This highly innovative netbook/tablet hybrid is easy to criticise, but the Inspiron Duo offers a glimpse at the future of personal computing.
Those that can look past its undeniable quirks may find a device that changes the way they use a computer.
The idea is that you buy the device with a dock. This acts as a hub for the netbook and converts it into an alarm clock and photo frame, while also charging it.
The dock comes with JBL-branded speakers, which are decent enough, but won't challenge a home hi-fi system.
When you're out and about with the device you have the choice of either netbook or tablet mode.
Switching between them, by flipping the panel horizontally and then closing the lid, is intuitive and the mechanism feels sturdy enough to survive rigorous use.
Firstly, the device impresses in netbook mode. The 1366 x 768-pixel resolution is sharp inside the 10.1-inch screen, while the spacious keyboard provides a great typing experience, despite a bit of flexibility. Those who want to edit and type in word documents will have no problem using the device for hours on end.
Performance is standard fare for a netbook and, while office applications run fine, more resource-intensive programs and multi-tasking causes serious lag.
Battery life: 215 minutes
MobileMark 2007: 60
3DMark 2003: 642
In terms of connectivity, 802.11n Wi-Fi is great for wireless networking to a home router, for example, but the lack of an Ethernet port (even though the dock features one) and video out does seem an omission. It means that those who like to view content on their TV, for example, simply don't have the option.
In tablet mode you're introduced to Dell's 'Stage' touch software, which gives you quick access to your music, videos and photos, among other things.
It sits over the Windows 7 interface and, although intuitive, features a few quirks that make it sometimes confusing. You can't travel back through some menus, for example.
The touchscreen isn't as accurate as we would have liked either, which can be frustrating, but once you get used to it, browsing the web and selecting music is surprisingly quick and easy – and offers a much more intuitive experience than in netbook mode.
The Inspiron Duo is also pretty heavy.
Portability-wise the device is no problem to carry around, but the 215-minute battery life is a little disappointing.
There's no doubt the Inspiron Duo is flawed by a few issues, but we thoroughly bought into Dell's vision of combining the netbook and tablet, and flipping between the two to carry out different tasks is intuitive and fun.
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