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Dell Inspiron Mini 12 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £399
inc VAT


12.1 in 1,280×800 display, 1.2kg, 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530, 1.00GB RAM, 80GB disk, Windows Vista Home Basic

Dell’s latest netbook is the Mini 12, which was previously called the Inspiron 1210. It’s the biggest netbook yet, with a 12.1in screen, the same size as those used on many fully fledged ultra-portable laptops.

The standard version comes with Windows XP Home installed on its small 80GB hard disk. It has an Intel Atom processor running at 1.6GHz, but only 1GB of RAM. There’s no option to increase the amount of memory in the Mini 12. Because of this, you should try to avoid loading lots of applications at once. Its larger display makes it more suitable for creative work than other netbooks, but the Mini 12’s hardware struggled with both image and video editing. However, for web browsing and email, it’s more than capable.

Unusually, there’s an option to buy the Mini 12 with Windows Vista Home Basic. We were unsure about how well this would work on a netbook. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it ran reasonably well. Load times were slower than we’re used to, but once running our programs were acceptably responsive. There’s also a Linux version of the Mini 12 available for only £329, but this has a slower 1.33GHz processor and a smaller 40GB hard disk.

Like many netbooks, the Mini 12 has three USB ports and a memory card reader. However, with no optical drive and just 80GB of hard disk space, it’s not ideal for storing and viewing videos or photos, which is a shame given the larger than usual display.

The screen has a resolution of 1,280×800 pixels, the same as many laptops. Colours are natural but muted, though its glossy finish helps to add depth to darker shades. However, bright lights will cause reflections onscreen. The backlighting is generally even, apart from a bright strip at the very bottom of the display.

Build quality is generally good. The lid has a glossy black cover and feels rigid, while the underside has a highly tactile matt black finish that’s easy to grip. The lid opens to reveal a shiny grey surround that extends all the way around the keyboard and screen. It’s a clean design that looks simple but classy. The exception is the keyboard, which looks cheap and flexes heavily even when typed on lightly. The keys are flat and closely spaced, and some are half-width. Feedback is poor, and only those with smaller fingers will find touch-typing comfortable. It’s a shame Dell hasn’t used the full width of the netbook for the keyboard, even if that would have meant breaking up the grey surround. The touch pad is large but felt jittery and slightly inaccurate, although the large buttons have a light action and good travel.

We were a little disappointed by the Mini 12’s light-usage battery score of three hours and 10 minutes. This is fairly typical for a netbook, and good enough for occasional mobile use. However, Samsung’s excellent NC10 (‘Also consider…’, page 28) lasted for over eight hours in the same test, setting the bar very high for its rivals.

Though it has a larger screen than other netbooks, the Mini 12 doesn’t have the performance to make the most of it. It may be light and thin, but the average battery life means there are better options for mobile use. It’s also let down by its poor keyboard and touch pad. Many 10in netbooks, such as Samsung’s NC10, offer much better value.

Basic Specifications

Rating ***
Processor Intel Atom Z530
Processor clock speed 1.6GHz
Memory 1.00GB
Memory slots 1
Memory slots free 0
Maximum memory 1GB
Size 28x298x228mm
Weight 1.2kg
Pointing device touchpad
Power consumption standby 0W
Power consumption idle 11W
Power consumption active 15W


Viewable size 12.1 in
Native resolution 1,280×800
Graphics Processor Intel GMA 500
Graphics/video ports VGA
Graphics Memory 64MB


Total storage capacity 80GB
Optical drive model n/a
Optical drive type none

Ports and Expansion

USB ports 3
Bluetooth yes
Wired network ports 1x 10/100
Wireless networking support 802.11b/g
PC Card slots none
Modem No
Supported memory cards SD, MMC
Other ports minijack audio output, minijack microphone input


Carrying case No
Operating system Windows Vista Home Basic
Operating system restore option restore partition
Software included none

Buying Information

Warranty one year collect and return
Price £399

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