The Platform: Inspiron Mini Dissected

The CPU of choice in the Inspiron Mini is Intel's recently announced Atom. I've gone through Atom's architecture before and also looked at its performance, basically what you're looking at is something that's around the speed of a 1.2GHz Pentium M on average. You're not going to be setting any speed records with this thing, but by no means is it slow. It gets the job done.

From left to right (Intel Atom processor, Intel 945G GMCH, Intel ICH)

Clockwise from upper left (8GB MLC SSD, 1GB DDR2-533 DIMM, 802.11b/g wireless adapter, WWAN mini-PCIe slot)

Once again we've got an Atom system without Poulsbo (Atom's ultra power efficient mobile chipset), instead we've got the Intel 945G, which not only increases the required area on the motherboard but also the power consumption of the system. I asked Dell why it opted against Poulsbo and I was told that it was a timing issue - in order to have the Inspiron Mini out today, the design had to be completed using 945G. I'd expect future netbooks to start switching to Poulsbo, but for now we're strictly a 945G shop.

Opening up the Mini is pretty simple, you can gain access to all of the user serviceable components through a door on the bottom of the netbook (two screws are all that separate you from more memory or a bigger SSD). There's a mini PCIe slot for the SSD, one for the WiFi card and a single SO-DIMM slot for your memory.

The integrated mic is located at the front of the unit, you can see it here near the Tripod sticker:

Pricing and Availability Finally Fanless!
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  • Klug - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the review.

    Maybe I misread but I could not find any info about the external PSU... How fat is it?

    I currently use a M1330 and the external PSU is a pain (big, heavy, thick cable, etc).

    Netbook is nice but when used "on the road" (ie: train, meetings, etc), it needs to be carried with its PSU. If the PSU is fat, that's bad.
  • benlen - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    I missed this my self. An is a important information an a netbook.

    I found the answer here:">
    about one minute in.
    I am happy with the type.
    They say it is 2.6 lbs with the psu so the psu should be about 0.4 lbs.
    But I still havent found a picture on the UK psu. I hope it will be a travle type where you can change the plugs/connectors

    I am by the way selling my M1330 to only have a mini 9 and a stationary
  • strafejumper - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    i've been researching lappys for a week trying to buy my first one.

    found one i love from lenovo 15.4" but the one problem is all 15.4" lappy's that i've been looking at seem to have the exact same florescent lcd and when i went to circuit city to look at some they all looked very dim because of the vertical viewing angle.

    Then i was in a local shop and they had a macbook air and it was totally different, many times brighter and still bright even at angles. Looking for a cheaper laptop than the macbook air now that has this good an led lcd. May have to wait a while.
  • wvh - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Looks interesting, especially the passive cooling... But as someone who works in several countries, I think they made a mistake with their peculiar keyboard layout. It's not easy to get used to all the different international layouts, laptop- vs. full-sized keyboards, model-specific multimedia- and function-keys, and having manufacturers come up with their own proprietary layout on top of that makes their product much less appealing to me.
  • JoshuaBuss - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    nice carpet, anand! :)
  • alpine18 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    The dell sounds interesting, but I'll keep my eeepc 901 for now. I love this thing.
    It is great to see so many new netbooks in the market place. When they come out with a new netbook with the dual-core Atom, I'll probably buy one.

    I differ with the article author's view on battery life and use. My eee 901 has effectively replaced my full size Gateway laptop. The thing sits at home since I got my 901, little more than a glorified portable desktop. I use my 901 all day without having to recharge, take it to meetings so I can act like I am taking notes when I am actually catching up on other work.

    For me, the deal breaker for the Dell would be the battery life and 1GB memory. I have 2GB of memory in my 901 and need the 5-8 hours of battery life. If the Dell had the same battery life as the 901 and was upgradeable to 2GB, I'd seriously be thinking about getting one.

  • MamiyaOtaru - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Glossy Screen? Why? So I can see what's behind me better than what I'm working on? Especially for a portable computer that just might be used outside, a reflective screen is dumb.

    I know glossy screens sell better in brick and mortar stores, but people are dumb (ooh, shiny!)

    Nice to have a choice I suppose, so those who like it can get the Dell and I can get something else. But that's my point really, I'd get something else.
  • abakshi - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Dell seems to have done better than I expected, but I'd be curious to see how you'd compare with the HP 2133 Mini-Note in terms of build quality, keyboard, screen, etc.

    I have a Mini-Note (C7 1.6 / 2GB / 120GB 7200rpm / Vista Business), and while granted, most configs are priced higher than the average netbook, the design is awesome and it's built better than any HP/Dell/etc. laptop I've ever seen. More importantly, the keyboard's light-years ahead of the EeePC and all other netbooks I've encountered thus far, and with a nice bright 1280x768 screen, it's a pleasure to work with on the go.
  • Roy2001 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    1. Dual core Atom.
    2. Power saveing Poulsbo chipset + HD decoding feature.
    3. Smooth HD/BD movie play back.
    4. Has at least 8GB SSD built in and a SDHC slot so I can insert a cheap 32GB SD card (some day) as 2nd HD.
    5. Has mini-HDMI output.
    5. Built-in camera should be standard.
    6. 1GB RAM should be standard.
    7. 10" LCD with 1280x800 resolution.
    8. Bluetooth built in so I can use a wireless mouse/keyboard without a dongle.

    The more I can dream is touch screen, wireless USB hub, and more...
  • Matt Campbell - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    I'm really impressed with what Dell has done with the Mini, they struck a great balance with price/features and it looks fantastic. Thanks for the suggestions - the Wind, Aspire and Lenovo S10 are on my review wish list as well. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming HP 2133 Mini-Note review. Hopefully between Anand, Jarred and I we'll cover everything eventually :)

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