Dell has released its second Intel Atom-based laptop, the Inspiron Mini 12. Because it carries the Mini moniker and uses Atom, the Mini 12 is widely referred to as a netbook even though it blurs the lines with conventional laptops with its 12-inch display and Windows Vista Home Edition. The Mini 9 which was released in early September, has an 8.9-inch and is strictly Windows XP or Ubuntu Linux--more typical options for netbooks.
The Mini 12 also uses a different version of the Atom chip--either the 1.3GHz Z520 or the 1.6GHz Z530. Most current netbooks use the 1.6GHz N270 with the exception of the HP Mini-note 2133, which uses Via's C7-M processor (though it looks like an Atom version is in the works). The Z series processors, which were really designed for Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), are physically smaller and use less power. Dell says the standard 3-cell battery is good for about three hours.
Other Mini 12 specs include:
- 12.1 inch WXGA display
- 1GB of memory
- 60- or 80GB hard drive
- Built-in Bluetooth and 802.11b/g
- Built-in webcam
- Starting weight of 2.72 and less than an inch thick
- Optional 6-cell battery ($79)
The Mini 12 is available initially only in retail stores in Japan, though it will launch globally by late November with configurations starting under $600. Versions with Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux will also be available by the end of the year.
Laptop Magazine got a glimpse of an early version of the Mini 12, but APC is claiming the first hands-on review. Its write-up has some interesting details about the chip, the 1GB memory limitation, performance with Windows Vista and the 3G wireless options on tap for early 2009.
The Mini 12 is exactly the sort of Atom-based netbook that Intel has been concerned about because it blurs the lines so much and could cannibalize sales of higher-priced laptops, though in its recent quarterly call Intel said it saw no signs of that yet. It's worth noting that Dell itself doesn't use the term "netbook" anywhere in the press release. Instead it refers to the Mini 12 as an Internet companion "ideal for teens, tweens, travelers and 'Tweeters' to surf the Web, chat with friends, blog, stream content, upload photos or enjoy online videos, music and games."
At the opposite extreme, some blogs and tech sites are positioning the Mini 12 as a competitor to thin laptops such as the Apple MacBook Air. That's a stretch. The size and weight may be similar, but the performance won't be--a point that Dell itself is careful to make in a Q&A with Laptop Magazine on the Mini 12.