Base price: $309
Dell is the master of customization. As any PC buyer knows, you can go to their Web site and mix and match features until youve created your ideal Frankenstein of a computer. The Inspiron Mini is no exception. If youre willing to spend enough, this unit comes with a built-in GPS, a TV tuner, XP or Windows Starter OS. Theres even an option with T Mobile to pay a monthly fee for 3G service, giving you mobile broadband (which would cost over $1,000 for a year). The $309 base price listed above rises to $349 with a TV tuner, and to $399 with a built-in GPS.
One of the Inspiron Minis greatest selling point: this generation with the Atom N450 chip runs efficiently enough to give an impressive 7-9 hours of battery life. A full day on the road without having to plug it in.
The Inspiron has a clean, elegant look, with a rounded, tapered edges that enables it to look good in the conference room or the coffeeshop. Its not high art but its solidly built.
The default shell color is glossy black but this being Dell you can also pick blue, white, lime green, red, or pink. In fact, you can pick from more than 200 lid designs (isnt that enough?) from the Dell studio, with all kinds of freeform and individualistic patterns. Of course these options add to the final price.
To improve the keyboard (which is the netbook-standard 92 percent), this generation of the Inspiron Mini now features terraced keys, with the base larger than the top. This helps touch typing on a netbooks smaller keyboard. I really like the feel of the Inspirons keys they have a solid spring to them that aids touch typing. The touchpad is large, but it has integrated rather than separate mouse buttons (and theyre not that big). For some users, separate, stand-alone mouse buttons makes for a more comfortable experience if thats what youre used to, realize the Inspiron Minis layout may take some getting used to.
The basic unit of the Mini 10 is essentially the industry standard netbook: 1GB RAM, 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450, Windows 7 Starter OS, 160 GB HD, a Webcam, a 10.1-inch screen with 1024 x 600 resolution, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, 3 USB ports, and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. Again, thats just the starter unit; you can add as much as you like.
Bottom line: This netbook will give you whatever features youd like, as long as your willing to pay more for more goodies.
The Dell Inspiron netbook (photo courtesy Dell)