149 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome little machine
I got this a week ago and have been playing with it nonstop since.
There are three things you need to be aware of when purchasing this:
1) The screen is even smaller than on most netbooks because of the flip design. The versatility more than makes up for it though.
2) The battery is not removable and is good for about 3 hours...
Published on February 14, 2011 by Dan A.
273 of 298 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Epic Fail (to) Beautiful & Slow
I will be updating this review in about two weeks, but I think what has happened with the product so far warrants review as it's an experience I would want to know about when making my purchase.
I currently have an iPad but was given the opportunity to review the Dell Inspiron Mini Duo. My first impression out of the box was that this is an impressive product...
Published on February 24, 2011 by E. A. Montgomery
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149 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome little machine,
This review is from: Dell Inspiron Mini Duo 3487FNT Convertible Laptop/Tablet (Foggy Night) (Personal Computers)I got this a week ago and have been playing with it nonstop since.
There are three things you need to be aware of when purchasing this:
1) The screen is even smaller than on most netbooks because of the flip design. The versatility more than makes up for it though.
2) The battery is not removable and is good for about 3 hours.
3) Windows 7 Home Premium only likes to view drives on other machines running Windows 7. My home PC was running Vista. It could look at and access the drives on the Duo; but the Dou will only look at drives in it's Homegroup. Only Windows 7 supports homegroups. I upgraded my desktop to Windows 7 Home Premium and now they network amazingly well. Setup was a snap.
I have thick fingers, but I haven't found that I need to use the stylus (bought separately) with it. The keyboard is well laid out. The touch screen took a little getting used to. Voice recognition works very well in a quiet environment. Between the three, I haven't even bothered to install the wireless mouse I got to use with it.
It boots up quickly. It's nice and fast. It has a lot less bloatware than most machines come with.
I was surprized at how solid it feels because it's so tiny. The entire unit looks and feels well made.
It's small and light enough to go anywhere; but powerful enough to do real computing. It's a great second computer. It syncs easily with my desktop now that both run W7. I was able to share my internal and external drives between both machines, including the DVD burner in my desktop.
273 of 298 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Epic Fail (to) Beautiful & Slow,
This review is from: Dell Inspiron Mini Duo 3487FNT Convertible Laptop/Tablet (Foggy Night) (Personal Computers)
I currently have an iPad but was given the opportunity to review the Dell Inspiron Mini Duo. My first impression out of the box was that this is an impressive product. The casing appeared to be high quality, with good button response and a firm swivel to the screen. The back was much nicer than my iPad, the grip is smooth and comfortable. Certainly on specs alone I was extremely interested in what this tablet / laptop combination had to offer. During set up I was also impressed with the the ease of using the touch pad. (Non-responsive lap top touch pads are a key issue for me.) All the signs were good. Setup took an extremely long time, with what seemed to be numerous unneeded 'I Agree' and set up screens. I expect that when working with Windows, so no points off there. Just as all of the set up was complete and it was time to configure the security software preinstalled, the screen went black. The system crashed completely, and the error beeps indicate a motherboard failure. Still no points off, while unfortunate, defective hardware can occur. I called the help line.
After 14 minutes on hold, I reached a person. She was extremely polite but it was very difficult for us to understand each other so a lot of repeating was involved. At 25 minutes into the call she had taken my name and we were discussing the problem. Despite telling her the screen had gone black she wanted to know what error code I saw. Nothing, the screen is black and the unit is beeping. (I can't turn it off either.) Despite telling her I had gotten the unit less than an hour ago, she went over the data loss I would be experiencing and explained that I needed to return the unit for repair, sans attachments. I explained I had no attachments and asked why I was sending a brand new unit in for repair. Why wouldn't it be exchanged? The answer was that it needs to be repaired. At 32 minutes into the call she had taken my address and explained it would be two weeks for the unit to come back to me. I let her know I had a review on the product due, was this the only option? It was.
If I had purchased this unit at retail price, I would be extremely upset with Dell. Here the points start coming off. She transferred me to a supervisor to rate her helpfulness. I said she was quite polite, and the supervisor asked if she had informed me there would be data loss. I told him there was no data to lose, the unit had arrived this afternoon and failed during set up. I explained I needed to review the product, was there an exchange option open? He assured me the unit would be back from repair in 8 to 10 days if I mailed the unit in promptly. I thanked him. I will update this review when the repaired unit arrives, but if I had purchased this product I would have refunded it. I am disappointed in the product so far and could not in good faith recommend it. Hopefully, my impression will be more favorable when I have the repaired unit to test.
UPDATED to 2 stars 2/26 - I was called by Dell technical support today and told not to send the unit in as this was a 'known issue'. Tech support said they found this problem could be solved by booting up in test function, and then ignoring the test. (In order to do this, I turned it on while holding down the FN key, then bypassed the screen when it did boot. I did not get a repeat of the black screen.) No explanation was offered or understood as to the cause of the black screen or not being able to turn the unit off, but the unit is working now. I am charging it overnight and should update the review again by the 28th. I still don't know the cause of the initial failures, and tech says if the problem becomes chronic (we weren't able to agree on a definition of chronic) that it should be sent in for repair. I spoke with two people at tech support today and they were as helpful in the phone call as they were unhelpful in the prior. Both apologized for the problem occurring and not being resolved prior, both urged me to contact them via an email they sent to me (received) for future need. A cynic would think they read the review, but I think it's more likely someone caught the work order and questioned it.
UPDATED to 3 stars 3/1 - I've been using the Inspiron Mini Duo for a few days. I have my reservations about it because of the CS experience and the lack of explanation for why it bricked, giving a false code for motherboard failure. Knowing that could happen again at any time means backups have to be religious and external. (A good idea, but not one the average netbook user is going to follow). Setting that aside, I do like the design of this unit. The touch screen was responsive even before I calibrated it for personal use. Flipping the screen from netbook to tablet in the middle of a task works seamlessly. I can see a solid use for this at once as an e-reader replacement. Start a book with the keyboard, flip the tablet, and you can read without having to angle your head. The keys have a nice responsive feeling, the tracking pad is smooth and accurate. As a netbook, I think this is a better choice than many I have used. As an iPad killer, not so much. While the much larger drive and built in keyboards are welcome, the Inspiron is not a true tablet computer. The load time for initial use and individual programs is still much longer than an iPad. You won't quickly and effortlessly move between applications. As with my laptop, there's plenty of hurry-up-and-wait with the netbook. It will probably gain speed when I strip it of the pre-loaded software, but it will still be a netbook with added functions, not a tablet with a keyboard and track pad. All of that said, for the price point it's a nice machine with above average looks worth considering. If I hadn't had the early CS problems, or if I had a better understanding of the chances of recurrence, I'd probably go four stars. As it is, from one to three is as far back up the scale as I can comfortably go.
UPDATED April 20th - this has been used pretty much daily without a repeat of the initial failure to respond. I'm beginning to think it was a one time event as operation has been fairly flawless with the usual issues you might find with a net book. The tablet is holding up very well, no signs of stress to the hinges at all. Connecting it to the home network has shown we're more likely to use this tablet than the main machine, the longer I own it the more I like it.
62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Little guy packs a lot of punch!,
This review is from: Dell Inspiron Mini Duo 3487FNT Convertible Laptop/Tablet (Foggy Night) (Personal Computers)
-The thing I was most excited to try out, it is responsive and easy to use.
-when the screen is flipped a little slide out keyboard can be seen midway up on the left side, one touch and it slides out.
-here you can type with the keyboard, or you can draw letters with your fingers and it will automatically turn it into text
-the touchscreen takes a little bit to get used to in terms of learning where to touch to get the right letters hit, but what helps you to learn where you are actually touching the screen, is a little tiny diamond appears where your finder hits the screen, so you can see if you need to go more to the left or the right to get a precise touch.
-if the computer included a stylus that would be a much welcome addition.
-I love the fact that I can flip the screen and use it as an e-reader. Works will with the Kindle app as well, plus you get the bonus of a color screen when you're reading.
-We used google chat to test out the camera an it worked really well, no bells and whistles (there is a camera program that you can use to make different backgrounds, etc. But nothing special)
-the camera program takes a minute to load, but works well once it is loaded
-With a 320GB hard drive, it had more space than my first 4 computers did, combined! Need I say more?
-Immediately loaded over 4,000 songs onto the hard drive and this did not slow down the computer or even put a dent in the available space.
-I do not think the keyboard is small and the keys are just the right size
-the keys are reasonably spaced, like that of a MacBook and look nice
-The battery life isn't spectacular, but 3.5 hours and it runs a whole computer I think is pretty good.
-Love that it has flash (Sorry iPad)
-with only 2GB of RAM to run most programs, sometimes things load slowly (well, most of the time things run slowly). When next to a MacBook Pro, the MacBook took 2 seconds to load most web pages while the net book too about 10 seconds. But this isn't supposed to be a primary computer, and it has half the RAM that the MacBook has, so thats not a big deal.
-no card reader, but it has 2 usb ports which is nice for loading media
-I really wish it came with the dock, which has a card reader
-I wish it came with a stylus, but this can also be ordered separately
-sometimes the cursor gets lost on the screen while using the touchpad. The only way to bring it back is to touch the screen.
So long story short, this is definitely the best mini computer in its class because of the large hardrive (most are about $200 less and have 1GB RAM and a 250GB hardrive) with all the advances in technology, I think it is definitely worth the investment to get the bigger hard drive. This netbook is so portable, I cannot wait to travel with it, yet nothing is compromised or left behind because its large hard drive. Overall, I have to keep telling myself that this is a netbook, not a regular computer. As a netbook, this Dell does the job and does the job well. Dell hit the mark with the touchscreen, and I can't wait to see what they come out with next!
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some useful and appealing features to consider, but overall product is compromised by poor battery life,
The Dell Duo is a great idea. And, in many ways, Dell did a good job in execution; there are many strong points to the Duo. Unfortunately, the overall product is marred by very low battery life and as a tablet it's bulk. But you do get a fully functional netbook running Windows 7 home professional with a vast amount of storage (compared to other tablets) that converts into and out of a touch screen tablet within seconds. This makes the Duo good for work or typing intensive tasks and also a fun media consumption/apps/internet viewing device for play.
First the good: I like the Duo as a netbook. It has a very responsive and easy to type with keyboard. Each key has a great feel and they spaced the keys well. The mouse also works well. I have loaded Office 2010 Professional Plus and all the programs work fine. You get a large hard drive. This is a major plus to me. The Xoom recently came out at $800 for 32gb. My music collection alone is that much. With the Duo you can take your media with you...all your media for most people.
Also overall on the good side for a netbook and this also pertains to the tablet is the overall performance speed. It is good but not great. Internet surfing is decent and using Firefox as your web browser helps improve speed even more. Office apps work very well as do other applications I have used. But switching between apps and programs you are not going to get near tablet speed, but I am ok with that if it means having a full function work computer when I want, and lots of space for my enjoyment of media when I want.
On to the tablet. As you can see, it really does take seconds to convert the Duo to a tablet. When you first convert to a tablet the Dell Duo Stage interface pops up. Right now it gives you shortcuts to a handful of media consumption apps; your music, the Bilbo book reader, videos, a drawing app, etc. You can easily go in and out of the Duo Stage interface. The Duo Stage apps are nice to get to your media; books, videos, pictures. The Bilbo book reader has a lot of promise. There is a supplied Peter Rabbit book that just looks fantastic. I personally think the promise and potential of book readers are on tablets Kindle is great for what it does, but on tablets you can get all kinds of neat things; great looking children's books, fantastically interactive textbooks that link to videos, study chat rooms, the sky is the limit for ebooks on devices that can support advanced functions. The downside to book reading on the Duo is the weight and the poor performance outside. The Duo is around 3lbs and you can't use it in direct sunlight. That being said I do like using the Bilbo reader, Kindle, or Nook around the house.
The overall Internet experience is greatly enhanced for me when using the Duo as a tablet. I like to hold the Duo in tablet form when browsing websites. Especially on a netbook sized screen it makes web browsing a lot more enjoyable. The touch screen is responsive and the pop-up keyboard (you can also use a stylus) is quite good. Very responsive virtual keyboard but in landscape or portrait mode I have to use one finger. I can't hold the Duo and do 2 finger typing. Needless to say watching videos is great in tablet mode (if you hit the screen `sweet spot') without a keyboard in the way. Zooming in and out with finger pinches and rotating the screen is not as good as an Ipad but it is serviceable.
I luckily came across a new Intel website specifically for netbook apps. It is called the Intel Appup store. You are giving up a lot of cool apps to go with the Duo as compared to the Ipad or Android based tablets. But the Appup store makes me feel better about the potential of the Duo and its successors going forward. Yes there is Angry Birds, and it works great as a touchscreen game on the Duo. A cool feature of the Appup store is you have a day to try something and if you do not like it you can cancel the order. In addition to Angry Birds, I have also downloaded apps to manage my social media sites (Tweetdeck is working very well) and some news apps. I think it would be great if Dell was able to bring the OS for the new window based smartphones and that universe of apps to the Duo. Not sure if that is possible, but at least I am excited to see how the Appup store expands and evolves.
The screen is very good in Netbook mode when you can easily get the exact angle that is best for your viewing position but it has a real sweet spot you need to hit using it as a tablet. Tilt it too much one way or the other and quality goes down markedly. It also does not perform well at all in direct sunlight. I don't have an Ipad but I do have an Iphone 4. The Iphone performs better in direct sunlight. Those limitations noted, 720p or 1080p video from Youtube looks pretty darn good as does HD Netflix streams, so I'd have to give the screen overall a good grade.
Now to the bad: battery life is really short for the Duo. It really is a shame because otherwise this could be a great portable work computer, college computer, business trip computer, and vacation road/trip computer. I get around 3 hours of battery life fresh from a full charge with web surfing, office programs, and some video. I get even less, more in the low to mid 2 hour range, if Netflix or other video apps are mostly running. With better battery life the Duo would have been a solid 4 stars. Sure you are not going to be able to get Ipad battery life, not with the hard drive, flash, the Duo's chips and the screen, but Dell should have shot for 4.5 to 5 hours, even if that meant offering 2 price points with a higher one offering a larger capacity battery. No way was I expecting 10 hours, but at 4.5 to 5, heck even 4 hours, the Duo would be a much better product.
My overall impression is that the Duo concept is going to appeal to a lot of people who are considering tablets this year and the coming years. For me the Duo is a more useful and appealing package than an Ipad or an Android tablet in many ways. I have a Smartphone. I love it. It is the ultimate in portability, has a fairly long battery life, and fantastic apps. But I personally can't justify spending upwards of $500 or more for tablets currently on the market, although I have been very tempted, for what amount to a large screen smartphone. Yes they are neat, but a netbook/tablet has so many more uses for me. I have a 17 inch notebook but it mostly stays parked on my desk.
With the Duo I find myself taking it with me everywhere in the house and yard (when not in direct sunlight). It is super portable and just a wonderful companion around the house. My wife or I are constantly using it to play or work. We now have a full function Windows computer with us in every room of the house, not just a tablet. But battery life limits the Duo outside of the house. Also it doesn't function as fast switching between apps as a stand-alone tablet does. The tradeoff though is the Duo does function as a full computer which tablets do not. Real flash is nice as is a good keyboard and 300 odd gig. Having every link on my tweet account actually open = sweet.
Literally as I write this I am seeing the Ipad 2 announced that is sleeker, thinner, and lighter and faster than the Ipad. But the screen resolution hasn't gone up and the maximum storage memory is still 64 gb. The thing I would keep in mind, is EVERY tablet or tablet hybrid involves some compromises. The Ipad 1 or 2 or Xoom etc. are going to be far from a perfect product for most people just as the Duo is not a perfect product. If a full function netbook appeals to you that converts to a tablet and if you are ok with the poor battery life and willing to settle for less than non-hybrid tablet speed switching between tasks but more computing options overall and way more memory than a tablet I recommend the Duo. If not, but the concept of the Duo is still appealing to you, you might want to wait for a Duo(ver) with I would expect a much better battery.
About the video, I had to downgrade the video quality and length to meet 100MB. So it does not at all do justice to the screen. But I hope you still get a sense of how easily it switches to a tablet and generally how it operates.Some well done very appealing features, lots of promise, but compromised by bad battery life.
Update 3/16/11. Having now used the product a couple of weeks more I want to say that I like it even more. I feel even more strongly that this is a great idea that Dell, HP, and Asus, etc. should all pursue to make better. None of them may be able to 'out tablet' Apple, but I don't think they need to. Since my review I have used the photostage, musicstage, and videostage apps a lot more. They are really nice, particularly when you download a large chunk (or all of) your music, photo, video libraries. I especially like the photostage app. I have downloaded virtually all my photos (like 20 gig) and because of the touchscreen you can easily find the ones you want to view. It also links to facebook, if you want, and then displays with the newest ones coming first, photos and videos on all of your friends' pages or only friends you select.
I now think of the Duo as a touchscreen netbook, not a tablet. It is a solid choice as a second computer around the house and of course is super portable (although obviously heavier and weaker battery compared to tablets). My wife has it on a trip to her Dad's right now and we were able to put all of our video and pictures from the last few years to share with him. She tells me he is loving looking at all of them. It is also so great to take from room to room around the house. And really for day to day use out and about, I prefer my Iphone to an Ipad anyway. For home use the Duo does a lot of things better than the Ipad or Xoom.
I think for this version the overall 3 rating still remains given the limitations I noted in my original review. But if you intend to use the Duo primarily at home or in other environments where plugs are available when needed and cradling the Duo on lap or propping it up in some manner when using it as a tablet is acceptable then the benefits I mention might easily make this a 4 or 5 star buy for you. The good news is that the bad things are fixable by Dell or someone else. There are much more energy efficient processers available even right now, that would go a long way toward helping with the biggest drawback, battery life. There are going to be much more powerful AND energy efficient processors for future versions by Dell or someone. And generally processors don't cost much. I heard Apple pays $10 to Samsung for the processor for the Ipad 2. Get better suited processors in a Duo 2, add Android or Windows Phone or some kind of App OS, keep the keyboard and Windows, and Dell or whoever would have me getting their product over an IPad 2 or 3. The touch screen aspect to the screen can also be improved upon.
Dell just needs to keep at it. The IPad is 'super sexy' right now. But the Duo (and certainly the successors) has the potential to be a much better long-term companion. One last comment. Anyone who has one (or is considering one) and wants more info go to MyDellMini forums. Lots of good stuff there for getting the most out of your Duo.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - extremely portable and fun,
Having worked with this little gem for a week now, I can say that I'm really impressed, though, of course, nothing is perfect.
Out of the box this thing is a tad sluggish, but bear in mind that it's a netbook, not a full blown laptop. Though it has a dual core processor, its an Atom processor, not a Core2Duo or a CoreI. Don't let that frighten you off though. There's more than enough horsepower here to do the kinds of things one is likely to do with a machine like this.
Let me start with the design. Personally, I love the flip screen. Being able to flip the screen and make this a tablet sort of device is fun and useful. It's heavy enough at 3+ lbs. You won't be holding it in your hands for long It works beautifully in the lap though.
The touch screen is well implemented. In most apps, it's smooth and performs exactly as one would expect. I would say that performance is just a tick off of the performance of an iPad or similar device. I would love to completely avoid iPad comparisons, but at least for now it's pretty much inevitable.
Of course the touch screen is HD which was one of the major selling points for me. Having lived with 1024 X 600 netbooks for some time, it's so refreshing to have this kind of resolution. Gone are the days of not being able to reach some buttons at the bottom of unsizable windows.
The HD display is somewhat of a double sword though. Some may find that 1366 X 768 on a 10.1" display is below their limit for comfortable viewing. Things can be a bit small and those with weaker eyesight should consider this. Of course, there are many other available resolutions.
As the resolution goes up, remember that the apparent size of things on screen will go down. This means that, at times, using the touch screen can be a bit tricky. You will need to point very precisely with a finger - a very imprecise tool - in order to do some things. But of course, when needs be, one can always switch back to regular netbook mode and use the excellent touchpad.
Speaking of the touchpad, it's easily the finest I've ever seen on a netbook. In fact, it's far superior to the toughpads on most full sized laptops. It's plenty big enough and quite smooth. Two finger scrolling is well implemented and aside from the occasion over run, it works great. Though it's supposed to be able to support most common gestures, I don't find that they work that well, if at all. I've never been able to get 'pinch to zoom' to work from the touchpad at all though the docs suggest that it should. This hasn't bothered me because these gestures work so well on the touch screen.
In addition to an excellent touchpad, the Duo has a nice keyboard. As a touch typist who has worked with real keyboards for decades, the modern 'chiclet' standard keys have been a bit difficult for me to get used to, but I have to admit that it works. There is significant space between each key and this serves to keep my typing pretty accurate. All of the keys one would expect are present though page up/down and home and end require the use of the Fn key + an arrow. I would have liked to have seen these keys shoehorned in somewhere. Then again, this is a netbook. Backliighting the keyboard would have been a nice touch as well, but I'm sure cost and power considerations wouldn't allow it.
My biggest gripe with the Duo is the included ports - or should I say almost complete lack thereof. We have two USB ports and a headphone port. That would be it. I will concede that for the vast majority of users, this is probably fine but many of us would find a few more things like ethernet and vga to be very useful and I suspect most will miss an SD card slot. Ethernet, audio in and out and more usb ports can be added with the Duo Audio Station, but even that lacks any sort of video out. This this thing is so good at multimedia that it really would have been nice to have an HDMI or mini-HDMI but it is what it is. This does serve to keep the machine sleek and svelt, it just limits options.
So how does this monster perform. Well, for a netbook, surprisingly well. No this isn't going to replace your desktop. You won't be playing modern 3D accelerated games on this. But would you really have any expectations that you would? Would you really want to play WOW on a 10.1" screen?
Out of the box, performance is fine for the most common things most users will do with the duo. Web surfing, email and multimedia all shine. Watching HD movies (even streamed) is a joy. Office applications chew up your work with plenty of performance to spare. You just have to accept that with an Atom processor and 2GB of ram - you're not going to have 20 things open at once without a serious performance hit and that applications are going to launch a bit slower. In practice, I find all of these types of things work just about as well as they do on my primary laptop - a Core i5 machine with much higher specs.
One feature that may bother some is the weak battery life. Reportedly, users get about 3 hours on a full charge. This, of course, depends on the nature of the work you do with it and how you have the power settings configured but don't expect this thing to get you through a coast to coast flight. As is becoming more an more ubiquitous, the batteries (there are actually 2 dual cell batteries as opposed to 1 4 cell) are not user replaceable so the charge you have is what you get. This may be a major sticking point for some, but I don't find myself without access to A/C all that much and I really haven't minded.
Dell has added a 'touch' layer of applications over top of windows called 'Dell Stage'. As has been covered in every review I've seen, their implementation is OK, but not great. This stuff turns on automatically when flipped into tablet mode. It gives you icons for several applications that your are likely to want to use in that mode. Video, music, games, drawing, etc. Some are better than others. Some are frankly a sham. The games icon simply opens the MS Games folder and lets you play the same version of solitaire and freecell that you've been playing for years.
The stage software can be closed and even disabled though so I don't find it to be much of a hassle. I tend to use other applications for these things anyway so I frankly just don't care much about this stuff.
One thing that is a bit of an annoyance is the on screen keyboard. When in tablet mode, obviously, you have to use some touch screen method for inputing text when needed - URLs for instance. When you click in the search box of a browser you (often) get an icon that lets you open the on screen keyboard. I include that 'often' because it doesn't always happen and you have to find the keyboard button on the side of the screen. Not that big of a deal, but I would like to see this work a bit more consistently.
Once the keyboard is open, the user is presented with a full keyboard that works ok. It's not great and pawls is comparison to the on screen keyboard of the iPad. This is for no more than entering short pieces of text - like urls. Don't plan on penning your novel in this fashion. it will become a frustrating effort quickly.
Finally, I'd like to add that this has all been written with the Duo 'out of the box' in mind. I've taken the plunge and made a significant upgrade that made this very good netbook an excellent netbook. From Dell, the Duo comes with a 320 GB 7200 RPM hard drive. This works fine but technology is moving forward.
I replaced the original drive with a 120 GB Intel SSD. This is not an upgrade for a casual user nor is it cheap. The drive is difficult to get to and you have to either reconstruct the new drive or clone it from the original. None of this is 'that' hard, but I would advise less experienced users that consider this to find a pro to offer some assistance.
The performance upgrade is remarkable. Boot time dropped to half of what it started at and applications now launch blindingly fast. This is still a netbook so don't expect miracles, but the difference is amazing. I'm actually quite surprised that Dell doesn't offer an SSD as a factory upgrade, but I suppose the cost involved might scare some off.
Not to get too technical, but....
One of the reasons the SSD works so well to increase overall performance is the paltry 2 GB of native ram. Given this, Windows must rely heavily on a swap file on the drive. Even at 7200 RPM constant reads and writes will slow things down at times. SSDs read and write at such high speeds that swap file access is now nearly as fast as reads and writes to the ram. This is the theory behind the recent Macbook Airs and the reason that such poorly spec'd machines can perform so well. Essentially, I guess this creates an Inspiron Mini Duo Air.
You also have to consider storage needs. Dropping from 320GB to 120 will obviously limit some of the things you can do. If you want to store dozens of movies locally or a huge music library, you're not going to do it with 120GB. Larger SSDs are available, but a 240GB will probably cost you more than the Duo in the first place. Besides, the original drive (no longer needed) can be inserted in a USB enclosure and used for external storage. This would actually increase your available storage.
There is another significant advantage to adding an SSD. With no spinning disks (or any other moving parts of any kind) the SSD uses far less power than a 7200 RPM drive - hence better battery life. I seem to be able to get about 4 hours out of my Duo now where stock devices come in at about 3.
I can't speak highly enough about how much the SSD has improved the Duo, but remember that performance is just fine with the stock drive.
In conclusion, it should be pretty clear by now that I really like this thing. I develop software professionally and have even written a few things on the Duo. There's plenty of power here to accomplish a lot of real work and more than enough for basic netbook stuff. The addition of the SSD has really woken this thing up even though it wasn't bad to start with.
The form factor is attractive and fun. Watching the looks on people faces when they see me rotate the screen is priceless.
I can't wait till technology rolls on a bit further and we can get serious processors and much more ram in a machine this size. I can tell you know that when the Inspiron Mini Duo II hits the market I will probably buy it sight unseen based on how happy I am with this.
Having a full Windows 7 machined crammed into a tablet is probably more useful than you'd guess. I own an iPad and use it all the time. With that being said, there are things an iPad can't and never will be able to do. I keep both of these in the same case and carry them with me everywhere. They're a fantastic combo.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Loved it for the 3 days it lasted,
On a positive note, I was starting to enjoy it. A pound lighter would have been better as an e-reader in tablet mode for it can feel a bit heavy reading over time. The touch screen was very responsive. With the Kindle app, I was able to download my Kindle books and it looked very good and the pages turned flawlessly on the slightest touch. In tablet mode, I used the regular Internet Explorer for browsing and I-Tunes for music since I had no plans of using Napster or their e-reader service. Their movie rental software would have been useful on long trips and the movie trailers did play very well. The touch screen took some getting used to with Internet explorer for some of those tabs were too small to touch on screen, so there were a few touch misses before I got it. It seems very well made, on the outside at least.
I'm still debating whether to give the Duo another chance for I really was getting into its small size and portability. I will do a little more research first to make sure there are no hidden problems with this laptop. Like I said, I liked while it lasted.....3 days.
Update 5/21/11 Ordered a new Duo and pleased with it. It's interesting that the first laptop that died had an odd clicking sound when I tilted it that sounded as though there was a loose screw in there. The fact that the new laptop doesn't make that sound makes me believe perhaps it was a poorly made or even a dropped laptop. Don't know. All I can say is I am pleased with this laptop. A little more response time when loading applications would make this a five star product but it's pretty good for a first attempt by Dell. Already downloaded all my pics, Microsoft Office, set up my email, Kindle app. etc. with room to spare. Bumping up my rating from 3 to 4 stars. A better CPU and a 4GB RAM slot would have taken it to a 5 star.
Bought another one a couple of weeks later after this Duo was returned. Lasted about 5 months before it started drastically slowing down in performance. The hard drive died again. Very disappointed in this product and giving up on Dell altogether.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Netbook, Tablet Not Ready For Primetime,
* Sharp Display
* Generous Storage
* Newer Intel Atom N550 Processor
* Very Good Sound Quality
* Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
* Netbook Performance
* Tablet Performance
* Short Battery Life
* Battery Not User Replaceable
* Screen Glare
* No Wired Network Option
* No Video Output
* Awkward USB Port Cover
* Hibernate Enabled By Default
Overall: The Dell Inspiron Mini Duo is a real mixed bag. While it performs well as a Netbook, it has some drawbacks to consider. Users hoping for anything comparable to an iPad or Xoom will be greatly disappointed in the Tablet mode.
Setup: There's not much to do here. Plug in the power cord and let it rip. The Duo guides you through a few simple steps to get up and running in minutes. One thing of note is that the Duo should not be run on battery power until you have charged the battery for 12 hours.
Display: The screen on the Duo is pretty sweet with 1366 x 786 resolution and 720p playback. Video playback is sharp and clear; however, you will have to have it at the proper angle in order to avoid glare. This seems to be common on Netbooks with HD playback capability as my HP Mini 210 was the same way.
Sound: With a whopping 320 GB of hard disk, I transferred my entire music collection over to the Duo. Using my V-Moda Vibe earbuds, I was more than pleased with the sound quality of the music. The included speakers are decent, but nothing spectacular. I would recommend something like the Logitech Z305 USB speakers if you do not plan to use earbuds.
Processor: One of the bright spots for the Duo is the Intel Atom N550 processor that it ships with. Unlike the N450, this is a true dual core processor. I notice a significant improvement in performance over my Mini 210. I believe it is for this reason that Windows 7 Home Premium comes standard. I still don't use the Duo for much more than web and media, but that is more of a factor of the smaller screen. I would not want to try to do a lot of word processing or spreadsheet manipulation as eye strain would be sure to follow. If this is not an issue for you, the Duo has the horsepower to do it.
Netbook Mode: I found the keyboard to be more than sufficient for my needs. Typing e-mails is a non-issue. It is a bit odd at first to see light coming through the edge of where the true screen rotates to convert to tablet mode, but I adjusted to this quickly. I like that the touchpad has physically separate left and right mouse buttons. The touchpad on the Mini 210 could be frustrating because the buttons would often blend with the pad itself.
Tablet Mode: This is where the Duo truly disappoints. Windows 7 has minimal support for tablets/touchscreens, but it is not that great. Dell includes their Stage software that launches automatically when you rotate the screen and convert to tablet mode. It includes basic apps for music, video, books, and painting. The icons for web and games are shortcuts to IE and a group of game icons respectively. The true apps are pretty good, but I found navigation to be somewhat sluggish with the touchscreen. I also prefer the interface in Windows Media Center, but I found it equally sluggish with the touchscreen. However the real issues come when you try using a regular Windows app with the touchscreen. You have to be as precise with your finger as you would moving the pointer with a mouse. To illustrate this I used Outlook Web Express to access my corporate e-mail account. I had a number of SPAM messages that I wanted to check and delete without reading. It took me 4-5 times to successfully hit the checkbox for each message. I gave up after trying the third one. Normal slider controls are almost impossible to manipulate effectively in tablet mode. At the end of the day, the majority of the software is just not developed with a touchscreen in mind, and it shows.
General Annoyances: The battery life of the Duo is fairly short. I haven't gotten more than 3 hours off of a charge where it is typical for my Mini 210 to get 9-10 hours. It seems that Dell took a (bad) page out of Apple's book, and the batter is not user replaceable. I don't use these often, but I have found the lack of video output and wired network support to be annoying. There is not a way to hook the Duo up to the projects at work, and sometimes you have access to wired rather than wireless networks. I would also dump the USB port cover. The soft flap will not close over the mini receiver that comes with most mice these days. I grabbed a Logitech V220 mouse to use with the Duo since it has a larger receiver that is easier to remove when stowing the Duo. Finally, in Dell's wisdom Hibernate functionality is on by default. This is a deadly combo when applying Windows Updates. The Duo wound up in a bad state where the display would not work (although it was backlit with power) when it hibernated while applying Windows Updates. I wound up having to call Dell Support to get things working again.
Advanced Use: In an attempt to get a better tablet experience I installed Ubuntu Netbook Edition to dual boot with Windows 7. This is not for the faint of heart, and in the end the improvements just aren't there. It does perform rather snappy in netbook mode which one would expect from a lighter weight OS. There are good resources specific to the Duo for doing this on the Ubuntu forms. I may try to replace the Ubuntu partition with Android for x86, but the currently available version of Android (2.2) is not optimized for tablet usage. Perhaps when Honeycomb makes its way over the x86 port.
Overall: The Dell Inspiron Mini Duo is an interesting idea, but it fails at the things meant to set it apart. I would recommend buying a device that does one thing and does it well until someone develops software that spans the netbook/tablet world better.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent handheld tool!,
The first thing I did was loaded Kindle software. It is a natural fit for this device. The screen is clear and, being multi-touch, worked very well for books both color and monochrome.
Since there is no CD or floppy standard (one could buy an external USB version of either), I used my ISO making software and put several children games on the 320 GB hard drive and mounted as soft cds. Other than a sound issue on one of them (Windows 7 compatibility problem, I think), kids games worked well with just the touchscreen. Obviously, if the game needs a keyboard, it is better to use it like a laptop.
At first, I had problems closing fullscreen windows and and selecting small things because my big fingers would block half of what I needed to see. I noticed that I could assume that it was going to pick up the middle of my fingertip and that helped quite a bit.
I had problems with Web navigation initially, too. I had a tendency to highlight text instead of scroll, but I eventually worked beyond that. It was followed by my noticing a oh-so-slight delay in scroll response once I got the hang of things. What was nice about Internet Explorer as the standard browser is that it recognized gestures for forward and backward page navigation. Chrome didn't do that so it must be a Microsoft integration thing.
I didn't get NetFlix installed in time to review, but I tried an HD MPEG streamed through wireless and it played flawless. No buffering even (but I had a good network signal). I little media player is another way to view (no pun intended) this device.
I felt 2GB of RAM was adequate but I didn't push apps real hard. If I had multiple programs running, it started to feel a little sluggish.
A 320GB hard drive was a pleasant plus. A laptop I use frequently only has an 40GB drive and I am constantly shuffling apps, movies, or music around so it doesn't fill up completely.
A little small for the average touch typist, but I didn't have a problem getting used to it. Obviously, the layout took some getting used to since some of the navigation keys were moved from standard, but show me a laptop that doesn't do that.
An interesting note - 6 year-olds don't even notice that it is a smaller keyboard.
The keys have a better feel to them than I expected, as well.
There have been many complaints about the battery, both life and accessibility. No replacing this one easily. Life ran a few hours, but if I was doing any heavy reading, I left it plugged in.
Two USB, a microphone and a headphone for I/O and a power jack. That's it. I know there is a dock available, but it would have been nice to have a video out (my cell phone has a micro-HDMI interface!).
I don't like the covers over the USB and audio connectors. I felt like I was going to tear them off if I wasn't careful and they made it harder to plug in peripherals.
Wireless worked as expected and luckily, I have an N router. It made pulling the ISOs and movies from my PC over-the-air fairly quick.
I have no need for the Bluetooth (although I am tempted to connect my Motorola stereo headset, but not as of this review) nor the camera (no Skype or other tools).
People have compared this to other tablets (iPad) and it fell short. It doesn't have an intuitive, multi-touch interface like IOS nor is everything on buttons. If you want the features of an iPad, then get an iPad. The Duo does so much more for non-Applephiles with multiple windows, standard applications, Flash, Task Management and no iTunes.
To wrap up this review, the Inspiron Duo is great at what it does. Browsing, email, Facebook, eBooks, whatever you need a portable computer for, this can do it. Video editing or online gaming? Not so much. But if you want something for your go-to device, I would choose this over most PCs any day. It is light, defaults to hibernation for fast boots and easy to read. Dell did a great job with this one. Make the battery better and it would be even closer to perfect.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ram limit 2G,
It is limited by the N550 CPU architecture.
Still I bought one for a black friday price. I believe if used carefully, it will 2G ram is still enough.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Got just about everything I expected,
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