Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tweaks for Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140

I have been using the Miix 2 8 for about two years now as my only computer. When editing video for youtube, I felt the desire for a faster CPU like the Core M. I bought a Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 when it was on sale for only $299:
  • It has the fan-less Core M CPU that's much faster than Atom found on most tablets such as the Miix. Now editing HD video in PowerDirector is totally smooth including preview and rendering speed is at least 3x faster. Core M drains more battery than Atom but still far less than i5.
  • It has a 1920x1080 FHD screen. A non-16:9 screen (4:3, 15:10 or even 16:10) is still far better, but the higher resolution, 1080 vs. 736, is less painful. And, the screen is fabulous, top class, for both entertainment and text work.
  • Optional keyboard that makes this tablet meanwhile a true laptop. I just cannot accept the soft keyboard (also available) like the one on Surface.
  • SSD, 4G, WiFi are all easily upgradable. For example, I can swap the 64GB SSD with a 256GB one for $100 or less.
  • Charged via a dedicated micro USB port, allowing me to share a charger between my phone and other devices. The included Dell charger can auto switch between 5V and 19V and charge it much faster than 5V.
  • Loud and clear speakers. Again, this tablet is ideal for both entertainment and serious work.

First thing first, the keyboard can only open up to 110 degree; i.e., the tablet is almost vertical when mounted on it - way too uncomfortable.  We must mod it.

Before and After:



Watch this video on the mod:



Yes, the tablet/laptop still stay well on a desktop as you see in above photos, because this keyboard is whopping heavy at 1.5 lb. In addition to a 28 Wh (3250mAh, 7.2V) battery and a metal case, there are two metal pieces inside for nothing but balance weight of 2.55 oz.

Another big problem is Death during Sleep (DdS). Randomly and frequently, the tablet cannot wake up from sleep. Here is what I did to fix this problem.
  1. Download and update the A02 drivers, especially the Wi-Fi driver, from this cab file. And upgrade BIOS to A07. Older and newer drivers have this or that issues. For example, after I updated the Wi-Fi driver to the latest from Intel website, I could never finish copying a 20MB file from another computer over Wi-Fi.
  2. Removed Adobe Flash Player and installed 11.2.202.235 (x64) (Non-IE) and 11.2.202.235 (x64) (IE). This might not be necessary and both removing and installation are tricky (feel free to ask your questions). In a nut shell: delete Macromed under Windows\System32 and SysWOW64, download and run the Flash uninstaller, run Non-IE install and select "never check update" at the end, run IE install in Windows 7 mode and regsvr32 the ocx found in the deleted Macromed folders.
  3. Avoid using 32-bit Flash player plugins and ActiveX. I think this is the key, in addition to the Wi-Fi driver, to avoid DdS. In Internet Explorer, check "Enable 64-bit process for Enhanced Protected Mode" under advanced options. This forces IE to use its 64-bit version only, otherwise IE always opens tabs in 32-bit mode by default and thus uses 32-bit ActiveX. For 64-bit FireFox-alike browsers, there are Pale Moon, WaterFox and FireFox Light etc. and I picked up Pale Moon Portable 25.1.0 (x64). There is a 64-bit Chrome as well, but never install anything Google on your computer, because it is very difficult to remove them and prevent them from auto updating.
  4. If you use your phone to tether via USB, this is another thing to check if you experience DdS. Better not using this feature at all, because I haven't found a solid answer for phone USB tether, diag and ADB drivers that never crash my computers. In my case, I change the driver from Microsoft "Remote NDIS based Internet Sharing Device" to Samsung "Mobile USB Remote NDIS Network Device". If all fail, give PDANet a try, it uses its own serial-over-USB driver.
Core M supports connected standby like Atom, but it drains significantly more power during sleep. Therefore, it is a must to put the tablet into hibernate mode after, say, 4 hours, by following this MS article. Without hibernate, the keyboard battery will go down to 50% after 10 hours standby.

So, this article is more about fixes than tweaks. PC is a mess, but at least it is quite open, flexible, customizable and fixable; I don't have to "hang myself on a single (Apple) tree" (an old Chinese saying). If interested, you may find this tablet for as low as $400 often in BestBuy after coupons and even lower in Dell outlet after 50% discount.

[update 9/29/2015] My 7140 has not crashed a single time since I wrote this article. So, couple days ago I started using 32-bit Palemoon for Atom and thus 32-bit flash as well. Still no crash. Therefore, the key to avoid DoS is to use an old Flash. 64-bit Mozilla based browsers use way too much memory; this is to be expected - the 32-bit ones are already horrible in this regard, 64-bit can only be double horrible.

13 comments:

  1. Hi KoT, appreciate your ideas, thanks for sharing! I was curious what your tablet's battery life (without keyboard) has been. I've only been averaging 4-5 hours, though have seen the tablet rated for 8-9 hours in many reviews. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 4-5 hours are about it, 8-9 are hard to reach even with the keyboard that has a small(er) battery. Core M uses significantly more power than Atom, including sleep mode.

      Delete
    2. Interesting. Why do you think there are so many reviews that benchmarked 8-9 hours on the tablet battery alone, like this one? http://www.anandtech.com/show/9160/the-dell-venue-11-pro-7000-review/6

      I was really disappointed my battery life wasn't nearly as strong as the 7140 has been reviewed since I need the all day battery.

      Delete
    3. I am never so serious about those professional reviews. Battery life in real life depends on CPU usage. For example, almost all websites use heavily scripts and dynamic contents; so a web browser like Firefox uses at least 20% CPU all the time and it drains battery quick.

      Use Task Manager to see if anything is using too much CPU. Normally it should be 0% most of the time. If Firefox uses too much CPU, close the suspicious tab(s).

      Delete
  2. Hi! I did your tweak for the tilting angle and it was really great!! so thank you very much for posting this online :-D. However, this evening the tablet emitted a strange sound (very metallic and high pitched) and then a Blue Screen of Death appeared. The error was “DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL (lntcADSP.sys)”. I tried to google it but nothing comes out. Can you help me on this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hm, never seen ADSP.sys crash, must be a driver. Mine has not had a single crash or DoS yet ever since I wrote this article.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for your quick answer! If I go on control panel->system->devices all the hardware is recognized (there is no yellow alert icon). I've formatted recently and updated the bios to A09. What do you suggest me to do to check if everything is ok? I hope it didn't get damaged or that it will explode in the future!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My BIOS is still A07. Never upgrade, if everything is working fine.

      The device that has a bad driver to crash the system never get a yellow mark. You need to find who is using the ADSP.sys. It is usually in the c:\windows\system32\drivers. Right click on it and you should get some info.

      Delete
    2. That was a great advice thanks again! In the details of the file it says "Intel Smart Sound Technology"

      Delete
    3. Then you need to update or downgrade the Intel driver or BIOS.

      Delete
  4. So performed the keyboard and works great except one thing, it created one problem, more of an annoyance really. If I close my venue and keyboard it kind of springs open maybe a quarter inch at the front edge. If I remove the venue close the hinge completely myself and slide on the venue it stays closed fully no problem. Any ideas? I just thought maybe you ran into this when playing with the hinge. Tension seems right but maybe too loose or tight? Before I drive myself crazy I wanted to see if you'd already found the answer

    ReplyDelete