The large screen and comfortable keyboard mean that doing an entire day's work on Dell's Inspiron Mini 12 netbook won't cause any undue strain. But the poor battery life could prove prohibitive for business users.
12in screen; full-sized keyboard.
Poor battery life; price tag nearer to that of an entry-level notebook.
Dell's new Inspiron Mini 12 is something of an oddity in that it doesn't seem to quite know what it wants to be: it's the size of a notebook, designed like an ultra-portable and specced like a netbook.
The slim form factor makes it look very appealing, and it will slip easily into a normal briefcase or large handbag. Weighing just 1.25kg means that it shouldn't be a burden to carry around.
The glossy lid looks impressive but does pick up fingerprints and smudges very easily. The power adaptor weighs a respectable 150g, but the plug is built into the transformer which can make it tricky when trying to charge from a power strip or recessed socket.
The 12in screen is large by netbook standards, but under the hood the Mini 12 packs a pretty standard set of specifications including a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520 processor, 1Gb of DDR2 RAM and a 40GB hard drive, which would be OK if it was solid state, but is somewhat on the small side for a traditional drive.
In terms of connectivity, the Dell Mini 12 provides three USB ports as well as a multi-card reader, and can connect to networks over 802.11g Wi-Fi or 10/100Mb LAN. There is also a space for a SIM card behind the battery, but our review unit didn't have a 3G modem installed. There is also a 1.3-megapixel webcam for video calls, and a VGA port for connecting to an external monitor or projector.
The review model provided runs the Ubuntu distribution of Linux. This poses an interesting conundrum for many people because, although Linux avoids the extra cost of a Windows licence, it can be a daunting prospect for those who have never used it before.
For those worried about using a Linux-based machine for the first time, this distribution has been created to make those familiar with Windows feel right at home. The main taskbar sits along the top of the screen rather than the bottom, but apart from that the two operating systems are very similar in most of the basic ways.
The only time a user may encounter some difficulties is if they need to dig around in the system settings or install a device that isn't supported on Linux.