Print 39 comment(s) - last by Suntan.. on Jun 5 at 7:54 PM

Dell Mini Inspiron  (Source: Dell)

  (Source: Dell)

Acer Aspire One  (Source: UMPC Portal)
The low-cost notebook field gets interesting with two entries from Dell and Acer

Back in early April, DailyTech brought you news that Dell would enter the low-cost notebook market with a product to compete with the ASUS Eee PC and HP Mini-Note PC. Since that time, the low-cost field has gotten pretty exciting with the $399 Wind from MSI and the announcement of new Eee PC updates from ASUS.

Gizmodo’s Brian Lam managed to catch Michael Dell at the All Things D conference and he just so happened to be carrying around a "Mini Inspiron". According to Lam, the notebook features three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, Ethernet, and a media-reader.

Once Gizmodo spilled the beans on the tiny notebook, the Direct2Dell blog site went ahead and released two more images of the sub-$500 Mini Inspiron and all of its Candy Red glory. It's hard to get an idea of how large the screen is, but we're guessing that it's likely 8.9" running at a resolution of 1024x600. The keyboard also looks to be a bit on the small side and lacks function keys on the top row. And although official specifications for the device haven't been announced, it's almost a given that the Mini Inspiron will feature a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and a 945G chipset. The Mini Inspiron will be available with Windows XP or Ubuntu Linux.

For real world shots of the Mini Inspiron, head over to Gizmodo.

In other news, Acer seems to be stepping into the market as well with an 8.9" notebook of its own. The Acer Aspire One was recently spied by readers of UMPC Portal. Not much is known about the device other than the fact that it features an 8.9" display and what looks to be a full-featured keyboard.

With all of these new entries popping up at competitive price points, ASUS will have to get extremely competitive with pricing to stay relevant with the Eee PC. The Eee PC has ballooned from $399 with the Eee PC 701 4G to $549 with the Eee PC 900. The better-spec'd Eee PC 901 is rumored to be in the $649 price range.

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keyboard design
By Mike Acker on 5/29/2008 7:01:39 AM , Rating: 2
I *will not* buy a lap top with that keyboard layout: with the mouse pad in front and the keys set back.

I invariably screw up my work by acidentally triggering that mouse trying to reach the keys, and it feels awkward as hell -- always bridging over than dam mouse thing.

just put the little blue button in the keyboard; i i need a mouse I'll hook one into a USB port

RE: keyboard design
By jonmcc33 on 5/29/2008 7:14:25 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a joystick user myself. Was quite easy getting away from the touchpad as I do not have to move my hand around on the keyboard.

I really wouldn't want something this small anyway. Smallest I will go is the Dell Latitude D430. I don't mind lack of optical bay as long as it's external. It adds to weight anyway.

RE: keyboard design
By sumixx on 5/29/2008 7:55:52 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, you're right. Nevertheless, even worst is the size and location of the right shift key. Sometimes I wonder who can be so stupid to design the keyboard layouts (including the ISO standard)... Those designers aren't probably able to type using all ten finger, and we can see the results here :(

RE: keyboard design
By theapparition on 5/29/2008 8:55:12 AM , Rating: 2
You do know you can disable the touchpad, right?

RE: keyboard design
By sumixx on 5/29/2008 9:09:11 AM , Rating: 2
This doesn't seem to be a good idea when working without mouse...

RE: keyboard design
By retrospooty on 5/29/2008 9:31:00 AM , Rating: 2
Thus the 3 USB ports... One can be used for mouse.

Anyhow... I cant even think of any notebook I have seen in years without a touchpad in front of the keyboard...

any links anyone?

RE: keyboard design
By sumixx on 5/29/2008 10:06:07 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, the touchpad is always situated in front of the keyboard (as far as I know), but usually isn't sticked just right to it. And - yes, there are 3 USB ports, but sometimes you don't want to carry the mouse on you or you aren't able to use the mouse... Of course, these problems concern probably only a minority of users :)

RE: keyboard design
By Suomynona on 5/29/2008 11:19:11 AM , Rating: 2
If you mean a touchpad in another location, I can't think of any, but the x60/61-series Thinkpads have only a Trackpoint with no touchpad.

RE: keyboard design
By kkwst2 on 5/29/2008 4:38:49 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, in fact all X series in my memory had no touchpad, only the trackpoint in the keyboard. The X300 changed that, and it was somewhat controversial. I think they basically included it because they had the room with the larger screen.

I've always disabled tho touchpad on my T-series notebooks.

RE: keyboard design
By afkrotch on 5/29/2008 11:06:27 PM , Rating: 2
Some laptops have a button just above the touchpad to disable/enable it. It was very nice to have for those who can't keep their hands away from the touchpad.

I have small girly hands and I don't have any problems not touching the touchpad while typing. I'm using a 12.1" notebook

RE: keyboard design
By stephenfs on 5/29/2008 10:16:44 AM , Rating: 4
You usually can find a setting to disable touchpad while typing.

RE: keyboard design
By KaerfSusej on 5/29/2008 12:27:16 PM , Rating: 2
On my HP dv2700, you can disable the touchpad with a button at the top of the touchpad. I don't know how common that is on other laptops though.

RE: keyboard design
By TomZ on 5/29/2008 9:48:58 AM , Rating: 3
I invariably screw up my work by acidentally triggering that mouse trying to reach the keys, and it feels awkward as hell -- always bridging over than dam mouse thing.

I have an Inspiron 1720 with a similar arrangement (just like nearly all laptops on the market), and I found something interesting.

When I first loaded the OS and the touchpad's default "plain vanilla" driver was loaded, I had a lot of instances where the touchpad would mis-register a touch while I was typing. Then I loaded the real Dell (Alps actually) driver for the touchpad, and the problem went away.

So, in the end, it appears this problem can be solved with better software!

RE: keyboard design
By noxipoo on 5/29/2008 11:47:49 AM , Rating: 2
still happens with the drivers installed for me, i just disable the tap to click feature. i don't use it anyway, only annoys me.

RE: keyboard design
By Indianapolis on 5/29/2008 10:46:03 AM , Rating: 2
Considering the space constraints, mini-notes could be excellent candidates for touch screen or stylus input options.

RE: keyboard design
By TomZ on 5/29/2008 11:25:18 AM , Rating: 2
I personally am not interested in touchscreen on laptops. My preference is to have a clean, clear display and use a mouse and/or touchpad instead.

Besides, a mouse has much higher resolution compared to touch. Touch works great on specific applications like iPhone ("big buttons") and where having a mouse is very inconvenient, but for clicking small buttons and icons in typical Windows apps, I think a mouse works better.

RE: keyboard design
By Indianapolis on 5/29/2008 12:51:52 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not in love with the idea of touching my computer screen either; it took me long enough to break my wife of touching the screen whenever she wanted to point something out. I think a stylus that could be stored somewhere in the notebook would be a good compromise though for somebody who didn't like using the track pad.

Is everyone missing the point here!!
By spidey81 on 5/29/2008 9:37:29 AM , Rating: 3
These types of notebooks, the mini notes as they're calling them, aren't meant as full fledged notebooks. They are low power, low spec devices made for light use as a wireless internet browser and basic word processor. Personally, I plan on getting one as a secondary pc for use wherever I may have access to a wireless signal. They are compact, lightweight, and portable. They're not you're typical desktop replacement 17" monsters that people want. This fills a niche that people like me have been looking for for a long time. It's not a power house, but good enough for web browsing and email, which is all I want it for. I don't want to spend a grand or more on a notebook that's small and portable just because it has a C2D and an ultra small/ultra fast HD crammed into an ultra small space. Cheap and functional is what these are about. And I would prefer a form of linux instead of windows if it makes it even less expensive.

By fictisiousname on 5/29/2008 9:50:56 AM , Rating: 2
Like you I want something small, rugged and a step or two above a PDA. The small keyboard issue is easily rectified with a USB rollup version if typing is an issue.

RE: Is everyone missing the point here!!
By EntreHoras on 5/29/2008 10:30:01 AM , Rating: 2
What I'd like to see is just a touch screen w/o keyboard. Something like a big iPhone just for browsing the Internet when I'm away of my PC at home.

RE: Is everyone missing the point here!!
By darkpaw on 5/29/2008 12:49:29 PM , Rating: 2
Nokia internet tablet?

By EntreHoras on 5/29/2008 5:42:06 PM , Rating: 2
The Nokia internet tablet has a screen size of 4.1 inches and a resolution of 800×480, not much bigger than the iphone's 3.5 inches and 320×480. My dream is something the size of this mini Inspiron: 8.9 inches and 1024x600 or even better: 1280x800.

But yep, the Nokia is more close to what I'd like.

By Suntan on 6/5/2008 7:54:57 PM , Rating: 2 ??

No function keys
By FITCamaro on 5/29/2008 6:37:00 AM , Rating: 4
No sale. I'm all about windows shortcuts. Make it bigger if you have to to fit those keys on.

RE: No function keys
By Spivonious on 5/29/2008 7:49:40 AM , Rating: 3
I agree. No function keys would take away my two favorite keys: F1 and F4.

RE: No function keys
By therealnickdanger on 5/29/2008 8:43:58 AM , Rating: 5
I've always been a fan of the FU key, personally. It's really hard to find keyboards that have it though.

Screen resolution
By Gaston345 on 5/29/2008 8:47:02 AM , Rating: 2
Am I the only bothered with the vertical resolution on these notebooks?

Current notebooks with 800 pixels are already too short, the last time I used a vertical resolution of 600 was perhaps 13 years ago.

RE: Screen resolution
By Macelind on 5/29/2008 9:01:42 AM , Rating: 2
Obviously these are not for everyone. I have a hard time seeing these as being very useful for very many people at all.
What are the best uses for a machine this physically small and, in my opinion, underpowered?

RE: Screen resolution
By sumixx on 5/29/2008 9:15:16 AM , Rating: 2
I think it's ideal for the common work when you have to be mobile - surfing, viewing and writing documents, mails, from time to time a movie on a train or bus... Could be also useful for example for network administrators of large networks, who have to solve some problems of a local character (for example by clients)... etc... and you can carry it easily wherever you go.

RE: Screen resolution
By Macelind on 5/29/2008 9:50:52 AM , Rating: 2
I can see it being useful in small places like planes and trains. I could see it being of some use to net admins. As an admin though, I find it much more convenient to carry everything I need on a large flash drive and I use remote desktop connections for most everything else. So I don't have to carry much from site to site. Since I work for the public schools, I could see this being useful for students with their limited desktop space when we eventually eliminate text books.

RE: Screen resolution
By Ringold on 5/29/2008 5:27:12 PM , Rating: 2
I could see this being useful for students with their limited desktop space when we eventually eliminate text books.

Your post reminded me of this:

I will probably forever think handing high school kids laptops will be throwing money down a dark chasm, but that's interesting, an open-source intermediate microeconomic textbook is kinda cool. It could be prettied up a lot , color in complicated graphs is a goood thing, but it's a decent enough start.

Hell of a lot cheaper than $100 or there abouts. I can see some downsides, if the Marxists out there are smart they would take this opportunity to put out their own version that subtly reinserts their beliefs back in to something that could get mainstream use, but it'd be up to professors to stay away from those versions.

Dell keyboard
By Suomynona on 5/29/2008 8:43:35 AM , Rating: 2
The Mini Inspiron looks great, but that keyboard is just awful. Why would they waste so much space with that ugly black thing above the keyboard?

RE: Dell keyboard
By Brandon Hill on 5/29/2008 8:51:26 AM , Rating: 2
I believe it's called a battery ;)

RE: Dell keyboard
By Suomynona on 5/29/2008 11:17:30 AM , Rating: 2
That answers that question, but why is the battery the full thickness of the laptop? It seems like they could have squeezed in a bigger keyboard if they put a little thought into it. Maybe I'm weird, but I could stand a small 1/4" bulge on the bottom of the laptop if it meant the keyboard would be more usable.

I like the keyboard
By psychobriggsy on 5/29/2008 11:22:06 AM , Rating: 2
I like that they've tried to keep the primary typing area of the keyboard usable by shrinking the other keys or removing them. Fn + 0..9 will suffice for function keys guys.

I have a few niggles with the implementation (key locations, tiny right shift because of the up arrow, could be a wider keyboard anyway looking at the amount of casing to either side, delete key could be Fn + Backspace instead) but the concept is solid.

If this is the right price and featureset, I could see myself getting one of these.

RE: I like the keyboard
By TomZ on 5/29/2008 11:28:51 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed about the placement of the right-shift relative to up-arrow - that might take some getting used to.

But I think if you look at the second photo closely, the keyboard actually goes basically to the edge. The margin you see is gray material mostly on the vertical surface.

RE: I like the keyboard
By grampaw on 5/29/2008 2:27:02 PM , Rating: 2
The smaller the keyboard the better - I can't (as in my brain isn't wired that way) touch type, however, I can probably hunt and peck faster than you can touch type. Since I "look" at the keys, I could care less where weirdo keys are located.

As a sidelight, I have mini-keyboards on all my computers, even the company supplied desktop at work. The small keyboard and the trackball (another learning disability) mean everybody else struggles to use any of my computers.

This Dell laptop looks intriguing ...

VGA Port?
By BansheeX on 5/29/2008 2:09:18 PM , Rating: 3
Uhhhh... it's 2008. HDMI or DVI output pls.

RE: VGA Port?
By Lightnix on 5/29/2008 2:28:32 PM , Rating: 2
These aren't gonna play blu-ray movies at 1080P y'know.

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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