Dell launches 10 inch netbook, reveals ‘MacBook Air killer’


Times might be tough and budgets tight but nobody’s told Dell – or perhaps the direct PC vendor simply believes that if you build it they will come.

Apple proved that with the MacBook Air and just about everyone else did the same with the netbook. So Dell has chosen to kick off the new year with a daring new entry in each of those categories.

We don’t have any shots of the Mini 10 to show you so instead we’ll tease you with a profile pic
 of the super-slim Adamo ultraportable (photo: Brian Solis www.briansolis.com)

Inspiron Mini 10: not just another netbook?

The Inspiron Mini 10 slots into the 10 inch form factor which many consider to be the sweet spot for netbooks: squint-free screens usable keyboards with minimal compromises yet still several leagues smaller and lighter than conventional notebooks (especially the budget 15.4 inch clunkers sold at near-netbook prices).

But rather than muddy its own waters where customers can already choose between the Mini 9 and Mini 12 with their respective 9 inch and 12 inch screens Dell has engineered the Mini 10 as a deliberately high-spec netbook.

The screen is an edge-to-edge panel clocked for 16:9 resolution for 720p HD content – a bit of an oddball choice for a device without an optical drive but which makes more sense when you consider the Mini 10 also packs an inbuilt TV tuner. Also on the ‘comes with’ roster: GPS 3G HSDPA and 802.11n.

The keyboard stretches almost all the way to the edge of the chassis so that it can be as close to full size as possible – a design choice that’s paid off for HP in the Mini 1000 and Mini 2140 both of which have been praised for their keyboards.

The slightly oversized trackpad with multitouch capabilities which Dell software will support with gestures for going to the ‘home screen’ (which sounds like some kind of uber-friendly UI similar perhaps to the tabbed home screen of many Linux netbooks) your list of favourite Web sites and automatic scrolling.

The design of the Inspiron Mini 10’s chassis looks to have been modelled on the sleek slim lines of the Mini 12 so it shouldn’t surprise us that the powerplant is the same – Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom Z530. However. Dell hasn’t spilled the beans on the rest of the spec set so we don’t know if this will have 1GB or 2GB of RAM solid state or hard disk drives or even if it’ll be loaded with Vista or XP.

Adamo: Dell’s MacBook Air killer

The other bullet in Dell’s double-barrel assault on the mobile market is the Adamo – an ultrathin luxury laptop which clearly has the MacBook Air in its sights. Dell briefly trotted out the much-rumoured Adamo during a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (an event perhaps telling held at the Fantasy Suites of the Palms Hotel!) but has yet to dive into details on almost anything but the philosophy behind it. “Precision craftsmanship and design is the name of the game” according to the company.

There’s little doubt that Dell can deliver on either of those fronts as the company has invested heavily on its research & design team in the past two years in an effort to move beyond box-builder status and sell more into the high-margin PC segment.

Is this the best-looking Windows laptop ever? (photo: Brian Solis www.briansolis.com)

The Adamo is also expected to be very much a design statement by Dell – a flagship product which fulfils much the same role as the MacBook Air does for Apple. It doesn’t need to sell by the millions in order to put Dell front of mind for design and then let this flow down to more mainstream products such as the Studio laptop and desktop line.

Indeed the very address of the adamobydell.com teaser Web sire clearly shows the desire to establish the product’s name as a premium brand and then link this directly to Dell.

Models on show where clad in a brushed metal finish of silver and black. The design is strikingly elegant yet subtly restrained. From first glance this writer would have to say it’s perhaps the most stunningly beautiful Windows laptop he’s ever seen and certainly on par with Apple’s best efforts over the years (up until the latest unibody MacBooks which are on the cutting edge of notebook design and belong more to 2010 than their 2008 debut).

The Adamo was showcased in silver and black although black remains the more
smudge-friendly of the two
(photo: Brian Solis www.briansolis.com)

Adamo (which is pronounced “A-dahm-o” rather than “Adamo-o” – fans of Battlestar Galacita already have a head start here) means “to fall in love with” in Latin said Michael Tatelman Dell’s veep of consumer sales and marketing. “It started off as a project code name and then we fell in love with it too”.

Dell is already experimenting with designer touches: shown above and below are different finishes on
 both the main chassis and an eye-catching inset panel on the lid
(photo: Brian Solis www.briansolis.com)

One of the big questions is if the Adamo will rely on Intel’s small package variants of the Core 2 which already power a half-dozen other slim notebooks including the MacBook Air or if it will sport AMD’s new Neo processor. Given that the Neo is designed expressly for this ‘ultra-portable laptop luxe’ market and that the company will want to showcase some truly stunning products as early wins we’re tipping the Neo has not been ruled out.

Intel knows this too – so we’d expect both Intel and AMD will make pilgrimages to Dell HQ with a price list in one hand and a red pen in the other in order to add the Adamo as a notch in their belt by discounting CPU prices. Dell ever prudent with its pennies is no doubt looking forward to a bit of competition as these silicon suitors vie for Adamo’s heart.