Computer? But I hardly knew ‘er: A mini review of a mini Dell inspiron

“Well, the good news sir” so the Dell phone rep tells me “I see here you have 364 days remaining on your 1 year warranty”. 24hrs after delivery, my brand new micro mini subnotebook is cold and refusing to boot. This after blue screening of death on me 5 min in to an important client presentation. Ah well, these things happen. In which we learn, the importance power point in every meeting is often overstated.

My little Dell Inspiron Mini, your candle burned too bright. You gave me about 45 combined minutes of Windows XP before intermittently, then completely dying out. I blame the solid state drive (these early days of SSDs, not so solid) the tech thought it was the network card, but whatever. The unit is winging it’s way home to Dell for a new one. Apparently I am not the first to have problems. Could also explain why the backorder on inpiron 9’s is at least two weeks (One theory: Intel Atom shortages, another: a lot of the units don’t work right).

Anyway, since a lot of folks have asked, here’s my abbreviated review of an abbreviated mini…

First up, it really is small. It arrives in a box that seems impossible to have a whole computer in it. It’s beautifully portable, it fits in the most unlikely compartments of your bag. It’s really light as well, and even the charger is barely bulkier than a cell phone charger. Cool. Half the size of a macbook (and half the price too!)

The downside to it’s size is the keyboard. Typing will take some practice. My hands actually hang off the sides of the keyboard if I hold them normally.

Subnotes are designed to be cheap and cheerful. NOT a replacement for your main computer or laptop. But a handy and inobtrusive “net top” device for your webapps, gmail and document access on the go. In terms of utility, think of it as halfway (three quarters) between a blackberry and macbook.

Cheap it certainly is, throwing every upgrade at it Dell would offer, it was hard to get the pricetag above about $550. Mine has 1GB of RAM (really the bare minimum these days) in what I believe is one DIMM slot. I am somewhat optimistic I could one day upgrade to a 2GB stick, but I didn’t want to take any screws out and check before sending the machine back.

Items to keep in mind: The 1.6GHz atom is just fast enough for typical light usage, I think. It didn’t feel overly slow in the brief time I had to play with the machine. Thank god the things don’t attempt to run Vista.

The screen is crisp and bright. Pixel density is tight which I like, but those with older eyes may find it squinty. The viewing agle of the lcd is not great, but not worse than expected for inexpensive components. The narrow vertical resolution (1024×600) is less an issue than I feared. 1024 is wide enough for the web, and there are a collection of ways to crunch down the chrome and toolbars on firefox to free-up screen space if you google it.

Aesthetically, the machine is nice enough looking. I do hate the Dell logo (Attn Dell, the 90s are gone pls rebrand) but what can you do. Note the black version is a ridiculous fingerprint collector. Nonetheless, the unit is fun to carry around. Mini notes are still new and novel enough that everyone wants to take a look at it.

The mini’s biggest weakness (same goes all micronotes in Canada actually as of this writing) is that neither Dell nor any of the carriers have their brains screwed on tight enough yet to realize that every one of these should be sold with a built-in mobile broadband. At present, you’ll have to make due with wifi or a usb 3G stick.

Would I recommend the thing? Maybe? Would be nice to try one that works. If you’re buying, warranty upgrades.

link: Product Page for the Inspiron Mini 9 on Dell.ca

  • DELL! OMG! U BOUGHT A DELL! ha well I guess thats ok, at least it wasn’t a Compaq. Nice review on the comp. Thanks.

  • DELL! OMG! U BOUGHT A DELL! ha well I guess thats ok, at least it wasn’t a Compaq. Nice review on the comp. Thanks.