CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Dell Inspiron Mini 1210 review: Dell Inspiron Mini 1210

The Mini 1210's upgraded processor and shift to Windows XP does remove some of the original model's biggest issues, but it's still not a netbook that we'd buy.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read

When we originally reviewed the Inspiron Mini 12, we were largely unimpressed with Dell's take on a large-screen netbook offering. The techy types at Dell have done some tinkering under the hood with the latest model, including offering Windows XP rather than Vista. So we were curious to find out if those differences, along with a slight price drop, were enough to get us excited again.


Dell Inspiron Mini 1210

The Good

Good keyboard. Clear display screen.

The Bad

Average battery life. Large carrying size for a netbook.

The Bottom Line

The Mini 1210's upgraded processor and shift to Windows XP does remove some of the original model's biggest issues, but it's still not a netbook that we'd buy.

The Mini 1210 follows almost exactly the same design note as the original 12-inch Inspiron Mini. Take a Mini 9, add what looks like a big silver bezel around a larger screen, shake well and present to consumers, in essence. While the larger size does allow the 1210 to present a larger and easier to use keyboard than most 9- to 10-inch netbooks, we can't help but wonder why Dell didn't expand the keyboard out closer to the edges of the bezel. There's 2cm of space on either side that just sits there, doing nothing, and the end result means it still looks and feels like a smaller and less friendly keyboard than it arguably should be.

Netbook recipes don't tend to alter much over time, and in the Mini 1210's case, Dell has just added a few sprinkles here and there. Out with the Intel Atom Z520 1.33GHz processor, for a start, replaced by a mildly quicker Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz processor. Memory is constant at 1GB, as is the Intel GMA 500 graphics adapter. Vista's thankfully been shown the door, which should lead to performance increases as Windows XP Home Edition comes in as a replacement. Unlike US buyers, there's no option for Ubuntu pre-installed. As we said, the recipe's been altered — but not by much.

That also extends to ports and plugs, where the 1210 offers up three USB ports, VGA, Kensington lock, Ethernet and 3.5mm headphone and microphone sockets. Networking is either cabled 10/100, Bluetooth or WiFi, although not 802.11n, which we have seen creeping into some netbook models. The 12.1-inch display offers a top resolution of 1280x800, a touch up on the basic resolution of most 10-inch models.

When we reviewed the original Mini 12, we noted its tendency to tip over when placed on the lap. Some things never change, and this was still something of a problem in portable use.

Despite dipping into Windows XP Home, we were unable to get PCMark05 or 3DMark06 to run satisfactorily on the 1210. Given the basic specifications, and what we've seen from these components, you're buying a system that's acceptable for web browsing, simple word processing and perhaps a touch of Solitaire. HD video processing, Crysis and CAD remain beyond its scope, however.

For such a physically big notebook, it's a bit perplexing that Dell ships it with only a three-cell battery. It does enable the slim lines of the 1210 to shine, but at the same time, combining a small battery and a big screen is never going to be a recipe for lengthy battery life. In our video playback test, the Mini 1210 lasted for one hour and 53 minutes before conking out, a little longer than we might have predicted, but still not a lengthy work time.

Tastes and needs will vary, but we're still not sold on the "bigger" form factor for netbooks. Dell has done some work to make the Mini 1210 more appealing, including dropping the price a touch. Still, at this size and price point, you can pick up a notebook with more bells, whistles and above all performance, and without the inherent limitations of the Atom processor.