updated 04:25 pm EST, Mon March 2, 2009
Dell Mini 10 Hands On
Electronista has been fortunate enough to get an early review unit of Dell's Inspiron Mini 10, and we have some of the first impressions of the system from our (slightly dirty) sample. The overriding sense from a first glance is one of quality. Unlike most netbooks or even Dell's own Mini 9 and 12, the Mini 10 has a reassuringly solid construction that doesn't feel like it will fall apart. That extends to an aluminum palmrest and a wide, single-piece hinge that opens up smoothly and without wobbling.
Apple fans will also find that the system has more than a few passing resemblances to current MacBooks; besides the rounded design, it also has a glass-covered glossy display and a very discrete webcam. Crucially, it's also one of the few netbooks beyond some ASUS Eee PC models to have a multi-touch trackpad: you can scroll using two fingers and should have other functions as well, though we have yet to explore everything the pad is capable of. It's a significant improvement on most netbook pads as it frees up space for regular input and makes scrolling more natural. It's surprisingly comfortable, at least during initial use.
In fact, it's possible that Apple may want to start taking notes on designing netbooks based on our early experience. Besides the trackpad, the Mini 10 negates Apple claims that netbooks have to have cramped keyboards and therefore don't really work. Dell's keyboard is edge-to-edge and falls very naturally to hand, even with normally tricky keys to implement like Alt and Shift. That includes function keys; the extra screen size and engineering know-how has let Dell add an extra row for F-series keys despite being only slightly larger.
Performance and most other aspects of the Inspiron Mini 10 will have to wait for our full review in the near future, though ours is a slightly upgraded model with the 1.6GHz Atom chip and so will perform slightly better htan the stock 1.33GHz model. In the meantime, we have a full gallery of the Mini 10.