Dell is no stranger to the netbook market, what with the Inspiron Mini 9 and the Mini 12 garnering lots of attention lately. With the vast majority of netbook makers transitioning to 10-inch platforms, news has been spreading like wildfire about Dell launching its own.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 is the third piece of its netbook puzzle—a more complex piece, in a way, with tons of potential. I spent some time with the Mini 10 earlier this year at CES 2009, and there is plenty to like. Dell explains it best: "The Mini 10 starts out simple and becomes more complex from there." In the next couple of months, those holding out for a netbook will see some serious bar-raising.
If Dell labeled its netbooks small, medium, and large, the Mini 10 would fit the "medium" moniker like a glove. In size, it falls smack in the middle between the Mini 9 and the Mini 12, in large part because of the 10-inch widescreen. Like the 2.9-pound frames of the Acer Aspire One (10-inch) and the Samsung NC10-14GB, the Mini 10's weight, too, is a shade under 3 pounds.
Color customizations are plenty, as with all of Dell's consumer notebooks. Black and white, as usual, are the standard colors. For an additional fee, the Mini 10 can be dressed in Promise Pink ($5 from each purchase in that color is donated to Susan G. Komen for the [breast cancer] Cure), Cherry Red, and Jade Green. Propping up costs for a nicer design isn't new in the netbook industry; both the HP Mini 2140 and the ASUS EeePC 1002HA charge a premium for their aluminum designs, and the Sony Lifestyle PC's elongated footprint commands the highest price tag of all the netbooks.
The typing experience can make or break a netbook, which is one of the reasons why the Dell Mini 9's 89 perecent keyboard didn't bode well for touch typists. The Mini 10's 92 percent keyboard sits among the elite, matching those of the Asus EeePC 1000HE, the MSI Wind, and the HP 2140. The Samsung NC10-14GB holds the biggest netbook keyboard at 93 percent.
The touchpad and mouse buttons are a key netbook differentiator, taking a page out of the current Apple MacBook 13-inch (Aluminum) and the MacBook Pro 15-inch (Dual Graphics). It's essentially a larger touchpad devoid of traditional mouse buttons. There are left- and right-click functions, but you're basically clicking the bottom half of the touchpad.
The touchpad and the mouse buttons were responsive during my 15 minutes of quality time with them. In keeping up with the Apple theme, the touchpad supports multi-touch: With two fingers, for instance, you pan, pinch and enlarge most file types. Placing four fingers on the touchpad takes you to the desktop environment.
Like the Acer Aspire One (10-inch), adding a 10-inch widescreen option is long overdue for Dell. The Mini 10 will start out with the resolution every other netbook maker is using on 10-inch screens: 1,024-by-768. The complex part comes several months later when Dell will add a 1,366-by-768 option, similar to what the HP is offering with the Mini 2140.
It doesn't end there, though. Dell is also offering options for mobile broadband (no word on the carriers yet) and an integrated ATSC TV tuner that can receive over-the-air HD channels - a first for a netbook.
If you're wondering about HD playback, Dell showed off pre-recorded HD content playing seamlessly on the high-resolution screen, which it claims is helped by the video playback enhancements of Intel's Menlow platform (I'll get into that later).
Even without the add-ons, the features that will ship when the Mini 10 is launched on February 26 are easily tops among its netbook peers. It's one of two netbooks (the other is the Asus N10Jc-1B) that ships with a built-in HDMI-Out port, ideal for streaming video content to a larger display. The Mini 10 features a built-in GPS module, presumably with Microsoft's Streets and Maps. Aside from these two big highlights, you get the usual array of netbook ports, including three USB ports, a multi-card memory reader, an Ethernet port, and headphone and microphone jacks. The Mini 10 will come standard with a 160GB spinning hard drive, and it will offer SSD options. It won't have an ExpressCard slot like the HP 2140 and the 231733, but I think the HDMI-port makes up for this feature in spades.
The direction Dell takes with the Intel Atom processor is different from the rest of the crowd. Rather than go with the commonly used 1.6GHz N270 processor, or even the newer N280 platform (found on the Asus 1000HE), the Mini 10 will run on an Intel Atom Z520 (1.33GHz) or the Z530 (1.6GHz) processors—commonly referred to as the "Menlow" platform.
Based on past experiences, I can tell you the Menlow platform isn't as speedy as the N270 and N280, but it's more energy efficient. Video playback, according to Dell, is better optimized on the Menlow platform, which works in line with the high-resolution screen and the ATSC tuner. Like most netbooks, Dell will ship with multiple battery choices. (At launch, Dell will offer a standard 3-cell battery or an optional 6-cell unit.) Other netbook tidbits include support for both Windows XP and Linux; Windows Vista will be offered at a later date.
At launch, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 isn't the cheapest netbook on the block, as it will be priced at $549 — and this is the standard configuration. With future add-ons, tricking out this netbook might make the Asus eeePC 1000HE and the Acer Aspire One (10-inch) look like charity handouts. But this is Dell, company known for its infamous coupons and aggressive deals. The amount of technology that they could potentially pack into this netbook will make others take notice—and respond. Look for companies like ASUS and HP to intensify the netbook wars upon news of Dell's latest netbook darling.
Source : http://www.pcmag.com/