Dell Announces the Inspiron Mini 12 -- Biggest Netbook Yet

Dell ’s newly announced Inspiron Mini 12 netbook is coming Stateside in November for under $600.

Dell officially announced its new Inspiron Mini 12 on Sunday. The new Inspiron blurs the line between netbook and ultra-portable notebook, offering consumers MacBook Air portability with a price tag under $600. The Inspiron Mini 12 is now available in Japan and it will be coming Stateside later this year. The Inspiron Mini 12 weighs around 2.73-pounds and it has a thickness of less than 1.09-inches.

According to the Dell Japan website, the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 can be configured with a choice of Intel Atom Z520 or Z530 processor and 60 GB or 80 GB 4200 RPM hard drive. The choices seem to end there however ; the rest of system specifications include a 12.1-inch glossy TFT Truelife WXGA LCD display, Intel US15W system controller hub, Intel GMA500 integrated graphics, 802.11g and 1 GB of DDR2 memory. The Inspiron Mini 12 also comes with a standard set of ports, including three USB ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port, a VGA port, audio ports and an AC adapter port. Some nice extra features include a 5-in-1 media card reader, Bluetooth v2.1 with EDR, 1.3-megapixel webcam and built-in microphone.

Even though the new Inspiron Mini 12 uses an Intel Atom processor, it distinguishes itself from the Inspiron Mini 9 and other netbooks in a few key ways. The most obvious difference is that the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 features a 12.1-inch screen, while nearly all other netbooks to date have been essentially limited to no more than about 10-inch screen sizes. The Inspiron Mini 12 is available with Windows Vista Home Basic operating system, although Windows XP and Ubuntu alternatives will become available later this year.

Also uniquely difference about the Inspiron Mini 12 is the type of Intel Atom processor it uses. While most other netbooks use the laptop-centric Atom N270 processor, the Inspiron Mini 12 is equipped with either the Atom Z530 or Z520 processor, both of which are designed for UMPCs. While the Atom N270 and the Atom Z530 are virtually identical in terms of performance, both with a 1.6 GHz clock speed, 512 KB of L2 cache and a 533 MHz FSB, the Atom Z530 uses slightly less power. The Atom Z520 also has a low power consumption, but it features a slower clock speed of 1.33 GHz.

Lastly, the Inspiron Mini 12 uses the Intel SCH US15W chipset with Intel GMA 500 integrated graphics, which also seems to be a first for netbooks. The US15W chipset has a low system TDP of just 4.3-watts, however the chipset is limited to just 1 GB of RAM. For those hoping they could upgrade the amount of memory are out of luck it seems, which is rather disappointing considering that Windows Vista really likes as much memory as it can get. The Intel GMA 500 graphics solution uses the PowerVR SGX core licensed from Imagination Technologies and it will provide hardware video acceleration and Direct3D 10.1 support.

Battery life for the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 will hit up to 3 hours and 32 minutes with a 3-cell battery, which is quite excellent. There will be a 6-cell battery option available as well. Overall, the new Inspiron Mini 12 appears to have the makings of a truly popular netbook. Although not as powerful as a full-fledged ultra-portable notebooks, the Inspiron Mini 12 offers the same portability and function that many consumers desire, but with a lower price tag.

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