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Dell Inspiron Mini 9 3G – Review

DellMini9 2

First Impressions

Closed up, the Mini 9 is pretty small, a little larger than a DVD case. The case is shiny, a little slippery, very fingerprinty with rounded corners and edges. It feels solid and weighs a little over 1 kilo. When you shake it around nothing seems to move, which is a good thing. To open it, you need two hands and have to prise the screen off the keyboard as the hinges are quite stiff and so it won’t fall open. The screen also stays open at the angle you put it but it doesn’t go back very far, maybe 120 maximum. There’s no catch securing the screen either so you definitely can’t open it one handed.

Mechanically it feels very sturdy. There are no creaking panels or loose feeling keys and according to Dell the keyboard is water resistant, and no I didn’t try. The battery feels a little loose but it’s locked in tight by two slider switches so you only notice it if you pick it up by gripping the battery. Apart from the keyboard, the only other button on it is the power button.

dellmini9 hinge

Switching On

The first thing you notice when you turn it on, is that it’s completely silent. The only moving part in the whole thing is the screen, the solid state hard drive doesn’t spin and there’s no cooling fan for the CPU. All this leads to an odd sensation where you’re not sure what the thing is doing. After about 30 seconds of boot time it arrived at the Windows XP desktop, and then another 30 seconds or so while McAfee sorted itself out. Bit over a minute and I’m ready to go.

Screen

The 8.9″ reflective screen boasts a native resolution of 1024600 and is almost usable in direct sunlight however moving into the shade makes it very easy to use. I used it outside in the shade for extended periods and had no problems with eye strain. It was tricky to use on buses and trains where bright reflections constantly moved across the screen but angling the screen it usually got rid of them. The vertical viewing angle is quite narrow and blacks became washed out easily but the horizontal viewing angle is much more forgiving.

With the screen opening limit it was quite hard to use if it was sitting on a desk, I’m over 6′ and tended to slouch over to see the screen properly, but propping up the front edge helped.

DellMini9 google reader screenshot

Using Firefox it was fairly easy to read web pages as most are optimised for a screen width of 1024 pixels. Pages like Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and Google Reader were a little trickier due to the menus and layouts across the top and side of the screen. Those menus didn’t leave much real estate left for messages or articles, but running Firefox in full screen mode (hiding the toolbar and URL bar) helped a bit. Ironically, to switch to full-screen mode in Firefox you press F11 but the Mini 9 doesn’t have an F11 or F12 button. I’m told that a firmware fix is taking care of that oversight so until then use the menu.

dellmini9 keyboard

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4 Comments

  • Thanks for the clear, informative review. No jargon and great real-world trials of how a mini PC would actually be used.

  • No problems Ted, that's exactly what I set out to do.
    Cheers for noticing! :)

  • Great review, thanks! I'm considering one of these myself and yours is the most useful review I've read. Very helpful in deciding on the options for this little guy. BTW, I am a Dell employee, at corp. HQ in Round Rock. Thanks for your comments!

    • Heh, nice one Scott. And a pretty cool product by the sounds of it. :)

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