Dell netbook coming in August, sans Function Keys

Posted on 05 June 2008 by

That apple-red Dell netbook you may have spotted a few weeks ago is expected to be hitting the market in August, but its keyboard will be lacking a dedicated row of F-keys. For certain users this is nearly preposterous. However for some, such as myself, it isn’t that big of a deal. I personally could live without a dedicated row of function keys. I don’t use them frequently enough to justify a whole separate row. That being said, they should still be accessibledell netbook through a modifier key which at this time APCmag is saying that is not the case.

It’s true that the alpha keys are all of a good size, although others are noticeably slim, and the function keys have been dropped altogether: the Fn modifier activates hardware-related shortcuts mapped onto the keyboard, with no facility to call up the usual F1-F12 keys. [my emphasis]

It’s one thing to remove the row of keys entirely, but not providing a way to press them at all is a peculiar decision on Dell’s part. It may have something to do with the target audience. While tech enthusiasts will inevitably end up buying the Dell netbook if it turns out to be a quality product, Dell says it is targeted toward students and first time computer users. If Dell’s audience for this netbook is truly first time computer users, removal of the row of function keys makes a bit more sense. First time computer users are certainly not acquainted to keyboard shortcuts and only a small percentage would make use of them. So why not remove these keys and be able to make the rest of the keys more finger friendly? Sounds logical to me at least.

The yet to be named 9″ Dell netbook is predicted to feature Intel’s Atom, and knowing Dell, XP and Ubuntu will most likely be choices for the OS. Specs have not been announced yet but Dell says they will bring the product to market “…later this summer”, expect to specs in the next few weeks.

What is everyone’s opinion on big companies (HP , Sony, Dell) getting into the netbook explosion?

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    I think this will attract other manufacturers to the netbook game, but is not just netbook manufacturers. It will even open peoples eyes to the presence of the netbook market, because not everyone knows that netbooks exist.
    I think big companies are the key for the prospect of netbooks.


    I would also like to add that this netbook is very cool with the red colour.

  • someone

    Ridiculous design. Dell screwed this one up pretty bad. Only clueless consumers will buy the Dell simply because they’re too dumb to read reviews and do 15 minutes of research on other brands.

    MSI Wind is the best one right now.

  • Benz145

    Why do you say the design is ridiculous? I think it looks rather nice.

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    i would thought something as simple as fn+1-0 would to the trick (ok so you loose f11 and f12 but still)…

  • someone

    I’m not talking looks. Yes it’s shiny, it would make a cute purse accessory for vapid cosmo-girls. But the FUNCTIONAL design, the part that really matters in any computer design- i.e. lousy keyboard – is ridiculous.

  • Chris

    “First time computer users”…… Press F1 for help


  • someone

    “What is everyone’s opinion on big companies (HP , Sony, Dell) getting into the netbook explosion?”

    Might as well chime in on that too.

    I think it’s great, of course. Competition is healthy and will only mean better computers down the road.

    What I find surprising though, is how daft the big guns are being. I really thought Dell, HP and Sony could/would do better. HP actually has a nice machine, but the CPU choice was very bad. Sony is supposedly drafting one of those VIA Nanobook designs right? Horrible. And Dell is smoking some leftover pot from Atari.

    So this leaves a great opportunity for wonderful companies like Asus, MSI and others to make a name for themselves perhaps.

    But I wonder, will people buy eeepcs and Winds once the Dell ads begin? I fear many won’t even bother to read about other options. They’ll just see shiny red Dells and jump. But that’s the way it goes in consumerland.


    i suspect that dell and the rest worry about undercutting their own home user laptop market.

  • PJE

    I use a Happy Hacking Lite keyboard on my work desktop machine and it uses [FN][-] and [FN][=] for F11 and F12 repectively…

    I’ve always wondered why they tried to squeeze a function key row on the netbooks.

  • someone


    Did you read the article? Perhaps you missed the bolded parts?

    This Dell, unlike your little keyboard, has “no facility to call up the usual F1-F12 keys.”

  • enthusiast

    baby steps, baby steps, …

    We will figure something out, but it would be nice to spend that effort on something less basic.

  • Milnoc

    This bizarre design decision makes my Fujitsu U810’s ridiculously double-mapped keyboard look good!

  • Heavyharmonies

    Beyond moronic. No way in hell would I ever buy a device that had no way to access function keys.

    I’m guessing that omission won’t be in the sales brochure. Bleagh.

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  • PJE

    ‘Someone’, Did I state that the Dell used the [FN][-] [FN][=] for F11&F12? NO I merely stated that it is possible to implement F1-F12 without a function key row.

    I assume Dell will fix it before it’s release, otherwise there are a multitude of keymapping apps. Not ideal by a long shot, but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me either.

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  • lj

    Im not sure this is such a big deal.. I mean, in windows you could use keymapping apps, and in ubuntu, it would take 2 seconds to assign any key functions you lost…

  • Mike Cane

    The more the merrier. Basically people will buy what they can actually GET. Asus was good to get into J&R in NYC. Will the MSI Wind do that? The Acer Aspire One? Only hardcore people will buy sight-unseen. Perhaps with Dell the general public *will* buy sight-unseen, based on brand name, price, and it being located in the U.S. for easy return.

    As for the design, it’s similar to the hp Mini Note and MSI Wind. And there have been two different keyboards. No telling yet what the final one will be like.

  • Vicente

    What is the storage on this device? Flash?

  • Benz145

    Someone – are you saying the keyboard is bad based on the fact that it has no function keys? The point of removing them was to make the more room for the other keys to be larger. Do you really use the function keys that frequently? I agree that there needs to be a way to get to them somehow, but I don’t think the omission of the row makes the keyboard poorly designed.

  • someone

    ‘ I agree that there needs to be a way to get to them somehow, but I don’t think the omission of the row makes the keyboard poorly designed.”

    Yes, I can agree to that for the most part. But if UMPCportal is right, and Dell has provided no simple intuitive way to trigger the f keys, then YES, that is bad design. And bad design on that obvious level makes me wonder what else could be wrong.

    But as harsh I may sound, I await more details before I pass final judgement. Most likely I will buy a Wind though, it seems to be the most balanced netbook for the money so far.

  • ProDigit

    You don’t specially need the F-keys!

    By using the FONT ket and a numerical key from 1 to 0, plus the 2 keys between 0 and backspace exactly make out 12 keys.

    They probably incorporate the F-keys with the numerical keys and the font key.

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  • Lyle

    I sure hope that the omission of function keys does not affect user’s ability to get into Bios Setup. Is this possible?

  • on the other hand

    I haven’t used any function key even once in over ten years.

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  • laptop repair

    Netbboks will soon be overtaking laptops. One of sonys best selling laptops the t1xp is only 10.6 inch and is one of thier best sellers of all time. im sure all the leading players are heading for the smaller laptop as mobility is ever more important

  • george

    what function key is used on isnpiron 6000 if another screen is attached to the laptop so I can scrool between the two screens.

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  • Jeff Arbor


    Times are a changing.

    I like XP but it can be tough to fix sometimes. (But it is still easier for me to understand than NT!)

    Thanks for posting.

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