The Dell Inspiron Mini 10v is the first 10 inch laptop from Dell to feature an Intel Atom N270 processor. You might think that makes this laptop just like virtually every other 10 inch netbook on the market, but there are a few key features that make the Mini 10v stand apart including a good keyboard, an odd touchpad, and decent battery life.
The unit reviewed has a 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 160GB hard drive and 6 cell battery. The model I received ships with Windows XP, but the Inspiron Mini 10v is also available with Ubuntu or Moblin Linux. The laptop is available for purchase from Dell for $299 and up.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10v is relatively compact for a 10 inch netbook thanks to a keyboard which stretches virtually from one end of the chassis to the other and a touchpad which incorporates the left and right mouse buttons into the touch area. There’s a decent sized bezel around the display, but it would be hard to make the netbook much smaller without shrinking the keyboard.
Dell offers the netbook in a number of colors. The black model is included in the base cost, or for $40 extra you can get the netbok with a white, red, pink, blue, green, or purple lid. The model reviewed has a purple lid which is glossy but does not show fingerprints as clearly as most other glossy lids I’ve seen. The bezel around the display is matte, and while there’s a glossy silver strip of plastic in the palm rest area, it doesn’t really show fingerprints either.
The hinge is placed in a way so that when you open the lid it folds down a bit behind the base of the computer which helps keep the machine from taking up too much vertical space. But that also means it doesn’t open to a very wide angle.
Around the sides of the netbook you’ll find mic and headphone jacks, 3 USB ports, a VGA port, Ethernet jack, and SD card reader.
The bottom of the Inspiron Mini 10v has a single access panel for replacing or upgrading the RAM the wireless module. If you want to upgrade the RAM, change the hard drive or other components you’ll have to disassemble the laptop, which can be a time and labor-intensive process.
If you get a 3 cell battery it will sit flush with the base of the netbook. The 6 cell battery sticks out like a sore thumb. But while the 6 cell battery isn’t exactly the most attractive, it slides firmly into place, makes a nice carrying handle, and gives the keyboard a bit of tilt which makes typing reasonably comfortable.
Keyboard and Touchpad
I usually start this section by focusing on the keyboard. But by far the most noticable feature on the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v is the touchpad. It’s nice and wide and has a decent textured feel to it. When you scroll your finger along the right side (up and down) or bottom (left and right) you can scroll through applications and web pages.
But here’s what’s really interesting: The left and right mouse buttons are built right into the touchpad. When you want to left click, you actually push down on the touchpad near the bottom left. To right-click you press down near the bottom right.
This combination touchpad/button layout saves a lot of space without resorting to the HP style solution of putting the buttons on the left and right side of the touchpad. But there are at least two major problems with the touchpad. First, if you’re used to using one hand to move the cursor around the screen and the other to click the mouse buttons, you’ll have to be very careful with this netbook. If your clicking hand is hovering over the touchpad at the same time as your scrolling hand, there’s a good chance you’ll accidentally make the cursor jump across the screen just before you meant to click.
You can avoid this by just using one hand on the touchpad and lifting your finger and moving to the integrated buttons when you wan to click. But that leads to the second problem: If you don’t hit the integrated buttons in exactly the right spot, you’ll instead implement the tap-to-click touchpad feature. So you’ll sometimes wind up causing a left-click action when you meant to right-click. The only way I’ve found to avoid this problem is to disable the tap-to-click feature.
The touchpad doesn’t support multitouch gestures, but there is an optional setting that lets you zoom in some applications by scrolling up and down with one finger on the left side of the touchpad.
I’ve been using the Inspiron Mini 10v for the past week or two and I’ve started to get used to the touchpad, but I’m still not a big fan and I find the netbook much easier to use when I plug in a USB mouse.
The keyboard is nice and wide and features all the right buttons in all the right places. One odd feature is that the function keys at the top of the keyboard are designed a little differently from those on pretty much every other laptop I’ve ever used. Instead of hitting F11 to change your browser to full screen mode, for instance, you have to hit Fn+F11. To adjust the screen brightness you simply hit F4 or F5 without hitting the Fn key.
This arrangement actually makes a lot of sense. After all, odds are you’re going to need the volume, screen brightness, battery meter, and WiFi toggle buttons far more often than the F6 key. But if you spend a lot of time working on more than one laptop, you may occasionally find yourself hitting Fn+F7 and wondering why the volume hasn’t been muted.
Update: It turns out there’s actually an option to reverse the function of the Fn keys in the BIOS. Thanks Phil!
Like many other 10 inch netbooks, the Inspiron Mini 10v has a 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel glossy display. But it doesn’t reflect quite as much glare as some other glossy screens I’ve used. I wouldn’t want to use this laptop outdoors in bright sunlight for an extended period of time,but indoors it’s quite comfortable to use.
You can adjust the screen brightness using the F4 and F5 keys and I find that even at the lowest setting, the display is readable.
The laptop performs pretty much exactly as like every other machine with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and Windows XP. It can handle a variety of tasks including surfing the web with multiple browser tabs open, playing 720p video from the desktop, or Flash video from most web sites.
The Inspiron Mini 10v isn’t exactly a speed demon, but the Intel Atom N270 processor is a bit more responsive than the 1.33 Z520 chip found in the base model of Dell’s first 10 inch netbook, the Inspiron Mini 10. I’ve reviewed two different computers using that same processor used in the Asus Eee PC T91, and Eee PC 1101HA, and both left me feeling underwhelmed. It’s worth pointing out that the Dell Mini 10 is also available with a faster 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530 processor, but the 1.6GHz Atom N270 processor in the Mini 10v is generally described as being more responsive.
The speakers, which are located at the front of the netbook just under the keyboard are reasonably loud but not particularly full sounding.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 10v is availabel with either a 3 cell, 24WHr battery or a 6 cell, 56Whr battery. While the 6 cell battery sticks out of the bottom of the unit and adds a bit of weight, it also provides more than twice the run time.
I was able to get between 6 and 7 hours of run time out of the netbook with WiFi on and the screen brightness set at about 40%. There are certainly a few other netbooks that get better battery life, but I’m still pretty impressed with the Mini 10v’s performance. It comes pretty close to having an all-day battery, assuming you have an 8 hour workday and a decent lunch break.
The unit featured in this review came with Windows XP installed. But Dell also sells the Inspiron Mini 10v with Ubuntu Linux or a Ubuntu Moblin Remix Developer Edition.
Dell packs the Windows XP version of the Inspiron Mini 10v with a handful of utilities including a WiFi manager and a Support Center application for downloading drivers and receiving Dell support alerts and other information.
There’s also a webcam application for snapping photos, recording videos, or adding effects. And Dell includes a video chat utility that’s powered by SightSpeed.
The computer also comes with Microsoft Works and Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer preloaded as well as McAfee Internet Security. It’s not the most impressive set of software, but you can always uninstall any programs you don’t need to free up disk space.
If you can handle the odd touchpad, the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v is a solid 10 inch netbook with good build quality, a decent keyboard, and above average battery life. But the touchpad may be a dealbreaker for some people. If you generally plug in a mouse, or don’t have a problem with the Inspiron Mini 10v touchpad’s integrated mouse buttons, then don’t sweat it. At $299 and up, the Mini 10v gives you a decent bit of bang for your buck.
Just bear in mind that the $299 model comes with a 3 cell battery. You’ll have to pay $35 more for a 6 cell battery, an upgrade which I highly recommend.
You can read more about the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v and leave comments in the Liliputing Product Database.