The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook has been around in various guises for a while, and Dell recently updated the entry-level version of this netbook. UPDATED 25/03/10.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook has been around in various guises for a while, and Dell recently updated the entry-level version of this netbook with a newer Intel Atom N450 processor. The Z530 processor used in this version has several of the advantages that the upgraded ‘N' version offers and lowers the price tag to a very tempting £229 inc VAT.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook with the 1.6GHz Atom Z530 processor is accompanied by 1GB of RAM, 802.11g Wi-Fi, ethernet, three USB ports, a headphone output, a microphone input, an HDMI output and a 10.1in (1024x600) screen.
Dell offers several options for customising your Inspiron Mini 10 netbook when you order it online, such as a choice of white, blue or green coloured lids (for an extra £19) or even a patterned sticker for £35. But note that the Mini 10 is limited to 1GB RAM, and this is not easily user-upgradable later on.
When customising your model, you can also choose to upgrade to a 1366x768 resolution screen. We found the extra resolution makes a difference if you're used to modern screens. The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook also includes an integrated TV tuner - an unusual addition to a netbook and the reason Dell has seen fit to include better graphics support.
The 10.1in screen looks a little small on the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook; the chassis could easily have accommodated an 11in screen. Instead, you're left with a lot of wasted border surrounding the screen. The visual quality is surprisingly decent with reasonable contrast, colour reproduction and viewing angles.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook's keyboard is large enough to type on easily, but the Fn keys, Home/End buttons and arrows are a bit cramped. The trackpad is a sort of buttonless design where you press on the lower left or right corner to left- or right-click, but it's hard to use in practice.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook's performance isn't great, scoring just 32 points in our WorldBench 6 real-world speed test, but the battery lasts for seven hours, which did impress us.
Original Dell Inspiron Mini 10 review
Dell's first netbook, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9, proved rather popular, hitting the sweetspots of price, small size and usable features. It can be had for just £199 with Linux Ubuntu, from £259 with Windows XP, or for ‘free' from mobile providers such as Vodafone with a lengthy 3G contract. It also had the distinction of being able to run Mac OS X with ease and without a litany of hacks and kludges to get the upscale OS to recognise all the laptop's built-in hardware.
But for some people, the compromise of a 8.9in screen and tiny keyboard keys is just a shrink too far. Hence we see a broader appeal for 10in screen models, which tend to be a far more usable proposition. Dell has responded with the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, broadly similar in styling, scaled up to allow a larger screen.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10's screen features edge-to-edge glass, a classy looking touch found on the latest MacBooks - and recalling the same nightmares when used in daylight or overhead-lit conditions.
We looked at a Dell Inspiron Mini 10 model sold by PC World, which uses a lower power version of the Intel Atom processor: 1.33GHz instead of the original 1.6GHz. Another step away from the norm is a new system controller (US15W) and GMA 500 graphics, designed to work with the new Z-Series Atoms and draw less power.
In general trim, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 has few other surprises, packing three USB ports, an SD Card slot, webcam, ethernet and audio in/out sockets.
But the change of graphics system has allowed a useful upgrade in the shape of an HDMI video output. Most netbooks use VGA analogue out, so when you do want to expand a limited screen with an external monitor, you must make do with fuzzy, soft-focused pictures; the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 meanwhile gives super-sharp rendering on an external screen. The new chip is also supposed to facilitate high-definition video playback. In our tests, though, it struggled with 720p video, let alone 1080p material.
While the 16:9 widescreen has even less space than usual with its 576 horizontal lines, but it's possible to synthesise a 1024x768 mode in XP's Display Properties. This may makes for poor quality and a distorted aspect picture, but it does at least allow you to see OK confirmation boxes in certain software installation routines.
Where the previous generation of Intel integrated graphics were a non-starter for 3D gaming, the new GMA 500 proved unable to even get into the paddock. An Intel X3100, for example, can just muster 2fps in our basic FEAR games test; the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 wouldn't get as far as loading the game.
Another neat touch on the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, with another nod to Apple, is the pivoting trackpad. Instead of individual left/right click buttons below the touch area, Dell has made the entire pad hinged at the back - and with left and right clicks available by aiming for the respective corners. It's not truly multi-touch as per Apple designs, but you can use the useful two-finger scroll to move pages up and down and side-to-side. We found this setup still one of the finest trackpads on any netbook yet.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10's keyboard is also one of the better examples of the breed, showing wide, almost-flat keys that fall well below the typist's touch. Whereas the Dell Mini 9 had to forsake the F-key row, the 10 has the keys in place, making extra functions such as volume, brightness, and even battery status readily available.
Despite the lower the low-power processor, we recorded a WorldBench 6 score of 35, comparable to that found on 1.6GHz Atom netbooks. Battery life disappointed though, at only three hours (183 minutes) in MobileMark 2007 Productivity, with all wireless switched off; and just 163 minutes with Wi-Fi active.
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