Dell Inspiron Mini 12: Peppier with Windows XP

In our review of the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 we concluded that “while we applaud Dell’s efforts to make Vista easier to use with its flashy dock, the Mini 12 doesn’t have the right hardware to handle this OS…. We suggest that buyers hold off until next month when Dell offers the Mini 12 with Windows XP or its customized Ubuntu Linux operating system.” Gizmodo closely echoed our conclusion in its review. We have installed Microsoft Windows XP Home on the Mini 12 and as we anticipated the performance of the slimmer, less resource hungry OS is just what the doctor called for. Installing Windows XP to the Mini 12 was a simple process using an external optical drive, but getting the drivers for the system was a bit of a struggle. Since Dell hasn’t released the drivers for this OS yet, we used the drivers provided by Dell for the Mini 9 (find those here). All the key drivers worked except for the graphics driver since the Mini 12 uses a different Intel Atom chipset than the Mini 9. So we’ve been stuck running the system at 1024×768 resolution, using Windows XP default drivers, rather than the full 1280×800 we got under Vista. Hopefully, Dell releases an XP graphics driver soon. Right off the bat, we noticed a difference in performance. Booting the system now takes 43 seconds (see the video below) rather than the 2 minutes plus we experienced in Vista Basic (we were able to get boot time down to about 1:30 by removing preloaded programs) . Though we haven’t run any benchmarks on the XP running Mini 12 (and will hold off on that until we get the correct drivers), there is a noticeable improvement in regular use of the netbook. When we used the netbook running Vista we noticed a lag in the the system while running a Skype video call and FireFox and Microsoft Works in the background. In contrast, things ran smoother in WIndows XP. A video call to a friend over Skype was smooth and he was impressed with the video quality. Simultaneously, we were visiting Web sites in the background with no delay switching back and forth between all open applications. Overall things just feel snappier and there is no wait to open menus in the OS. As we predicted Windows XP will run noticeably better with the Mini 12′s processor and 1GB of RAM. We will update our review of the Mini 12 when we get all the official drivers. If you purchased a Mini 12 running Vista, we are interested in your thoughts and if you plan on switching over to Windows XP. If you’re patiently waiting for Dell to release an XP version, we think you’re making the right move. [flq:d415931d711d4899921ea26548eb1499]

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  1. john laptop Says:

    i like dell laptop, this mini laptop sounds wonderful.

  2. anon Says:

    1.5 minutes to load windows XP still sounds horrible. the dell mini 9 loaded XP in about 24 seconds in my experience. really…what excuse can there be for 3x slower performance?

  3. Ltd Says:

    the ‘excuse’ is the HDD
    It’s a 4200rpm drive

  4. Caoilte Says:

    1.5 minutes to load? Didn’t the good man just say 43 seconds? Half the speed of the Dell 9 is still poor, but presumably that leaves plenty of room for a factory tweaked pre-installation.

    I’ll buy this the moment the UK starts shipping XP versions, but I’d really like to know whether stock debian can install of a usb key.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    how about try putting on the pre-beta of windows 7? that might be able to get around the graphics driver problem (assuming vista drivers work in win 7)

  6. anon Says:

    “1.5 minutes to load? Didn’t the good man just say 43 seconds? ”

    Whoops, I must’ve misread.

    But yea, my Dell Mini 9 4GB booted XP in about 24 sec after a fresh install.

  7. Liz Says:

    I really want a Mini 12 but will wait for the XP one.

  8. Jon Says:

    All the XP drivers work now, especially display driver. You need to download from intel’s website.

    Now I can set to 1280×800 resolution.

    Use this link for display driver,, install both drivers.

    http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Product_Filter.aspx?ProductID=3036&lang=eng

    Let me know if you have trouble installing the driver.

    Have fun

  9. dave Says:

    i ordered the vista mini 12 and im just re-installing Xp with all the bells and whistles!

    takes 15 days for them to build it thought which SUCKS… i will get mine on jan 6th…..

  10. Mark Says:

    Mini-12 is AVAILABLE with XP at the Dell Website – ordered mine right away. December 16, 2008

  11. dave Says:

    i just got mini 12 today! ( the 17th)
    dell says it will take 15 days for them to build your mini 12 but it only took about 8 days for them to build and ship mine. i ordered mine on the 6th i think.

    anyways i have vista right now and i will be getting a copy of XP from a friend and installing that. Can’t wait to see the difference!

    btw vista runs OK after you remove all the bloat wear dell ads to the system.

  12. marie Says:

    I am still waiting for my XP Mini 12. what software comes installed that we can delete to increase efficiency? I am too impatient to just wait.

  13. Steve Says:

    Bollocks on this being a netbook. It’s a laptop for christ sake! And why bother with these specs when you can pick up an older 700m that has the same horsepower under the hood…

  14. Drew Says:

    This thing runs beautifully under Windows 7. The only part it lags in is Full Screen Flash video from sites such as Hulu or Youtube. I only acheived reliable quality when switching to 800×600 which is ridiculous. AVI, WMV, XVID and DVD all played reasonably well with only a slight hiccup here and there. Other than that, who can complain about a 1280×800 screen on a netbook? And 4.5 hours of battery life? Next I plan to replace the stock 4200 zif drive with a zif based MRON SSD drive at 64GB. Comparisions show about a 120% increase in read/write speeds and turn this machine into a real work horse. I know when I am at the data center trying to look at that little 9 inch screen that was on my Acer Aspire One and type on that cramped keyboard was such a pain. If they release this baby in a 2GB model with a better graphics option and a stock SSD drive they will hit that magic sweet spot in the market.

  15. DaveM Says:

    I was seriously considering this machine with Ubuntu Hardy installed. IME Linux/Xorg/gnome is at least as fast as XP and of course ten times more secure. However, a visit to Dell’s website shows no option to upgrade the battery on the Linux version of the Inspiron 12. This is a deal breaker. I’m not going to pay for a battery I will never use or pay retail replacement price for the battery I want.

  16. Mike Coughlin Says:

    Though I don’t have a mini 12, yet (limited to 1 Gig RAM ? ), I see Dell mini 12 XP video drivers at:

    http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/driverslist.aspx?os=WW1&osl=EN&catid=6&impid=-1&servicetag=&SystemID=INSPIRON1210&hidos=WLH&hidlang=en&TabIndex=

    It says: Intel driver … applies to: Graphics_Media 945GSE/GM965 version V6.14.10.1093.A01 12/23/2008

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