Dell entered the netbook market last year with the 8.9-inch Inspiron Mini 9 and has since released a range of increasingly larger models. The Inspiron Mini 10 is its 10.1-inch netbook and strikes a great balance between mobility and usability.
The stylish black chassis is one of slimmest we've seen and weighs just 1.2kg. Its sleek dimensions make it easy to slip into hand luggage and its excellent build quality ensures resilience on the move. The glossy lid is frequently prone to scratches and smudges, however, so you'll want to invest in a protective sleeve.
The use of a 3-cell battery allows only basic travel use, and many netbooks use more powerful 6-cell batteries. In daily use, we managed to work for 190 minutes on the move, so if you require optimum mobility, you may need to look elsewhere.
More impressive is the excellent keyboard. While the Mini 9 featured a cramped user interface, the larger size of the Mini 10 allows keys which are more easily accessible. All keys have quite a sharp and hard typing action, however.
The touchpad and mouse buttons are less usable. Although the touchpad is very wide, it is also extremely thin, so it can be awkward to access. The mouse buttons are also cut from the same piece of plastic, so it is easy to accidentally click them when scrolling on the touchpad.
The stand-out feature is the vibrant 10.1- inch screen. Encased beneath a sheet of glossy plastic, colours are stunning. The black bezel contrasts nicely with the bright panel, ensuring colours leap off the screen, so photos and movies look great.
Performance is less impressive. The 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520 processor is a less powerful variant than the N270 chip used in most netbooks, and is only suitable for the most basic use. We found standard office tasks and web browsing to run smoothly, however.
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The 160GB hard drive can easily hold your work files, alongside large collections of music, photos and videos. The flash storage card reader also provides an easy way to add storage, as well as share files with digital cameras and smartphones.
Three USB ports make it easy to add peripherals, but the inclusion of an HDMI-out port is not a well thought out choice, as only HDTV owners can connect to a larger screen. An analogue VGA-out port would have been accessible to more users.
While the excellent keyboard and screen of the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 provide strong selling points, the limited mobility and poor components restrict usability. It's not that the Dell is a bad netbook – far from it – it's just that many better netbooks can be bought at this price.
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