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Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 review

Alan Lu
23 Apr 2010
Dell Inspiron Mini 1012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
279
inc VAT

Its HD support might not be up to much and the touchpad's annoying, but the high-resolution screen makes this a desirable choice.

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Netbooks are perfectly good for basic internet and office tasks, but are usually incapable of playing high definition (HD) video. To overcome this some manufacturers have fitted their netbooks with HD-capable graphics chips, but these can shorten battery life.

Dell has taken a different route with its Inspiron Mini 1012 netbook: it has a 1,366x768 10in screen and a Broadcom CrystalHD decoder for playing HD video.

The good news is that the Mini's battery life is far superior to netbooks fitted with Nvidia's HD-capable Ion graphics chip. It lasted just under nine hours in our light usage test, so it should be good for a day's work.

The bad news is that the Mini often struggled with HD playback. Although playing a Blu-ray movie or streaming HD video from YouTube and BBC iPlayer was initially smooth, the video quickly dropped frames during fast-paced action sequences, becoming choppy and unwatchable. We suspect the bottleneck is the 1GB of system memory installed in the Mini, which is only just enough to run Windows 7 Starter and a couple of basic applications but insufficient for consistently smooth HD playback.

Annoyingly, while the 1GB stick of RAM can be replaced with a 2GB module, you have to take the entire netbook apart, which is difficult to do. It's a shame that Dell didn't provide access to the memory through a removable panel, as with the majority of netbooks.

Performance in our other tests was as we'd expect from a netbook. The 1.66GHz Atom N450 processor managed an overall score of 15. This laptop's fine for basic office and internet jobs, but you'll want something faster for more processor-intensive tasks. Graphics are powered by the processor's integrated Intel graphics chip, which isn't capable of playing games.

We found it a little strange that this netbook only has an 802.11b/g wireless adaptor, rather than faster 802.11n. It means that file sharing on your home network could be slow. It's good to see Bluetooth built-in, as it makes it possible to tether your phone to the Mini 1012 for 3G internet while you're out and about.

Even though video might not be perfect, it's still nice to have the 1,366x768 screen resolution, as it makes using multiple windows and applications easier compared to the standard netbook 1,024x600 pixel screen. It's bright too with good contrast and reasonably accurate colours. Viewing angles are pretty good, too.

The Mini 1012 feels rigid and robust. It also looks very stylish. The standard model comes with a black lid, but for an extra £35 on the price listed above you can get it in a range of colours.

We found that the keyboard was very comfortable type on thanks to the responsive keys that have just the right amount of feedback and travel. The touchpad is disappointing. Although accurate, it's very small with the buttons built into its lower left and right hand corners. This makes certain actions such as dragging and dropping icons far more difficult than they should be.

Although the Mini 1012's HD playback wasn't what it was cracked up to be, the high-resolution screen and decent battery life still make it a fantastic choice, provided you can live with the annoying touchpad. Alternatively, the Toshiba NB305 or NB300 netbooks have better battery life and are easier to us, although they have standard 1,024x600 screens.

Basic Specifications

Rating*****
ProcessorIntel Atom N450
Processor clock speed1.66GHz
Memory1.00GB
Memory slots1
Memory slots free0
Maximum memory2GB
Size35x270x199
Weight1.4kg
SoundRealtek HD Audio
Pointing devicetouchpad

Display

Viewable size10.1 in
Native resolution1,366x768
Graphics ProcessorIntel GMA 3150
Graphics/video portsVGA
Graphics Memory256MB

Storage

Total storage capacity250GB
Optical drive modelnone
Optical drive typeN/A

Ports and Expansion

USB ports3
Bluetoothyes
Wired network ports1x 10/100
Wireless networking support802.11b/g
PC Card slotsnone
ModemNo
Supported memory cardsSDHC, MMC, Memory Stick Pro
Other portsnone

Miscellaneous

Carrying caseNo
Operating systemWindows 7 Starter 32-bit
Operating system restore optionrestore partition, restore disc
Software includedMicrosoft Works 9
Optional extrascolour lid £35, two year extended warranty £19, three year extended warranty £29, one year extended warranty with accidental damage £36, two year extended warranty with accidental damage £109, integrated 3G modem £100

Buying Information

Warrantyone year collect and return
Price£279
Detailswww.dell.co.uk
Supplierhttp://www.dell.co.uk

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