Dell Inspiron Duo review

Price when reviewed

While countless manufacturers are leaping on the tablet bandwagon, Dell has taken a completely different tack. One part tablet and one part Atom-powered netbook, its Inspiron Duo attempts to subvert the convertible tablet template and inject it with some much-needed sex appeal.

Considering the quite reasonable asking price, Dell has done wonders with the Duo’s hardware. The rounded, rubberised edges practically beg to be touched, and the 1.36kg chassis oozes a solidity and class that belies the budget price. Tilt back that subtly-patterned lid, and the Duo remains stylishly understated, brooding dark greys contrasting with the combination of matte and gloss black inside.

Look closer, though, and a thin sliver of daylight peeking between the inner and outer bezels of the display gives away the Duo’s party trick. Prod the top of the glossy panel and it spins backwards; the magnets holding it in place briefly giving way before seizing hold of it at the end of its 180-degree pirouette. Compared with the somewhat clunky feel of the traditional convertible tablet, the Duo’s transformation from notebook to tablet is almost balletic.

Dell Inspiron Duo - mid-transformation

It’s clear Dell has had to do some serious scrimping to keep the Duo’s price down, though, and it’s performance that suffers. Even with 2GB of non-expandable memory in tow, the dual-core Atom N550 processor is far from fast – it scored just 0.36 in our benchmarks. And, where you might hope that low-powered processor would send battery life soaring, it doesn’t. The Dell expired after just 3hrs 40mins in our light use test.

HD video isn’t off limits, though, courtesy of the Broadcom Crystal HD accelerator. While the Atom would normally struggle with HD video, the Duo shrugged off even our most demanding 1080p files. Web-based content proved far trickier, however, and despite multiple browsers and a cocktail of updated drivers, we couldn’t get the Duo to smoothly play HD content on iPlayer or Youtube.

It’s a shame as the Duo’s panel delivers fine image quality. The combination of a glossy 10.1in display and a relatively high 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution leaves images looking beautifully crisp, and although colour reproduction isn’t exemplary, it’s good enough. There is some room for improvement, though: the Dell’s narrow vertical viewing angles cause problems in tablet mode, and left us tilting it to and fro to get images looking their best.


Warranty1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions285 x 195 x 29mm (WDH)
Travelling weight1.6kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Atom N550
Motherboard chipsetIntel NM10
RAM capacity2.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total1

Screen and video

Screen size10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
Graphics chipsetIntel GMA 3150
Graphics card RAM256MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
HDMI outputs0
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0


Hard disk usable capacity298GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Hard diskSeagate ST9320325AS
Optical disc technologyN/A
Optical drivenone


Wired adapter speedN/A
802.11a supportno
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)2
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readerno
Memory Stick readerno
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetConexant SmartAudio HD
Speaker locationFront underside
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.3mp
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use3hr 40min
Overall application benchmark score0.36
Office application benchmark score0.30
2D graphics application benchmark score0.43
Encoding application benchmark score0.31
Multitasking application benchmark score0.41
3D performance (crysis) low settingsN/A
3D performance settingN/A

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition
Software suppliedDell Duo Stage

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