My Dell Inspiron Mini 9

On January 1st, I decided to order a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook. I had been reading a lot about netbooks, and was in the market for something smaller to carry around. My aging Toshiba M200 Tablet PC is fairly small and light, but it’s still quite big compared to a netbook. I went on the Dell site, customized my order, and waited for my new netbook to arrive.

And waited, and waited.

After my original ship date of January 21st was delayed, I tried to be patient. When I called for an update mid-February, I learned that my order was going to be cancelled and re-entered because of a software conflict with Adobe. I told Dell to forget it, and I cancelled my order completely. I then hopped on the Future Shop site, and ordered the same computer (minus the integrated Bluetooth) for about $100 less. It arrived a week later.

My Mini 9 has the integrated webcam, is black, and runs Windows XP. I upgraded the RAM to 2 GB, and the hard drive to 32 GB (the Mini 9 uses an SSD). Even with the extra components and shipping, the total price was only about $500.

I’ve been using it for a little over a month now, and I really like it. In no particular order, these are my favorite things about it:

  • Small and light. The main reasons for getting a netbook, obviously!
  • Clean, solid design. So many netbooks have a big gap between the screen and keyboard, and that just drives me nuts. The Mini 9 is solid with smooth, rounded edges.
  • Quiet and cool. Partly because of the SSD, the Mini 9 doesn’t have a fan. It runs extremely cool, and never makes any noise.
  • It’s fast! Resume from standby, boot up, shutdown, etc. are all fairly quick. The only slowness is from some applications that don’t work well with SSDs, such as Outlook.

Nothing is perfect – here are the things I don’t like about it:

  • The battery life is pretty good at about four hours, but I wish it were much longer.
  • The keyboard is small and hard to get used to. I still have to hunt for the quote key, located at the very bottom. I often close windows by accident when I try to type an exclamation point and hit the Esc key instead. There are no F11 or F12 keys or functions. If I could redesign the keyboard, I’d get rid of CAPS Lock and the context-menu button, would move the quote key to it’s proper place, and would give the right Shift key more space.
  • There are two LEDs on the front, one with the power icon and one with a battery with a lightning bolt in it. The battery light only comes on when the device is dangerously low on power…I’d rather it lit up when the battery was recharging too.
  • It has an external display port, but the resolution it outputs is pretty weak.

Overall, I’m quite happy with my Mini 9. It was relatively inexpensive, comes with me almost everywhere, and works perfectly for surfing, checking email, blogging, and Twittering.

Netbooks are trendy

dell inspiron mini What kind of computer do you use? Most of my work is done at a desktop or workstation; a tower attached to three monitors. The rest of the time I’m using either my laptop or tablet. I’ve also got a little Sony UMPC but it doesn’t get used much. It was kinda cool for a while, but it’s not all that fast. And once I got my iPod touch, that pretty much fulfilled my small device needs.

My favorite to use is probably my tablet, even though it’s the slowest of the bunch. I think I like it mostly because of the form factor – it’s pretty small for a laptop (at 12 inches) but large enough that I don’t sacrifice a keyboard or full operating system.

A couple years from now though, my tablet might seem rather large thanks to the netbook trend. What’s a netbook? From Wikipedia:

A netbook is a small to medium sized, light-weight, low-cost, energy-efficient laptop, generally optimized for internet based services such as web browsing and e-mailing. Netbooks are also sometimes, but rarely referred to as a sub-subnotebook.

The form factor of a netbook is smaller than that of a notebook and they are very light in weight (usually 2 to 3 pounds). Common features include a small screen (usually around 7-inches to 10-inches diagonal), wireless connectivity, but no optical disc drive, and a smaller sized keyboard (usually 80 percent to 95 percent of normal size). There is also a trend of using solid-state drives instead of traditional hard disk drives.

Maybe it’s just me, but every second article on technology these days seems to mention netbooks! The blogosphere made a big deal this week out of the fact that Windows boss Steven Sinofsky demonstrated Windows 7 running on a netbook. And today, PC World declares that netbooks will soon cost just $99:

Subnotebooks like the Asus Eee PC, the Dell Mini 9 and the HP 2133 Mini-note will soon cost as little as $99. The catch? You’ll need to commit to a two-year mobile broadband contract. The low cost will come courtesy of a subsidy identical to the one you already get with your cell phone.

A monthly service fee for mobile broadband doesn’t appeal to me at all, but a $99 netbook certainly does. Heck, I’m already tempted by the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 (pictured above) and it’s nearly $500! If the cost of components fell enough so that a netbook was about half that price, I’d have no hesitations about picking one up and I doubt anyone else would either.

Netbooks are definitely trendy, but I think this is one trend that will last. A small device to check email, read and post blogs, and update Twitter is something that appeals to lots of people. Okay maybe not that last part 🙂