UNH CIS Signals

The Mighty Mini 9

Katherine Derby

December, 2008

Dell Mini 9Dell introduced the Mini 9 to their successful lineup of Inspiron computers in September. This “netbook” computer weighs in at just over 2 pounds and features a 9-inch screen, making it a small and portable computer solution.

The Mini 9 I tested featured a 1.60GHz Atom processor, 1 GB RAM, and a 16 GB solid-state hard drive. It also featured a built-in webcam and Bluetooth technology. Despite the small package, it comes equipped with 3 USB ports, a VGA out jack, an Ethernet port, a 4-in-1 media card reader, and headphone/microphone jacks. It does not have a CD/DVD drive. The Mini runs Linux or Windows XP Home (the test model featured XP Home with Office 2007). It does not, however, support Vista or heftier versions of Windows XP, immediately putting its operating system under the UNH ‘Not Supported’ category.

The unit’s size is the first thing that grabs you; small is an understatement. The 9-inch screen (hence the name Mini 9) initially looks tiny, but becomes less of an issue the more it is viewed. Those who remember the old Tandy or Mac screens from the 80’s will feel instantly nostalgic, except the old monochrome screen has been replaced with a clear, full color, glossy display with 1024 x 600 resolution. Regardless of its slight build, the unit feels solid and capable of being tossed around in a backpack, although a durability test was not conducted.

Overall CPU performance was good during the test. I was able to open multiple applications without any crashes. Dell states the battery will last approximately four hours. I was able to get a solid three and a half hours of heavy use in a single charge, making the Mini a great note-taking tool in a class or meeting, or to use during Powerpoint presentations.

The small package does not come without a challenge. To fit everything, Dell had to get creative with the keyboard. While it is true you can type faster on the Mini than a blackberry or iPhone/iTouch, it’s an adjustment, especially to those who do not look at the keys when they type. It takes time to get used to the non-standard layout. I never realized how many contractions I use until testing the Mini. Instead of the standard apostrophe key location, the ENTER key is in its place. As a result, the notes from my first meeting were strange. I was able to adapt well enough to write the first draft of this article by the end of the one-week test period.

While the Mini is a fantastic solution for students and travelers who take lengthy notes, it will never replace larger laptops or desktops. A netbook is, however, a fantastic alternative for those craving an ultra-portable design.

The Mini is currently for sale at the UNH Computer Store. For more information, visit the UNH Computer Store in the MUB (Level 2 East), go to computerstore.unh.edu or call 862-1328.