Dell’s Mini netbook has got bigger, but at the same time slimmed down a bit. How does the new design shape up?
Barely a sliver of silicon thicker than Acer's recent ultra-thin D250 netbook, Dell's latest Inspiron Mini 10 has slipped under the – admittedly drafty – doors of the Stuff labs looking very, very similar to Toshiba's recent NB200.
Like the Toshiba, it's a muted machine dressed in black and silver that would fit right into a corporate environment. Useful, if any large corporations were in the habit of handing out netbooks to their drones, but as far as we know they're not – so it's worth spending the extra £25 on getting the Mini 10 redecorated in a white, blue, green or even pink finish.
For another £15 you can get an illustration tattooed on the top – but that might be pushing it in terms of value for money.
V is for...
There are two hardware versions of the Mini 10 available. The 10v is powered by an Atom N270 with Intel 950 graphics, just like every other netbook out there.
It's notable mainly for the unusually proportioned but comfortably large keyboard, and the fact it has a multi-touch mousepad that's not as large as the ones on Asus' EeePCs, but recognises a larger variety of gestures.
These include covering the mousepad with your palm to hide all open windows, which would be useful when the boss appears and you're looking at Twitter – if, as we've already mentioned, netbooks were actually used in the workplace.
Another distinguishing feature is the screen resolution. Most 8.9in and 10in netbooks come with 1024x600 displays, but with Dell there are exactly 24 pixels missing from the vertical height.
Where did they go? And why? It's an academic problem, as 24 pixels won't make a huge difference to your viewing pleasure, but intriguing all the same.
Perhaps the single most important thing about the 10v is that Dell is one of the last manufacturers still offering a Linux model at a drastically reduced price. With Ubuntu loaded up, this is the only 10in netbook with a stock price of under £200 – and that's like being handed a brown paper bag of incentives to look the other way when it comes to its flaws.
We took a look at the vanilla Mini 10, though. In most respects, there's no competition between it and the similarly priced Toshiba NB200. The Toshiba has a better screen, but the biggest problem for the Dell is that it uses a lower-power processor, the 1.3GHz Atom N520.
The desktop is noticeably sluggish compared to the more common CPU speed, and yet the battery still only manages to last a couple of hours or so.
If there's one thing in the Mini 10's favour, that's its graphics processor. It uses Intel's newer GMA 500 series GPU, which takes on some of the responsibility for decoding certain types of HD video from the main processor – but only in Windows Vista or 7. The Mini 10 ships with XP.
So in the unlikely event you've been waiting for a netbook that has real potential as an HD video player, this might be the one for you – if you don't mind upgrading the OS. But for everything else, the Samsung NC10 and Acer Aspire D250 are better alternatives.
Dell Inspiron Mini 10 review
A well-built netbook, but lower performance and battery life than its rivals