Dell inspiron duo android market

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The Dell Inspiron Duo, the company’s first convertible netbook won’t ship until mid-December, but we had a chance to spend some quality time with a preproduction unit today. After a few hours of fooling with the 10.1-inch, $550 slate’s unique swivel screen and Dell’s custom UI layer for Windows 7, we’re encouraged and eager to see what the final build holds.

Here’s a description of what we’ve experienced thus far, along with a couple of detailed hands-on videos.

The Hardware

At 3.4 pounds, the 11.2 x 7.7 x 1-inch Inspiron Duo is one of the heaviest 10-inch netbooks around, particularly in comparison to normal netbooks like the Toshiba NB305 (2.8 pounds), HP Mini 5103 (2.8 pounds), and the ASUS Eee PC 1015PEM (2.8 pounds). We guess that’s the price you pay for convertible touchscreen goodness.

The first thing you’ll notice, before you open the lid and become obsessed with the Inspiron Duo’s innovative swivel out screen, is the netbook’s rubberized soft touch chassis. We’ve long been fans of rubberized material because it feels so good in the hand and gives everything a sturdy, professional look. So we were thrilled to see that the entire bottom of the chassis and its sides are made from soft touch material. The is framed in the same rubberized stuff, though its center has a glossy surface that shows the dell logo and a gray paisley pattern. This square of paisley is the backside of the screen that gets hidden when you flip the display into slate mode.

As for the screen, it’s the first we’ve seen that flips around vertically within the lid. Normally, convertible systems force you to rotate the whole lid left or right. By making the screen but not the lid rotatable, Dell’s solution is truly unique and allows the device to use nice firm hinges like a regular notebook. However, it’s not without a huge trade-off in terms of bezel thickness. Looking at the system with its lid open, we immediately noticed that not only is there a sizable frame of rubberized lid around the screen, but also some black padding on the screen itself which you can grip while you rotate it.

The good news about the swivel screen is that the rotating mechanism seems incredibly sturdy. No matter how many times we flipped it, the lid quickly slapped into place, giving us confidence that if you buy this device, it won’t break easily.

Keyboard and Touchpad

On the inside, the Inspiron Duo has the same island-style keyboard we’ve seen on other Dell ultrapotables, like the 11-inch Inspiron M101z. The keys have a pleasant soft-touch feel to them, though the palmrest and matching touchpad are hard plastic.

The 1.5 x 2.75-inch touchpad supports multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom. We were pleased to see that Dell chose to use two discrete touchpad buttons instead of a long single bar or a clickpad. However, the buttons aren’t flush with the front lip of the chassis, leaving a strange .25-inches of extra space. In testing, we frequently ended up tapping the empty plastic space below the buttons when we were trying to click.

Screen and Touch Experience

The Inspiron Duo’s 10.1-inch glossy screen offers bright colors and strong viewing angles. Better still, it has a 1366 x 768 resolution, which means that you get to see a lot more of your web pages and documents than you do on a typical 10-inch screen with a 1024 x 600 resolution. The two-finger-capable capacitive screen worked well when we were tapping objects on the windows desktop, drawing in two direction at once in Windows Paint, or zooming in and out on pictures in Windows Gallery.

Dell Stage Software

Of course, Windows 7 doesn’t have the best touch UI so Dell has added Dell Stage, its own touch-based UI, which includes a handful of touch-friendly apps. You can start Dell Stage either by rotating the screen into slate mode, which launches it automatically, or by tapping on its shortcut in the taskbar.

The Dell stage contains seven large, finger-friendly shortcut buttons you can use to load the associated apps. These are labeleld Music, Photo, Video, Books, Internet, Paint, and Games. Though we would have liked the ability to add any apps we wanted to Dell Stage, we didn’t any way to add additional shortcuts of our own. In the upper right corner of the stage is a large X for closing the program and, at the bottom of the screen, the Windows 7 task bar remains visible.

The Dell MusicStage app provides a very touch-friendly way to organize and play your downloaded music. Sorting your music by artists, album, and genre, it contains additonal information such as album cover art. It also has tabs for two music services: Napster, a music rental service with a 14-day free trial, and RadioTime a streaming music directory and locator with a neat mapping feature that shows you what stations are based where on the globe.

Dell PhotoStage is a touch-friendly gallery application that lets you organize your pictures, share them on FaceBook or Flickr, and perform basic editing tasks such as cropping or rotating. It also has a link to download and use Windows Live Photo Gallery, a program you could download on your own. Despite its simplicity, we liked the attractive UI and the simple touch-friendly editing tools, like the crop box you can drag around with your finger. Unfortunately things like the crop box only support a single finger gesture when we’d really like to be able to size them by pinching.

VideoStage provides a rudimentary video player that allows you to play your downloaded content. If you want to buy or rent additional titles, the app connects to the CinemaNow online store.

The Books shortcut doesn’t launch an app at all, but instead points the system’s browser – plain old Internet Explorer 8 – to Dell’s book store. The Internet shortcut just launches the same IE browser though we assume it would launch whatever default browser you have installed. That said, Dell could have included a browser shell with large touch-friendly buttons here as ExoPC has tried to do (with some limitations) in their UI layer.

The paint shortcut launches YouPaint, a simple drawing program that seems like it’s made for children. We’d recommend downloading Art Rage instead. Finally, there’s a Games shortcut that simply pops up the Games folder from the Windows Start Menu.

Overall, the Dell Stage software, at least on this preproduction unit, just doesn’t feel immersive enough. It’s far too easy to accidentally tap the X button and close the UI itself when you only mean to close one of its apps. The taskbar is always there at the bottom of the screen so you never forget you’re in Windows. And, if you need to type something in tablet mode, you’re still stuck with the lame Windows 7 virtual keyboard.

The selection of seven shortcuts, 3 of which aren’t even apps at all, simply isn’t enough to keep anyone from needing to install and use other touch apps, which you won’t be able to access from the Dell Stage UI. We can hope Dell adds more functionality to the software, but the good news is that, since this is Windows, you have a whole world of other touch-friendly shells and apps you can install on your own.
Initial Performance and Specs

Dell sent us a preproduction unit so it wouldn’t be fair to run benchmarks or make any final assessments. One huge difference between our test model and the one for sale on Dell.com is that Dell is configuring its production units with a 320GB 7,200 rpm drive and our model had only a 250GB 5,400 rpm hard disk. We mention this because, as you can see in the video below, a lot of the Dell Stage apps seemed a bit slow to load. Hopefully, with the faster drive ad and a later version of the software, the shipping Inspiron Duo will open programs more quickly.

Apart from the drive’s performance, the Inspiron Duo has a lot going for it hardware-wise, including a dual-core 1.5-GHz Intel Atom N550 CPU, 2GB of RAM, and Windows 7 home premium. Add in the high-res 1366 x 768 screen, and it’s a huge step up from low-end netbooks.
Optional Dock

When you purchase the Inspiron Duo, you can also buy a $100 speaker dock, which we also had a chance to check out. To connect to the dock, you must be in slate mode and hold the Inspiron Duo in landscape orientation. Based on your settings, when popped into place, the Duo either switches to clock mode where it displays the time and plays soothing music, launches a slideshow (like a photo frame), or maintains focus on the software you were using when you plugged it in.

JBL speakers definitely gave louder, clearer sound than internal speakers. We also appreciate the additional ports on the back of the dock, which has two USB ports, audio-out jack, and an Ethernet port.

Videos

We look forward to benchmarking a final version of the Inspiron Duo, but until then, check out our hands-on videos and photo gallery below.

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