By Sean Captain
The evolution of netbooks reminds me of The White Stripes Song “Take, Take, Take,” in which Jack White starts out saying that all he needs is to enjoy a comfortable seat in a bar. But by the end of the song, he’ll be devastated if he can’t leave that same bar without a kiss from fellow patron Rita Hayworth.
Sure, we once thought that all we needed in netbooks was a cheap little lappie for email. But wouldn’t be nice to have a bigger screen, a bigger keyboard, a better processor? And while you’re at it, please throw in some HD video.
Dell had already done all that with its $399 mini 10, which sports an Intel Atom Z series processor for HD video playback, an optional 720p HD screen, and even an HDMI port for hooking up a giant-screen TV.
I thought that was all that I needed. And then Dell showed off a version with an HDTV tuner, which spokesperson Anne Camden said should be available this summer for about a $50 upgrade. The tuner should pull in a good signal without an antenna in most locations, Dell claims. But if you’re surrounded by concrete (as at Dell’s press event tonight), you can also plug in an included antenna to boost reception. It worked pretty well, though I did see occasional stuttering of the video feed.
But if all you really do need is to get back to the netbook’s humble roots, try the new Mini 10V (as in “value” not “victory”) that Dell debuted today. For $100 less, you basically get the standard Mini 10, minus a few trimmings. A high-def screen is not an option, and this LCD has a raised bezel around the edge, instead of the flush mounting of the regular Mini 10. You won’t really need an HD screen, anyway, since the laptop’s Atom N processor isn’t up for handling high-def video. And you don’t have an HDMI port for sending your low-fi fare to a big screen.
The V does retain the comfy, 92-percent-full-size keyboard of its big brother. And it has almost the same wide trackpad–minus multitouch gesture capability.
Both models, however, will have the option of wireless broadband…some day. A Dell rep confided that getting laptops certified with wireless carriers is a bureaucratic nightmare. For example, even after the Mini 10 passes, the virtually identical Mini 10 V will have to go through the exact same certification process as if it were an entirely different machine. Some wireless companies are bigger foot draggers than others, the fellow told me. And while he wouldn’t say who was the worst, it doesn’t appear to be AT&T. It’s the first company to certify the Mini 10, which recently went on sale at its stores.