12-inch Dell netbook goes up for sale in the U.S.

Get ready for Dell's 12" netbook, America. After inexplicably launching in Japanese retail stores last month, the Inspiron Mini 12 has now popped up on Dell's U.S. website—and you can order one for as little as $549.

The base model features a glossy 12.1" 1280x800 display, a 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z520 processor, 1GB of memory, a 40GB 4,200-RPM hard disk drive, a three-cell battery rated for around three hours of run-time, and a copy of Windows Vista Home Basic. There's also Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11g Wi-Fi, and the requisite webcam and card reader.

You can cough up an extra $50 to get a 1.6GHz processor, 60GB hard drive, and six-cell battery (rated for 6.5 hours), and Dell offers a $678 variant of the system with an 80GB hard drive and a longer warranty. The company quotes a ship date of December 8 for all three flavors, so some Inspirion Mini 12s may well find themselves under Christmas trees next month.

Looking at the overall shape of the netbook market, $549 doesn't seem half bad for a 2.72-pound system with a 12.1" screen, the same display resolution as many full-sized laptops, and Windows Vista. For reference, Asus' $480 Eee PC 1000H has a more cramped 10" 1024x600 display and comes with Windows XP, although it does include a six-cell battery, a faster CPU, and a higher-capacity hard drive.

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