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Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1012)

Jayesh Shinde 2010-07-07
85 Very Good
Price: Rs 17,900

Full Review

The new Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1012) is a 10-inch netbook from Dell based on Intel’s Atom N450 processor. It offers standard netbook performance but excels in areas like looks, design, and battery life.

Design
The new Dell Inspiron Mini 10 is easily one of the best looking netbooks in the market. The Inspiron Mini 10 we received for review has an all-white smooth glossy exterior on its screen lid and on the netbook’s bottom panel -- even its edges are enclosed in an attractive white plastic layer. Open the screen lid to reveal an exact antithesis of the Inspiron Mini 10 netbook’s exterior -- the screen bezel, keyboard, palmrest and touchpad are all bathed in black; the palmrest even has a textured finish. The black-on-white color scheme of the Mini 10 netbook is quite nice to look at and the netbook doesn’t attract any fingerprints -- smudges are relegated to the Inspiron Mini 10’s glossy screen bezel. It is easily one of the best-looking netbooks currently available in the market, and Dell offers you a choice of six different colors to choose from with the Inspiron Mini 10.

In a nutshell, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 does what a netbook should -- great for portable productivity (with the occasional movie thrown in for kicks).


The Dell netbook is designed similar to the new Dell Inspiron 14R and Dell Vostro V13 laptops, wherein the Inspiron Mini 10 netbook’s screen isn’t exactly affixed to the chassis’ spine but a little inside -- this allows for better grip and handling of the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook while it’s propped open and running. Also, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook has a tapering design from its screen hinge to the front lip (below the touchpad) -- this slightly aids typing compared to netbooks that don’t have this design element. We had no complaints from the Mini 10’s build quality -- the screen’s nicely secured to the hinge, the keyboard doesn’t dip while typing, the edges are smooth and curved -- it is very well built and doesn’t feel cheap in any way. The Inspiron Mini 10 weighs 1.38-kg with a standard six-cell battery, and it isn't the sleekiest netbook out there compared to other 10-inch netbooks in the market -- not a big concern, though.

Usability
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1012) netbook is great to use, day in and day out. It has a standard 10.1-inch glossy LED-backlit display screen supporting a maximum screen resolution of 1024x600 pixels. The Inspiron Mini 10’s screen has good viewing angles, nothing to spoil the party compared to other netbooks in our Top 5 Small Screen Netbooks list. As is standard with almost all the netbooks these days, the Inspiron Mini 10 also comes with a 1.3MP webcam and microphone grooved into its top screen bezel -- this comes in handy if you want to video chat with your friends on Skype or using other instant messaging or video conferencing tool.

On the keyboard and touchpad front, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook performs admirably well. Unlike the Acer Aspire One 532h (which comes with an isolated, chiclet-sized key layout), the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 comes with a firm, tightly packed keyboard with close-knit, slightly raised keys. In fact, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 has one of the best netbook keyboards I’ve seen in some time -- the keyboard doesn’t dip one bit while you’re typing and all the keys are placed appropriately -- there’s no learning curve required. Every keystroke is nice and good and feels just right -- typing for hours on end doesn’t stress your fingers overmuch. Out of the Mini 10, Ideapad S10-3, and Aspire One 532h, I like the Ideapad S10-3 keyboard the best, closely followed by the Dell Inspiron Mini 10.

The Dell Inspiron Mini 10’s touchpad resembles a bit like the Lenovo Ideapad S10-3 -- it’s single piece with no separate mouse buttons and similarly sized. The touchpad’s surface isn’t smooth but finely textured for optimum tactile feedback while manoeuvring the mouse pointer on the Inspiron Mini 10 netbook’s 10-inch screen. If you get over its relatively small size, the Inspiron Mini 10 netbook’s touchpad works like a charm.

Overall, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 scores very high in terms of usability compared to other netbooks featured in our Top 5 Netbooks listing.

Hardware Features

The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 comes with a 10.1-inch screen and is the company’s first netbook offering based on Intel’s new improved Atom N450 processor -- compared to the Atom N280, N270, and Z530 processors of the past. Along with the Atom N450 1.66-GHz processor, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 comes with 1GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive storage, and onboard Intel GMA 3150 graphics adapter. Standard netbook specs, nothing new here.

Unfortunately, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 doesn’t incorporate either Gigabit Ethernet nor Wi-Fi 802.11n wireless connectivity -- it supports 100Mbit LAN and Dell Wireless 1397 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi only. We have at least seen Wi-Fi 802.11n wireless connectivity in two netbooks in our Top 5 Small Screen Netbook listings -- the MSI Wind U160 and Asus Eee PC 1008P Karim Rasheed Edition. Although the newer Wi-Fi connectivity standard is desirable, not having it on the Dell Inpsiron Mini 10 isn’t that big a deal -- certainly not a deal breaker.

In terms of input-output communication ports, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook comes with three powered USB ports which lets you charge USB-powered devices like MP3 players, mobile phones, or cameras in Sleep mode -- it’s very convenient, and I had no trouble charging the 64GB iPod Touch through the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 while it slept. A VGA-out port, media card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, splashed along the netbook’s edges complete the Inspiron Mini 10’s connectivity ports. The netbook also supports Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Compared to the older Mini 10, the new Inspiron Mini 10 doesn't come with an HDMI port.

Like most newer 10-inch netbooks, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 ships with 32-bit Windows 7 Starter Edition operating system and a standard six-cell Li-Ion battery pack. Dell also throws in free 2GB of online storage with the Inspiron Mini 10 nebook -- Dell DataSafe Online.

Performance
The Intel Atom N450-based netbooks have hit a saturation point in the market, where the hardware and performance of every netbook is pretty much the same. And the story continues with the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook -- with a WorldBench 6 score of 33, it is nearly as good as any other netbook in our Top 5 10-inch Netbook listing -- nothing much to separate it from others based on pure performance. I had no trouble multitasking with up to three programs -- surfing the Web over Opera 10.5, working on Microsoft Office Word and Excel files, and listening to music on iTunes.

The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook’s 10-inch screen is good for reading and watching an occasional movie. The netbook’s two 1-watt onboard speakers are located under its front lip and good for personal entertainment restricted to your office cubicle or class desk -- we recommend headphones, though. The Dell Inspiron Mini 10’s entertainment value is like any other netbook, really -- it played HD 480p and 720p YouTube videos without a hitch, but struggled playing 1080p HD video files. In a nutshell, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 does what a netbook should -- great for portable productivity (with the occasional movie thrown in for kicks).

Battery Life
When you talk netbooks, the story inevitably boils down to price and battery life, and we’re glad to report the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 doesn’t disappoint with its battery life. Through our battery tests -- carried out on high performance preset and full-screen brightness -- the Dell Inspiron Mini 10’s six-cell battery lasted an impressive 4 hours 41 minutes, second best after the Asus Eee PC 1008P in our Top 5 Netbooks listing. On a more conservative, power safe battery plan, I have no doubts the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook will squeeze out over 8 hours of uninterrupted usage on a single charge -- maybe even close to 9 hours. If every extended hour of usage from a netbook’s single battery charge matters to you, then you should seriously consider the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook.

Bottom Line

The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1012) netbook sells for a price of Rs. 17,900 on Dell’s website. We think it’s an attractive price to pay for a stylish, good-looking 10-inch netbook with standard performance, very good keyboard and excellent battery life. The netbook's online data backup service is an added bonus.

Between the Acer Aspire One 532h and the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, we wholeheartedly recommend the Inspiron Mini 10 for its better looks, design, and battery life. You should consider the Lenovo Ideapad S10-3 for its slightly better keyboard and useful bundled proprietary software, but it doesn’t match up to the Dell Inspiron Mini 10’s battery life and great price. Overall, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook is the best 10-inch netbook to buy right now.

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