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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  • mmntech - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    #3 is the most important IMO. While SD drives deliver great speed and load times, 8gb or even 16gb really isn't a lot. Once you get your music and videos on it, that space is going to get eaten up quickly. Carrying around portable HDDs or SD cards defeats the purpose of these systems. I don't understand why they aren't offering a HDD as an option as MSI, Asus, and Acer did.

    Other than that, this definitely looks like a solid system. Any chance on getting some Cinebench 10 benchmarks? I'd like to be able to compare the Atoms to my current laptop, which is a PowerPC Mac.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    A 2.5" HDD is absolutely huge compared to the form factor of these netbooks. At best, 1.8" HDDs are what you should look at, and honestly I think 4-16GB (and future 32 and 64GB probably) SSDs make a ton of sense. No moving parts, less heat, and lower power requirements are all things you want in such a small computer.
  • advillain - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Nice detailed comparisson. Why wasnt the Acer Aspire One included? maybe i missed an explanation in the article. For the price, the Aspire Ones are very nice. I have one with a 6 cell, and am able to web browse, msn, watch a vid or two, and have the battery last 5.5-6.5 hours (with lcd brighness turned down of course)
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the comments :)

    Unfortunately I didn't have the Aspire, although the Eee PC 1000 is on its way to me. I'll definitely do a followup with the 1000, although it is clearly a larger netbook.

    I'll see about getting my hands on the Acer model...

  • rvikul - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    A netbook round-up would be perfect (pushing my luck?). Thanks for this review.

    (btw, Chrome is doing funky things with this comment box).
  • Lonearchon - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    I agree the Acer Aspire One is closer in design to the Dell Mini. They both have glossy screens with LED back light. But the keyboard on the Acer is larger making it easier to type on. It does sacrifice the touch pad to accomplish this.
  • Chadder007 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    I thought the ASUS had an LED backlight also, I'd like to see the Lenovo thrown in for comparison too though.
  • rvikul - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Yes, why wasn't it compared with Aspire One which is more comparable to dell mini?

    I was really looking forward to that.
  • dsity - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    6 cell is 50% more than 4 cell?
  • piroroadkill - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    dear god

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