Friday, May 07, 2010

Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 Review

This will be my first attempt at a product review. I want to say up front, I make no claim to be a computer expert so this will not be a technical review of this new computer. My intent is to share my experience for other plain old people like myself.

I have been playing with this mini for about a month now and I really like it. I think I have succeeded in setting it up the way I want it.

Just a brief description of the hardware. This one has the Atom N450 processor, with 1 GB of RAM. It has a 160 GB HDD, a 6 cell battery and the operating system is Windows 7 Starter.

First of all, I am impressed with Windows 7. Just turn it on and walk through the start up and you are off and running. Windows 7 immediately found my wifi connection, logged on and was updating before I even realized what it was doing. It couldn’t have been simpler. This also came with some extra trial software that I didn’t want - more about that later.

The key board is almost full size and just fine for my use. I’m not a high-speed touch typist so I’m not terribly picky. I find the keyboard has a nice feel to it. The keys have a solid feel though some may find them to be a bit stiff.

I’m very impressed with the battery life. The 6 cell battery along with the N450 processor give this little guy a good 8 hours of battery life for my uses. I just plug it in at night and it is good for the day.

Since I use this little guy mainly for web use, I have done some set up to make it work for me. That is where the work comes in. My use for this mini is to have it in my lap in the evenings so I can check the news sites and do my general, recreational surfing. And in this case, I am using it to write this blog post.

Here is how I have set this up:
First I removed the McAfee anti-virus program that was pre-loaded. I have been using AVG on my computers for several years now and have been very pleased with that program on my desk-tops. I use it here and find it works just as well.

Since this is not going to be a business computer, I had no need for MS Office. That 60 day trial may be nice, but I don’t need the programs and definitely don’t want the expense after the 60 days are up. Especially since it didn’t include Outlook.

I replaced it with OpenOffice. That gives me the programs that I want without the expense. I also chose not to install the database program since I have never used it on my other computers. Right now I am also playing with a word processing program called AbiWord that I think is ideal for a mini like this. It is a small program but has all of the features that I want for basic text creation. I’m writing this in AbiWord right now. And I just found how to add a hyperlink, so it hasn’t failed me yet.

Now comes the real meat of the set-up. I want to go online, what browser should I use? I started with IE but wasn’t impressed. It isn’t all that fast with this processor and only 1 gig of RAM. Also, it takes up so much screen space with it’s task bars and headers. I soon discovered that the 10.1“ screen on this little mini is a limitation that has to be considered. With IE, I found that I didn’t get to see much of the web page that I was most interested in seeing.

I had seen some others suggest that Google Chrome is the way to go so I tried it out. I have to agree - Chrome is the choice for a browser when you have a mini like this. The minimalist screen and the smaller footprint makes it the better choice. Chrome has become my browser of choice. Then all I had to do was hide the taskbar on the bottom and I was set.

Oh, that reminds me - since I dumped Office, IE and most of the pre-installed garbage I had no use for that funky taskbar that was at the top. First I tried just hiding it but it would jump out and get in the way when I was trying to go to the buttons at the top. Then I tried moving to the left or right but it still just got in the way when I didn’t want it around, So finally, I just dumped it. There is the option of turning it off or deleting it. I chose to turn it off on the off chance that some day I might want it back. I am not impressed with that little feature.

Well, all in all, I am very pleased with my Mini 1012. It surfs well and I can write the occasional text document without any problem. I’ve used it to play mp3 files and it works well for that as well. I doubt it would be a good gaming station but I’m not a gamer and it isn’t built for that. In all, I would definitely recommend this to the general user interested in a small, portable net computer.

Hope you liked my first attempt at a product review. I don’t imagine I will be doing a lot of this kind of thing but who knows?

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