I love my little Dell Laptop - it's served me well over the years. And it has become a magnet for stickers - some for companies who have long since gone bust! Recently, I've upgraded the hard disk to a pure solid state drive. The speed increase is incredible. Coupled with adding an extra GB of RAM, the machine is now faster than ever. It's just a pity that Dell limited the machine to 2GB of RAM.
But, there's no denying it's getting a little long in the tooth. Video playback is only possible at fairly low resolutions, editing is a nightmare, there's no built in camera, and I think the headphone port is on the way out.
I Hate Tablets
Tablets are great if all you want to do is watch a movie or do some idle scrolling. That's no good for me - I need to work on my machine. I hate using touchscreen keybaords - either my fingers are too fat, or the screens are innaccurate. Even the best oleophobic screen gathers fingerprints and scratches if used for a sustained period of time. That said, I do like tablet's portability. I like the ease of use if I am just surfing. But unless I can plug in a keyboard and mouse - or any USB peripheral - a tablet is functionally useless to me.
Enter The Duo
Dell's Inspiron Duo laptop is an intuitive machine, hailed as “the new convertible” thanks to its innovative flip-hinge design. Switching effortlessly from tablet to laptop, it’s perfect for both work and play.
I wouldn't call it intuitive - but it is innovative. It's only £450 for the base model - which is cheaper than an iPad 2. The tech-specs are fairly good - but not dramatically so. For a device which is going to be moved around a lot, I would have expected an SSD as standard. As it is, it's not even one of the customisable options. Some enterprising people have cracked the case open and added their own SSD. But it's not for the faint-hearted.
There is, however, a rather odd "AudioStation". Essentailly, it's a dock for the Duo. Quite why it needs it when you can stand it up using the keyboard, I don't know. At £99 for a charging station with built in speakers, it's not high up my list of must-haves. There are only two USB slots available on the regular chassis and - bizarrely - no HDMI or VGA output for connecting to an external screen. In keeping with the "seamless" ideals, there's not ethernet port - this is a WiFi only device. There's no 3G support - so you'll need a USB dongle or to tether to your phone. The battery - which doesn't look to be easily upgradeable is good for 4 hours. Again, it's ok, but it's not astounding. The Duo also comes with Windows 7. I suggest you reject the Windows EULA and ask Dell for a refund of the Windows License.
Despite Dell's much vaunted support for Linux, it appears that support for the Duo is incomplete. The touchscreen mostly works - but there's no multi-touch yet. Similarly accelerometers don't detect that the screen orientation has changed.
There's a long running thread on Ubuntu Forums which should step you through the rather easy set up of Ubuntu. There are a few manual files to edit - but the basic hardware is well supported. Other Linux distros should work just as well.
Eligible contributors (18+ and UK resident) will be in with a chance of winning 1 of 2 Inspiron Duos, and 10 runner-up prizes of We7 premium memberships (3 month), just for letting sharing with us your favourite work and play tracks through the work, play, love application. The closing date for the competition is 21st April 2011.
Dell have set up a Facebook page which has their new Work and Play application. To enter, simply select your 10 favourite tracks for Work and Play. So, think of the tracks you use to inspire you in work and play - tell Dell - win a laptop. Nifty!
I'm certainly leaning towards the Duo as my next laptop. If Dell were to include a working version of Ubuntu - and perhaps an SSD as an upgrade option - it would be a no brainer. As it is, I'll see how Ubuntu develops as the community hacks away at it. I've already proved to myself that I can easily upgrade a laptop's hardware - but I'm not that keen to go poking in the guts of another machine. The Duo certainly represents value for money - especially if you're a Windows user - but I'd be prepared to pay a little more if they offered some more flexible options. As will all my sponsored posts, your feedback is important to me. Vote in the poll or let me know in the comments what you think.