Dell Inspiron Mini 9

The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is a prime example of the netbook form factor, and the best 8.9-inch one available.


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CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Design
It must be said that the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 (or the Inspiron 910, apparently, if you're looking for drivers) has the highest build quality out of all the 8.9-inch notebooks we've borne witness to — from the moment you pick it up it exudes a solidness just not present in its competitors, with the exception of the much heavier, much slower HP Mini Note.

Thanks to its fanless design it's also quieter, and this in concert with a 16GB solid state drive means there's a complete absence of moving parts — making it more rugged than the norm.

The keyboard is also pleasant enough to type on, considering the form factor, although the quotation key is miniaturised and put in an odd place that hampers typing at a reasonable speed — adjacent to the useless "context menu key", which is to the right of the space bar. We'd much prefer this useless key was removed, the - and = keys moved there, the quotation key moved to where the - and = keys used to be and the tab key expanded as a result.

The F1-F10 keys are available on the second row of letters through the Fn key — although the F11 and F12 keys are missing, as is becoming a disturbing trend. If you rely on these keys, you may need to remap them to something else using third-party software.

A low level webcam sits at the top of the screen as always, while two speakers are situated at the bottom of the screen, flanking the Dell logo. These should, also as always, be considered token. A vent meant for expelling hot air is situated on the right-hand side, usually a no-no — however, the laptop barely produces any heat (as is evidenced by the fanless solution) and any right hander using an external mouse will likely never notice any extra heat washing over their digits.

Features
While the Americans get a choice of black or white, Ubuntu or XP Home, different SSD capacities and the option to take Bluetooth out — Australia only gets the top of the line model in black. At AU$599 though, this isn't too much of a problem — it does rob Dell of an all too important selling point though in a market where the hardware set-up is pretty much identical between competitors.

It features the same Atom 1.6GHz processor and 1GB RAM as everyone else. A 16GB SSD means most basic storage needs are covered, while the SD slot is there should you need to add any more storage. If even that's not enough, Dell bundles the Inspiron Mini 9 with a Box.net account, offering 2GB of online storage for free.

The 1,024x600 screen is quite bright and despite being glossy performs well in outdoor environments. Connectivity wise there are three USB ports, a 100Mb Ethernet port, microphone and headphone jacks and a VGA port should cover most needs, with wireless G and Bluetooth performing the radio functions.

A SIM slot can be found under the battery, but there's no WWAN module installed as of yet — we can only hope this comes later.

On the crapware front our review sample came prepacked with McAfee SecurityCenter, where its annoying alerts dominated the limited screen space. The Inspiron Mini 9 was also heavily Google infected, with Google Desktop stealing away the already precious screen real estate from the task bar, and Google Toolbar doing the same in Internet Explorer. Dell Video Chat also showed a tendency to open after the lid of the laptop had been closed and reopened, and finally, when first booting the screen it would start in low res, then snap to the native resolution. All except the latter can of course be either uninstalled or fixed (and even the screen issue, which is probably just a driver issue), but it does a lot to dampen the initial experience.

Performance
Atom based machines were never intended to be high performing beasts, and 3DMark06 and PCMark05 actively refused to run despite our best efforts. Needless to say it's fine for modest tasks such as Web browsing and office applications. Turning all power-saving features off and setting screen brightness and volume to maximum, we played back an Xvid movie where the battery lasted three hours five minutes and 20 seconds, a fantastic result thanks to its four-cell battery.

The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is a prime example of the netbook form factor &mdash although we don't know what more can be done in this space, considering the unchanging hardware spec. We look forward to seeing what happens when vendors really stretch their legs. Until then — this is the best 8.9-inch netbook out there.

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squirateeh
9
Rating
 

squirateeh posted a review   

The Good:Small, Portability, Compact, Good value

The Bad:Keyboard placement, Short life, Dell Customer Service is a pain

I was fairly satisfied with this Dell Mini 9, until last week it decided the SSD must died without further warning.
I've bought the notebook on early 2009, so it basically lived for almost 2 years. I also heard rumours that the SSD part Dell uses is a crappy one, hence explaining the sudden death of my beloved notebook.

I would just forget calling the customer service because they really are the worst to deal with.

Apart from the SSD problem, the notebook was doing fine. Perhaps just a slight slow performance if it is used for multitasking (which I guess kinda normal remembering the specs).

No complains really other than SSD death.

 

NEgirl posted a comment   

I bought this computer because of the price but really after all was added in I could have bought an apple for a few more dollars. Tech support is awful and I cannot believe I actually paid extra for it. I have never gotten help and find it so frustrating I will likely never call them again. I tried to get Dell to take it back but it was 3 days past the trial period so I was out of luck. If I could get someone to buy this off me I would sell it in a moment!!

 

grungysquash posted a reply   

What apple (apart from one that drops from a tree) can you buy for $499 - let me think for a bit..................... none!!!!

If you want OSX go buy an apple mac for $1500 - or if you want OSX go and get a mini 9 for $200 on ebay. Yep typing this on my 10.6.3 mini 9!!! - cheapest apple yet

kingcaboose
10
Rating
 

kingcaboose posted a review   

The Good:portable, long life, no moving parts

The Bad:Keyboard layout

Initially came with the usual garbage trialware. Once I got rid of the rubbish and updated the virtual memory which was capped at a exceptionally low value it runs exceptionally well including itunes and video.

The SSD means I can even have the laptop on when I'm walking around and the battery life is really good even while running wireless broadband.

 

whitedragem posted a comment   

The Good:Silent (this is too understated). Win 7 flies with base configuration. Great fan support sites (Hackintoshing). Cheap for what you get : Build Quality, Solid State.

The Bad:Keyboard not as nice as Aspire One. Not using low power motherboard that Atom was designed for (though true for all first run Atom Netbooks released)

Excellent Netbook. I drooled over this midget for weeks when their prices dropped from au$800 to around $550.
Bargain for the money. Well implemented design, looks the part, and runs totally silently.
Please understand that this is a sell point, and should make consideration; retail shops will not reveal a quiet computers true worth. The only other machine I have owned this quiet was a MacMini. This is calculator quiet. It is a pleasure to leave this unit on beside my bed while I charge techie phone and bluetooth headset.
Bluetooth inclusion allows for external mouse without a plug in external dongle. The same not said for the non Vodafone version for data communication (no inbuilt HSDPA modem).
Truly the only sad point is not having a button to turn off the track pad, ala HP laptops, that stops the cursor moving while typing. Though I haven't seen anynet books yet that have this.
The weird keyboard layout isn't a deal breaker for me. I was happy for the F11 & F12 being returned by Dell by updated firmware.
Solid state drive is a MUST for netbooks - having used a few, they seem to travel around the house or sit on lap. I would trade capacity for ability to jog my machine in a backpack and the peace of mind it will work fine afterwards.
I added a large (cheap) SD card for movie storage, and have no worries running the Mini9 while driving around places (with lil ones entertained by Dora, speakers well placed and loud, screen bright, and beaut).
Included Windows and apps wanted to do all sorts of stuff, like playback media from my phone via bluetooth. I did wipe included OS and apps to do a USB install of Windows 7, which has run very well for me on 1 gig of ram.
I was most keen for Win7 on this for the solid state drive optimisations. (Windows won't readyboost the device because built in solid state drive performance is so quick it, 'readyboosting' will not benefit.
Included battery is plenty of grunt comparable to most any laptops runtime (3hrs+ full load).
Well specified machine that DOES standout from the competition by using a solid state drive (whose controller chip will wear out before a wear leveled drive does, ie the disk will outlast a typical hard drive by an order of magnitude, YMMV)
Highly recommended piece of kit, grab one while they are still around.



s i l e n t
:)

 

smokinhowie posted a comment   

The Good:solid ,small , great battery life, great screen

The Bad:missing F11 & F12, some keys poorly placed

I have upgraded to a 32gb Runcorn SSD and 2gb ram without problems. Now much much faster.
This is my favourite laptop of all time and also the cheapest.

 

DELL are Rubbish posted a comment   

The Good:NONE

The Bad:ALL

This computer is too slow to even run Skpe and I-Tunes. The customer service from Dell is dispicable. NEVER buy this computer or deal with Dell they are a 2 bit company

 

Grungysquash posted a reply   

Yea right - on my mini right now typing this while Skype is running. In fact one thing i love about the mini is the portable Skype functionality with the included web cam.

Seems you have an IT problem of your own making.


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User Reviews / Comments  Dell Inspiron Mini 9

  • squirateeh

    squirateeh

    Rating9

    "I was fairly satisfied with this Dell Mini 9, until last week it decided the SSD must died without further warning.
    I've bought the notebook on early 2009, so it basically lived for almost ..."

  • NEgirl

    NEgirl

    "I bought this computer because of the price but really after all was added in I could have bought an apple for a few more dollars. Tech support is awful and I cannot believe I actually paid extra ..."

  • kingcaboose

    kingcaboose

    Rating10

    "Initially came with the usual garbage trialware. Once I got rid of the rubbish and updated the virtual memory which was capped at a exceptionally low value it runs exceptionally well including itun..."

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