So far, Dell's netbooks have been hit and miss. We liked the cute Inspiron Mini 9, but were less enamoured with the under-powered Inspiron Mini 12, so we were keen to see how the Inspiron Mini 10 shapes up. Our review sample was the latest, high-specification model, featuring a high-resolution screen and a speedy Intel Atom Z530 processor. As a result, it retails at the higher price point of £390 (other versions cost between £200 and £300). You can enter the code 'NRM1001' to see the full specification of this netbook on Dell's Web site.
The Mini 10 has a black lid by default, but, for £25 extra, you can choose a red, green, pink, blue or white version. Alternatively, for £40 extra, you can get a model with a design from graphic artist Tristan Eaton. While these designs are certainly eye-catching, they're not really to our taste.
The Mini 10 isn't as slim as some rivals, such as the Acer Aspire One 751, and matters are made worse by the fact that the large six-cell battery supplied with our sample protrudes downwards from the case by about 2cm. It would have looked less ungainly if it had simply protruded out the back of the chassis, as with most other netbooks.
Things improve when you get to the screen, partly because it's got a higher resolution that other 10-inch netbook displays we've seen. Rather than the usual 10-inch screen resolution of 1,024x600 pixels, the Mini 10's display sports a significantly higher resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. The extra resolution is a big help, especially when using the Web browser or working on Word documents, as it means you won't find yourself having to constantly scroll down to see more of the page, as you do on some other netbooks.
The screen is also very bright and has good colour fidelity, so photos and videos look excellent. Like most netbooks on the market at the moment, the Mini 10 has a small 1.3-megpaixel webcam above the display, which is handy for video calling on services like Skype.
The screen is surrounded by a rather large bezel -- it's about 20mm thick. That makes us think that this netbook was either originally designed with a larger screen in mind or that Dell has intentionally gone for a larger form factor so it can squeeze in a bigger keyboard. Whatever the truth, thanks to its relatively big keys, the keyboard feels much more like one you'd find on a standard laptop. This is helped by the fact that Dell has opted for standard keys, rather than the calculator-style ones used on rivals like the Samsung N310.
While the keyboard is excellent, the trackpad is one of the worst we've used on any netbook. The buttons are integrated into the surface area of the pad, rather than sitting beneath it, as with most other netbooks and laptops. When you press on the buttons, the whole front of the pad pivots downwards. Also, when you go to click the button, the pad area around it sometimes registers your finger as having moved to that position and so moves the on-screen cursor accordingly. This quickly becomes extremely annoying.
As with most netbooks on the market, the Mini 10 has three USB ports, an Ethernet socket, a three-in-one card reader, and support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It doesn't follow the pack, however, when it comes to its display port. Rather than the usual VGA port, Dell has opted for an HDMI socket. This is great if you want to hook the Mini 10 up to an HD Ready TV, as it outputs video and audio over the same cable.
On the storage front, Dell has opted for a standard mechanical hard drive. This offers 160GB of storage space, which is enough to hold a significant number of photos, videos, music tracks and work documents.
The Mini 10's brains are supplied courtesy of an Intel Atom Z530 processor that ticks over at 1.6GHz. This is supported by 1GB of RAM, which is enough to run the netbook's Windows XP operating system. Unfortunately, our review sample refused to complete both our PCMark05 and 3DMark06 benchmark tests, but it feels pretty speedy by netbook standards and can cope with more taxing tasks, like watching full-screen video from the BBC's iPlayer service, without too many problems.
While battery life is good -- the Mini 10 managed to keep running for 4 hours and 16 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test -- it isn't quite as impressive as we'd expected, especially given the size of this netbook's battery pack.
We like the Dell Inspiron Mini 10's high-resolution screen and love its HDMI port. The annoying trackpad and awkwardly designed battery pack are big letdowns, however. Dell still has some way to go before it produces a really stunning netbook.
Edited by Charles Kloet