Inspiron Mini 10 (1018) Netbook
MyDellMini moderator Montala
writes up his detailed review of the Dell Inpsiron 1018:
The original Dell Inspiron Mini 10v (1011), was probably one of their most popular netbooks, due in no small measure to the fact it could be âhackintoshedâ fairly easily, a process made even more straightforward by following the plethora of help and advice posted in the Forums here on MyDellMini. This particular model has now sadly been discontinued, although is still occasionally available through Dell Outlet channels.
In August 2010 Dell announced the introduction of a new netbook, designated the Inspiron Mini 1018, which is the model I shall be reviewing here. It is interesting however that in the System Summary, it is still listed as a Mini 10v, with the âvâ, as before, ostensibly standing for âvalueâ.
It would seem not unreasonable therefore to expect that the specification of this entry level model, would be similar to its predecessor, and as I now have both netbooks here in front of me, I thought that it would be an interesting exercise to compare the two, in some detail. However as my 1011 has already been hackintoshed, and is performing very well in its new role, I will not be able to make direct comparisons in all cases. I hope also that the more experienced users will not find my comments too basic, as I have tried to write my review more as a typical home based âend userâ, rather than as a âgeekâ. First Impressions
The 1018 is shipped (in the UK at least) in one of Dellâs colourful Inspiron Mini boxes, leaving the couriers, or delivery agents in no doubt as to its contents. Inside the box, the Mini is packed in their fairly familiar âegg boxâ style containers, with the power lead, Instruction Manuals, and Driver DVD hiding underneath. When I first took the 1018 out of its protective sleeve, my first thoughts were to wonder why the glossy Obsidian Black lid did not cover the entire base, which initially looked a bit odd.
One reason for that is that the lid is hinged a couple of cm or so in from the âbackâ of the netbook, and although the screen itself is the same size (10.1â), the actual lid itself is slightly narrower, but is 8mm wider than the 1011. The two keyboards however, although being the same physical size (92% of full size PC keyboard), and having the same âfeelâ to the keys, those on the 1018âs are more of the âscrabbleâ style, which gives the appearance of a wider key spacing and present, in my opinion at least, a more attractive appearance.
What I am sure most users will appreciate though is the much improved matt black track-pad, which now has two buttons below, and completely separate from, the pad itself. All of these, together with the palm rest, now sport an all black finish with none of the contrasting silver trim, like we have on the 1011. The palm rest itself has a sort of attractive, if slightly unusual, textured finish and an additional LED has been added to the front edge, to indicate hard drive activity, which is good to see.
Before moving on to the Specification I will complete the description of the available ports etc. which unfortunately appear to be have decreased, rather than increased in number, as we now only have a measly two USB ports, one on each side. The left hand side houses the VGA output and media card reader slot, plus one of the aforementioned USB ports, but the AC adapter connector has been moved round to the back of the chassis, as has the security cable slot, which is probably a better place for it anyway. On the right hand side, either side of the other USB port, we have the Ethernet (RJ45) port and the headphone socket, but no audio-in this time. And thatâs about it really!
Looking underneath, I had hoped to find a mini-card door, similar to the one provided on my 1011, but no such luck; other than the two battery latches there is nothing there at all, so it looks as if the only way âinâ, is down from the top, after having removed the keyboard etc., but more of that later.
Due to the wedge shaped design of the chassis, which helps the battery to integrate better, the keyboard now lies at a slight slope in relation to the desk, which some users may find makes for slightly easier typing. Specification
Looking at the current page on Dellâs UK website, there is very little which can be changed, or substituted from the basic specification, which is for an IntelÂŽ Atomâ˘ Pineview N455 Single Core Processor (1.66GHz, 667MHz FSB, 512K L2 Cache)as opposed to an N270 on the 1011. However, they donât even appear to offer the option of a 6 cell battery on the cheapest variant, and apart from a âPretty Pinkâ or a âCherry Redâ glossy lid, for an additional ÂŁ19, the only other option available was to replace the included MicrosoftÂŽ Office Starter 2010 with the Home and Student Edition for ÂŁ69. The limited edition of this product, as provided, includes reduced-functionality versions of Word and Excel, together with advertising, but PowerPoint, Outlook and Publisher are NOT included. I suppose this is better than nothing, but I suspect most users will quickly wish to upgrade to at least the Home and Student Edition. I will however comment more on the included product, and options, later.
Moving on down through the specification, we have a 10.1" WSVGA TrueLife Widescreen Display (1024 x 600), powered by an Integrated IntelÂŽ GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 3150, and 1024MB 1333MHz Single Channel DDR3 SDRAM [1x1024] memory. I suspect that the inclusion of DDR3 memory, rather than DDR2 as used on the 1010, has been implemented more for cost and lower heat output reasons, rather than in an attempt to offer any noticeable increase in performance.
The standard hard drive is a 160GB (5,400rpm) Serial ATA model, although a 250GB device is available for another ÂŁ20, but seeing as this option also includes a 6 cell 48 WHr Lithium Ion battery, it is probably the most cost effective one to go for at ÂŁ299. The hard drive on the model reviewed here was a Hitachi, although of course if the end user wishes to replace this, or to increase the memory, it will mean a virtual âstrip downâ of the netbook, in a similar manner to the task which many of us chose to carry out on our 1011âs. This is however an exercise which requires careful handling of a number of delicate connectors, and a fairly steady hand when handling components etc. There are several threads on MyDellMini discussing the procedures involved here.
A wireless 802.11n Mini Card complete with WLAN Antenna, is also built in to all models in the range, and also a Primary 3-cell 24 WHr Lithium Ion battery, which appeared to be the only choice on the cheapest models. A Bluetooth option is not included as standard, but is currently available on the âtop of the rangeâ model which, with the larger hard drive, costs ÂŁ329, although the 6 cell battery is also included here.
The built in web camera on this model, is actually shown on the specification as 0.3 mega-pixel, as opposed to a 1.3 mega-pixel on the 1011 which, if correct, does sound like a real bit of penny pinching, although is probably adequate for basic âSkypingâ âŚ I will be checking this out later!
As before, the 30w AC adapter is neatly built into the plug itself, just leaving a single low voltage power cable to plug into the back of the 1018, rather than into a side connection, as on the 1011 Software
The supplied operating system is a copy of WindowsÂŽ 7 Starter (32 bit) for Small Notebooks, although no recovery media is included. The included Dell DataSafe program does however include an option for the user to create their own âstarter DVDâ and also to return their netbook to a âfactory stateâ, which is something I will be looking at in more detail later also. A 2GB on-line backup option for 1 year is also included, although I suspect it may well be chargeable after that.
Unsurprisingly Dell also includes a 30 day trial version of McAfeeÂŽ Security Center, which will be one of the first things I will be removing, (although if you are very lucky yours might come with a 15 month subscription already included in the purchase price).There is also the ubiquitous Dell Dock, plus some Skype software, which I may well leave in place for the time being. Anyway, itâs now time to plug in and switch on!
The machine I had been given to review had already had Firefox and Chrome installed, but being a bit of a Microsoft âfanboyâ myself (yes, I admit it!) I decided that the first thing I would do was to return my 1018 to its factory state which is easily accomplished by pressing the âF8â key at boot-up, selecting the âRepairâ your Computer option, followed by the Factory Image Recovery prompt. The whole process took just over half an hour to complete, but before proceeding further, or even connecting to my wireless network, I decided that I would make myself a recovery DVD, which might just come in handy at some later date. As this Mini, in common with all other Netbooks, does not come with an integrated optical drive, I used an external Dell DVD drive which I picked up last year in one of their many âspecial offersâ, and which with its glossy black finish is actually a perfect match.
However, the first thing it tried to do when next turned on (without any prompting at all) was to activate McAfee which, owing to the lack of an internet connection, it was unable to do. I then ran the Dell DataSafe program to prepare my recovery DVD. The supplied program is (of course!) only a basic version, allowing the user to âRestore back to factory stateâ or to âCreate Recovery Content on DVD (or USB) Mediaâ, and I was encouraged to upgrade immediately to the âPremium VersionââŚ an offer I decided to decline.
For some reason the whole backup required 2 DVDâs but appeared to complete OK, so I will probably try it later with an 8GB USB stick, as the Backup program received an unexpected update from Dell once I was online. This actually took a lot longer than I expected to finish updating, and went through many copying and updating processes.
Rather than having to download goodness knows how many âessentialâ Microsoft security updates, I decided to install a beta version of Windows 7 Security Pack 1, (a 295 MB file) which I had previously downloaded to my desktop, and then transferred over to the 1018 via a USB stick. This took about 45 minutes to complete, so I just left it to get on with it, until I was eventually advised that the process had successfully completed. The version now installed, according to the lower right corner of the screen, is an Evaluation Copy - Build 7601. It is still the Starter Edition though, unfortunately!
After that, but before connecting to the internet, via a wireless connection, I uninstalled McAfee completely and then, once online, proceeded to install Microsoft Security Essentials, which is of course a free download. On then checking for Microsoft Updates I was pleased to find that there were only 10 of these, at 24.7MB, many of which were probably this monthâs patches anyway. Operation & User Experience
So at last I had a fully protected and updated netbook, and felt that I could now switch on again, and safely start to investigate the additional software which Dell had provided. Before going any further however, and not being a great fan of touchpads, I decided that I would rather use a mouse for my cursor control. Having a Dell Bluetooth Travel Mouse to hand, and also one of those tiny fingernail sized Veho USB Bluetooth adapters, I considered that these two should make an ideal combination, as indeed they did. Windows 7 recognised the adapter immediately and having remembered where the icon was hiding on the taskbar, a further couple of clicks quickly paired up the mouse, and away we went. Just out of interest I checked the time the 1018 took from a âcoldâ start to a working desktop, which I was surprised to find timed out at about 90 seconds. I had assumed it would have been a bit quicker than that, but then again, I am not usually clock watching at the time.
On checking out the Start Menu, several additional entries were immediately apparent, including The Dell Dock, DataSafe Backup, Dell Support Center, and Webcam. There were also icons for a Function Key option, Microsoft Office Starter, Windows Live, and Adobe Acrobat Reader.
The version of Adobe Acrobat Reader installed was 9.1.2, but when I asked it to check for updates it appeared to have a problem connecting to the Adobe update server. As general internet access was fine over my Wi-Fi internet connection I proceeded to download the latest version from Adobeâs website which automatically updated the installed version to 9.4.0.
Skype was also already pre-installed, but again when I entered my user name and password details, it appeared to be unable to establish a connection. However a âCheck for Updatesâ advised me that a later version was available for download, which is in fact quite a major upgrade to 184.108.40.206. Having installed this, a connection was quickly established with no further problems, and I was soon chatting to one of my Skype contacts.
The camera images appeared a bit pale and âwashed outâ, although the sound was very clear, with no noticeable delay. Only having a single mono speaker though, the rendition of music left a lot to be desired, with the included samples sounding a bit sharp and tinny.
I was curious to see what options would be offered when I attempted to open a Microsoft Word (*.doc) file, and on doing so I was presented with three alternatives, namely:-
1) I have already purchased Office 2010 - with a button to Activate it.
2) Go online to Purchase Office 2010.
3) Use Office 2010 Starter.
Now, as I chose to go for the third option, perhaps I had better start by giving a brief explanation of what the Starter Edition of Office 2010 actually is. It cannot be (legally) downloaded or purchased in a High Street store, but is only supplied to large OEMâs such as Dell, to preinstall on their machines. They will have purchased it from Microsoft for something less than$5 per PC. It contains âbasic versions of Word and Excel only, and although it may be considered fine for such things as creating and editing simple Word documents and Excel spread sheets, opening existing Word and Excel files, managing a simple budget and writing letters, it has its limitations. Users will also find that it is spoiled somewhat by the inclusion of a selection of rotating advertisements from Microsoft in the bottom right hand corner of a large application window, which cannot be closed or removed.
Owing to the limitations of this program, it is not suitable for such tasks as creating PowerPoint presentations, sending emails and keeping track of a calendar with Outlook, or even using Macros, to name but a few. Office Starter 2010 is clearly designed for home users who are not ready to buy a full version of Office 2010, but may well be adequate for those who only require (or need) the basic functionality. It should be born in mind though that the non-removable column, at the bottom of which the adverts appear, does effectively occupy some 20% of the right hand side of the screen, and is therefore a bit of a pain! Still I suppose it is not too bad for what is effectively a âfreebieâ.
Hopefully I have written enough here for any prospective purchasers to draw their own conclusions as to whether this would a suitable for them or not, so I will end with a brief summary. Final Thoughts
Looking back to the prices Dell was charging for the original Inspiron Mini 10v (1011) before it was finally discontinued, I would have hope to see this model, the 1018, which has to be considered a virtual replacement, to have been priced somewhat more aggressively. Having said that though the sturdy build quality and unique design may be considered to be attractive features, although it is a shame that the third USB port and microphone jack were not again included.
Not everyone will like the reflective screen, although this model should not be considered by anyone looking for a gaming or video editing machine. Having a fanless cooling system is an advantage, and although I did not really use it extensively enough to comment on the battery life, from what I have read elsewhere this is not unreasonable.
Once the included software is taken into account, (although I am sure it will immediately be removed by some folks), this netbook offers pretty much all the average home user needs to get started, and having the Dell name behind it, I would certainly feel more than happy using this as a second computer. Anyone who is looking for more should consider something like the 1012 perhaps.