Touch interaction is of course the highlight of this tablet netbook. The capacitive screen felt smooth and solid under the finger, and interacting with Windows 7 was as painless as one can expect from an OS not really built with touch in mind. In tablet mode the Duo automatically re-orients its desktop, though when turning the netbook's lid into its screen with the keyboard facing away (essentially for comfortable viewing on cramped aeroplane tables when the seats are back) you have to manually flip the desktop using Intel's graphics driver.
To enhance the touch experience, Dell has added its own custom Stage software, which the Duo shares (in a subtly adjusted form) with the company's new touch-capable All-In-One PCs. The interface is mainly media focused, and mostly came across as fairly slick. There were a few bugs and issues, but as Stage was still in beta, we're assuming these will be ironed out by the time it gets released.
Unfortunately, an issue that isn't as easy to fix is the screen's very poor viewing angles – already a problem on an ordinary laptop or netbook, but much more so on a device that can be used as a tablet. When looking even slightly off-centre, both contrast and colours were affected dramatically. It certainly doesn't make the Duo unusable, but remains an area where Apple's iPad maintains a significant advantage.
Though we didn't get the chance to test the Audio Station's… audio (courtesy of JBL's speaker tech), its looks and build are just as appealing as the Duo's, and the two slot together seamlessly. When docked, the Duo becomes an alarm clock with a pretty aquarium background, though of course all its other functions are still available.
With a UK MSRP of £450, Dell's Inspiron Duo demans a premium price, but despite a few issues it does do a lot to justify this. Let us know in the comments if you feel it makes for a good alternative to the likes of the Apple iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab or even ViewPad 7, or if you would rather have a full-fat alternative like the HP TouchSmart tm2.