Product: Dell Inspiron Mini 9 NetbookManufacturer: DellMSRP: $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 8.9â€ 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 8.9â€ 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.Image Gallery