Every man and his dog is entering the netbook market at the moment as it's one of the few areas where the PC industry is growing at the moment. That's partly down to the state of economic turmoil in which the world finds itself at the moment and partly because consumers are realising that they don't need to spend massive amounts of money on the biggest, badass notebook on the market if all they want is to do their email and browse the Internet.
It's fair to say that Samsung's NC10 has been the pick of the bunch so far, but it's not a machine that stands out in any particular area. What the NC10 did do though was tick all of the boxes with a high level of competence.
The keyboard was one of the best we've seen on a netbook, the screen was bright, performance reasonable and battery life was somewhere north of six hours. As good as the keyboard was, the 10in form-factor limited its dimensions, and typing on such a small device for long periods of time isn't ideal.
The Mini 12 is larger and thinner than most 10in netbooks
That's where 12.1-inch netbooks such as this Dell Inspiron Mini 12 come into play – they're as big as most 12.1-inch ultra portables, but they're generally thinner and crucially, don't cost an arm and a leg. For those reasons, we can understand the attraction to such a device and that's part of the reason why we're looking at the Mini 12 today.
There are a number of different versions of the Inspiron Mini 12 – the one we're looking at features an Intel Atom Z520 processor, running at 1.33GHz, Intel's US15W chipset, 1GB of RAM and a Samsung Spinpoint N2B 60GB 4,200rpm hard drive with Ubuntu Linux 8.04 installed on it. These specs are fairly similar to those of the ridiculously flawed Sony Vaio P-series, but the form factor is quite different.
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Dell hasn't made the same compromises as Sony in order to cram everything into a slender form factor – instead, the company has opted for the bigger 12-inch form factor with dimensions of 299mm x 229mm (width x depth). The decision to go down the Silverthorne route has enabled Dell to create a mightily thin netbook though, as it measures just 28mm at its thickest point – that's quite a bit thinner than the NC10’s thickest point at 31mm, for example, and the NC10 hasn’t ever been referred to as a fat heffer. The Mini 12 also weighs less than the NC10 too – it’s just 1.25kg with the three-cell battery attached, while the NC10 is about 1.3kg on the scales with the default six-cell battery.
Intel Atom Z520 processor (1.33GHz, 512KB L2 cache)
Intel SCH US15W chipset with Mobile Intel GMA500 graphics
1GB 533MHz DDR2-SDRAM
Glossy 12.1-inch LED backlit display (1,280 x 800 native resolution)
60GB Samsung Spinpoint N2B 4,200rpm hard drive
Three USB 2.0 ports, two 3.5mm audio jacks (headphone and microphone), 10/100 Ethernet and D-SUB connectors
Integrated three-in-one media card reader (SD/MS/MMC)
Built in 802.11g wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.0