Dell introduces best Ubuntu netbook ever?

December 21, 2009 6:03 PM EST
Dell has long been desktop Linux's best friend in the big-time computer vendors, and it's proving it again with the introduction of the latest version of its Mini 10 netbook with Ubuntu.

Yes, it's true that the new Mini 10 will also come with XP Home and Windows 7 Starter Edition. But, XP Home is showing its age and while I actually like some of Windows 7's features, I don't know anyone who has a kind word to say for Windows 7 Starter.

Microsoft has restricted Windows 7 Starter to make sure it's no competition for the more full-featured versions of Windows 7. For example, "It's got to have a super-small screen, which means it probably has a super-small keyboard, and it has to have a certain processor and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." That ringing endorsement for Windows 7 Starter Edition was made by some guy named Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

Ubuntu 9.10, however, is an excellent desktop Linux distribution. While I'll be the first to admit that Ubuntu 9.10 has its rough-edges when you install it yourself on some systems, Dell has always done an excellent job of fitting Ubuntu on its systems.

Any operating system, no matter how good, is only part of what makes a computer worth buying. While I haven't had a chance to work with the new Mini 10 yet, I'm impressed by its components.

What first grabbed my attention was that the new Mini 10 is one of the first netbooks that will be using Intel's new Pine Trail chip set. This new low-power chipset includes the updated and faster 1.66GHz, Intel Atom N450 and the new Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150. By packaging the memory controller and graphics with the processor, Intel was able to shrink the Atom chip package down from three chips to two.

This, in turn means that, according to Dell, you can expect to see the Mini 10 run for almost 10-hours with its optional 6-cell battery. That's my kind of battery life.

In addition, with its 10.1-inch display, with standard (1024x600) or High Definition (1366x768) display and a slightly reworked keyboard and touchpad, this looks to me like a netbook that users who might usually prefer a bigger laptop might warm up to.

The netbook also comes with a gigabyte of RAM. If it had any more, Microsoft wouldn't allow it to be sold with Windows 7 Starter Edition.

I wish it has a SSD (solid-state drive) option, but it does give you a choice of a 160 or 250GB hard drive. I'm told by sources at Dell that by the time the netbook starts shipping in January; a 64GB SSD may be an option. Even with a hard drive though, the new Mini 10 still weights a trifle more than 3 pounds.

It also includes that netbook essential--built-in 802.11 b/g wireless. It also includes Bluetooth and a Mobile Broadband option. With the last, the system also includes GPS support.

Last, but never least, it's cheap. Prices start at $299.

Put it all together--Ubuntu, excellent components, and a reliable company to stand behind the unit--and I honestly think that this generation of the Dell Mini 10 may turn out to be the best Linux netbook to date.