You may have read The Average Windows Nerd’s recent review of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook, however I thought I’d write-up a quick review of my opinion of this while I could and to outline what I’m planning on doing with it!
Of the netbooks that I’ve had the chance to look at and use in the past, I would say the first thing that strikes you is the build quality of Dell’s offering – it’s certainly a sturdy piece of hardware which has been designed quite well…at least externally, when it features a rounded corners and a cool looking shiny finish – although as with anything like this, it’s an absolute fingerprint magnet.
When opened up, I felt the internal design was somewhat lacking, due to the size of the screen, there seemed to be a rather large amount of space around it which made the screen seem even smaller, but I suppose that goes with the territory of an 8.9″ netbook. However, what perhaps stands out even more is the plastic surround that goes around the actual keyboard, which means that Dell have not used all the space they could have to provide as larger keyboard that they could have – but anyway, I’ll come back to this later!
Upon starting this Dell Mini 9 netbook up and once it’s booted to Windows XP, what strikes you then is how sluggish it feels to actually use – even once you’ve removed the usual pre-installed and (unnecessary) software that you almost expect to find on new computers these days, this Dell netbook is slow in operation, or at least seems like it!
I persevered with it and tried to remove further unnecessary software, installing a faster internet browser in the form of both Firefox and the Google Chrome browser and streamline it further by tweaking various Windows XP options that I know would normally help a Windows XP installation, The Average Windows Nerd even uncompressed the 8GB solid state disk (SSD) hard drive – no doubt it was compressed due to the relatively small amount of storage on offer from the SSD.
When the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 was first released, it was the first netbook to feature a built-in SIM slot, which means that you can place your mobile broadband sim card in a slot near the battery and it will save you the hassle of having to keep plugging a USB mobile broadband dongle into your netbook each time you want to use it – however, that also limits your usage somewhat, if like me you have a separate laptop as well. However, when in an area with decent signal strength, the integrated mobile internet functions of this netbook worked well and was quite impressed by having this facilty built-in and always available.
Once this Dell netbook had been uncompressed, some programs removed, Google Chrome installed, it did run somewhat better, however it still seemed somewhat slow, or am I just used to using faster more state-of-the-art processors in computers now? I don’t think that’s the real problem here though.
In general operation, due to the small-sized keyboard and some strangely postitioned keys to make up for that fact everything has to be squashed in, simply writing documents or emails using this Dell netbook can get somewhat frustrating – at least for someone like me with fairly large fingers – I swear that I can type faster on my iPhone than on this small keyboard. I think you almost need to be female and have small “lady hands” to use this netbook keyboard! 😉
Admittedly, this is Dell’s first attempt at a netbook and I’ve not had chance to test out their newer netbooks since they’ve been released, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend using the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 in it’s current form for any real length of time…which brings me to the real point of this review…given that you can now install the Windows 7 RC download and get nearly a year’s usage out of it for free, I’m going to try installing it onto this netbook and see how it compares to Windows XP that comes pre-installed on it.
I’ve heard some good things of Windows 7 RC running on low-end machines such as netbooks, so we’ll see if it can possibly help the performance of this Dell Inspiron Mini 9.
Overall, in its current Windows XP form, I’d say this netbook is useful – as in being able to carry a small computer around with you to use, but not perfect which could make extended periods of use feel frustrating.