Dell Mini 9 Unboxing and Review

So I got my much-anticipated Dell Mini 9 (Inspiron 910) last Friday (they’re on sale until early tomorrow morning, btw) and I’ve saved up a couple of days worth of testing notes to share. The first half of the post is unbox pr0n, so skip down if you don’t want to see the reveal.

FedEx box:
There's a Dell Mini 9 in there!

Creamy Dell center:
Opening the box

Holding it in my arms:
Holding the computer for the first time

Box laid bare:
Dell Mini 9 contents

I was struck by the fact that I got install/recovery CDs despite the lack of any kind of optical drive on the computer.

Funny enough, there’s actually burn/rip software included with the OS (Ubuntu 8.04 – Hardy Heron) if you wanted to hook up such a device, but why would you want to?

Me, I’m planning on using it for light blogging & social networking, some photo uploads (but not full-on picture management though it came with F-Spot and The Gimp), Skype and chat/IM.

The Review:

If you’ve skipped down this far to avoid the pictures (or maybe you like ruining Christmas morning and the end of mystery novels?) here’s the skinny: I love this machine.

For me, I wasn’t going to settle for a plastic computer, no matter how cheap it got. That meant I couldn’t get an ASUS Eee PC from Target or go the route of my mother-in-law and get an Acer Aspire One from Costco.

I knew I still wanted it to be cheap, so I was willing to accept/try Linux and avoid the Windows tax. Thus far Ubuntu has been as inviting and familiar as Windows is.

That came out wrong.

What I meant to say is that, for a Windows user, Ubuntu doesn’t seem foreign or “hard”. It just works and Dell’s launcher application that runs on startup is a really easy interface to jumping right in and “doing” something on the Dell Mini 9.

I’m running the standard Ubuntu interface now, which seems just as easy if you can understand that the taskbar is at the top (like a Mac) as opposed to the bottom.

If you want to see a video of the OS in action, DellVlog has it. You can also see the features of Ubuntu on their official site.

But I’m not here to talk about Ubuntu since there are plenty of other places that recap all the features, tools & community better.

I want to talk about the hardware – the netbook itself, the Dell Mini 9 – and how much fun I’ve had with it so far.

The good (for me):

  • It’s metal and it feels like a real piece of computing hardware; something a grown-up would use.
  • The trackpad is also metal (and part of the solid structure of the clamshell) and it isn’t overly sensitive.
  • The Dell name – at least for me – still carries a ton of value/weight. All my PCs (both work and home) have been Dells and I know their service and support systems.
  • Sound. It certainly wasn’t a big concern that I’d be listening to a ton of music or video, but the placement and power of the speakers really stands out.

The bad (for me):

  • It gets really hot. A fact exacerbated by the all-metal construction. But hey, no moving parts or fans, so at least it isn’t loud, in fact it’s silent.
  • The keyboard is cramped around the edges. Wanna type poetry like e e cummings – all lower case and munged together – you’re in luck! Wanna use the shift key (especially on the right side) or type any kind of quotation (single or double)? You’re gonna spend some time learning the layout and hunting/pecking for a while.
  • I’m not one to complain about aesthetics too much – and I like how shiny/sleek the inner and outer clamshell surfaces are – but the screen really needs an anti-glare coating. Outside on a sunny, Spring Friday it was almost completely unreadable. Indoors and at all the angles I’ve used, it’s fine.

The indifferent:

  • Battery life seems fine. Right around 3.5 to 4 hours on a full charge and using WiFi the whole time.
  • Dell’s webcam/video conferencing software. I installed Skype.

Here are some pretty pictures for making it this far:

My new Facebook profile picture, courtesy of cheese:

My new Facebook profile pic

My Desktop wallpaper, also courtesy of cheese:

The Family

Finally, a list of interesting/useful links related to this post:

Thanks for reading. If you’ve got a netbook or are in the market for one, leave a comment or feel free to ask a question.