Windows 8 Tablet/Netbook Review – Dell Inspiron Mini Duo

Some of us out there want a portable solution, but aren’t sure if we are better suited for a tablet or netbook. I mean, touch-tablets are more convenient and easier to use but it some aspects they just don’t do the job if you are looking for productivity uses like a netbook can.

So what do you if you aren’t sure which direction to go with? Why not buy something that does a little bit of both. That’s where the Dell Inspiron Mini Duo 3487FNT Convertible Laptop/Tablet comes into play.

To get this review started, let’s take a look at what’s inside this tablet/netbook hybrid:

  • 10.1-inch Widescreen HD (1366×768) Multi-Touch display
  • 1.5 GHz Intel Atom N550 Processor
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 320GB HDD
  • Wireless/Bluetooth
  • Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • Smart Card Reader
  • Ethernet
  • Weight: 4.21 pounds
  • Dimensions: 10.16×3.64×16.69-inches

So what can I tell you about the looks that isn’t clear from the pictures? For starters, the Duo comes with three different color choices: black, blue, and red. The Inspiron Duo hides its secret tablet power rather well at first glance, and looks nothing more than an average netbook. The hinge only rotates one direction to turn it into a tablet, but overall is pretty easy to do.

Keep in mind that unless you put the power of Windows 8 Beta on this device in February, you are stuck with a less-than-optimal touch experience with Windows 7.

Probably the biggest downside to the tablet/netbook convertible is its heavy weight, at nearly 4 ½ pounds! This isn’t that bad for a tablet, but if you are planning to use this thing comfortably for long reading sessions, good luck.

So how is the overall touch experience then? Its okay, if you can handle the weight. Performance wise, it about in line with the average $300-$350 netbook out there. When it comes to basic browsing and light/moderate use, the Duo’s 1.5Ghz dual-core Atom packs enough punch to provide a fairly useable experience.

Probably the biggest weakness in the hardware department, however, is its battery life. Using video playback and keeping the WIFI on yielded a miserable 2 hours and 44 minutes. In contrast, many netbooks out there easily get double this type of battery life, and the same can be said for most tablets as well.

So what is my overall verdict? The Inspiron Duo is far from perfect. Its software runs okay with its dual-core Atom but its weight really gets in the way of providing a truly epic Windows tablet experience. Although weight can’t be solved, I do believe that Windows 8 would make the tablet side much more appealing if you are willing to look past the 4 ½ weight issue that this hybrid presents.

Still, even if you can get past the weight issue, you are presented with a non-removable battery that doesn’t last very long. An enjoyable tablet experience needs the ability to easily move around without being tethered to a charging cord. Keeping a netbook on a desk 75% of the time might not be too bad, but this certainly is a deal-breaker with tablets.

There is one redeeming fact in my opinion, the price. At just $434.99 on Amazon you get a tablet and a netbook. Buying a basic netbook would cost around $200-300, getting a basic tablet will run you around $200-250. So that’s a small savings.

This alone would make it an absolute steal if it could provide a semi-reasonable tablet experience.

As it stands? – Your money is likely spent better elsewhere.

The Dell Inspiron Mini Duo is available at Amazon.com

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