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Dell Inspiron Mini 12 notebook-not-netbook

The netbook goes big-screen

In an effort to make the Mini 9's keyboard as large as possible Dell did away with function keys, a compromise we've never been absolutely sold on, not least because Acer managed to squeeze a small row of function buttons onto the similarly sized AA1's keyboard without rendering it unusable.

Dell Inspiron Mini 12

Nice, big full-size laptop style trackpad

With the extra space available, Dell has rectified this shortcoming and given the Mini 12 a keyboard far closer to what you'd expect to find on one of it's regular 15.4in laptops, just a shade under 85 per cent the size. While the keyboard has a nice enough action - and is perfectly usable - it does lack quite the final degree of firmness and solidity you will find on an AA1's keyboard.

However, the Mini 12's touchpad and button combo is one of the better to be found on any netbook, being more or less identical in layout, size and action to the pad on the Dell Inspiron 1525 this review is being written on.

The Mini 12's size has also allowed Dell to move the speaker to a location under a grille next to the screen hinge rather than bury it away in the chassis as per the netbook norm. However, since Dell seems to have lumbered the machine with the same nasty little mono speaker as the 9, this is something of a missed opportunity, the 12 sounding no better than our AA1, and indeed not proving capable of generating quite the same level of volume.

Wireless connectivity comes courtesy of 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and a Bluetooth 2.0 card so if you want to hook up to the internet via a 3G network you'll need to buy a dongle or pair the netbook with a phone If you have the Linux-based Mini 12, you'll have to download the open source datacard drivers from Betavine, which we know from experience will hook up any Huawei dongle to Ubuntu with the minimum of fuss.

Dell Inspiron Mini 12

If only that battery bulge was bigger...

The Windows XP Mini 12 is powered by an Intel Atom Z530 chip clocked at 1.6GHz with a 512KB cache. The Linux version comes with the 1.33GHz Z520. Both come with a reasonably healthy 1GB of DDR 2 memory. Graphics are handled by the integrated Intel GMA 500 graphics core.

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