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Dell Inspiron Mini 9

>> Saturday, January 10, 2009

While component wise, the Mini 9 is similar to other recent Netbooks, such as the Eee PC 901 and the Acer Aspire One (which all use Intel's Atom CPU), in typical Dell fashion, there are more customization options than we've seen other Netbooks. Our test unit arrived with 1GB of RAM, a 16GB solid state hard drive, and Windows XP.

That configuration costs $514 and comes very close to hitting the benchmarks we set out in our "Building the Perfect Netbook" feature, which asked for similar components, but maybe a slightly bigger SSD hard drive and an impulse purchase $499 price tag. You can get the Inspiron Mini 9 down to as low as $349 by opting for a smaller hard drive (4GB or 8GB), 512MB of RAM, an Ubuntu Linux OS, or knocking down the Webcam to a lower resolution option.

Or, add few bucks for the option internal Bluetooth antenna, which wasn't in our build (but is useful for tethering a cell phone for mobile broadband access). As an interesting note, the Mini 9 apparently includes an inactive internal mobile broadband antenna. According to Dell, it will be announcing the carrier and coverage details in the coming weeks.

Specification
  • Price as reviewed / Starting price $514/349
  • Processor Intel Atom 1.6GHz
  • Memory 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz
  • Hard drive 16GB SSD
  • Chipset Intel GMA950
  • Graphics Mobile Intel 945 Express Chipset (integrated)
  • Operating system Windows XP Home Edition SP2
  • Dimensions (width by depth) 9.1x6.8 inches
  • Thickness 1.25-1.1 inches
  • Screen size (diagonal) 8.9 inches
  • System weight / Weight with AC adapter 6.2/6.9 pounds
  • Category Netbook
In person, the Mini 9 is similar in design to Asus' 9 inch Eee PC. It's slightly thinner, at about 1.25 inches at the back, tapering slightly toward the front. Our system had a glossy black finish (which is very fingerprint prone), and white is also available. Interestingly, most of the leaked product shots we've seen up to now show a red model.

The challenge for any Netbook is to squeeze as much keyboard as possible into a very tiny space, and the Mini 9 does a good job with it. The Dell letter keys are larger than on the 9 inch Eee PC, but certain keys Tab, Caps Lock, and so on are reduced to small slivers. In addition, the entire function key row has been removed. F1 through F10 are now alternate keys of the A to L row.

It's an interesting compromise to get the most surface area for everyday typing, but makes some tasks, such as jumping between Web page fields with the Tab key, somewhat awkward. Opening the lid, the 8.9 inch 1,024x600 pixel screen shares space with a Webcam above and two small speaker grilles below. The display offers just enough space for displaying Web pages and Word documents, and we think the 9 inch size is the perfect fit for Netbooks, rather than the smaller 7 inch or larger 10 inch screens on other systems.

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