Where Dell's first netbook entry into the NZ market, the Inspiron Mini 9 didn't set any hearts aflutter, its latest netbook effort, the Inspiron Mini 10 may cause some fibrillation, managing to both look great and strike the right balance between portability and usability.

The review unit I was sent was a stylish beasty, sporting a Ferrari red glossy lid (black, avocado/lime green, pink, blue or white models are also available) and a slightly more understated back body.

Weighing in at just over 1.2kgs, Dells Mini 10 is petite enough to be comfortably slipped into travel luggage or work bag inducing little in the way of shoulder strain. Unlike the Mini 9, the 10 feels far more solid and its improved build quality should in turn equate to less breakages whilst on the move.

The Mini's excellent keyboard also impressed. Where its predecessor, the Mini 9, felt cramped, a marginal size increase to the Mini 10 makes for a more spacious keyboard which is far more accessible. Equally nifty was the fact that its touchpad is also multi-touch.

Using a combination of multiple fingers and gestures simple tasks such as scrolling and zooming quickly became a common part of my daily digital repertoire. About the only downside came from the Mini 10's trackpad buttons - which are essentially corners of pad - were frequently clicked by accident until I got used to it.

Sheathed in glossy plastic, the Mini's 10.1" screen delivered vivid, life-like colours. Contrast levels were also helped in part by the glossy screen, whites were crisp and blacks deep and dark. Add the 10's integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam into the mix and the Mini also became a great way to call home using Skype.

With real world use I managed to squeeze out just under 190 minutes of life before the Mini 10 gasped its last breath and shut up shop.

Given the ultra-portable nature of the device I would have preferred a slightly beefier battery life. This said, the Mini 10's external power adaptor is sufficiently small to be mistaken for a cellphone charger and can be stowed with minimum effort.

The Mini 10 packs a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520 processor under its hood which in practice proved to be more than ample for basic office tasks and surfing. Its 160GB hard drive has acres of space for documents, music, photos and videos whilst its integrated SD/MMC/Memory Stick card reader slot made transferring holiday snaps off digital cameras a doddle.

Dell has also tossed a generous dollop of 3 USB ports for connecting peripherals, as well as an HDMI port for plugging the Mini 10 into flat panel TVs (which proved great for photo slide shows).

Last but by no means least the Mini 10 also sports 802.11b/g and n wireless, which when used with a compatible 802.11n router made for really zippy file transfers.

Good looks, a great spec and decent keyboard make Dell's Mini 10 a great choice for any notebook buyer wanting a solid, eye pleasing all-round netbook performer.

Source: The New Zealand Herald