Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Review

Last year, the world of budget notebooks was turned on its head with the introduction of the ASUS Eee PC: A 2-pound laptop with a 7-inch screen and a starting price below $300. Prior to 2008, "budget notebooks" were bulky, overweight 15-inch laptops while "ultra-portable" notebooks commanded a premium price well above $1,000. In no time at all terms like "budget ultra-portable," "subnotebook," and "netbook" became part of the techno-geek vocabulary. Every notebook manufacturer on the planet (even some that you might not know) scrambled to create their own "netbooks" ... and Dell has finally joined the party.

The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is an 8.9" netbook with a $349 (Linux) or $399 (Windows XP) starting price and some impressive features. Dell was kind enough to supply us with a pre-production copy of the Inspiron Mini 9 so that we can conduct in-depth testing and let you know if this netbook really is "your new best friend" ... or just the weird kid you try to avoid on the bus.

Our pre-production Inspiron Mini 9 features the following specifications:

* 1.6GHz N270 Intel Atom Processor
* 1GB DDR2 533MHz (1 DIMM)
* Ubuntu 8.04 Linux with Custom Dell Interface (Includes Open Office)
* 8.9" 1024 x 600 WSVGA glossy LED backlit display
* 8GB miniPCI SSD card
* Intel GMA 950 Integrated Graphics
* 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
* 4-in-1 Media card reader
* 1.3 Megapixel webcam, Dell Video Chat application, Dell Support Center
* 4-Cell 32Wh Li-ion battery (14.8V)
* Size: 9.2" x 6.8" x 1.3" (including feet)
* Weight: 2lb 5.5oz (with 4-cell battery), 2lb 11.6oz (with battery and AC adapter)
* Price: $434 ($474 with Windows XP)

Build and Design

The design of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is quite similar to other netbooks we've seen in recent months. The exterior is covered in glossy plastics with smooth lines, rounded edges, and a style that looks like it's trying to strike a balance between "fun" and "functional." The look is pretty basic, almost like a miniature version of the Inspiron 1525 notebook. Glossy plastic is found on the top of the screen cover as well as around the entire LCD and palm rests. Matte black plastic is used on the base of the netbook and on the keyboard. Overall, the look is quite nice, but the glossy LCD lid is a magnet for fingerprints and makes the new netbook look a little tarnished after just a few minutes of use.

The build quality of the Mini 9 is amazingly solid for a subnotebook of this size and weight. The construction is mostly plastic but all of the plastics feel strong enough to handle being tossed around inside a bookbag. Even the glossy plastic surfaces seem to resist minor surface scratches. However, the most impressive build quality element in our pre-production unit was that the inside of the chassis is reinforced with magnesium alloy in at least one location (behind the keyboard and in front of the battery). This helps the Mini 9 withstand much more abuse than a typical all-plastic netbook.

In terms of upgradeability, the Mini 9 is much easier to upgrade than most netbooks currently on the market. Many of the netbooks we've seen to date require complex disassembly in order for you to get to the storage drive, system RAM, or wireless cards. Even worse, some other netbooks have slots for upgrades but no connections on the motherboard so it is impossible to upgrade them. This is not the case with the Mini 9. Dell engineers were wise enough to place all key upgradeable components in one area directly beneath a simple access panel that you can remove with a regular Phillips screwdriver after removing two screws. The Mini 9 uses standard notebook DDR2 RAM (800MHz underclocked to 533MHz), standard wireless mini cards, and a mini PCIe SSD card.

1 comment:

felaveso said...

Muito bom, eu tenho um e aprovo

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