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Dell Mini 1012 Review

Written By: James Rintamaki on February 12, 2010 30 Comments

dell mini 1012

The Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 is Dell’s first netbook to utilize Intel’s latest Pinetrail platform by using the Atom N450.  Does the N450 result in a significant improvement over the previous Dell Mini 10/10v’s Atom N270/N280/Z530?  Yes – better battery life and better performance.  Is the 1012 any better than the 10/10v?  Yes, keep reading to find out more:

Specifications of reviewed system:

  • Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz, 667MHz FSB, 512K L2 cache
  • 2GB DDR2-667 Memory (upgraded from 1GB)
  • 10.1” 1024×600 Widescreen display
  • Intel NM10 express chipset
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150
  • 6 Cell extended battery
  • 1.3M webcam
  • 160GB SATA 5400RPM Seagate hard drive
  • Windows 7 Starter
  • Dell Wireless 1397 802.11b/g
  • 3-in-1 memory card reader
  • 3 x USB2.0, 1 x 10/100 Ethernet, 1 x VGA, 1x Mic + Earphone

 

Unboxing and ports:

As with the Dell Mini 10/10v, not much comes in the box with the netbook – just the various CD’s (MS Works, drivers, OS, etc), the small charger, and the netbook itself:

Here you can see images of the different views/ports:

view left and right dell mini 1012 front and back

dell mini 1012 top dell mini 1012 bottom

 

In the video above, you can also see the new hinge design of the 1012.  Instead of the hinge being at the far end like most other netbooks, it is rather about a half inch from the back.  My guess is so that this way they were able to make room for the 6 cell battery to be “part” of the normal chassis, instead of seeming to stick out (but of course, that’s a total guess!):

hinge 1

Upgradability:

Unlike the original Mini 10, the memory is upgradable to 2GB (up from the standard 1GB) and thankfully does not require you to fully dismantle the entire laptop like you do with the Mini 10v; however, there is still no easy memory access door.  Instead, you have to simply remove three screws on the bottom of the netbook as well as the keyboard and then you will have relatively easy access to the memory (green) and hard drive (red).  

9 hard drive memory

On the other hand, if you want to upgrade your wireless card, wwan, hd decoder, etc – you will have to remove a few more screws and then pry off the palm rest (and it’s honestly not too difficult).  See my previous post with an HD video and picture guide on how upgrade and dismantle the 1012.

 

Screen:

Viewing angles and brightness are both very good.  Using the netbook on my lap or a table, I did not have any problems having to look at it at just the right angle or anything like that – slight movements of my head (or lap) didn’t require me to adjust the angle of the screen in order to see everything “normally”.  

There are 16 levels of brightness and I found that I was comfortable at keeping it at about 8/16 brightness most of the time.  In direct sunlight, having it at full brightness allowed the screen to be visible (albeit with a bit of reflection from the sun):

 

The lid (screen) is fairly thin – as thin as any other netbook screen – and while it doesn’t open a full 180 degrees, it does open wide enough for normal uses:

hinge 2

Performance:

Below are some tables comparing the Dell 1012 with other netbooks and laptops:

Windows 7 (Vista) Scores:

  Dell Mini 1012 Asus EeePC 1008HA
Processor: 2.3 (atom N450) 2.3 (atom N280)
Memory: 4.6 (2GB) 4.5 (2GB)
Graphics: 3.0 (NC10) 2.1 (GMA 950)
Gaming graphics: 3.0 3.0
Primary hard disk: 5.5 (5400rpm) 5.7 (5400rpm)

 

Super PI 0.99b:

  Dell Mini 1012
1M 1m 49s
2M 4m 03s

 

Flash/Hulu playback:

A big question of mine with every netbook is how it handles flash/Hulu playback and the Dell Mini 1012 is finally one that can handle it quite well.  I’m not sure if it’s more due to the new Flash 10 beta 2 or the Atom N450 processor (probably both), but it was able to handle full screen Hulu just fine (except high resolution full screen, but in my opinion, it’s not really necessary on such a small resolution screen):

 
You’ll notice in some of the screen shots/videos that I installed Windows XP – this is because I was going to run 3DMark and PCMark benchmark tests, but I unfortunately was unable to access an external monitor to meet those software titles’ requirements of having a screen resolution of at least 1024×768 – so I was unable to get any of those “official” benchmark numbers.  That being said, the 1012 is definitely a bit more powerful than it’s predecessors simply though it’s ability to playback Flash better. 

 

Battery:

I can’t say enough how much I applaud Dell for improving on the aesthetics and design of the extended 6 cell battery for the 1012; Instead of keeping it as it was with the Mini 10/10v, protruding from the bottom and effectively adding an inch to it’s thickness:

mini10 6cell

they made it flush with the rest of the netbook – nice, clean, and pretty:

battery

As far as the time that the battery lasts, they improved that too!  The following tests were performed with brightness at half (8/16) and wifi on.   The two tests I perform are 100% full screen hulu playback, and then 100% automatic refreshing of 3 news sites at 10s, 15s, and 30s intervals (separate tabs in Firefox).  Since hulu/flash still demands a pretty good amount of CPU power, I use this as my “worst case scenario” and the auto webpage(s) refreshing as the “usual/best case scenario”.  (all tests below are with 6 cell batteries)

 

  Mini 1012 Mini 10v (1011) Mini 10 (1010)
Hulu 6hr 13m 5hr 25m 5hr 19m
webpage refresh 7hr 5min 6hr 24m 5hr 59m

 

Keyboard & touchpad:

Dell continues to make good keyboards for their netbook (well, except for the Dell Mini 9).  The keyboard is 92% the size of a regular laptop keyboard, there is virtually no flex, and all the keys are in the right place:

keyboard

On minor thing to note is that Dell is starting to swap around the default behavior of the F1-F12 keys.  Instead of the F1-F12 keys actually being “F1, F2, F3, …, F12” when you press them, they are instead the “screen on/off, wireless toggle, brightness, volume, etc”.  In other words, to get F1-F12 functionality, you have to press the Fn key – notice how they’re both in blue font: 

keyboard fn

It’s really not a big deal, as you can change the default behavior in the BIOS, but it’s something to be aware of.

The touchpad, on the other hand, I’m not so crazy about.  The touchpad mouse buttons are not separate pieces of plastic from the rest of the touchpad:

touchpad 2touchpad

That, coupled with the fact that it is multi-touch, causes issues (at least for me) because I tend to rest my index finger on the left touch pad button and then move the cursor with my middle finger – in the process, my index finger will slightly move at times when moving the cursor with my middle finger, thus causing the cursor to do crazy stuff like move half way across the screen/etc.  (Anyone know if it’s possible to disable the multi-touch capability?)

 

Miscellaneous:

A few people may be concerned about whether the memory card will fit all the way inside the netbook, or if it sticks out:  it sticks out

 

Final thoughts:

In my opinion, this is the best 10” netbook Dell has come out with.   The Dell Mini 1012 combines the better features of the Mini 10 (HD screen and many pci-e card options) and the Mini 10v (upgradable memory, extra USB port), while improving upon the 6 cell extended battery.  The Atom N450 helps push this netbook into a more “usable” realm of portable computers now that it can better handle Flash playback while keeping it’s power usage down to allow good battery life. 

Would it have been nice to have HDMI? Yes, and when I’m buying a laptop these days, I won’t buy one if it doesn’t have HDMI – but I don’t feel as strongly about it when it comes to a netbook.  I guess that since a netbook isn’t as powerful as a laptop, it’s not a laptop/desktop replacement, so I don’t see it as being an “hdmi media playback” computer.   I also wish Dell would quit using the touchpad they’ve had in these netbooks, or at least have a way to disable the multi-touch capability.

All-in-all, starting at $280 you can’t go wrong choosing this netbook over others in this price range; you will get great battery life, good performance, and many upgrade options (hd accelerator, high resolution screen, TV card, etc).

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life (7+ hrs)
  • Good upgrade options (hd screen, hd decoder, TV card)
  • Atom N450 processor + Flash beta = smooth full screen Hulu

Cons:

  • Not the best touchpad
  • All color options have a white bottom half

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30 Responses to “Dell Mini 1012 Review”

  1. Norene Pfeffer on: 18 February 2010 at 11:00 pm

    thank you for your review. it enabled my son to advise me to purchase this mini. i don’t fully understand exactly everything you refer to in your critique, but overall it seems that i will truly enjoy using this computer!

  2. vavery on: 19 February 2010 at 5:27 am

    Thank you for the review.
    I think tha people which are considering buying such a small netbook should be first of all concerned regarding the resolution of the screen.
    For example, try on this netbook to change the home page of Internet Explorer. You will go to “Tools” pull-down and choose Internet options. The Internet options window is so big that the bottom buttons “OK”, “Cancel” and “Apply” will not fit into the screen, even if you hide the Task bar. This window (and some others) cannot be modified by size so the only chance to access the “OK” button is to use TAB taste and GUESS (since you cannot see it) when button is active and press “Enter”.

  3. bob on: 5 March 2010 at 7:56 am

    I love this website, but now you can get the 1012 with a HD display (1336X768)
    and you can get a 250GB hd
    and you can get Wireless N Wimax
    Great Review, Though!

  4. frustrated on: 10 March 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Okay, but where do you get the battery? Dell no longer sells it, and I can’t find a part number. I keep getting shipped batteries for the OLD Mini 10, not the 1012, and they don’t fit. This is very frustrating. Dell has STOPPED supporting the batteries AT ALL. AHHH! Help!

    Please look on your battery and post whatever part numbers you see…

  5. Mike on: 15 March 2010 at 6:03 am

    Thank you for taking the time to provide this review and the memory upgrade DEMO, they both are great! This really prevents many others from making some mistakes. My Mini 10 is come soon and now that I saw your review I am very please. Cheers

  6. Matt on: 15 March 2010 at 10:46 am

    to frustrated: Yeah, that is odd. I cannot find the battery, either. The part number is 312-0968. You might try calling Dell parts directly (1-800-357-3355) and see if they can locate it.

    According to the tech specs on this netbook, the memory is DDR2 800, but it’s capped at 667 MHz due to the FSB. Has anyone else found that to be the case? If so, there is not much advantage to getting DDR2 800 unless it’s the same price as the slower 667, but I find it odd that Dell uses 800MHz memory when they ship it out.

  7. James Rintamaki on: 15 March 2010 at 10:48 am

    @Matt, my guess would be that the just buy memory in bulk, and since a vast majority (if not all) of their current line of laptops that still use DDR2 are 800mhz fsb or higher, they probably just use the same memory (though, I have received dell netbooks with 667 still – they must just use whatever they have on hand)

  8. Steve Nomax on: 14 April 2010 at 10:07 am

    Hi James,
    excellent review – wow! What bothers me most is possible heat (no fan) the touchpad and the glare display.

    Most important: Is heat an issue?

    Thanks for your time.
    Steve Nomax

  9. NC on: 21 April 2010 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for the review. Is heat an issue?

    • DIANNE GATES on: 9 September 2011 at 12:45 pm

      I JUST GOT A INSPIRON MINI 1012 AND DOWNLOADED A GAME BUT IT IS TO BIG FOR THE SCREEN. CAN’T SEE WHAT’S DOWN AT THE BOTTOM OF SCREEN. IS THERE ANYWAY I CAN FIX THIS? YOU SEEM TO KNOW ALOT ABOUT THIS COMPUTER,AND I DON’T KNOW ALL THAT MUCH. CAN YOU PLEASE HELP ME?

      • James Rintamaki on: 9 September 2011 at 12:53 pm

        @Dianne, most likely there’s nothing you can do (unless you plug in an external monitor) as the screen’s max resolution is what it’s currently set at. What game did you download?

  10. James Rintamaki on: 21 April 2010 at 11:58 am

    @NC, nah, heat isn’t an issue – it gets warm just as any other netbook gets, but nothing unusual.

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  12. John Anderson on: 26 May 2010 at 11:51 am

    Thank you for the review.
    I just bought a Dell 1011 from PC World with a bring it back within 7 days for full refund.
    With your review; I shall take it back and get the 1012 for the Atom 450 processor.

  13. BH on: 1 June 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks for the review. I got this for my wife to access email and surf the net when she is out and about running kids to practices and such. Works perfect for that. I got mine at the Dell Outlet and found a 20% off outlet coupon that brought my total down to $200. It is a GREAT computer for $200.

    I then called the refurbished spare parts line at Dell and got a Bluetooth module for $8 not including shipping, so I will use your video to install. I have a BT dongle right now working with Pdanet to have wireless access anywhere off of my Blackberry. I also installed a fresh copy of Windows 7 Ulimate 64 bit. Only drive I can’t find is Webcam Central, but I am sure one will come out soon.

    It gets a bit warm, but nothing bad at all. Very snappy for email and surfing and the battery life is more than adequate. I also got a Case Logic neoprene case and that fits perfect. You can get them on eBay for as low as $11 with free shipping. Get a wireless mouse with a mini usb dongle or bluetooth and you are all set!

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  15. Nagi on: 5 July 2010 at 4:12 am

    what will be the big difference between netbooks and laptops??

  16. John on: 11 August 2010 at 1:45 am

    @Nagi Netbooks are noticeably smaller, usually 10.1, 9 inches while laptops go are bigger, like 16 inches. Laptops also have a lot more options, are can handle a lot more than just the basics

  17. Mark on: 27 September 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I own a Dell Mini 1012 and I love the thing. I do not have 20/20 vision and I do not have any problems with the screen size (like I thought I might). I upgraded it to 2gb of ram myself (very easy to do) and it runs even smoother than when I first got it. The review above is solid. I also am not a big fan of the touchpad for similar reason. All in all it’s a great system at a great price and I fully recommend it.

  18. kel on: 1 October 2010 at 5:36 am

    ummmm . . .
    i have that model .
    and i just installed it win 7 ultimate 64bit . . .
    the problem is i cant see my other applications.
    others are gone . . .
    where can i install them ??

  19. Tyler on: 1 October 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Nice review! I had actually bought this Netbook due to a trip for an exercise with the Marines down in the Philippines to do some school work. That way I wasn’t bringing my much larger and more expensive laptop…

    To disable the multi touch or touch pad do the following:

    Open Control Panel
    Type Mouse in the search box
    Click on Change Mouse Settings
    Click the tab labeled Dell Touchpad

    Once there you should be able to make all the changes you’d like!

  20. margie on: 13 October 2010 at 11:08 pm

    HI,Chasing the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 is a cut-price version, the Mini 10v. We will assume the additional “V” in the name stands for values, how this model sweetened with a few corners cut in the specifications – all with a tempting price of just $ 300
    but the battery life is not long,so suggest buy a replacement 6-cell for spare.you can find a one from http://www.laptop-battery-adapter.co.uk/dell-mini-1011-battery.html . 6-cell battery,long battery life

  21. How to upgrade & dismantle the Dell Mini 10v 1018 | jRin.net on: 30 October 2010 at 1:51 pm

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  22. Melissa on: 3 November 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I would love to know if this is a good computer for kids? 5th graders? Can they do games, school work, and emailing easy from this computer. Or is it maybe not a great opton?

    Thanks

  23. Alireza on: 29 November 2010 at 9:44 am

    How could a GPS be upgraded on mini 1012 ?

  24. Brian on: 13 March 2011 at 10:48 am

    There is a way to disable multitouch. They use a synaptics touch pad, which has multi touch capabilities like two finger scrolling etc, but the drivers installed from the factory are slightly different than the regular synaptics ones.

    To disable multi touch, first download the drivers from synaptics (free) http://www.synaptics.com/support/drivers. Once it’s downloaded, open the driver, and restart your computer when prompted to do so. With the new drivers now installed, go to control panel -> printers and other hardware -> mouse, and select Device Settings. Now press the settings button from this window, and you can select whether to enable multi touch, two finger scrolling, and any number of other options, including changing the edge scrolling boundaries.

    Hope this helps!

  25. Chris on: 24 April 2011 at 12:48 am

    To those who have upgraded their memory on a 1012 to 2 gigs:

    Was the difference between 1 and 2 gigs:

    a)OMG!
    b)Oh, that’s nice.

    Thanks,
    Chris

    • Ben on: 19 December 2011 at 2:40 pm

      I would say the upgrade difference was “Oh, that’s better.” Not OMG!, but sped things up by about 40%.

  26. karim on: 9 March 2012 at 5:00 pm

    kosni charjar

  27. inam on: 8 October 2012 at 4:48 pm

    it is very good notebook to use ..but it contain heat problem..because it have no internal fan..to avoid this problem use folding cooling fan..

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