"Great machine. A tablet for true geeks."4.5 starson by dahlstromd
Pros: Touchscreen, flip feature, good keyboard, sharp display, solidly built, good sound (for a netbook)
Cons: Display viewing angles, a bit slow, few ports, awful Dell software--but you're not stuck with it.
Summary: I asked my wife for one of these for Christmas back in November. In early December, I had the opportunity to try a demo model in a mall store. I had second thoughts. After playing around with the machine a bit, I managed to lock it up; the software was terribly sluggish, and viewing the screen at an angle left me a bit disappointed. I was changing my mind quickly, and my wife saw that too, but apparently she had already ordered one for me. Anyway, I ended up getting the Dell Inspiron Duo as a Christmas gift, and I was expecting to end up returning it. It was meant to replace my older Acer Aspire One, but I was no longer sure it could do the job.For those interested how I configured my Duo, please see my updated review and recommendations at http://sachi.sytes.net/techblog/?p=53
Well, I'm keeping it. Now even after a day I still wasn't sure, but each day I've used it, I've liked it more and more. The key is to remember that this is not an iPad and that the PC world is only now starting to "get" multi-touch. And in releasing this machine, I can assure you that Dell hasn't fixed this industry wide issue; in fact, the software that Dell ships with it is a primary example--underpowered and severely disappointing...but if one remembers that this is actually a real computer underneath and that you have choices, the game changes. As of now, I've turned most of the Dell software off; and like all PCs I've had before, I've had to custom tailor it. Once divorced of its lousy app software, the touchscreen is actually quite cool and works well. Just don't mistake it for an iPad--this is not an appliance and requires some effort to make it work the way you want it. There is no magic one size fits all configuration here. Anyway, once setup, Internet Explorer actually works very nicely as a touchscreen app. I've also found that Windows Media Center actually seems to work fantastic for pictures and video--very, VERY slick and far better than the Dell software which unfortunately cheapens this machine for no good reason (please reviewers--review this as a PC that just happens to have Dell's software on it; not as an appliance that depends on Dell's software to justify it's existence--i.e. just pretend that their software doesn't exist). As far as the hardware goes, overall I like it. Yes, my Acer has more ports--but quite frankly, I never used anything but the USB ports on it anyway, so I'm not really missing much. The screen has been reported to have limited viewing angles--and indeed it does--but it's no worse than my Acer, and once you get finished critiquing it and get down to acually using it, you mostly forget about it. When held at normal viewing angles, it's perfectly fine--with much better resolution than my Acer. The machine is not going to win awards for speed, but it is perfectly acceptable for a netbook running Win7. The flip screen, of course, is the star of the show, and there is simply no other machine that can compete with this. This alone is why you buy this machine. Flipping the screen converts the machine instantly into a decent (albeit thick and somewhat heavy) tablet, and the machine is able to detect whether you are holding it vertically or horizontally and adjust automatically. Now why do I want a tablet? Well, when it comes down to it, not a whole lot--but I have long wanted one for (a) reading vertically oriented material that requires color and/or a larger screen than my Kindle can deal with--pdfs in particular; (b) viewing and sharing photos; (c) running touch-screen apps that provide input into other software, such as games (i.e. TouchBuddy/TouchPal); and (d) for some styles of web browsing where I'm not doing much text input. For everything else that a touchpad is not good at (which to me is about 80% of the time), this is a real computer with a real keyboard and with tons more capability than a iPad for about the same (or less) money. So ultimately, how can you go wrong. If I had reviewed this machine after a day, it probably would have gotten 2 stars; after two days I would have given it 3 stars. Now after four days, I'm giving it 4 stars. Judging this machine by Dell's lousy software was an early mistake--their hardware and drivers, on the other hand are not half-bad, and coupled with some effort to configure this thing and learn how to use it, I think this machine and others like it have a bright future.
Updated on Jan 23, 2011