Dell's new Inspiron Mini 12, an affordable MacBook Air?

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Dell announced today the release of its second Inspiron netbook, this time with a larger 12-inch screen and more powerful specs.

With all its merits, netbooks are often relegated as secondary machines just because their size and technical specs present constraints for long-term usability. The original Asus Eee that popularized the netbook carried a meager 7-inch screen, while newer models are boasting 9 and 10-inch screens albeit at a higher price.

The same is true for the Inspiron Mini 12 which will retail for $600 in the U.S. and is expected to become available worldwide starting late November (Japan gets it immediately). The netbook will only weight 2.72 lbs. and pack a tiny 0.72 thick chassis. Inside you get an Intel Atom Z520/Z530 CPU running at 1.3 GHz or 1.6 GHz, respectively, 1GB of RAM, a built-in webcam, a 60GB or 80GB hard drive, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity. Most surprising is the choice of OS which will initially be Windows Vista Home Basic, while Ubuntu and Windows XP will become an option before the end of the year, according to Dell.

A couple of review outlets have had some hands-on experience with the Inspiron Mini 12 already and are touting its similar dimensions with the considerably more expensive (and more powerful) MacBook Air. That's not to say the Inspiron was incapable of handling general computing tasks with ease, which could make it an appealing proposal for many, especially at this price.

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