Dell Mini 12 is the hottest new Netbook on the market
Dell has just launched the Inspiron Mini 12 which is the slimmest and newest and slimmest Netbook on the market for $550, $600, and $650. What makes this Netbook hot is the 1.1 inch thickness, superior Poulsbo chipset with full HD decode which is superior to any other Atom-based Netbook, and the 12.1″ 1280×800 LCD panel.
The $600 model looks like the sweet spot with a 1.6 GHz Intel Z530 Silverthorne processor, 60 GB 4200 RPM hard drive, 6-cell 48 watt*hour battery, and 1 year warranty. The $650 model gives you an upgrade to a 80 GB hard drive and a 2-year warranty which also sounds like a pretty sweet deal. The $550 model looks like a skip because you only get a 3-cell 24 watt*hour battery, a 1.33 GHz Z520 processor, and 40 GB hard drive. All models come in Obsidian black and Alpine white.
All models have integrated 802.11g and Bluetooth which is important because external Bluetooth dongles ruin the form factor of a laptop. In my experience, having Bluetooth is a critical feature in any notebook when you have a Bluetooth mouse like the Microsoft Notebook Mouse 5000 (which I own and love) and a $20/month 3G tethering plan for cellular data services. You’re not always going to be able to find a hotspot and paying $10 per use for hotspot service while you wait for an airplane sucks.
On the down side, the 92% keyboard isn’t as large as it could be. My Lenovo X200 has a 100% keyboard that stretches from edge to edge. Furthermore, Dell seems to have loaded this thing up with a ton of crapware so it takes 2 minutes to boot and a total of 4 minutes to settle down. My Lenovo X200 with a really fast hard drive and a clean install boots, logs in, and settles down in 45 seconds from the time I press the power button. It sounds like you’re going to want to format the Mini 12 and start from a clean slate with Windows XP or eventually Windows 7 to get optimum performance. Shame on Dell for going back to all that crapware.
As I have noted in the past, the Inspiron Mini 12 (previously called the Dell E Slim+ before launch) was something I was strongly considering for my personal laptop. But I couldn’t wait and I bought myself a Lenovo X200 for $1400 including shipping which has very fast Penryn-class Intel P8600 dual-core 2.4 GHz CPUs, so there’s no point in me buying a Mini 12 now. I also spent another $90 upgrading to a Seagate Momentus 7200.3 model ST9320421AS 320 GB hard drive which is probably the fastest laptop hard drive in the world and also happens to be more energy efficient so it would feel a little slow going back to a 4200 RPM hard drive.
Note: I got the Momentus 7200.3 320 GB at TigerDirect for $89 and they gave me really good service, but it looks like they’re not selling them and it’s only in stock at other stores for $99 right now.
But despite these advantages of the Lenovo X200 (which may have dropped to $1250) and if I was making the choice all over again, I may strongly consider the Mini 12 because it’s so much cheaper and so much thinner. It may have even required me to flip a coin to decide which way I wanted to go. Fortunately, I won’t need to make that hard decision because I already own the X200 and jacked up hard drive which I love.
While the performance of these Netbooks don’t come close to the ultra mobile laptops, keeping the Netbook free of Crapware and just using it for simple things like web browsing, email, and VPN means that performance doesn’t really matter. You probably can’t run Skype video conferencing in High Quality (HQ) mode because of the processing requirements but you won’t be able to do that anyways without an external high quality webcam which ruins the convenience form factor of a small laptop. Standard quality mode is all you’re going to get out of any built-in webcam and I don’t know a single integrated camera that’s capable of Skype HQ mode.
The thing Intel feared most when one of their executives said that the Intel Atom was three times slower than a Core 2 processor is that the Atom could cannibalize the laptop market. While I doubt that happening on the low-end because you can get so much more performance and so much more screen size with the cheap $500 15.4″ laptops, products like the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 can threaten high margin ultra portable laptops or at least put some pricing pressures on them.