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Dell Inspiron Mini 9 3G – Review

Performance

Let me open by saying I don’t do benchmarking, dunno how. Firefox ran very well even with 5 tabs open however highly graphics-intensive Flash websites would load but then hang, especially if you pushed them too fast. Graphics-intensive Java-based games like Runescape also worked but were quite laggy. Flash slideshow websites ran fine but often didn’t fit on the small screen. YouTube videos ran ok in SD mode, but HD was painful. Video files (divx and xvid .avi) ran fine even over WiFi provided they were around 640×480 or slightly larger. The lightweight BitTorrent client µTorrent did well downloading the current Ubuntu 8.10 distro even over 3G, hitting around 300 kB/s speeds.

The Mini 9 also did quite well with photos. I installed Picasa 3 and it happily trawled through my 20k+ archive of 10Mpx photos of Nigel in his green mankini. Picasa doesn’t really fit on the Mini 9’s screen but slideshows were fine.

dellmini9 lightroom

I then went a little crazy and installed the trial version of Adobe Lightroom 2.2. It was pretty laggy but I could tweak curves, do adjustments and zoom in and out painlessly and it had no problems working on RAW files as well as .jpgs. The little screen made critical detail very fiddly, but if you had to get something out to your editor while out on the road using nothing but the Mini 9, I reckon you could do it. I didn’t try Photoshop as it wouldn’t have fit on the screen, but if you’ve got an external screen then you should be ok using that too, no promises though.

dellmini9 dualscreen

Via the built-in VGA port, the Mini 9 can drive pretty much anything, it didn’t have any problems driving my 24″ monitor simultaneously with its own screen. With the built-in Intel Graphics adapter software you’ve got all the usual display choices, Clone, Extended Desktop, Rotate Display and you can switch off the built-in screen as well without any hassles. So it would make a great PowerPoint machine and a lot easier to carry to meetings. The image on the external screen was a little soft, especially text, but otherwise no complaints.

Dellmini9 3

Battery life was pretty much what it said on the box for the included 4 cell battery. I got around 3.5 hours while surfing and writing using the 3G connection. Watching streaming video over Wifi I got over 3 hours.
As a whole, the Mini 9 wasn’t a big fan of Hibernating or Standby but most Windows machines aren’t either. After several Standby events, the Mini 9 would sometimes get a bit shirty and refuse to connect to Wifi or 3G and need a reboot. There were no BSODs though, and I was trying to upset it.

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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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