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Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK review: Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

Dan Ackerman
Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
5 min read

Editors' note: This review is part of our 2010 retail laptop and desktop back-to-school roundup, covering specific fixed configurations of popular systems that can be found in retail stores.


Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

The Good

WiMax antenna included; excellent battery life.

The Bad

Expensive for a Netbook; cramped touch pad; WiMax service isn't widely available.

The Bottom Line

This retail version of Dell's Inspiron Mini 10, called the iM1012-1091OBK, is the first WiMax Netbook we've seen; however, that feature may not be of much use to you, depending on where you live.

Dell makes basic mainstream laptops about as well as anyone in the industry, and the company's line of Mini-branded Netbooks--a moniker also used by HP and others--is a typically workman-like example of the genre.

However, in the very competitive Netbook landscape, being merely workman-like isn't really enough any more, and this specific fixed-configuration retail version, the Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK, feels too much like the previous generation of systems with a dated design and awkward touch pad. That said, it does bring one important new feature to the table--this is the first Netbook we've seen with a WiMax antenna built in.

Now, whether spending the extra $100 for a WiMax antenna is worth it depends on your need for faster-than-3G Web surfing speeds, as well as where you plan to take your Netbook. WiMax, like all 4G networks, is currently only available in select small to midsize markets, such as Salt Lake City and Baltimore. Clearwire, the service provider for this specific model, doesn't offer service in New York City, for example. As Clearwire's WiMax service costs between $40 and $55 per month, comparable to a 3G data plan, it's important to make sure you'll be able to get service where you are.

As a bonus, this Dell Mini 10 also has the best battery life in our current roundup of back-to-school retail Netbooks. But if you don't need (or can't use) the WiMax capability, systems such as the Asus Eee PC 1018 cost less and have better designs, while still offering more than enough battery life.

Price as reviewed $399
Processor 1.6GHz Intel Atom N450
Memory 1GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz
Hard drive 250GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel NM10
Graphics Intel GMA 3150 (integrated)
Operating system Windows 7 Starter
Dimensions (WD) 10.5x7.8 inches
Height 1.3 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 10.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.0/3.4 pounds
Category Netbook

Dell's design for this Netbook is probably the least interesting of the four retail Netbooks in our 2010 back-to-school roundup. It's essentially the same basic glossy black system with a set-in rear hinge that we've seen in the previous few generations of the Mini 10. By way of contrast, the redesigned Asus Eee PC 1018 is slimmer and has a brushed metal lid; while the Samsung N150 and HP Mini 210-1199DX both have distinctive graphical designs.

Still, we like the general keyboard layout, and the Shift, Tab, and other important keys get the full-size (relative to the rest of the keyboard) treatment they deserve. In many other Netbooks, the island-style keys are spaced somewhat widely apart--here they're more tightly packed at the base of each key, with a slight taper leading up to the flat key face.

The Dell's touch pad is wide but short, resembling the elongated pad found on older HP Netbooks. There's a reason we don't see too many of these wide touch pads any more--they're a hassle to use, especially when scrolling up and down long Web pages. The bottom left and right corners of the touch pad act as mouse buttons, leaving even less surface area for navigation.

The system, like many current Dells, has a Mac-like software dock that defaults to the top edge of the screen. It's not a must-have, but in a cramped Netbook environment, we appreciate its easy access to networking, security, and other control panels. There's a default selection of apps it can launch, but you can add your own. Also included is a Clearwire WiMax control panel that can turn the adapter off and on (it can't be used at the same time as the Wi-Fi antenna), and connect you to the service provider.

The 10.1-inch display has the typical 1,024x600-pixel native resolution you'd find on most low-cost Netbooks. However, for $399 we'd expect to get the better 1,366x768-pixel resolution found on Netbooks in this price range, especially if that WiMax connection will be used for streaming Web video.

  Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK Average for category [Netbook]
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader
Expansion None None
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, WiMax Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

Along with standard 802.11n Wi-Fi, this model also includes the first WiMax antenna we've seen in a Netbook. Unfortunately, New York isn't wired for 4G service yet, so we haven't been able to test its faster Internet connection speeds.

That said, this model performed slightly slower in our benchmark tests than comparable systems, all of which had Intel Atom N450 (or 455) processors, Windows 7 Starter, and 1GB of RAM, leaving the new WiMax hardware as the main difference--although the HP Mini 210 has newer DDR3 RAM. The real-world differences would be hard to spot when running a single app, but in our multitasking test, the difference was noticeable. Still, in anecdotal use, the Dell Mini 10 felt average for a Netbook, with occasional slowdown and stuttering, but nothing we're not used to from years of Netbook testing.

Juice box
Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012 Average watts per hour
Off 0.83
Sleep 0.95
Idle 9.48
Load 13.71
Raw kWh Number 31.96
Annual power consumption cost $3.63

Annual power consumption cost
Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

The Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK was a surprising runaway winner in terms of battery life, running for 5 hours and 56 minutes on our video playback battery drain test using the included six-cell battery. While that's very impressive, a previous version of the Dell Mini 10, without the WiMax hardware, ran for nearly an hour longer earlier in 2010.

Dell includes an industry-standard one-year parts-and-labor mail-in warranty with the system. Buying a Mini 10 direct from Dell gives you the option of upgrading through the manufacturer, but when buying retail, Best Buy offers its own two-year plan for $59. Dell support is accessible through its 24-7 toll-free phone line, an online knowledge base and driver downloads.

Jalbum photo conversion test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Asus Eee PC 1018PB-BK801
Windows 7 Starter; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 3150; 250GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK
Windows 7 Starter; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 3150; 250GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Samsung N150-11
Windows 7 Starter; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450; 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 256MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 3150; 250GB Hitachi 5400rpm

HP Mini 210-1199DX
Windows 7 Starter; 1.66GHz Intel Atom N455; 1024MB DDR3 SDRAM 667MHz; 256MB (Shared) Mobile Intel GMA 3150; 250GB Seagate 7200rpm


Dell Inspiron Mini iM1012-1091OBK

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Battery 6Support 6
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