Category Archives: Dell


Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Let’s get small

dellxps13-2-in-1reviewDell XPS 13 2-in-1

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review: Sleek, but is it meek?

The Dell XPS 13 (9365) 2-in-1 convertible wonthet CES 2017 Innovation Award. The compact 2-in-1 looks similar to its non-pen predecessor, the Dell XPS 13. I was excited to see this penabled (OK, its AES and technically only Wacom EMR is penabled) version, but it does have its compromises for those who hope to put it through its paces for art.

See it on Amazon

The build quality is sturdy and the device is attractive, though it took me a while to appreciate its subtleties–at first glance it’s another laptop–but then I noticed its thinness, sturdiness, and small bezel.

Both have the Infinity Edge, a small bezel that allows the laptop to have the footprint of an 11″ laptop with a 13″ display. This model is slightly thinner than the original. This one is not a detachable, but a convertible with a 360-degree hinge. That makes it easier to type on than most detachables, which tend to have bouncy or loosely connected keyboards (the Microsoft Surface Book being an exception).

Like the Lenovo Yoga line, the XPS 2-in-1 can be set in four poses: laptop, tent, tablet, and stand.

The display is bright with wide viewing angle and rich blacks. The Infiniti Edge gives it a window-like feeling.


The display on theDell XPS 13 2-in-1 is bright, with rich blacks.

Digitizer: Wacom AES (pen takes one AAAA battery)
2048 levels of pressure sensitivit

Pen: Dell Active Stylus (PN556W)

7th Gen. Intel i5-7Y54  to i7-7Y75

Intel HD Graphics 615​

13.3″ Full HD (1920×1080) or UltraSharp QHD (3200×1800)
10-point Multitouch
Brightness: 400 nits
Contrast ratio: 1000:1
Color: over 100% Adobe sRGB% color gamut
Wide viewing angle of 170 degrees
SSD: 128 GB to 1 TB
Build: machined aluminum
Gorilla Glass
Carbon fiber palm rest and deck
Steel and aluminum hinges

Thickness: 0.32-0.54”  inches (with/without keyboard in tablet mode) x 11.98″ x  7.8″
mm. 8 – 13.7  x 304 x 199
Weight: Starting at 2.7 pounds (1.24 kg)​

Full size, backlit, chiclet, 1.33 mm travel

Pen dimensions
1.9 oz without battery, 7.3 in.
Microsoft Hello fingerprint scanner

Thunderbolt 3, two USB-C 3.1 ports, microSD, headset jack, Noble lock slot

46WHr battery (integrated, non-replaceable)

Battery Life
Around 8 hours of mixed use–longer on the HD screen.


The full-size keyboard has chiclet-style keys with 1.3 mm key travel.


Dell’s engineers developed Dynamic Power Mode, which raises the performance of the Y chip while still managing to keep the device fairly cool without fans–it gets warm but not hot. It spits out bursts of energy in a type of Turbo Boost to keep things in balance.

Though Y chips are similar to Core M, Dell has gotten higher performance here. Battery life is quite good, and you can certainly multitask. Dell has succeeded in making a thin computer that cools itself.

But it’s not as fast as competitors Surface Pro 4, HP Spectre x360, or the original XPS 13.


At 2.7 lbs., it’s lightweight, and it only takes up the space of an 11″ laptop. It’s solid, not something you can comfortably hold in one hand.

Battery Life

Good–8 hours on the i5 and up to 10 hours on the i7, both with mixed use.

Drawing on the XPS 13 2-in-1

The Dell Active Stylus glides smoothly and sensitivity is good. Palm rejection works well. Accuracy is good too as is hover range. No issues here. There’s no place to attach the pen to the computer, no magnet, clip, or anything. The Dell Active Pen is a little stubby at 7.3″ but it’s not much of an issue.

The trackpad is nice and smooth and isn’t too stiff. The keyboard is comfortable.

As scenic as it makes the computer, with the image on the display almost melding with its surroundings, the narrow bezel could prove a distraction when drawing. I suspect one reason for the Cintiq’s large bezel is to frame the art and visually isolate it from its environment, as a picture frame does.

If you want to draw at an angle, such as 20 degrees, you can use a separate stand i. Or you could place an object, such as a book, between the lid and keyboard.

The XPS 13 2-in-1 works with the Dell Active Stylus, a Wacom AES pen with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. I tried the pen on it and found it worked well. The screen is slippery, like most laptops.

In my short time with it I got an error message when trying to open OneNote. Other programs opened smoothly. The Internet worked well, with videos looking sharp on the display, with deep blacks.

When there is less bezel, there’s a pleasant blending into the surroundings.

User reactions

People who have used this for non-art use seem overall pleased with it. Its design, display, the typing, and the responsive pen have all received praise. The computer was a star at CES for its slimness.

However, one user offering a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review complained it was impossible to turn off Adaptive Brightness, even if it is turned off in the power settings. I read they may issue a patch for this, but until they do, having it adjust its brightness on its own with no way to stop it would be detrimental to creating art. Update: They have issued a fix–thank you to the commenter who sent this. Here’s the link to the firmware update if you need it.


Tests have shown that  thought brighness and contrast are good, color accuracy is not that high. It also doesn’t have Adobe RGB. It does have over 100% of sRGB.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review

The steel hinges covered in aluminum keep the Dell sturdy.




Wacom pen
Has the footprint of a smaller, 11″ computer
Good battery life
Quiet, fanless
Light, slim, portable
Bright display
Comfortable, backlit keyboard
Handles multitasking and light gaming
includes USB 3.1 dongle


Processor not as fast as the fastest for serious digital art
Some users have experienced bugs
Adaptive brightness issue, unless Dell issues a fix
No place to keep pen
Doesn’t come with pen
Pen is a little short
Color accuracy not the best
Cannot remove battery
Front Webcam is below the screen
Need dongles for peripherals

The Verdict

The laptop is innovative in its design both inside and out. It’s aimed at consumers who want versatility, portability, and long battery life.

It’s a fine computer, and the power difference is not enormous compared to other pen convertibles. You can use Photoshop, Illustrator etc. on it but it will not be the very fastest. In concluding this Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review, I can say it’s OK for digital artists but not the most powerful. For that, something at mobile-workstation level is better. It’s fine for moderate art use.

Dell is taking the artist market seriously with the Dell Canvas, a large tablet monitor with an array of innovations and connections to Microsoft. Perhaps Dell will come out with a more art-targeted laptop.

See more Dell XPS 2-in-1 reviews on Amazon.

Learn more finding the best art tablet PC for your needs.

end of Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review

Dell Canvas 27: Hands-on at CES


The new Dell Canvas 27″ tablet monitor, slated to hit the shelves at the end of April 2017, was on display at this year’s CES 2017. I was fortunate enough try it out. It’s the first large art tablet monitor made by Dell.


Dell Canvas 27 (bottom) and Ultra Sharp monitor (top). Photo by Dell

Dell Canvas uses Wacom EMR pen

The Canvas is a bit like a Surface Studio except that the Canvas is a tablet monitor, not a 2-in-1, so it’s more similar to the Cintiq 27″ and has the same resolution. Dell states the Canvas pen is Wacom EMR. (Dell’s recent products have used Wacom AES, and before that they used Synaptics).

EMR is the most sensitive and what Wacom uses on its own Cintiqs. This pen was thick but comfortable and had two buttons. Its girth and simple barrel shape reminded me of pens by Huion more than the skinnier, shapelier pens used by Wacom and Microsoft.


It only does Windows

The Canvas has to be connected to a computer, and that computer has to be running Windows. This is a big difference from any other tablet monitor, as most will work with Windows PCs or Macs out of the box. (Maybe Apple will fight back by coming out with its own tablet monitor or all-in-one with Apple Pencil!)

Dell partnered with Microsoft on the Canvas, and the Canvas will work with the Creators Update, and will run with AVID. Dell, naturally, suggests using the Canvas with the Dell Precision workstation, which is powerful enough to create VR content.

The Canvas is protected by Gorilla Glass. It has some cool functions like virtual desktops, and it comes with two kinds of “Totems” (ahem, Surface Dial clones) that you can twist and turn.


Display overlay shows open programs. Photo:

Dell’s initial idea was the SmartDesk, where the two monitors would interact, but it’s not clear if that will come to fruition or if it will be the regular routine. In this case, there are actually three monitors–the laptop, the Canvas, and the eye-level monitor.

2.5k display resolution

The display has a 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution (111 PPI). A close competitor would be Wacom’s 27″ Cintiq, with the same resolution (2.5K). The all-in-one, 28″ Surface Studio packs 4500 x 3000 (192 PPI). So the Canvas is pretty high resolution, but it could be higher. However, the 2.5K will have an easier time working with more Windows computers than a 4K or higher would.

The Dell Canvas’ wide color gamut covers 100% of Adobe RGB, which is a welcome feature for pros who print their own work.

Palm rejection worked well. The stand is adjustable, and I like that it can lie flat as a desk, something the Surface Studio’s hinge does not allow.

As you can see, the pen is accurate with no jitter. It also had no detectable tilt sensitivity (which could change) or perhaps there were tilt settings I needed to adjust.

Two Totems for the Dell Canvas 27

To me, two Totems plus the pen and multiple monitors is a lot to think about and the idea of the 20-point multitouch, which can accommodate an extra person or two, starts to seem a bit left-brained. Right now there are not a whole lot of apps for the Totem and Surface Dial, but these are in their early stages.


Totem with contextual menu. The Canvas comes with two kinds of Totems. Photo:

The whole thing is very BUSY pus there are lots and lots of on-screen menus. It’s not exactly Zen, but it offers a lot of options. Right now the levels of pressure sensitivity are not clear, nor are other specs.

For now, my hands-on experience with the Dell Canvas 27 leaves me feeling like it’s not a huge leg up over other 27″ tablet monitors as far as hardware.

The jury’s out on the software, as that’s such a big part of this, and it is impressive. But what are the specific benefits? Do all the accessories and tools make the designer’s workload easier, or is this an exercise in deconstructing and fragmenting workflow?

For most users who draw, having the top monitor is not needed. It looks cool, and there are good reasons to use it, but the Canvas doesn’t need it. For multimedia design, or if you want to make sure colors match, or you want to see your work higher-res, it makes sense. But it’s part of the packaging of the Canvas.

The Verdict–for now

Because at the time of this writing, the product has not yet come out, this Dell Canvas review is focused on testing the pen, examining the screen, speed of the computer, and more. For now, I’m not sold on the Totem/Dial, though that could change, and no one’s forcing me to use it. Microsoft’s Surface Dial is an optional purchase, unlike the two Totems, suggesting that Dell feels they’re integral to the software.


The display is certainly pleasing and I like the idea of the eye-level monitor, though that’s an individual choice. For drawing, I would probably just prop up the Canvas to 20 degrees and use that.

Dell released a lot of innovative and award-getting products at CES, including a super-thin 8k monitor and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, which uses Wacom AES.  Dell has put out numerous tablets, but somehow you didn’t hear about them all that much–most of them have been small portables, such as the Venue series. They had a rocky journey with three versions of a Synaptics pen before switching over to AES.

The pen and digitizer information on their site seems to confuse people, as I can tell from the questions I’ve gotten, but this is de rigueur with large companies who didn’t focus on pen tablets. Now, Dell has stepped into the limelight with this large art gizmo.

Now Dell is working with Microsoft and incorporating Wacom, aiming to get in more seriously on the art action. I particularly like the software, such as the overlay, and look forward to seeing the finished product.


New Dell Active Pen and Stylus: Wacom ES for New Venue 8 and 10 Pro

New Dell Active Pen and Dell Active Stylus: New Venue 8 Pro and Venue 10 Pro get Wacom ES

Dell unveiled revamped Venue 8 and 10 tablets at CES 2016 in January. They included the New Venue 8 Pro 5000, now with a Wacom ES digitizer and the New Dell Venue 10 Pro (5055) and Venue 10 (5050).

“New” is part of the name of the New Venue 10 Pro, but not part of the name of the revamped Venue 10, though they refer to it as  a ‘new’ Venue 10 with a lower-case “n” in the product info. Sigh. So, in with the New.

These new models are  currently sold only through Dell.

New Venue 8 Pro 5000 (see at


Dell New Venue 8 Pro

The New Venue 8 Pro comes in 32 and 64GB storage and 2GB and 4GB RAM, runs Windows, and has an Atom processor and 8″ screen.


Dell Active Pen

The New Venue 8 Pro 5000 (5855) now uses  a Wacom ES pen, the Dell Active Pen. See it on The pen is sold separately. You cannot use the Dell Active Stylus from the old Venue Pro line on the New Venue Pro line. The old ones used Synaptics tech and Dell has now switched over to Wacom and is using the term “pen” rather than “stylus.”


Manufacturer Part# : N1DNK
Dell Part# : 750-AAMI

The Dell Active Pen is also compatible with some other Dell 2-in-1 laptops and tablets. It uses Bluetooth and takes an AAAA battery and 319-type coin-cell batteries. It has an LED light that indicates pairing. Its tip is 3 mm, which is still pretty fine-tipped.

Here is the list of compatible Dell devices:

Inspiron 7568, Latitude 11 5715, Latitude 11 5179, Latitude 7275, Venue 10 Pro 5056, Venue 8 Pro 5855, and XPS 12 9250.

The new system is an improvement over the old Venue Pro line. The new one has 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity and good palm rejection.

New Dell Active Stylus for New Venue 10 Pro

There’s also a new Dell Active Stylus, the 750-AAIZ, (click to see it on Amazon) for the also-revamped Venue 10  (5050) and Venue 10 Pro (5055). “New” is not part of the name of the stylus. Same name, different stylus than the old one. Double sigh.

Wish they could at least call it “Dell Active Stylus 2” or something–they already caused heaps of confusion with the three versions of Dell Active Stylus for the old Venue Pro. Maybe “Son of Dell Active Stylus”? If you’re confused now, try finding info on their site–it’s a haystack! So I’ve compiled the relevant info in this post.



The new “universal” Wacom Bamboo Smart Stylus, a Wacom ES pen, will work on the Venue 10 5000 Series (5050) and the Venue 10 Pro 5000 Series (5055). That one comes with two swappable tips, one firm and one soft. Since the tablets don’t come to a pen, you could get this one instead, then you would have the two tips.

Even though the new Dell pens are both Wacom ES, they are not interchangeable.

Here’s the Bamboo Smart Stylus on the Wacom site.


dell active pen 5055

New Dell Venue 10 Pro (5055)

The New Dell Venue 10 Pros also have 2GB and 4GB models with a 10.1″ screen.

These tablets, which run on Atom processors, are for sale only at Dell. See them

See our review of the old Venue 8 Pro

Comparable: Asus VivoTab Note 8
Toshiba Encore 2 Write
Samsung Galaxy Tab A with S Pen

Dell Venue 8 Pro review: the latest Active Stylus helps UPDATED

Dell Venue 8 Pro Review: the latest Active Stylus helpsdell venue 8 pro review

Dell Venue 8 Pro (5830)

by Tablets for Artists

UPDATE: Dell has refreshed this line with a new Dell Venue 8 Pro and Dell Venue 10 Pro that both have Wacom ES. Please see this post about the New Venue Pros and pens.


Type of Tablet

The Venue 8 Pro is a Windows 8.1 tablet.  It offers both touch and pen input.
Just to be clear, what we are reviewing is the 5830, part of the 5000 line. The “newer” Venue 8 Pro, the 3000, doesn’t offer a digitizer (so has no pressure sensitivity). Nor does the plain old non-Pro Venue 8, which is an Android tablet. Some sites are selling the 3000 line but not making it clear that that one lacks the digitizer. Some also sell the 5830 without making it clear that it HAS the digitizer. If it says the 5000 line, it’s OK even if it doesn’t specify it’s a 5830. If you’re unsure which Venue tablet you’re seeing, check with the seller.

There is a 32GB and 64GB model, the 64GB will do you more good; Windows alone takes up substantial RAM.


For Lefties

It’s fine for left-handers, though the Windows button is on the top right edge.


Intel Bay trail Atom Z3740D processor (quad core)
2GB memory
64 GB hard drive (there’s also a 32GB model)
8″ HD display 8.0 (WXGA 1280 x 800)
Used with Dell Active Stylus (optional; not included)
Multitouch touchscreen with 10-pt capacitive touch,
Two cameras (5 MP rear-facing, 1.2 MP front)
Can take MicroSD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards of up to 128GB
includes MS Office Home and Student edition
Micro USB port (just one)
8.50 x 5.12 x 0.35 inches
weight 13.9 oz. (395 g), thickness about 3/8″ (9mm)
Windows 8.1 (32 bit, as is normal for this size tablet)
Bluetooth 4.0
Palm rejection
Color: Black

Supports Miracast wireless tech, which lets you stream to TV even if you don’t have local wifi. does not have HDMI, you’d have to buy an HDMI adapter (or see the cool Plugable dock below, under Optional Accessories) if you want to beam images from tablet to TV.

Does not come with GPS. You would have to use a GPS app; there are free ones.

Since the stylus is optional and not included, there’s no silo for it in the tablet.

The Windows button is on the top right edge instead of on the front, so that’s something unusual that takes some getting used to; it’s not a bad thing, because the button isn’t in the way of anything you’re doing.. The back has a ridged texture, and feels rubberized and not that rigid, making the tablet easy to grip. The texture also keeps fingerprints away. The bezel doesn’t cover much of the screen. The tablet has a pleasing design and for the price, the materials and build are of high quality.

Intel Bay Trail Atom processors are much faster than the older Atoms, and for ordinary use, the 8 Pro runs without hiccups. You can use programs like  Photoshop and Manga Studio 5, but some CPU-havey effects and filters may lag. We recommend the 64GB model over the 32GB; Windows alone takes up substantial RAM.

Here’s info from Wikipedia on Atom processors.


At 13.9 oz and slightly under 3/8″ thick, it’s compact, thin, and easy to tote.

What’s Included

The tablet, micro USB cord, wall charger, quickstart guide, registration/warranty info. Stylus not included.



The 1280×800 resolution with a pixel density of 200ppi is decent for a screen this size, though it’s not the highest. (Compare it to the iPad retina at 264ppi, though 240 could also qualify as Retina; the original iPad and  iPad2 had a ppi of only 132). The Venue 8 Pro’s IPS screen offers good viewing angles. The colors are bright in the Dell, and at this screen size, the display is fine for reading, drawing, and video.

The previous issue of the light sensor defaulting to too dim a setting has been fixed via a firmware update. allows you to tap, slide, swipe, pinch

The palm rejection works well; the screen senses when you are holding the pen.

The on-screen keyboard has frustrated some users, as it will sometimes be oversensitive and do things like type extra characters.


Dell Active Stylus

 dell active stylus a03

Dell Active Stylus A03: ta-daa!

At 0.4 in. thick x 5.7 in, this is thicker than the average wood pencil, so is really is more of a pen than a stylus, but Dell calls it a stylus. I’ll call it a stylus pen. It has a fine, 1mm tip and two buttons that you can use to erase, click, and highlight.

The digitizer uses Synaptics technology, which is closer to N-trig than to Wacom, and like N-trig, there are 256 levels of pressure sensitivity.  Dell active stylii are metal and take a single AAAA battery, which should last about a year with regular usage.

The stylus pen is not included with the tablet, and there is no set place on or in the tablet to store it. You could try getting creative with Velcro.

The Dell Active Stylus has quite a saga. The first two versions had issues with ghosting and leaving trails and were met with many complaints. Though firmware updates fixed some problems in the second pen, problems remained. The latest pen is a huge improvement. This new pen, the AO3, is silver and gray; the previous two were all-black. Odd as it may sound, the new stylus uses Wacom technology, and works with the Venue Pro 8, the Venue Pro 10, and the Venue Pro 11.

The Dell part no. for the A03  is 750-AAGN.

You will not be able to use other Wacom pens, or the N-trig pen, with the Venue Pro line; only the Dell Active Stylus. You can, however, use a capacitive stylus (like an iPad stylus) or even finger paint on the Venues.

The Dell Active Stylus pen works with the Venue 8 Pro (5830, the one we’re reviewing here), the Venue 11 Pro (5130, 7130, 7139, 7140),  and Latitude 2-in-1 7000 Series (7350). It will not work with other tablets regardless of model or brand.

With the benefit of the improved Active Stylus, this Dell Venue 8 Pro review has become more
positive than it would have been otherwise. It did take Dell a while, but it’s commendable that they listened to customer feedback about both the stylus and the auto-brightness and did something about it. The stylus pen is now responsive and accurate, and makes the Venue 8 into a good drawing tool. The tablet isn’t as powerful as a Surface Pro or using a Cintiq with a computer, but it’s peppy and portable.

Battery life

Excellent; up to 10 hours.


Buttons and volume rocker are on the side. Accelerometer lets you switch from portrait to landscape.



You can put any Windows 8.1-compatible software on. It comes with 2013 MS Home and Student Office.


Customer Reviews and Ratings

The Venue 8 Pro has been generally favorably received. But, some have had negative experiences, such as having the tablet fail, or problems with the charger not fitting well into the micro USB. The old stylus was a major source of problems, too. One positive Dell Venue 8 Pro review praised it as a tool for both content creation and consumption. Many praised both its design and performance.


Excellent battery life

bright screen with good viewing angles

Good handwriting recognition; will convert handwriting to text




Nice materials and build for the price



On-screen keyboard buggy for some people

Iffy USB port and charger, with some people saying the shipped chargers did not fit into the USB socket the right way, resulting in broken pins.  Some are saying it’s a Micro A charger with a Micro B cable and others are saying it’s a Micro AB charger that takes an A or B cable. I will provide an update if I can get a definite answer. Do not try to force the charger. If you have problems, contact Dell.

Customer Service

I did several chats to confirm information, and it was a combination of pleasant (they’re very polite) and frustrating (they’re not that well informed, but no worse than at other computer companies). Customers with complex issues have reported some pretty serious problems, including language barriers, and being transferred from rep to rep for hours. Others had positive interactions. So, service is inconsistent. There is both Dell Home and Dell Small Business, and you should remember which one you purchased from, as the two arms don’t always communicate with each other. There is a lack of detailed information on the site in general. The Dell Community forum can be helpful, and Dell does answer questions there.


Newer in town: The Dell Venue Pro 10 and
Dell Venue Pro 11

Dell Venue 8 Pro vs. Dell Venue Pro 11

The Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 is a high-end Windows tablet with a larger, 10.8″ Windows tablet with a more powerful processor, one you would find in a laptop, up to Intel Core 5. It boasts a full HD screen at 1920 x 1080p. It has an HDMI port. Dell calls it “three devices in one,” meaning a tablet, an Ultrabook, and desktop (when used with the keyboard). It’s certainly not the only device you could call a 3-in-1.

(Note: An Ultrabook is a high-end Intel-powered subnotebook. A subnotebook is a notebook that’s thinner and lighter than a laptop.)


The Dell Venue 10 Pro is aimed at the academic market and has a detachable keyboard, a multitouch, high-res screen, and an Atom processor.

All these use the Dell Active Stylus and have pressure sensitivity.

The Verdict

It’s got a lot of great qualities at an affordable price, and artists can use it as a digital sketchbook; it doesn’t take the place of a Cintiq or full-fledged tablet PC. But it’s more versatile than an Android tablet, and it’s fast. It doesn’t have an extremely high-res screen, but for this size tablet it’s not a big issue–I would not use this size for my main drawing tablet. On the downside, there are some potential bugs, as noted, with the on-screen keyboard and the USB port; not everyone will have these problems. Like the Surface Pro 3, the Venue 8 Pro has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, not as many as Wacom tablets, but it doesn’t make an enormous difference. The build quality, speed, price, and improved stylus make this a nice little portable art tool, as long as you don’t run into the aforementioned problems.

It’s comparable in price and overall functionality to the Asus VivoTab 8 and the Toshiba Encore 2 Write. (Click the links to read our reviews.)

Optional Accessories

(Again), the newest Active Stylus.

Startech Micro USB to USB Adapter

IVSO Bluetooth Keyboard Portfolio Case, made especially for the Dell Venue 8 Pro.

dell venue 8 pro review ivso keyboard cover

Also, the Fintie Stand Cover with Detachable Keyboard.

This Plugable docking station, which came to life via Kickstarter, allows you to charge your tablet and attach various USB and other devices, including HDMI. It’s about 6″ tall. Reviews are positive.


Here’s a video by Plugable:


End of Dell Venue 8 Pro review