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.
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.