Since I haven’t bought a laptop in over 3 years, I decided to follow the trend and pick up one of the ultra-portable notebooks / netbooks. After reading some reviews, I picked up this Dell Mini 10v. It arrived today, only seven days after I placed the order via a Dell Chat.
Rather than offering an extensive review, I wanted to share some first thoughts.
I was extremely happy to find out that the packaging it was shipped in was both secure and minimal: very few things came in the box, and the box itself was small enough to hold with one hand. The Mini 10v doesn’t have a DVD drive, but it came with a copy of Windows XP and the restore disks anyways. Hurray! That fact got a few chuckles in the office.
The AC adapter is not a brick, but instead, looks like my Nokia cell phone charger! Very nice. Those brick monsters with two cords make portable laptops oxymoronic.
The Mini 10v I ordered came with Windows XP SP3. I use XP at home and at the office, so it’s cool, but I’m wondering what happened to Vista. Where is my voucher for Windows 7? This is an eight (8!!) year old Operating System. I will be looking into the Ubuntu 9 Netbook Remix very shortly.
The netbook doesn’t come with Microsoft Office unless you’ve installed it, but I’m very glad to have Microsoft Works with the Office 2007 compatibility pack installed by default. But this is insane: Internet Explorer 6. IE6 is the default browser – the broken one circa August 2001. I honestly feel like I’ve been cheated, and need to speak to someone at Dell about it.
More immediately, some fixable things were show-stoppers:
- The “function keys”, (Fn-F7 to mute, for example) were not installed. This took me a while to figure out, I just thought they weren’t responding or something. After navigating the Dell website, I found the utility (or via FTP) and installed it. Very bad form, Dell.
- Windows is installed with 120dpi fonts by default on the Mini 10v. I love this font setting on my big LCD monitor at home or at work, but on the 1024×576 screen, this is bad news. Most notably many dialogs cut off on the bottom. In the Dell Wireless utility I could not press “Apply”, “OK”, “Cancel” without blindly pressing Tab and Enter. So after changing the font size to 96dpi, and restarting, the dialogs became useful again.
- The preference for “Large Icons” out of the box is … questionable given the small screen. Cranking down the icon size is available in the Display Properties.
Out of the box, the hardware looks and feels way slicker than I expected it to. It doesn’t suffer from the same “hollow rattle” as some of the old Dell laptops I’ve owned or used; it feels solid and well put-together. The screen hinges particularly stand out as being hard-effing-core. Having three USB ports is pretty great.
My only concerns are about the touchpad and the screen glare. The screen is shiny. I mean SHINY. I’m sitting here between two other laptops and my LCD, and the Mini 10v is a mirror compared to the other devices. Hopefully this subsides over time and fingerprints.
More seriously, clicking touchpad buttons is straight up frustrating. The touchpad looks great, and the material is nice. Akin to the Apple touchpad, there are no segregated buttons, and clickable areas are in the bottom right and bottom left. This sounds great, but the execution is poor (and perhaps can be improved with some driver tuning). Once you move your finger over to the bottom left to “click” you inevitably end up moving the cursor about a third of the time. If I do the tasks seperately, it works fine .. but when navigating normally, it’s a constant bother.
One small note about performance: coming from full-powered dual core machines, going to netbooks is an adjustment. One recommendation I ignored is splurging for the 2GB upgrade. I immediately regret that decision. Do it: buy the 2GB of RAM.
The wireless performance with the Interl (802.11n) adapter is really great, and better (in terms of -db readings) than with my 2 year old, full size Dell Inspiron.
If you do have 2GB of RAM, turn off the page file. I’ve noticed this is particularly great on laptops that crawl if the 5400RPM mini-drive trird to page a few hundred megabytes of stuff. I turned off the page file on my 1GB Mini. It’s noticably more responsive when switching between applications (Firefox, Messenger, and Microsoft Works, for now), but this puts an aggressive cap on the work that you can do simultaneously.
More to come!