Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Review

I am into the 2nd week with a new Dell Mini 9 Netbook.  The concept of a netbook is a laptop with a small display, and a solid state memory drive instead of a traditional hard disk drive.  The result is enough laptop to do any net things, but no more than needed so it is as light and portable as possible.  This one is 2 lbs, so it is easy to take with.

This one runs WInXP.  Dell offers 3 different configurations of the Mini 9, one with Ubuntu (linux), then two configurations with WInXP.  The model I have is the WinXP with 1G RAM, 16GB storage, and bluetooth.  The bluetooth is an option, but in this case a very important one to grab.

The keyboard on the Dell Mini 9 is a compromise.  A lot of the core keys are full size.  But there are not separate function keys, and some keys like the . and , keys are half-width.  I can type at full speed with the keyboard, so it works, but special characters take getting used to.  The screen is less of a compromise.  The display is 1024×600 pixels.  So you get pages in their full width, but have to scroll to see the rest of the page.  Much better than using the web on my PDA phone but not as good as on the full size laptop.

The Mini 9 has a touch pad built in, but I use a USB mouse instead.  The touch pad works fine, but I never have gotten to where i enjoy them.

The 16GB of drive / storage space sounds small, but is plenty of room for a net access appliance.  After loading the normal apps I need for most stuff there is currently 8.5GB free.

At first I was worried about the speed of the system, as it uses an Intel Atom processor.  Once WinXp finished installing and settings etc however the Mini 9 has performed well.  Of course the processor needs for most internet browsing and post writing are low, but it is plenty fast for the purpose.

The mini 9 has wifi built in, and that has worked flawlessly for me so far.

The bluetooth is important because with the right phone plan it is easy to use the bluetooth to tether a cell phone to the Mini 9 and access the net from places you don’t have wifi or wired net access.

The Mini 9 is absolutely quiet, because it has no fans or hard drive noises.  The keys do have a keyboard click sound to them when typing, but no normal notebook sounds.  The Mini 9 does get warm when used, but not to excess.

It has speakers built in, and they work, but are not as loud as I would prefer.  Headphones definitely recommended, but the headphone jack is along the right side and easy to find/use.  I expected there to be hardware buttons for sound up/down, but there are not.  Instead volume up/down or mute are handled by function-accessible keys using the number keys.  That works once I understood.   The brightness control is a similar function-accessible over the 9 and 0 keys.

For interfaces there are 3 USB ports, a SD card slot, headphone/mic jacks, video out, and ethernet jack.

The system is available in black or white case; I have the white one.  So far it continues to look as pristine as when it arrived.  I did not get the video camera option.

When is a netbook better than a laptop?  If you need mobility, low weight, or small size for storage of the netbook.  For example, a netbook is easy to tuck into the top drawer of the end table next to the bed for late night net updates.  In fact, for actual work atop my lap, the netbook works very well.  I wanted to get the Netbook because I thought it would be light enough for me to carry with me during the day, which has proven to be true so far.  I also use the netbook at home in the evenings.  My Wife wanted me to get the netbook so she could confiscate our other laptop, so that has worked out also.

Overall it is important to understand what the compromises are, but if you want a laptop just to access the internet, this is a good product.

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