Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (2nd gen) review

8 Apr 2010

A swish new design, great battery life and it plays HD video, but the touchpad is truly appalling

Price when reviewed: 
279inc VAT
3

In a world of drab IT clones, a dash of creativity and a lick of paint can work wonders in grabbing the attention. Dell has long offered a choice of lid designs and finishes on its laptops, and the latest update to the Inspiron Mini 10 follows suit with seven vibrant lid colours for a £35 premium. That's not the only design appeal, though, as the whole netbook looks more interesting than most.

It's the decision to position the hinge slightly forward from the back of the base that gives the Mini 10 its distinctive look. Partly to allow for a six-cell battery without an obvious protrusion at the rear, partly to leave space for future port additions, it makes the Dell progressively thicker from front to back. But it also makes it stand out, and that counts for a lot in the netbook arena.

Dell Inspiron Mini 10

The New Cherry Red finish on our sample contrasted nicely with the white of the base and the black of the interior, and the 10.1in screen surround is thick and glossy like the screen itself. We're delighted to see a 1,366 x 768 resolution on this top-end model, as it makes such a difference in daily use, particularly when browsing web pages. It fits the 10.1in size nicely too, and it's matched by a decent backlight and reasonably good contrast. We're not blown away by its quality, but in netbook terms it's one of the better screens you'll find.

There are some advances inside, too. Intel's Pine Trail platform, comprising an Atom N450 and the NM10 chipset, had it running through our benchmarks at the usual pace – a score of 0.32 is as expected. But this netbook has an extra addition to give it an edge in other areas. As well as the bog-standard Intel GMA 3150 graphics, which won't handle HD video, you get a Broadcom CrystalHD Media Accelerator which supposedly will.

To properly test it we downloaded the release candidate of Adobe's Flash 10.1 and updated the CrystalHD drivers. This done, YouTube and iPlayer videos ran smoothly at 480p, and upping that to the screen's optimum 720p resolution saw it very close to smooth playback. We still saw dropped frames in fast-moving scenes, but for the most part it's a surprisingly watchable experience.

The best part is that all that entertainment won't kill the battery, as Dell has plumped for a six-cell unit that provides an impressive amount of juice. Our light-use test, leaving the netbook idle, saw it die just two minutes short of the ten-hour mark – remarkable even by netbook standards. That fell to 5hrs 2mins when pushed to its limits.

Details

Price ex VAT £237
Price inc VAT £279
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Performance 2

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 268 x 197 x 32.8mm (WDH)
Weight 1.380kg
Travelling weight 1.6kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N450
Motherboard chipset Intel NM10
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 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 3150 + Broadcom CrystalHD accelerator card
Graphics card RAM 256MB
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 250GB
Hard disk usable capacity 218GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Hitachi HTS545025B9A300
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive None
Battery capacity 4,840mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

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
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
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 Front edge, 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 9hr 58min
Battery life, heavy use 5hr 2min
Overall application benchmark score 0.32
Office application benchmark score 0.37
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.33
Encoding application benchmark score 0.30
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.29

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Starter 32-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery disc