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Dell Venue Pro 10 5055 review

Can Dell earn a passing grade in the classroom?

Dell Venue 10 Pro 5055 review

Dell loves to tout this machine as having a full HD 1920 x 1200 display, and I can't fault them too much for that ebulliency. Marvel's Daredevil looked great streaming off of Netflix, with all those pixels showing off great details, and the colors never looked saturated.

When it comes to the Dell Active Stylus, I've got mixed feelings. It works great with the tablet screen, with very accurate touch recognition. As great as it feels to press the nib against the tablet screen, the stylus is built upon a choice I find very frustrating: requiring a AAAA battery.

Dell Venue 10 Pro 5055 review

I didn't even realize this would be a problem, but I discovered that this is a battery format that's barely available in retailers. Sure, it's sold on Amazon, and teachers can bulk buy in advance, but neither Best Buy nor Walgreens carry this battery format, and to find one in NYC, I wound up wandering from store to store eventually finding AAAA's at a professional photography store. I understand that Dell wants to use the smallest batteries they can, to reduce the diameter of the stylus' barrell, but this is ridiculous.

Specs

  • Processor: Intel Atom Processor Z3735F @ 1.33 GHz
  • Display: 10.1 inch 1920x1200 IPS Multitouch Display
  • Memory: 2GB DDR3L-RS RAM
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Wireless: Broadcom AH691A-2x2 (802.11 a/b/g/n)
  • Camera: 1.2-megapixel webcam; 5-megapixel rear camera
  • Ports: USB 3.0 full size,micro HDMI, BT 4.0, micro SD card slot
  • Weight: 1.45lb pounds (.66 kg)
  • Size: 10.34 x 0.39 6.92-inches (26.26 x .99 x 17.59 cm)

Performance and battery life

Running our standard benchmarks on it, there's a not-so-subtle message to be read. The 5055 will punish any student trying to goof off on and play games. 3DMark's Cloud Gate had an average score of 1130 with a crawling 4 frames per second (fps), the Sky Diver test had an average score of 441, and a flat-out static 1.8 fps. Those results should make teachers laugh with confirmation that these laptops are good for the class, but not for procrastination. We couldn't even get a result for 3DMark's more strenuous test, the Fire Strike benchmark, since the test crashed both times we tried to use it.

  • 3DMark Cloud Gate: 1130, 4 fps
  • 3DMark Sky Diver: 441, 1.8 fps
  • PCmark Work Conventional 1253
  • PCmark Battery life: 5 hours, 9 minutes, 12 seconds

Unfortunately, when you line these scores up with other models, the PCmark scores aren't fantastic. It's Work score is dwarfed by the 2634 that the Venue 7000 netted, and only a notch or two above the Aspire Switch 11's, 1163. The 5055 did manage to meet my needs in my everyday use, even though it was sometimes slower than I'd like. For this price, I'm not expecting a workhorse, and students shouldn't complain either.

In my day-to-day use, I was able to regularly get more than six hours of battery life out of the 5055, and that was from a mix of document writing, streaming video, and internet usage. Thinking about this tablet with the classroom in mind, it's great to note that the battery lasts long enough, if not longer, than the average school day. One would hope the teacher isn't having their students work in the screen from start to finish, but even if that's the case, the 5055 does last without excuses. Which is great, because the charging cable is not long enough to suggest working while tethered.

Unfortunately, while the battery can last long enough for a school day on a single charge, my experience wasn't problem-free. One night, when the charging cable connector wasn't perfectly lined up inside the USB 2 Micro port, (despite it being connected right-side-up) the 5055 drained completely. Coming home to discover this, and finding that re-plugging the cable wouldn't even turn on the light that signifies a connected charger, I was worried the unit had died completely. About 24 hours later, I tried again, and it began to take a charge. What I learned is that I should have checked to see that the charging light had turned on after I plugged it in.

Dell is going to need to do more work to secure their power port and make connections child-proof, especially since many (teachers and students alike) may already be used to the carefree nature of plugging in Apple's MagSafe or lightning ports.

My colleague Chuong Nguyen experienced a similar problem with previous iterations of this form factor, something he mentioned in his review of the Venue Pro 11 with Atom processor. While Dell has told us the port had been reinforced, my experience was not positive. This is a problem when it comes to the education environment, since some may be more used to tablet power connectors that easily and safely dock, such as Apple's Lightning, or other USB connectors.

Bundled software

Thankfully, the Venue 10 Pro 5055 gets a clean bill of health when it comes to pre-installed bloatware. This has been a pattern with recent Dell devices, including the higher end Venue 11 Pro 7000, but with the 5055 being marketed toward schools, this was definitely a situation in which Dell had to provide an untampered with experience. Teachers can be handed these computers out of the box, set up a free year of Microsoft Office, and have these devices as student-ready as they'll ever be.