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Dell Inspiron Duo
With tablets a hot commodity and a netbook
market starved for innovation, Dell has entered
the consumer convertible game with the cleverly
designed Inspiron Duo. This $549 dual-core
netbook sports a screen that flips around 180
degrees while remaining inside the lid. The Duo’s
attractive, rubberized design and Dell Stage touch
software look gorgeous at first glance, but does
this system have enough oomph?
At 11.2 x 7.7 x 1 inches and 3 pounds, the Dell
Inpsiron Duo is larger and bulkier than the typical
10-inch netbook. The bottom and sides are made
from a sturdy rubberized material. Unfortunately,
you won’t find a memory card slot, nor is there a
VGA or HDMI port.
On its inside, the pleasant-looking QWERTY
keyboard sports keys with a soft-plastic feel.
Unfortunately, the keys have a flat surface and
not a lot of travel. The 2.7 x 1.6 -inch multitouch-
capable touchpad is reasonably responsive and
has a slightly textured surface. The two discrete
mouse buttons offered decent tactile feedback.
You wouldn’t expect hi-fidelity sound from a
10-inch netbook, so it’s no surprise that the Dell
Inspiron Duo delivers audio that’s relatively clear,
but not at all rich.
Every time we swiveled the Duo’s screen, the
lid snapped quickly into place. With its 1366 x
768 resolution, the 10.1-inch glossy screen is
sharper than the average netbook. Images were
sharp and colors bright, but video playback was
a mixed bag.
The capacitive touchscreen was responsive.
That said, Windows 7’s user interface is not
finger-friendly. Worst of all is Windows’ virtual
keyboard, which either floats above your content,
or docks to the top/bottom of the screen also
The Inspiron Duo ships with Dell Stage, a custom
UI layer that rides on top of Windows 7. The UI
consists of seven large, finger-friendly buttons for
Books, Games, Internet, Music, Paint, Photo, and
Video, which you can use to load the associated
apps. There is no way to add your own shortcuts, so
if you want to launch MicrosoftOffice, for example,
you’ll need to go outside the Stage UI.
The Dell MusicStage app provides a touch-friendly
way to organize and play your downloaded music.
Sorting your music by artists, album, and genre, it
contains additional information such as album cover
art. It also has tabs for two music services: Napster,
a music rental service with a 14-day free trial, and
tory and loca-
tor with a neat
ture that shows
you what sta-
tions are based where on the globe. Too bad the
app took a whopping 26 seconds to load, during
which time you have to sit and watch the Windows
circle of fire turn and turn. Dell PhotoStageloaded
in a sluggish but more reasonable 7 seconds.
Dell VideoStage lets you buy current movies from
CinemaNow; and the BookStage eReader is simply
a re -labeled Blio eReader.
With its dual-core 1.5 -GHz Atom N550, 7,200-
rpm hard drive, and 2GB of RAM, the Inspiron Duo
provides pretty good performance for a netbook,
and phenomenal levels for a tablet. However, as
noted above, several of the touch-friendly apps
were slow to load. Plus, HD video played at less-
than-optimal frame rates, despite the Broadcom
The Duo’s PCMark Vantage score is 200 points
above the netbook category average. The 7,200-
rpm 320GB hard drive booted Windows 7 Home
Premium in a decent-for-a -netbook 57 seconds.
However, the Duo took 3 minutes and 39 seconds
to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer test, which
is significantly longer than the category average.
On 3DMark06, the Inspiron Duo merely scored
on a par with other dual-core netbooks that have
The Inspiron Duo lasted only 3 hours and 5
minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which is not
only less than most netbooks of its size, it’s also
pathetic compared to most tablets.
While the gorgeous rubberized chassis and
responsive touchscreen make the Inspiron Duo
seem compelling, its short battery life, sluggish
touch software, mediocre media playback, and
lack of ports make it a tough sell.
Attractive, sturdy design
Responsive touch screen
Good netbook performance
Sluggish touch software
Short battery life
No video-out or memory card slot
is a custom
that features a
Laptop | February 2011
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