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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Sweetpea25 March, 2011

    “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.

    1. Nate the great25 March, 2011

      But that would make it even heavier. That might be okay for a 14″ convertible, but it’s not okay for a 10″ one.

  2. […] also packing along my wireless mouse, as well as my Dell inspiron Duo. I still don’t like the design but the is a Win7 tablet convertible. It still beats out all […]


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