Dell, which entered the so-called "netbook" market in September with the Inspiron Mini 9, is looking to bridge the gap between these low-cost laptops and full-size notebooks with the newly released Inspiron Mini 12 notebook.
The Inspiron Mini 12, which Dell introduced in Japan on Oct. 26, offers a wider 12.1-inch display, which makes its slightly larger than a typical netbook, such as the Asus Eee PC or Dell's Inspiron Mini 9, which tend to have display of between 7 and 10 inches.
While Dell introduced this notebook in Japan first, the company said it plans to begin selling these PCs in U.S. retail stores in November and in time for the holiday shopping season. The Mini 12 will cost about $600, which makes it more expensive than the Mini 9, which starts at about $350.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 12 also takes advantage of Intel's Atom processors. However, unlike other netbooks that use Atom chips designed for PCs, the Mini 12 uses those Atom chips created for MIDs. (Intel's code name for these chips was Silverthorne.) The use of these Atom processors, according to Dell, allowed the company to create a thinner, lighter notebook with better battery life.
While these types of notebooks are geared more toward consumers than enterprise buyers, the netbooks category has proved extremely important to vendors such as Dell. According to IDC and Gartner, these low-cost laptops have helped keep PC shipments steady as businesses and enterprises have held off buying PCs in the last year. At the same time, these notebooks have pushed the average selling price down further, making these laptops an attractive choice as a secondary notebook for the home or even for a small business.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 12, which measures less than 1 inch thick and weighs about 2.72 pounds, offers a choice of two Intel processors. The first is the Intel Atom Z520, which runs at 1.33GHz. Dell also offers an optional choice of the Intel Atom Z530, which has a slightly higher clock speed of 1.6GHz.
The use of these two Intel Atom chips means that the Mini 12 is geared more toward accessing the Web and running some basic applications. While the first of these notebooks will use the Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic operating system, Dell will add Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux options later.
Other features of the Inspiron Mini 12 include 1GB of RAM and a choice of 60GB or 80GB hard disk drives. The notebook also uses 802.11 b/g wireless technologies. Finally, the Mini 12 offers a choice of a three-cell battery that offers 3.5 hours of battery life or a six-cell battery that boosts the battery up to 7 hours.
Additional information about the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 notebook can be found on Dell's Direct2Dell blog here.