Editor's Note: This review has been updated since Flash 10.1 Beta 3 was released.
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Look and feel
Beyond that, Dell scratched the previous chassis of its Minis for a more rounded, wedge-shaped lower half. But the odd shape has purpose -- the back of the system is wider so that it can house its six-cell battery, rather than have it hang off the back. We're into the design, but it's much chunkier than other netbooks. And the three-pound,1.3-inch thick Mini 10 is noticeably heavier and wider than the 2.6-pound Acer Aspire One 532h and Toshiba NB305. Of course, with all that extra space the Mini 10 has the room to house the standard netbook ports, including three USB ports, VGA, Ethernet, SD card slot, and a headphone and microphone jack. Unfortunately there's no HDMI port -- Dell tells us the Pineview chipset doesn't support it, despite its claimed HD prowess.
Keyboard, touchpad and screen
While we could have done with a smaller, less glossy bezel, the 1366 x 768 screen is high quality and much roomier than the usual 1024 x 600 netbook resolution. Watching a 1080p clip of Up in the Air was crisp, and viewing angles were decent, but the screen is so glossy that getting it set to an angle where you aren't staring at yourself takes skill.
Performance, HD playback and battery life
So, does the Broadcom Crystal HD accelerator put an end to our netbook HD woes? Our answer is a resounding "kind of."
Though the Mini 10 will not come preinstalled with Adobe's Flash 10.1 Beta 3 or the updated Broadcom drivers that support it, users can download those tools and enjoy watching streaming HD content. And after making sure everything was installed, that's exactly what we did! A number of 1080p movie trailers played surprisingly smoothly both in the smaller screen YouTube player and when upped to the full screen. Need some proof? Check out the video below of the Mini 10 handling YouTube HD and some other 1080p CBS.com HD clips. While the playback was nice and smooth, we did have a few browser crashes here and there which we will blame on Flash 10.1's beta status.
As for downloaded HD content, a 1080p WMV video of dolphins and the Iron Man 2 trailer from Apple's site played smoothly in Windows Media Player 11 -- something we'd hoped Pine Trail netbooks would do on their own. However, because Broadcom only supports Windows Media Player, that same MOV was like watching a slide-show in QuickTime. We're pretty happy we figured that out before we went and purchased Iron Man in HD from iTunes. In turn, because Windows Media Player 11 doesn't support Blu-ray playback, and Broadcom's other software partners haven't released players yet (we're told ArcSoft is working on one), playing a Blu-ray disc if you happen to have an external drive isn't an option at the moment.
Our sense here is that the Broadcom chip will be a fine solution for those who just want to watch online videos once Flash 10.1 Beta 3 and a supported Blu-ray player is out -- you'll be able to hit your favorite streaming sites and playback most local video you have. But it's still no more than a Band-Aid on Pine Trail's graphics woes -- unlike Ion, it won't help with gaming or video encoding, and the Mini 10's low 3DMark scores second that.
|Dell Mini 10 (Pine Trail, Broadcom Crystal HD)||1264||132||5:58|
|HP Mini 311 (Ion)||2016||1464||3:53|
|Toshiba Mini NB305 (Pine Trail)||1272||156||6:30|
|Acer Aspire One 523h (Pine Trail)||1310||154||6:31|
|ASUS Eee PC 1005PE (Pine Trail)||1431||157||8:10|
With a 56Wh, six-cell battery, the Mini 10 lasted 5 hours and 58 minutes on our video rundown test, which loops the same SD video at 65 percent brightness. While that'll let you leave the charger at home for most of the day, it isn't as long as the other Pine Trail netbooks, and nowhere near the Eee PC 1005PE's eight hours on that same test. When just used for surfing the web and listening to streaming music through YouTube, the Mini 10 lasted about seven and a half hours. We did really appreciate that Dell ships the system with a clean desktop, though the Dell dock is locked to the top of the screen for easy access to Windows applications.