The upcoming Dell Mini 5 has all the makings of a great smartphone. It has a powerful 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, 3G connectivity, a multitouch touchscreen display, and the ability to last most of the day on a charge, and Google’s Android operating system. There’s just one catch: It’s kind of huge for a smartphone, thanks to the 4.8 inch, 800 x 480 pixel display.

You can hold the Mini 5 like a phone and make calls. And at 8 ounces, hopefully you won’t strain your arm while doing so. But it will look a bit like you’re holding a small book up to your head rather than a phone.

The folks at Engadget got a chance to spend some time with a pre-production version of the Mini 5, and they were pretty impressed with the form factor and performance.

But there are still a few issues to work out. Right now it’s running Google Android 1.6, which is starting to look a bit dated. And the Mini 5 has very limited support for video codecs… even more limited than other Android devices at the moment. Both of those things could change by the time the Mini 5 is available for purchase.

The bigger question is whether people are going to buy the Mini 5 instead of a smartphone, or in addition to one? Or would you rather just pick up a WiFi-only dedicated internet tablet with Google Android like the Archos 5? Archos is expected to launch two new tablets at CeBIT in March, including a 7 inch tablet and… something else.

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17 replies on “Dell Mini 5 preview: Oversized phone or tiny tablet?”

  1. I would much rather have a tablet that clumsily makes calls than a phone that clumsily browses the web or carry both a tablet and a phone.

    I can just about read a website unzoomed on my Touch Pro 2, which has a 3.6″ WVGA screen. A 5″ WVGA screen would be just about perfect for reading the entire webpage without needing to zoom/unzoom.

  2. Well, this muddies the water quite a bit. Should I go with a Net/Smartbook with a Bluetooth/PAN smartphone (tetherable 3G access), a tablet combined with the same Smartphone or this??? This is making my brain hurt.

    1. That’s easy – if you want a keyboard, then go for the netbook/smartbook, otherwise get a tablet. Hope your brain is better now 🙂

      1. I’m still leaning smartphone/tablet. Unfortunately, the only thing that will likely be available in the near future is the iPad, which isn’t really what I had in mind..

  3. Upgrade it to Android 2.1 and give it a pop-out BT ear piece that charges when docked and I am in for one!

  4. 4.8″ is the perfect size. It fits just fine in all pockets. 4.8″ is smaller than a passport or a wallet and those are designed to fit in pockets. And 4.8″ is the minimum required to have a confortable 800×480 web browsing experience that provides fully readable text when browsing websites designed for laptops and desktop monitors.

    1. I am also thinking that the wider lg gw990 (4.8″, 1024×480 screen) could be as pocketable as my nokia e90 if they didn’t add so much bezel on the sides …

  5. I’m looking at skipping smart phones. I love my wife’s Pre, but I hate the service bill every month. I’m thinking that I don’t make a lot of calls from home, and that I can forward my personal calls at work. At that point VoIP and Google Voice look really nice. If I could get a always connected tablet with a $30 a month data plan and no voice plan I’d be interested in that even more, but I’m not thrilled with the limitations of the Apple Tablet. Something like this appeals… Sort of. I don’t want a bigger phone. What I really want is a tablet and a BT or similar wireless headset that I can stream music to since I listen to headphones for 5-6 hours a day at work anyway. That’s my dream. I’m waiting for someone to let me make it happen. So keep giving me news like this. I’m always curious.

  6. I am definitely buying this. Its such a great unit. I think for smartphones, people are no more looking at 3.5 inches anymore and have moved on to 3.7 inches. Now, its 4.3 inches.

    With this unit jumping to 4.8 inches, its going to be the new standard. 3.5 inches in dead.

  7. I like the size, with a BT headset no reason to hold it to your ear. This won’t be for everyone, but the market is huge so room for niche players. Hopefully it has WiFi so it wouldn’t always need a 3G connection.

  8. Dell chose poorly. The 5″ screen is too big to make it pocketable, but too small to make it truly useful. I’d say 7″ should be the minimum screen size for this type of device.

    1. You says it’s too big to be pocketable, but then you suggest making it even bigger. Right…

      If this device hits the right price point ($500 unsubsidized, $200 on contract) i’d totally bight.

      1. No, Michael, you misunderstood him. What he meant to say is, “I want this thing to be simultaneously bigger AND smaller at the same time! Because I’m smart like that!”

        And let’s not forget that unless this thing can play DVD’s and Blu-ray natively without transcoding, then it’s worthless. Because that’s clearly the most important thing you could be doing with a computer.

        Yay netbook consumers!

    2. 4.8″ is about the size of an iphone, then it just depends on how much bezel you put around the screen.

      If someone was able to make a 4.8″ device with very little screen bezel, such as only 2-3mm on each side, then the device would barely be larger than a current iphone. Because the iphone has a huge bezel.

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