New Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook: first look review
While at the Dell suite at CES 2010, I took the opportunity to play with the all-new Dell Inspiron Mini 10. Despite having the same name as its predecessor, this is a substantially different design: in particular, the hinge is now set back around an inch from the rear edge, which allows future designs to integrated more ports at the back. For now, though, only the power input has moved.
The change of design also means Dell can use a prismatic lithium-ion battery that squeezes in six cells rather than the three cells of the ordinary battery – all without adding any bulk to the chassis. The end result should be nine-and-a-half hours of life rather than the four or so hours of the three-cell battery.
This isn’t quite the wondrous engineering feat it may seem, as some compromises have clearly been made in terms of the shape of the Dell Mini 10’s rear – and its size as a whole. To get a guide, take a look at the two photos below: the new Dell Mini 10 is on the left in each photo, and the old design on the right.
Not only is the new Mini 10 chunkier at its rear, it’s also a little wider.
But it’s not all bad news, because the new Mini 10 is a good deal more versatile than the old. You’ll be able to buy some options of the Mini 10 complete with a GPS chip and turn-by-turn satnav software (according to the Dell spokespeople, this will probably be CoPilot, but they couldn’t confirm this), or choose a TV tuner to turn it into much more of an entertainment machine.
In the latter case, it will also include a Broadcom Crystal HD chip. Despite the fact the new Dell Mini 10 is based on Intel’s Pine Trail platform, which includes improved graphics to help play back video along with the faster, Hyper-Threaded 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, Dell claims the Broadcom chip is needed to ensure smooth HD playback. In this case, HD means 720p: the entertainment bundle will include a 1,366 x 768 screen rather than the usual 1,024 x 600.
You might want to add the optional USB sound bar that clips onto the lid above the webcam. It certainly improves the sound compared to the tinny speakers included with the Dell Mini 10, but naturally they still lack any notable bass.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the trackpad – and I saw the shoulders of the Dell rep sag when I asked why it hadn’t used separate buttons. “It’s coming, it’s coming,” she said, “it’s not a drop-in replacement.” See our review of the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v to see exactly why she was so keen; clearly Dell has received a lot of negative feedback about the bizarre decision to integrate the mouse button keys into the trackpad.
Unofficially, it sounds like we’ll have to wait until spring-time before the new trackpad design appears, complete with separate mouse buttons, which is a real shame as otherwise it’s a very usable laptop: the keyboard is a pleasure to type on. And, so long as you don’t accidentally stray into the bottom left and bottom right of the trackpad, this is also pretty responsive.
You can already buy the new Dell Mini 10 for £249 inc VAT if you want Windows XP, and £279 for Windows 7 Starter (incidentally, the latter choice doesn’t appear to come with 2GB of RAM, despite the claims of Dell’s marketing).
While those prices are competitive, to stand out the Mini 10 will need the extra bundles, and those aren’t currently available on the website. In the meantime, we’ll be badgering Dell UK to send us the entertainment and/or satnav bundles to see how well they work in practice.