo Pins with microUSB passthrough.
Angling: 0 to 117 degrees
Battery: Non-removable charged via pass through.
Key Travel: 1.2 to 1.9m
Locking mechanism: Mechanical latches
The Keyboard is made to work with a Dell Venue 11 Pro tablets. If you do not have a Venue 11 Pro then this will not work for you.
When I first started using the Dell Venue Pro 11 tablet I could immediately see that adding a physical keyboard would make the system far more useful and versatile. I added a generic bluetooth keyboard and it did make a big difference. I was therefore a little sceptical that the manufacture’s keyboard would be that much of an improvement.
Laptop and mobile keyboards are generally not good to type on. A combination of poor actions, poor layout and shrinkage means that they’re just not good experiences. The Standard keyboard does not suffer from these problems. Add in the fact that the Standard keyboard double’s the system’s battery life to around 20 hours and the whole package is extremely compelling as an on the go system.
I spend a lot of time away from my desk and try and get in as much work in odd places as I can. The Dell Venue Pro 11 and crucially the Standard Keyboard let me do this. If like me you want to be able to work on the go the line and in particular the Standard keyboard should be on your radar. Recommended.
The review is based on the Standard Mobile Keyboard for the Dell Venue 11 Pro kindly provided by Dell. This article was first published on 19th February 2016.