Dell has expanded its Inspiron Mini range of netbooks with a re-invention of the Mini 10, also known as the 1012. Highly customisable, but with a more powerful processor nestled inside, the 1012 wants to sit in your backpack and be your new best friend.
Our review sample features a high-resolution 10-inch display and a meaty six-cell lithium-ion battery that Dell reckons will net us over 9 hours of battery life. On paper there's much to like here, but for £300 we're expecting something pretty special. It's available now direct from Dell's Web site.
Dell has given the Mini an overhaul in the design department, and we have to say, we're impressed. A wide selection of colourful designs is on offer, though each model features a pure white lower half. Any colour more exciting than black will set you back another £35.
Despite being plastic all over, sturdy construction and a healthy dollop of gloss mean this netbook looks the business, and avoids the cheap plasticky look that afflicts so many similar machines. The hinge is smooth and feels secure, and is set just a little away from the back of the 1012, creating a lip where the battery is housed, a design choice we thoroughly approve of. Opening the 1012 up, we're confronted with a black textured finish on the wrist rest, and a black gloss frame surrounding the display.
The 1012 weighs in at a healthy 1.37kg. We've seen lighter netbooks, but this is far from heavy, and will happily squat in your rucksack without putting any undue pressure on your spine. We're very impressed with the build quality -- the whole package feels solid and durable, and the central hinge feels secure.
The display looks great too -- that 10-inch, 1,366x768-pixel LCD screen is bright and clear, and while the resolution is high, the screen itself is just big enough that on-screen text won't show up in squint-inducing microvision.
While a high-resolution screen does make photos and Web pages look extremely pretty, however, be warned this netbook isn't powerful enough to play much high-resolution video. When we tested out some 720p content, our HD video ended up looking more like a slideshow. The viewing angle wasn't too impressive either -- you'll have to be checking out this screen from directly in front if you want to see it at its best, but if you're positioned correctly, this is a really good-looking display.
The 1012 sports a surprisingly large isolated keyboard. Its individual keys feel springy and responsive and that large textured wrist rest helps make typing really comfortable.
The trackpad is another matter, however. We've taken issue with Dell Mini trackpads before, and while this isn't as bad as the one in the original Dell Mini 10, its tiny dimensions mean there simply isn't enough room to use one finger to move the cursor and your thumb to click.
We had better luck using the index finger of one hand to move the cursor and another hand to click. The good news is that the trackpad surface itself is very responsive, and thankfully tapping the trackpad surface to click works really well -- only a light tap is needed to register your input.