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Dell Inspiron Mini 9 3G – Review

So Who Should Buy One?

It makes a great laptop for school age children. It’s tough, no moving parts, kid sized keyboard and it should do anything kids need. Better yet it won’t break their little backs lugging it and no one needs to know they’re carrying a computer.

Photographers or roving photojournalist and it’s not just me who says so. It fits in most camera bags, you’ve got anywhere 3G connectivity and a pretty good screen. The Aspire One has the dual card slots but all pro cameras use CompactFlash cards so that’s no great advantage.

dellmini9 sidebyside

People who need a very portable second computer. I had the Mini 9 setup next to my main computer and used it to run my Skype, Media Player and Webmail while controlling it all via Synergy from my main PC. If I had to go out, I just folded up the Mini 9 and slung it under my arm and usually didn’t take the charger. A small protective case would have been handy as the shell is quite slippery.

People who commute long distances on public transport. With one of these you can be as productive or unproductive as you want. Catch up on your RSS feeds in the bus, watch your downloaded (or free-to-air) telly on the train, update your blog or write your great novel. The 3.5 hours of battery life will get you where you’re going and back and it’s much safer not having a wireless dongle sticking out of the side.

Surprises

  • One person’s “slow” is another person’s “meh”. I didn’t find it anywhere near as slow as I was expecting. Heck it boots in 30 seconds, how slow can it be? If you consider the technology 3 years old, performance-wise, then you should be fine.
  • Trackpad was a joy to use with everything except IE. Go figure
  • Built in 3G, camera, speakers and microphone so you can go anywhere and stay connected without all the peripheral tat poking out the sides
  • Everything just seemed to work which was a very nice change
  • The Mini 9 is one of the more hackable upgradeable mini notebooks out there and DIY upgrades appear quite easy to do if you’re keen.

No Prizes

  • Speakers were quite poor however they were audible and well positioned, they just had a dreadful tone
  • No HDD activity light meant you occasionally didn’t know what was going on but there’s always Task Manager I suppose
  • No physical function keys and some punctuation needed the Dell Fn key to access which will slow down the faster typists
  • Only has a single SD card slot
  • Screen doesn’t open very far and vertical viewing angles were quiet narrow
  • Windows virtual memory issues but tweaking fixed most of them
  • McAfee! Get something lighter if antivirus is your thing
  • A backlit keyboard would have been nice

The Verdict

The 8.9″ mini notebooks seem to be the right mix of compactness and usability and Dell Mini 9 is no exception. Considering the price range I was pleasantly surprised when the whole thing worked smoothly and seamlessly straight out of the box. I loved it for its all-in-one VoIP capabilities, easy internet browsing and the way you could just sling it under your arm and go out or toss it in any bag. For me, the winning feature was the built-in 3G connectivity. Tie that with a good data plan and I would have no qualms about recommending this machine to anyone who travels a bit.
The only things I could fault the Mini 9 on were all pretty minor so hopefully Dell will take what they’ve learnt from the Mini 9 and improve it for the upcoming Mini 10. Then we might be on the way to a super-usable mini notebook. Nice job Dell.

Specifications As Tested

  • Windows XP Home SP3
  • 1024600 screen
  • 16Gb SSD
  • 1Gb of RAM
  • 1.3Mp webcam and microphone
  • Bluetooth v2
  • WWLAN, 10/100 Ethernet, WiFi b/g
  • Battery life approximately 3.5 hours from 4 cells
  • SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro card reader
  • VGA Port
  • 3 USB ports

Price as tested, $AU549 + 3G broadband costs or $AU60 per month over 2 years from Vodafone.

Tags: dell+mini+9+3g+review, mini+notebook+review, dell+mini+9+review

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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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