Dell aims for the netbook sweet spot with the Inspiron Mini 10, which introduces a multitouch trackpad and near full size ‘edge-to-edge’ keyboard
With the debut of its third netbook in barely six months, there’s no doubt that Dell is serious about netbooks – and it’s in the game to win, or at least take a sizeable chunk of this hot-to-trot market.
The Inspiron Mini 10 slots into the 10 inch form factor which many consider to be the sweet spot for netbooks. It’ll arrive in the first half of March at $799, which positions the Mini 10 a solid step up from the smaller Mini 9
($549) but curiously, just $50 below the slim-line Mini 12
which sells for just $849 in its latest XP-equipped incarnation.
From our initial hands-on session with Dell’s newest netbook, it’s clear the Mini 10 is closer to the Mini 12 in more than just price.
While the design borrows a bit from both its siblings – the slight pudge of the Mini 9 combined with the sharper angular lines of the Mini 12 – under the black and white covers you’ll find almost the same platform as the 12.
That means Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom Z530 processor in lieu of the more common 1.6GHz N270 and a maximum 1GB of RAM. But before the digerati let forth a disappointed wail, our information from Dell is that this limitation is only because the Mini 10’s memory wafer is hard-mounted onto the motherboard (a tactic to reduce space and production costs).
We’re told that an upgraded model will be offered mid-year with a 2GB chip. Okay, that model may ship with Windows Vista instead of the Mini 10’s launch config of Windows XP, but you won’t be the first (or the last) to blast away the overblown Vista for XP or even Linux (and before you ask, Ubuntu still doesn’t appear on Dell’s Australian roadmap for the Inspiron Mini or indeed any of its notebooks).
The Mini 10’s 160GB is twice the capacity of the 12’s 60GB platter, but there’s no SSD option. The three cell battery 24Whr battery is rated for a predictable three hours and graphics are still driven by Intel’s GMA 500 module. Three USB ports, a memory card reader, 1.3 megapixel webcam and Bluetooth complete the roster.
If that’s all there was to the Mini 10 it could suffer from ‘middle child’ syndrome – it’d be the always-overlooked Jan of Dell’s netbook Brady Bunch, neither as cool (and dare we say, sexy) as Marsha nor as ‘aww shucks’ cute as Cindy.
Happily, Dell’s put a little extra work into shaping the Mini 10. The slightly larger footprint afforded by the 10.1 inch screen permits an ‘edge to edge’ keyboard which Dell cites as being 92% of a full size notebook. HP’s Mini 1000
sports an almost identical design, and if you’ve seen and used its delightful keyboard you’ll know what a win this is over the compact but somewhat compromised keyboard of the Mini 9.
The oversized trackpad has multitouch capabilities with gestures for rotating, scrolling and zooming photos and documents as well as minimising all windows to get to the desktop. Dell has also ditched the mouse buttons, which are now integrated into the lower left and right of the trackpad.
Wireless is upgraded to 802.11n and there’s an HDMI port, although no VGA output – a certain bone of contention for many who’ll want to connect the Mini 10 to an external monitor or projector, many of which (especially in the low-budget bracket) still lack HDMI or even DVI.
The LED backlit screen also sports a quite trendy ‘edgeless’ design where the black bezel surrounding the display extends to the edge of the lid so that the entire assembly sits under a single sheet of glass.
The 16:9 panel is clocked at 1024x576 – a sharper 1366x768 panel is slated for the mid-year refresh, along with options including a digital TV tuner (the main reason for the Mini 10’s HDMI video port), a six cell battery and GPS receiver.
Before then we expect to see Vodafone release a 3G version of the Mini 10 along the same lines as their mobile broadband-bundled Mini 9
At launch the Mini 10 will be available only in black and white, but those with a taste for colour will be eager for a mid-year refresh which will introduce blue, green, red and pink.
The photos on this page don’t quite
reflect their true colours – in real life the green looks less lime and certainly several shades soft of Kermit, while the blue is a little more ‘dusky’. Dell will also introduce a series of unique designs for the fashionistas.
The Inspiron Mini 10 will go on sale by mid-March, and we hope to bring you a full review in the next two weeks.