The keyboard is quite usable if you’re not writing War and Peace. If you’re out-and-about it’s fine for emails or text messages and is much faster than a Crackberry, iPhone or mobile phone. If your Mini 9 is going to sit on your desk get a mouse and keyboard or use Synergy if it’s a second PC.
The keyboard has most of the keys in the right place with the exception of the punctuation keys which are scattered. Some punctuation needed the Dell Fn key which slows you down. The Shift, Ctrl and Alt keys are all on the left side of the keyboard but there is also tiny Shift key on the right. The Backspace key is the same size as the Enter key and is easy to stab at. The arrow keys double as the Home, Pg Up, Pg Down, End buttons. The F1 – F10 keys are set up as function keys that need the Dell Fn key to be used and there are no keypad numbers.
With regards to typing speed I thought I’d do some very non-scientific tests. Using the typeonline.co.uk typing Speed test, I typed out 3 random passages alternating between my standard desktop keyboard and the Mini 9’s. On a full sized keyboard I scored 74(2), 76(2) and 62(1) words per minute with (x) being the number of mistakes I made. On the Mini 9 I scored 59(9), 52(5) and 51(5). On the Mini 9, the more punctuation there was in a paragraph the more mistakes I made and the more I slowed down as I hunted for the right key. I did the test after about 10 days of using the Mini 9 on and off so I sort of had my eye in.
The trackpad is often a major disappointment on mini notebooks. The trackpad on the Mini 9 was a delight in that it was completely inoffensive and just worked. It’s a 2-button Synaptics unit with a middle button emulated by pressing both buttons together. The trackpad itself is a slight depression in the surface of the palm rest area but otherwise is completely invisible. The buttons are tactile and have a light easy action without the horrible heavy click like the Eee 7″ model. Left and right buttons are equal sized and the vertical and horizontal scrolling worked flawlessly in every program I tried except Internet Explorer. In IE the scrolling was skittish then laggy and then back to skittish which made it impossible to use. Stick with Firefox (or anything else) is my suggestion. The trackpad configuration software also allows you to setup an external mouse differently to the trackpad. This means for people like me who mouse left-handed with the buttons reversed and use a trackpad right-handed with the buttons in the normal configuration, it’s mousy-config heaven.