Monday, March 23, 2009

Dell Mini 9 Quick Review

When Leah and I arrived in the UK, we didn't have a laptop. This made it quite hard to apply for jobs, so one of the first things we did was order one.

Our requirements were fairly simple. I didn't want to get a full-blown beast with Vista etc because Windows 7 is just around the corner, and Vista is sometimes painful to use (the observant reader will recall I have had a good experience with Windows 7). I also didn't want a desktop because we're not planning to be too settled over here, and we don't want to have to lug it around.

That pretty much left netbooks, and it just so happened that Dell had a special on. We bought the model with an 8GB SSD and 1GB RAM with Ubuntu for £189, which was £70 off. It took its sweet time arriving, but eventually a shiny new Dell Mini arrived in the mail. You can check out the unboxing pics.

The first thing you notice about the Mini is not the size -- you expect it to be small. The first thing you notice is that it's completely silent. It doesn't have any fans, and the silence is lovely.

After using it for a while, the next thing you notice is how cramped the keyboard is. The keys on it are really close together, and while the alphabet characters are ok, the punctuation keys really suffer. The apostrophe key is right next to enter, and when I go for it I often get enter instead. This makes me look really stupid on Skype. The 10" model probably won't suffer from such problems (the HP Mini has a keyboard that's 92% the size of a normal one), and eventually you do get used to it. It means though that when you use a regular sized keyboard it feels giant.

The Mini comes with a Dell custom launcher that gives you easy access to common apps. I turned it off fairly quickly; there was plenty of razzle dazzle in it, and it looks ok, but I'm quite happy with the default layout. I might turn it on again once I've finished exploring and I know which apps I normally use.

The battery life is meant to be pretty phenomenal; Ubuntu is estimating I have 4h of battery time remaining on a full charge. I'm using the wireless connection, but just surfing the web (no video or anything). So far it looks accurate.

The one really annoying thing was the trackpad. It has tap to click enabled by default, and if you don't know the magic to disable it after you press a key, you end up accidentally clicking when you go for the space bar. You can disable tap to click temporarily by using syndaemon.

Other than that, there's nothing really wrong with this netbook. It supposedly comes with a slot for a SIM card, so I'm going to pop the battery out and check if mine has one. If it does -- internet anywhere, baby!


Anonymous said...

Did they leave the Enter key off the Dell Mini 9!?

Anonymous said...

This makes me look really stupid on Skype.

Don't worry. I regularly look stupid on Skype too :)

Stuart said...

Did they leave the Enter key off the Dell Mini 9!?
Erm, I just noticed that all of my posts don't seem to have line endings any more. I'll look into it...

Stuart said...

Fixed now. I must have accidentally flipped the Convert line endings option.