Dell Inspiron Mini 9
Discriminates against apostrophes.
- Silent operation, very small and light, solid-state drive
- Apostrophe key is in the wrong place, uncomfortable to type on, tends to get warm, screen has poor vertical viewing angle
While we love the size and weight of this netbook, its keyboard is very hard to type on due to the non-standard key layout.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
Weighing only slightly more than 1kg, and measuring only 23.2cm wide and 17cm deep, the 8.9in Inspiron Mini 9 ultraportable "netbook" sure is small. Its dimensions and weight are perfect for travellers and commuters who don't want to lug around anything larger than an exercise book. However, while its dimensions are perfect, its user-friendliness definitely isn't.
It's a solidly built unit and it looks quite good, but its keyboard is the most awkward we've seen on a netbook device — not only because it's cramped to type on, but also because the layout of the keys isn't standard.
Faced with the prospect of implementing a full-sized keyboard in 22cm, Dell has had to move the apostrophe key down to the last row of keys, as there was no space for it next to the Enter key. As you can see, we've used the apostrophe key six times in the last two paragraphs alone, and there would be no way in hell that we would have been able to do that on the Mini 9 without hurling it out onto the road and waiting for a big rig to bear down on it. There's also no room for dedicated function keys on the Mini 9, so they are the secondary function on the middle row of keys. What's befuddling is that F11 and F12 have been hung out to dry.
Now that we've got the bad stuff out of the way early, we can focus on the good stuff. What we love about the Mini 9 is that it's completely silent. It uses a solid-state drive (SSD) rather than a conventional spinning hard drive, and if it has a cooling fan located anywhere near its Atom CPU we certainly couldn't hear it. The SSD is only 16GB in size, which is the same as Acer's Aspire One ZG5 (Linux) and 4GB larger than ASUS's Eee PC 901. It runs Windows XP, so you can easily install applications on it (as long as you download them or plug in an external optical drive, for example), but you'll quickly run out of space if you do so.
If you want to install more applications, only install the most essential ones. The Mini 9 isn't designed to store a lot of stuff; it's mainly for browsing the Web, communicating online, typing up documents, listening to music and watching a movie now and then. You won't want to use it for any multimedia creation or other taxing tasks. Its 1.6GHz Atom CPU is HyperThreaded, so it can run two applications at the same time (such a Web browser and an MP3 player) without bringing the whole system to halt, but it doesn't have enough power to be effective at anything more than that. For example, it took 8min 59sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. This is about 11sec slower than the ASUS Eee PC 901, and 24sec slower than the MSI Wind U100. Its SSD transfer rate was also on the slow side; it recorded an average transfer rate of 3.23 megabytes per second.
Along with the Atom CPU, the Mini 9 has 1GB of RAM, which sits in the system's sole RAM slot. The RAM slot is accessible by removing the bottom access panel, and this also exposes the SSD and the wireless adapter. There is a space next to the wireless adapter, which is possibly where a 3G module will fit in the future.
Dell ships the Mini 9 with a 4-cell battery that sits flush along the spine of the laptop. It lasted 2hr 23min in our tests; this is slightly better than the Acer Aspire One ZG5 (Linux), which has similar specs but runs on Linux. This is enough juice to let you watch a couple of TV shows while you commute, and will still let you do some work afterwards.
One thing that was noticeable during prolonged testing of the unit was that it got quite warm. When left on for a few hours and used sporadically to browse the Web and type documents the base got uncomfortably warm, and heat also travelled up through the keyboard. It wasn't as much heat as the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC (FH441PA) (which has a spinning hard drive and 2GB of RAM), but it was still enough to put us off.
For connectivity, the Mini 9 ships with three USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port, 802.11g wireless networking, a D-Sub port and an SD memory card slot, so it's well-equipped for basic tasks. You also get a built-in webcam and headphone and microphone ports.
Its 8.9in screen is easy to view in most circumstances, but its vertical viewing angle is very limited. The optimal viewing angle is from directly in front of the unit with the screen tilted back as far as it will go. When the screen is up its hinge places it directly behind the battery, so a larger 6-cell battery will have to protrude downward instead of rearward.
We like the touchpad, which is a good size (around 3.5x6.5cm), but you'll want to disable the 'draglock' feature in the control panel, which can make it very difficult to navigate and can cause unnecessary dragging of windows and selection of text. The touchpad's buttons are very soft and they don't make a clicking noise, so they are perfect for use in quiet environments.
All up, the best things about the Mini 9 are its size and practically silent operation. Its specifications are similar to offerings from Acer and ASUS. If its keyboard didn't have a misplaced apostrophe key, which makes typing a chore, then we'd give it a higher score.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Lexar® Portable SSD
Acer Swift 7
Google Daydream VR headset
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Huawei Mate 9
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Surface Pro 4
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Dell XPS 13 laptop
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- Everything we think we know about Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3
- Lenovo's ThinkPad P71 will work with HTC, Oculus VR headsets
- Lenovo's Yoga A12 Android 2-in-1 has futuristic touch panel keyboard
- In PC comeback, ARM will battle Intel in Chromebooks and Windows 10
- Dell: Mainstream laptops with wireless charging are still years away
GGG Evaluation Team
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
- How to quit Pokemon Go (or to start enjoying it again)
- Japan's pop culture, anime-friendly, J-Pop shrine, Kanda Myojin
- The top 10 best and worst tech gadgets and products of 2016
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTFull Stack Web Developer .NET or JAVANSW
- CCTechnical Consultant - ITSM/HP Service ManagerVIC
- FTDevops EngineerVIC
- FTInfrastructure Architect (Adelaide Based)VIC
- FTMicrosoft ConsultantVIC
- CCIT Procurement OfficerNSW
- FTTechnical Consultant MS Dynamics AXWA
- TPTechnical ConsultantNSW
- CCSenior Technical SpecialistNSW
- CCERP Business Analyst (Time Capture/ Management) - Contract - Sydney CBDNSW
- FTPython DeveloperNSW
- TPMicrosoft Analyst ProgrammerSA
- TPBusiness Analyst AO7QLD
- CCFront End DeveloperNSW
- TPVB6 DeveloperVIC
- TPFunctional Business AnalystQLD
- CCProject Manager - Adelaide basedNSW
- CCCloud Security Solutions Architect - Finance - Contract - Sydney CBDNSW
- TPTechnical Support Resource-Skype for BusinessVIC
- CCPMO ManagerNSW
- FTDynamics AX Functional Consultant (Sales & Marketing Modules)ACT
- CCIntegration DeveloperNSW
- TPTechnical WriterVIC
- CCUser ResearcherNSW
- CCTelecommunication Operations SpecialistTAS