Dell Inspiron Mini 10v review

13 Oct 2009

The vivid 10in screen and light travelling weight are both attractive features in this well-priced netbook, but there are some annoying flaws too

Price when reviewed 
279
3

The Dell Inspiron Mini 10v won't win any awards for style; it won't win any awards for features; but it's certainly challenging all netbook comers when it comes to value.

You can buy the hardware for £199, including VAT and delivery, if you choose Ubuntu as the operating system, while a Windows XP version is on offer for £249 inc VAT and delivery - and often for less courtesy of the numerous special offers on Dell's website (generally you can expect £10 or £20 to be knocked off the price).

But even without the odd £10 or £20 off, the Mini 10v looks compelling. You get the typical netbook ingredients of a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard disk, and a 10.1in screen with a 1,024 x 600 resolution.

The good, the bad, the touchpad

What's more, compared to other budget netbooks such as the Asus 1005HA, this is an excellent screen. There's no hint of the grain that affects the Asus, with a bright, sharp and glossy screen that makes films and photos look great. The drawback is reflectivity, which is fine in the home but awful under fluorescent lights.

Some of this good work is undone by the keyboard, which is rattly and lacks the tactile feel of the better netbooks, most notably the PC Pro A-Listed Samsung N110. However, it isn't terrible: the keys are large and the only obvious sacrifices to the limited space on offer are reduced-height function and cursor keys.

What is terrible, and one of the main reasons the Dell Mini 10v doesn't gain a Recommended award, is the touchpad. It's wide and reasonably responsive, but for some reason known only to this laptop's designers the mouse buttons are integrated into its bottom left and right corners.

Dell Inspiron Mini 10v

This means that, unless you're absolutely precise, when you left-click on the screen the cursor jumps to the left as well. It can be very, very frustrating.

Battery life

There are other annoyances too. Chief is battery life, which is less than mediocre: 3hrs 28mins under light use might be a reasonable return for a conventional laptop, but is disappointing for a netbook. Bear in mind the Samsung N110 lasts for over nine hours.

The main reason for the Dell Mini 10v's minimal battery life is the minimal battery. In return for a tiny chassis - and the Mini 10v is one of the smallest netbooks we've seen, at 261 x 183 x 30mm - it opts for a 2,100mAh battery.

Details

Price ex VAT £243
Price inc VAT £279
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 5
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 261 x 183 x 30mm (WDH)
Weight 1.150kg
Travelling weight 1.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N270
Motherboard chipset Intel 945GSE Express
RAM capacity 1.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 600
Resolution 1024 x 600
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 950
Graphics card RAM 128MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Hard disk usable capacity 139GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA
Hard disk Western Digital WD2500BEVT-75ZCT2
Optical disc technology None
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 2,100mAh
Replacement battery price ex VAT £69
Replacement battery price inc VAT £79

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support no
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Base
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 3hr 28min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 0min
Overall application benchmark score 0.42
Office application benchmark score 0.55
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.34
Encoding application benchmark score 0.39
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.43
3D performance (crysis) low settings Fail
3D performance setting Low

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows XP Home SP3
OS family Windows XP
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied Microsoft Works 9, McAfee Security Center (15-month licence), Dell dock