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Dell Mini 10 hands-on: beating Apple to good netbooks

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.



















By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. JackNN

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2005

    -6

    Apple learn from Dell?

    Puh-lease! Apple did the edge-to-edge keyboard thing back in 2003 with the 12" PowerBook G4. Unfortunately the new recessed keyboard doesn't really lend itself to that design. Plus Apple needs to preserve space for the Multi-Touch trackpad.
    Still, I'm holding out for a MacBook Air with a slightly smaller footprint.

  1. JeffHarris

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999

    -4

    MacBook Air

    The MacBook Air is Apple's netbook. The 13" screen and especially the full-sized keyboard are some of it's major selling points.

    JackNN... you're right about reducing the Air's footprint. If Apple could reduce the width of the bezel to something like 1/4", down from nearly an inch, it would be much smaller.

    Thinking about older macs, the PowerBook Duo series was small (8.5" x 11" x 1.5" thick), miniscule by the standards of the day, relatively light (4.8 lbs.) and powerful. With a 1.1GB hard drive, only $4700!

  1. luckyday

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008

    +5

    jack and jeff

    Apparently neither of you guys a) realize what a netbook is and b) realize how small the Mini 10 is. Keep up the good work though.

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999

    0

    woken up...

    Dell certainly seems to have woken up with the "Mini" series and the not-unattractive "Adamo". The question is why it has taken them so long?

  1. Peter Bonte

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -1

    good move for Dell

    Seems like a good product for its price, very tempting to buy my first non-apple computer in 10 years. But i'm holding on for an Apple version, a equally priced 9' tablet-iPod would instantly dwarf the current netbook market.

    Don't let me wait another year Apple!!!

  1. peli_kan

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2009

    0

    Clueless Reviewers

    You claim that the build quality on the Dell mini 9 and Dell mini 12 is subpar, while in fact they're extremely sturdy. In fact, it's a given among reviewers that both the 9 and 12 possess some of the sturdiest cases and keyboards among all the netbooks there are. The fact that build quality is always cited as a standout aspect of the Dell mini line wouldn't be so easily ignored by the reviewers had they possessed any substantial experience in person with netbooks.

    Dell laptops of the past were flimsy. They sure aren't anymore.

    Regarding the other posters' comments: Jack, Jeff, you don't seem to get what a netbook is. And Peter, I agree that an innovative Apple netbook would be well received, especially if it's something along the lines of a clamshell ipod touch that could either be used as a normal laptop, or fully folded out as a large ipod touch.

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