Attractive and robust netbook, but not groundbreaking
Although they can’t match the performance of larger and more expensive laptops, netbook computers are perfect for those who want a truly portable computer for relatively simple tasks such as web browsing, email and word processing.
The Dell Mini 1012 netbook feels sturdy, which suggests it will be able to take a knock or two without much damage being caused. It also looks good with a glossy exterior that is available in a variety of colours.
Measuring 267x196x35mm and weighing 1.4kg, it is highly portable, and Dell quotes the battery life as up to 9.5 hours. However, this is the absolute maximum battery life with brightness turned down and wireless connections off: under normal usage, expect three to four hours.
The 10.1in screen was impressively bright and has plenty of desktop space to work on. If the screen’s relatively high resolution makes text hard to read on what is still a small screen, the Windows Ease of Access Center lets you increase both text and icon size. A webcam is located at the top of the screen’s bezel, allowing for video calls via Skype and other programs.
Due to their small size, keyboards on netbooks are always trickier to use compared with those on standard laptops. Dell has done reasonably well on the Mini 1012’s keyboard and each key has a good feel, but they are packed in close together making it a little too easy to accidentally slip onto a neighbouring key. The touchpad responded well, although the left and right buttons felt spongy, which made them a little awkward to use.
Three USB ports are available to connect external devices such as USB memory keys. Microphone and headphone sockets are also provided, as is a VGA output that lets you connect a standard monitor.
The Mini 1012 is able to connect to all wireless networks as well as to Bluetooth devices such as phones. The latter is useful when connecting devices such as mobile phones. It also has a 250GB hard disk that should provide enough space for most home users.
As with all netbooks, performance levels are well below that of a standard laptop (the Mini 1012 uses Intel’s Atom N450 processor and has 1GB of memory). It is fine for simple tasks such as email and word processing, but it’s not suitable for more intensive applications such as video editing. Windows 7 is installed, but it’s the cut-down Starter edition and doesn’t include the visual effects found in other versions of Windows 7.
Dell’s Mini 1012 is well-built and has a good range of features, but it’s also relatively expensive. If you want something cheaper, there are other versions of the Mini 1012, including one with a 160GB hard disk, lower-resolution display and Windows XP, for £279.
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A good-quality netbook but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table Good points Sturdy chassis; good display; plenty of storage space; attractive design Bad points Poor touchpad buttons; no improvement on performance over older netbooks
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