First thoughts on Dell Mini 9

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I just had to have a netbook, the question was which one?  I very nearly bought the Advent 4211 which was recommended by a range of teachers, blogs and computer magazines.

In the end I decided I wanted a netbook with built in 3G, since the relative size of a USB dongle to a netbook is huge!  I bought myself a Dell Mini 9 off EBay, with the internal HSDPA card.  My 3G sim card inserted into a slot behind the battery and after replacing the Vodafone software with Dell’s Wireless manager software I was in business.

I have tried XP and Ubuntu on my netbook since I got it, and found advantages and disadvantages of both.

Ubuntu

Advantages:

  • Machine feels more responsive and pauses less
  • Easier to install – boot from CD and then install the extras (which include codec’s like DIVX).  Takes minutes
  • Interface seems to better suit a small screen
  • Uses up hardly any space on the tiny SSD (well under 3Gb)

Disadvantages

  • Couldn’t get Ubuntu to recognise my Dell 5530 HSDPA card
  • Having to get used to using Open Office to write documents
  • In fact having to get used to a suite of new software
  • How to sync the netbook with my windows PCs at home and at school.

Windows XP

Advantages

  • Familiar windows interface
  • Use software you have already (I have 3 license packs for Office/antivirus)
  • Easier to sync with PCs using software I am familiar with (I’m using Microsoft Mesh at the moment)
  • The internal HSDPA card works fine with the Dell software

Disadvantages

  • Takes an age to install and update (if you find yourself in this position)
  • Takes up lots of space and you have to delete update files to make space on the tiny hard drive.
  • Runs slower and you have to be prepared for the not so infrequent pauses.

I upgraded the internal ram to 2Gb (just over £20 from Crucial) which made a small difference in speed, and it allowed me to turn off the swap file, saving space.  I also moved some of the hidden office files to my 8Gb card in the external SD slot, saving more space on the internal drive. 

How am I finding it so far?  I love having the 3G broadband which gives me a totally unrestricted internet connection at work, as well as on the move (e.g. when I visit other schools).  The keyboard takes a bit of getting used to though.  Not only are the keys smaller, but the full stop, right shift and enter keys are smaller than on my other machines causing many dodgy key presses.  I’m starting to get used to having to use the Fn key to access function keys and page up/down and find myself trying to do this on my other machines too!

Would I recommend a Dell Mini 9?  As one of only 2 machines on the market with internal HSDPA, if you want internal 3G broadband then it’s a must!  If you just want a netbook to run windows (or Linux) you might be better off with a different machine with more storage and a better keyboard.

Will I be keeping my Dell Mini 9?  You bet I will!

 

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Pictures show my Dell Mini 9 sat on top of my Dell Latitude D531 laptop (school issued) and my Dell Mini 9 sat on top of the Belkin neoprene sleeve I use to carry it in.