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Dell Inspiron Mini 12

Dell Inspiron Mini 12 notebook-not-netbook

The netbook goes big-screen

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Its larger-than-the-netbook-norm footprint notwithstanding, the Mini 12 is otherwise Small Cheap Computer standard. On the left hand side, you get two USB ports, a VGA video connector, Kensington lock and power jack, while on the right you get another USB port, 3.5mm audio jacks, a three-in-one card reader and a 10/100Mb/s Ethernet port. Embedded above the screen is a 1.3Mp webcam and microphone.

Dell Inspiron Mini 12

Standard netbook portage one one side...

Now you can say what you like about Dell, but it does know how to bolt a laptop together and, like the Mini 9, we struggle to find a bad word to say about the Mini 12's build quality. It's solid, doesn't creak or groan when you try to bend it - or the screen - and the hinge is nicely weighted.

That not say it's perfect. Our review sample came with the standard black colour option which makes the Mini 12in a fingerprint magnet of unusual quality, so we'd seriously suggest going for the "Arctic White" version.

Secondly, the 'Power On' light is a cheap looking and overly bright pure white affair that's slightly distracting when using the Mini 12 in good light and just plain annoying when using it in low light or of an evening.

The Mini 12 also lacks anything in the way of an external Wi-Fi switch. Nor does it have the status LEDs you will find on the front lip of the Mini 9 so you can't tell when it is fully charged if it's switched off.

Dell Inspiron Mini 12

...and on the other

The styling is also just a bit, well, conservative for our tastes. It looks OK on its own, but whenever we sat it down next to our white Acer Aspire One it was hard not to come to the conclusion that Dell's designers really couldn't be bothered to make the Mini 12 – or the 9 or the new 10, for that matter – stand out from the crowd.

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