Dell Inspiron Duo Hybrid Tablet / Netbook Review

Article Index

Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: In our SiSoftware Sandra tests, the Inspiron Duo put up some decent scores, but compared to what we're seeing from AMD's Fusion processors and other ULV CPU options, the Atom N550 seems somewhat pokey. It didn't shatter records in any department, and it performed particularly poorly in gaming-related tests. The integrated GPU isn't cut out for any kind of gaming, though the system managed to push through 720p and 1080p video playback (albeit with near-maximum resource usage) without incident.

We were honestly hoping for something awe-inspiring with this machine. The design is just amazing. The swivel LCD is incredibly smooth, and being able to convert from tablet to netbook with a simple flip like this is really a game-changing feature, though perhaps not a new design idea. But unfortunately, the slow internals coupled with a sluggish OS/software layer leads to a subpar user experience. Compared to the iPad and Galaxy Tab, the Duo isn't even in the same class in terms of speed, despite having a more powerful CPU. The reason is Windows 7: this is a full-scale desktop OS that's being planted into a netbook/tablet convertible, and it's just not a perfect fit.

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The Duo's build quality is excellent, however, and the keyboard/trackpad are among the best we have used in this class of machine. Dell's quality engineers deserve a lot of credit for getting the chassis right. But this machine desperately needs longer battery life, a discrete GPU and a more powerful CPU if Windows 7 is going to function to its fullest potential. And honestly, Win7 just doesn't work well in the tablet environment. It was never designed for tablets, and even typing on its virtual keyboard is a terrible experience in comparison to the virtual keyboards on iOS and Android. Finally, the Duo's LCD has poor viewing angles, which hinders your ability to freely use this as a tablet.  Viewing the device straight-on is a pleasure with its high resolution display, but maintaining that viewing angle under in a tablet usage model, isn't always the easy thing to do.

At $550, the Duo is still a compelling product, however. The price is somewhat high, but its quality is outstanding. However, a unique design isn't enough. The overall user experience is sluggish, and to have a netbook/tablet that can't even last three hours on a charge isn't very useful outside of the home -- where it's most expected to be used. We really hope that Dell continues with this design, and incorporates a better performing and more power efficient GPU/CPU setup in the next revision. It has the potential to be an amazing product in Dell's portfolio, offering something that no other company does currently, but there's a lot missing from this first attempt that's hard to ignore.



  • Outstanding build quality
  • Unique, refreshing design
  • Optional dock
  • Great keyboard

  • Glossy LCD, bad viewing angles
  • Weak graphics
  • Excessive bloatware
  • Sluggish performance
  • Lackluster battery life

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