First Impressions of a Dell Inspiron Duo

So I ended up with an Inspiron Duo, and I have to say it's a very pretty machine. I've been playing with it for a few hours, but I knew how I felt within minutes. Have you ever had one of those gut reactions: "Yeah, that's just not going to work for me"?That's how I feel about the Inspiron Duo.

Engadget posted  a long review of the Duo which I won't try to duplicate here. I'm just going to go over a few of the reasons why I wouldn't have bought one, and let you decide if they're important.

Also, later on I'm going to install some reading apps and tell you how well they work on touchscreens. I really got it for that reason, not because I wanted to use it as my main computer.

Specs

The Dell Inspiron Duo is Dell's latest experiment in a netbook convertible. It has a 10" touchscreen, a dual core Atom CPU, 2GB RAM,  Wifi, a 1.3MP camera, microphone, and a pair of speakers. It's hottest feature is the unique screen swivel.

Weight

But that unique swivel is the first problem. The Duo is noticeably heavier than a similar sized netbook (12" screen), and if you look at it as a tablet then it is exceptionally heavy (for a 10" screen). The reason for the weight is that the swivel and general screen design is very sturdy. That sturdiness adds a lot to the weight.

I don't think you'll want to use it much as a tablet due to the weight, and that really hinders the value of the design.

Battery Life

I haven't had it long enough to test, but Engadget reported that the battery life was around 2 and a half hours. That's simply unacceptable in 2011. I can lay my hands on cheap junk tablets, netbooks, or laptops that can beat that.

Ports & Slots

I didn't realize this until I put my hands on it, but the Duo doesn't have enough. All it has is a pair of USB ports and the headphone jack. Everything else got moved to the docking station (2 USB, SD card slot, network, mike, headphone jack).  It's a very pretty dock, and it even has built in speakers. But it's also rather heavy and not at all mobile.

I can understand why the excess ports were moved to the dock; it slimmed down the design and the Duo ships with the dock anyway.But the Duo is a mobile device. If I'm not in my office then the dock doesn't mean diddly.

As a mobile device, the Duo is crippled. It lacks the ports I need on a netbook.

Camera

This is a minor gripe, but I really think Dell should have included a second camera. It effectively doesn't have a camera in tablet mode, which again lessens the value.

Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps the camera should have been included  in the screen component. Then it could have swiveled with the screen.

Screen

This is a 10" screen on the body of a 12" netbook. I know I could work with this screen, but I would never get one on purpose. It's just not big enough. (In fact, I'm typing this on a 12" screen, and I've found that this screen isn't big enough any more.) With a regular convertible this size, it would have a 12" screen. That extra couple inches would make a difference.

Conclusion

Don't get me wrong, I like the concept of a tablet convertible. I've always been planning that my next laptop would be a convertible. But the Duo isn't a good design when compared to the dozen or so models out there. It feels like this was a design that was released not on its merits but because everyone loved the concept. It has a unique screen swivel, and just the sight of it moving causing my heart to skip a beat.

But the design just doesn't work.

I started this review thinking that the next Duo would be better, but at this point I hope they don't make a second one.  I'm not sure that the shortcomings can be fixed.

P.S. I'm going to be installing some reading apps so I can see how well they work with a touchscreen. That post  will be along some time next week.

About Nate Hoffelder (11596 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on First Impressions of a Dell Inspiron Duo

  1. “I’m not sure that the shortcomings can be fixed.”

    Some of the shortcomings could be fixed, such as the battery life. Most importantly, it needs a replaceable battery.

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