Dell Insprion Duo review

Reviews 6 Jan, 2011

It's a tablet! It's a netbook! But is it any good? No, not really. Read on to find out why.

2
Price: 
£359
ex VAT
Verdict: 
Although we were quite taken with the Inspiron Duo's spinning display, ultimately it's not very good either as a netbook or as a tablet. Although its Windows performance is good for a netbook, its poor battery life, small keyboard and missing ports limits its usefulness compared to competing models. Its touchscreen, Windows 7 and heavy weight make it a poor tablet. Unless you need an affordable touchscreen tablet for using existing Windows apps, we'd rather have any other netbook or an iPad.

The Dell Inspiron Duo is a netbook that can transform itself into a tablet. Such convertible portable computers are nothing new, but until now they have had displays that twist around and fold back to lie flat on the keyboard. The Duo uses a completely different mechanism – the screen is mounted on a flip hinge inside a frame. Simply push the screen backwards with a finger to spin it backwards 190 degrees and then close the lid to turn your netbook into a tablet. The screen stays in place thanks to a series of magnets embedded in the frame. It's not only unique, but fun and eye-catching.

Although the 10in touchscreen feels reasonably responsive, since the Duo uses Windows 7 Home Premium its user interface isn't nearly as accurate or as well-designed for finger use as either iOS or Android. Although Windows 7 does support multitouch gestures, they don't feel as smooth on the Duo as they do on either more expensive Windows 7 touchscreens or the iPad. We suspect this is due to the fact that the Duo's screen has just two touchpoints, while the iPad's has around 10.

Dell has attempted to make Windows more touch-friendly by bundling DuoStage, its own touchscreen interface on top of Windows. It starts automatically when you flip the screen into tablet mode. Unfortunately, it's rather basic. Tapping the web browser icon merely launches Internet Explorer 8, while tapping the paint icon launches CyberLink's YouPaint. Dell's media browsing and e-reader apps are unsophisticated, failing to make good use of either touchscreen gestures or all the available screen space.

Even if the touchscreen and software were better, Dell's other hardware design choices limit the Duo's usefulness as a tablet. The screen's viewing angles are limited and the glossy finish reflects light very easily causing glare, so we had to constantly adjust our seating position to get a clear view.

Specifications: 

Processor: Intel Atom N550, 1.5GHz

Memory: 2GB 667MHz DDR3 RAM

Graphics: Intel GMA 3150

Hard disk: 250GB hard disk

Display: 10.1in 1,366 x 768, LED-backlit screen

Features: 1.3 megapixel camera, microphone, stereo speakers

Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0

Ports: 2 x USB2, 3.5mm headphone and microphone combo audio socket

Dimensions: 282x190x25mm (WxDxH)

Weight: 1.36kg

Warranty: 1yr C&R warranty

OS: Windows 7 Home Professional 32-bit

BENCHMARK RESULTS

Image editing 18

Video encoding 24

Multiple apps 26

Overall 24

Light usage battery life – 4h00m

Heavy usage battery life – 2h28m

POWER CONSUMPTION

Sleep 1W

Idle 10W

Active 16W