Product: Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Netbook
Manufacturer: Dell
MSRP: $274 as configured (Varies by configuration)

Introduction
The Inspiron Mini 9 is Dell's first product to address the burgeoning netbook market. The attraction of netbooks is due to a combination of factors including portability, usability, and price. Whereas the Mini 9 was originally priced at $349, we've recently seen refurbished versions for as low as $178. With prices as affordable as that, I had to give the Mini a spin.



Unboxing & First Impressions
Being such a small device, the Inspiron Mini 9 arrives in a suitably compact box with environmentally-friendly egg crate style padding. You'll get the power adapter as well as installation software should you need it in the future. The system itself is really small. It is slightly larger than a typical hardcover book, and it weighs in at a mere 2.28 lbs.





Connectivity is good considering you get 3 USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, VGA Output, Audio Out & Microphone, as well as an integrated SD/SDHC card reader. The card reader is a good way to expand the storage capacity as SDHC cards have become quite affordable lately.

Specs
Almost all netbooks run the Intel Atom Processor N270 1.6GHz, and the Inspiron Mini 9 is no different. This particular system is configured with 1GB DDR2 memory at 533MHz, as well as a 4GB Solid State Drive. Wireless-G networking is built-in, with an option for Bluetooth if you so desire. The default screen configuration is 8.9” 1024x600, and video is handled by the lackluster Intel GMA 950 chipset. Seeing as the hardware specs aren't anything to write home about, we went with Ubuntu Linux as the operating system. The Mini is also available with XP Home for a $50 premium.

Review
The system boots Ubuntu Linux in about 50 seconds. It takes an additional 40 seconds (1:30 total) before it has connected to your wireless network. Once connected you can start your web activities, but first you need to wait an additional 7 seconds for Firefox to load your homepage (we tested with Google.com as the start page). If you haven't caught the theme here, let me be blunt. Waiting. You'll be doing a lot of it using this netbook. There is often typing lag between when you press a key and when the text appears on screen.



The keyboard is about 75% of the width of a regular sized keyboard, making rapid touch typing a truly onerous chore. If you use it a lot you can probably grow accustomed to the keyboard, nonetheless my initial impression is that typing any appreciable amount on the Mini's keyboard is a troublesome task. An added slap to the face is that my thumb tended to touch the touchpad when pressing the space button, which made the cursor jump to random places in the document.



Screen real estate at a premium when you're talking about an 8.9” screen. The resolution of 1024x600 is wide enough to view most web pages, but you'll find yourself doing a lot of scrolling to get through the content. The screen itself is very bright and crisp when viewed head on, but it looks bad when viewed from the top or side. The vertical viewing angle is very limited, and this issue is further exacerbated by the fact that the screen cannot tilt back more than about 45 degrees past vertical. What that means is that many people (depending on height and posture) will be out of the screen's sweet spot while using the Mini 9 on their lap.

Many of the drawbacks I've mentioned so far are drawbacks that apply to the netbook category as a whole. They are slow by design, and their tiny form factor causes some inconveniences. Now I'd like to concentrate on some of the positives.

Because it uses SSD storage, there are no moving parts in the Mini 9. It is silent. Battery life is also a strong point, allowing you to go for close to 4 hours before running out of juice. Its power-sipping nature allows the charging cable to be relatively small compared to the bricks necessary for full-fledged laptops. With such a compact size and low weight, I found myself using it more often than my laptop when I just wanted to go online for a bit. It would also be perfect for travel purposes to go online and plan your day or to check your e-mail.

Conclusion
The Inspiron Mini 9 is a good first product from Dell in the netbook category. Its combination of compactness and usability will appeal to many potential buyers, however as someone reading this review you should ask yourself if you're willing accept the trade-offs that come with such a diminutive form factor. Also, the imminent release of the Dell Mini 10 will no doubt have some users waiting for just a little bit longer.

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    whatatay Ben's cred: 192
    Posted 3:23 am PST 02/12/09

    $150 to $180 brand new. Only then will you have my interest.

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    Bellyflops Ben's cred: 22
    Posted 3:27 am PST 02/12/09

    Thanks for sharing that # 1

    Signed

    Who gives a baconnaise

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    dewsyuff Ben's cred: 4
    Posted 4:37 am PST 02/12/09

    I has. I likes.

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    matthew Ben's cred: 262
    Posted 5:29 am PST 02/12/09

    As I don't own a Dell netbook (I have the Asus 1000HA), I can't really compare the two. But I'd have to say that phrases like "long boot time", "slow response", and "poor viewing angle" are not ones used by Asus owners. Actually the whole tone and feel of Ben's review doesn't convey the sense of using the 1000HA, so I think we better hold off on the "seen one netbook, seen them all" conclusion hinted at here. I'd agree that a 10" screen probably helps a lot.

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    Leapingcat Ben's cred: 2
    Posted 5:32 am PST 02/12/09

    Got my wife the ASUS Eee at Xmas for about $300. It runs Win XP which she understands and likes, so I think it is a better deal. Eee has great looks, runs fast for what it is! If you are looking at getting one, be sure to include ASUS.

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    doomed Ben's cred: 128
    Posted 5:47 am PST 02/12/09

    If you cant point and click in ubuntu you should not be using a computer.

    nearly the same specs.

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    HallD Ben's cred: 1
    Posted 5:59 am PST 02/12/09

    I am typing this from a full keyboard 12.1" widescreen dell d420. This is a business class "netbook". This machine is everything that the Asus line and dell mini 9 are not.

    Pacific Geek has had a deal on these seudo-netbook class laptops (no onboard cd/dvd) currently for $319. (w/xp pro)

    Much better bang for your buck in my opinion if a small "hadcover boook footprint" is what you are looking for.

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    donh Ben's cred: 15
    Posted 6:56 am PST 02/12/09

    I agree with Matthew. I have the Mini9 running XP (2GB ram, 8GB SSD) and 'waiting' just doesn't happen. I'm surprised how snappy this thing is. I was expecting to be 'waiting' when I first got it but it has completely surprised me, this thing is great! Perhaps it the Ubuntu that's causing Ben's machine to be slow? I've never used Ubuntu but have heard it is pretty snappy itself.

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    Oio Ben's cred: 141
    Posted 7:20 am PST 02/12/09

    Ben has user error

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    wogga Ben's cred: 82
    Posted 7:21 am PST 02/12/09

    Review is pretty correct: the waiting definitely happened they way it was shipped XP/8g/1g to me. After removing and reconfiguring it is acceptable. Netflix and DVDs via USB dvd are fine. Screen is excellent with weird coloring sometimes, keyboard stinks. For 200 or so, it seems a great device. Like it better than my msi wind.

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    tiburoncito2000 Ben's cred: 164
    Posted 8:09 am PST 02/12/09

    for that price, I'm ordering one. refurbished or not, it has nice specs

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    mattb123 Ben's cred: 134
    Posted 8:16 am PST 02/12/09

    I like mine. The keyboard could be better but I've gotten pretty used to it. I also upgraded the RAM to 2 GB and turned off the swap file which seems to help performance. Also, I use full screen mode in Firefox a lot which gives a little more room to work with. This looks like a pretty good deal to me!

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    tiburoncito2000 Ben's cred: 164
    Posted 8:18 am PST 02/12/09

    I just customized one to order and the price for something I would like jumped to $499.99. No deal

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    doomed Ben's cred: 128
    Posted 11:59 am PST 02/12/09

    I got mine for the $179 with the 20% off that was available a few weeks ago.. Runs Ubuntu great even with 1gb of ram. Playing music, firefox and even a few other apps running they take up maybe 35% of memory. You should think about ditching XP.

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    just_a_guy Ben's cred: 44
    Posted 11:59 am PST 02/12/09

    "Actually the whole tone and feel of Ben's review doesn't convey the sense of using the 1000HA"

    It also doesn't convey the sense of using a Mini 9. I used one with Windows XP. It was actually quite snappy.

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    horndoggyl1 Ben's cred: 3
    Posted 12:00 pm PST 02/12/09

    If it comes in pink, homid nuisance_el_gordo would buy it.

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    njb Ben's cred: 283
    Posted 12:03 pm PST 02/12/09

    i wouldn't use anything smaller than 10" lcd.

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    m0f0 Ben's cred: 761
    Posted 12:14 pm PST 02/12/09

    Let's face it, the MacBook Air is vastly superior in all facets, with a much better specification, feature set, and overall value for money. INDISPUTABLE FACT!

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    inferno Ben's cred: 86
    Posted 12:19 pm PST 02/12/09

    That shift key on the right looks painful

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    moementos Ben's cred: 54
    Posted 12:31 pm PST 02/12/09

    I don't know *why* dell can't slim down the bezel frame on their notebook screens. That's a solid 2" of screen space that is going unused. Plus it just looks hideous.

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