Test Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Notebook
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Since the launch of the Eee PC from Asus, the run of compact and affordable Netbooks continues. While many manufacturers initially distanced themselves from this trend, today a famous notebook brand can hardly afford to abstain from this segment. Even the Irish Dell manufacturer therefore brought an ultra-compact notebook to the market. The name: Dell Inspiron Mini 9.
Until recently, the Inspiron Mini 9 was the only classic netbook in Dell's portfolio. More recently, though, the Inspiron Mini 12 was introduced, which, as the name suggests, is equipped with a 12 inch display and therefore not actually a member of the netbooks category, anymore. The Inspiron Mini 9 possesses, with an 8.9 inch diplay with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels, the currently most widely distributed display solution with notebooks, which allows for both an adequately large desktop for the use of familiar operating systems as well as an extremely compact design of the machine.
The Dell Inspirion Mini 9 comes in an extremely compact and solid chassis. In spite of the small form factors, it remains absolutely true to the classic notebook form. In terms of color, the Mini 9 is produced with silver and black surfaces. The visual highpoint is the high-gloss finish of the display cover, which is also described as "piano-lacquer finish."
While the Dell Mini 9 certainly profits from its appearance, a few drawbacks for practical use arise that are not negligible. Fingerprints accumulate quickly on the display cover, but fortunately are relatively easy to wash off again. Somewhat more problematic, however, is permanent wear and tear, for example subtle scrapes and stress marks, which collect immediately and without fail during the use of an intensively mobile netbook like the Mini 9. The danger of such wear and tear is much more present with a compact netbook, since they fit easily in nearly any possible container, and don't come with their own carrying cases.
In this regard, a second risk factor must be mentioned. The display is held in its closed state only by the tension of the hinges. There is no latching system to fix the display in place. When one pushes the notebook the the front of side edges into a backpack or other bag, foreign bodies, including any number of office utensils, could get into the space between the display and keyboard and cause damage to the device: a point that one should absolutely pay attention to during transportation. An adequate protective cover would fit well into Dell's product line.
Nonetheless, the compact pipsqueak offers a very robust case, which allows for somewhat careless handling of the netbook without having to put up with excessive deformations or creaking noises. The Inspiron Mini 9 may in good conscience be grasped by the display cover - optimal with an ultra-mobile netbook.
Both of the generously dimensioned hinges allow light play with with flyweight display in the 8.9 inch format. This remains in position with absolutely no teetering and can nevertheless be moved within the opened angle with little expendeture of force. At least inside of the possible area. Unfortunately, because of the position of the hinges, the opening angle of the display is restricted to 135°. In most situations, though, this always suffices, nevertheless, we came across situations during mobile application in the test when we would have gladly opened the panel a few degrees farther to produce a better picture.
Whether the port configuration of the netbook is sufficient is certainly debatable. Nevertheless, it is a fact that these mini-PCs are primarily intended to allow for the use of basic office functions and WLAN communications (internet, mail), which is clear from the name "net-book."
One extremely important factor in the sale price on the current netbook market is the discipline of a manufacturer to include connections for only the most important features. To this end, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 comes equipped with a 3.5mm stereo connection for headphones and a microphone, a LAN connection for wired network communications, an analogue VGA connection to connect an external monitor or projector, and 3 USB 2.0 ports.
In the VGA port test, the Samsung SyncMaster 900NF connected through the port delivered a thoroughly good picture at a resolution of 1280x1024 pixels. With higher resolutions, however, a decrease in the sharpness of the picture is observable.
One should keep in mind that Apple equipped its high-performance prestige device, MacBook Pro, with only two USB ports, and found it sufficient to equip the Air with only one USB port, so one could almost describe the port configuration of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 as generous. In any case, the provided ports fulfill all the purposes of a netbook. That a docking port would be helpful every once in a while is clear, but this would hardly be practical both because of price considerations as well as the Inspiron Mini's compact dimensions.
In terms of communications, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 offers a 10/100 ethernet connection from Realtek (RTL8102E Family PCI0E Fast Ethernet) as well as an integrated WLAN module from Broadcom (802.11 b/g). A unique Bluetooth 2.0 module is integrated into the notebook. This can be of great use, especially for communication with a cell phone or PDA.
Another thing that would be an advantage for the Dell Mini 9 in the realm of professional communication: wireless broadband internet, that is, UMTS/HSDPA. That this option is currently not offered is astounding, above all because there is a obviously a sim card input around the battery slot, and there is also an empty space around the internal slots with the label WWAN.
For the time being, Dell offers the Inspiron Mini in the UK and France in combination with a Vodafone contract, with which the netbook can be obtained practically for free with the appropriate contract, after the fashion of cell phones. In Germany as well this could soon be the case.
The Inspiron Minis that are currently obtainable are still, however, not fitted with the appropriate antennae or the contacts for a sim card.
In addition, the Inspiron Mini 9 possesses a webcam integrated into the display frame with a resolution of 1.3 megapixels. In the test, this still delivered at a video resolution of 640x480 pixels a reasonably passable reaction rate for undemanding video transfer. The Dell Webcam Central Tool that is included is thoroughly helpful here.
In the test, we have lacked for the most part an optical drive. The Inspiron Mini would be suited optimally as a mobile entertainer on a train or an airplane. For video playback the only possibility that remains is to store the videos as files on the device and to play them back directly from the hard drive, or to attach an external optical drive to the notebook.
For an operating system, the unit comes with Windows XP, or, alternatively, a version with Ubuntu Linux is also offered. The standard warranty contains 12 months of pick-up and return service, and an extension to 2 years with a price increase of 37.- euros. This option should be considered well, since conceivably a cost estimate for a possible repair will certainly exceed this price.
Current cell phones, above all the iPhone and various pocket PCs, show that modern PC can already be shrunk down to an absolute minimum. In addition to readability and the viewability in general on the display in question, the input devices also should be noted as a limiting factor. While PDAs and small tablet PCs bypass this problem through the fusion of the display and the keyboard, the current netbooks still rely on traditional full-fledged keyboard, which should allow for the quick input of text.
With a case width of not more than 232 millimeters, there isn't much space left for the individual keys. This results in extremely small numeral keys measuring 13x14 millimeters, whereas the cursor keys and the umlauts on the German-speaking keyboard were further shrunk down to no more than 11 millimeters wide. What is especially distressing is the right shift key, which can barely be struck without hitting other keys while typing with ten fingers.
If one is not blessed with extremely slender and delicate hands, he will have to forgo the 10-finger typing system. In the end, only actual practice will help each individual user.
Be that as it may, as long as one does not want to compose entire books on his Dell Inspiron Mini, the provided keyboard should be sufficient.
Larger and more user-friendly keys would necessarily mean an enlargement of the entire case, which would bring us again to the larger Dell Inspiron Mini 12 or the entire 12" subnotebook lineup.
The touchpad, like the keyboard, also seems relatively small, nevertheless, the cursor can be navigated across the display with relatively few problems. Above all, the rough surface allows for good gliding navigation and impressed us positively.
Both of the touchpad buttons offer qualities typical of Dell: a good depression depth and a barely audible, mild clicking noise.
The Dell Inspiron Mini 910 uses the usual netbook format with an 8.9 inch display and a resolution of 1024x600 pixels. The width of the screen under this format is sufficient, and it can serve well for the most common uses. A multitude of websites are still optimized for a screen width of 1024 pixels.
The screen height of a mere 600 pixels, however, is considerably more restrictive. It makes frequent scrolling necessary in nearly all situations, which is actually pretty easy to manage with the scroll bar on the right edge of the touchpad.
In the illumination strength test, the installed LED display produced an excellent measure of brightness of at least 241 cd/m² in the central area of the display. Since the loss of brightness in the corners of the screen also stays within good boundaries (208 cd/m² in the lower right corner), a good result of 86.3% with regards to the illumination level can be reported.
The black value appears comparatively high, measuring at 1.3 cd/m². With this value, the netbook can produce a maximum possible contrast ratio of 185:1.
Unfortunately, using the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 out of doors can also be extremely problematic. The mirrored glare display produces extremely strong reflections and makes a reasonable application in the field in brightly lit surroundings next to impossible. This is one of the most severe points of criticism for the Dell Inspiron Mini and stand in direct conflict with the otherwise superb mobility of the netbook.
Both the horizontally and vertically, the viewing angle stability of the Inspiron Mini can be described as sufficient. Along both of the visual axes, nevertheless, picture distortion can occur, especially at flat viewing angles. Horizontally, the reflections that emerge with a flattening of the viewing angles are especially disturbing, even in an indoor environment of only moderate brightness.
Video of the viewing area of the display
In a discussion about a netbook, the point of performance should also be brought up. What measure of performance resources should a notebook of this type actually have? For what kind of use is a netbook designed?
A glance at the specifications of the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 immediately answers these questions. Equipped with an Intel Atom processor with 1.6 GHz (512 KB L2 cache, 533 MHz FSB) and an integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics chip, the netbook is obviously trimmed to allow for the lowest possible energy consumption.
Nevertheless, the Atom CPU delivers adequate performance to be able to run the most common operating systems, like Windows XP. Additionally, Aside from the fact that, in part, the load times take getting used to, while starting programs, for example, the performance of the Inspiron Mini running Win XP can be described as thoroughly satisfactory. The 1 gigabyte of DDR2 PC6400 working memory certainly does its part to help in this regard.
While Intel limits the working memory configuration in netbooks to one gigabyte, an upgrade to 2GB is also not supported on Dell's side. Nevertheless, installing a 2GB stick is thoroughly possible, but its negative affects with regard to warming and batter life should also be taken into account. The theoretical advantage of an upgrade, aside from a somewhat shorter boot time, would be limited, according to Dell.
Although the Inspiron Mini was also subjected to a series of benchmark tests, the results were rather sub-par. Most important for the user is that the notebook's performance is sufficient to run basic office functions. Thanks to the VGA port, the Inspiron Mini is also adapted for mobile presentations, so long as the complexity and the size of the presentation are within certain limits.
Playing older, undemanding computer games is with the Inspiron Mini 9 thoroughly possible. This may indeed sound somewhat peculiar, but old gaming classics like, for example, Sim City 3000 or various other jump and run games on the appropriate emulators pose no problem for the netbook, and they can make the occasional period of downtime pass much more quickly.
A 16GB solid state drive serves as the mass storage device, and in the test it showed, via HDTune, a good access time performance typical of SSD of only 0.4 milliseconds and convincing read rates of up to 70-80 MB/sec. A considerable weakness of this particular SSD could also be identified, however - the write rate. HDTune displayed a value of around merely 10 MB/sec concerning this matter, a bottleneck that consistently makes it self unpleasantly noticeable particularly while working with large amounts of data. It deals here with a problem that many current netbooks struggle with. Presumably, the reason for this may be presumably financial boundaries involved in the choice of the respective memory chips and controllers for the installed SSDs.
One can get by thoroughly well with the gross capacity of 16GB, depending on the intended use. Videos or MP3s could also be stored alternatively on an external SD card, and the integrated SD card reader could be used as a sort of auxiliary drive. Appropriate data carriers with around 4GB can be obtained at this time already for less than 10.- Euros.
Also, using a USB stick as a storage expansion would be conceivable. With this, the capacity limits already reach up to 64GB.
In the American region, the Inspiron Mini 9 is also optionally available with 4 as well as 8GB. Although this pushes the price of the laptops even lower, it could quickly backfire with standard use.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||2968 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||641 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||1418 points|
|Rendering Single 32Bit||544 Points|
|Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit||821 Points|
|Shading 32Bit||249 Points|
In a notebook without mechanical, moving parts, one can only speak ill about loudness. The Inspiron Mini 9 expels its heat exclusively through the case, thereby eliminating a bothersome fan noise entirely. And since the mass storage device is set on a solid state drive, the data carrier is also eliminated as an emission source. Every now and then in the test, only a quiet and barely perceptible buzz could be heard coming from the back right corner of the base unit.
0 / 28.5 / 0 dB(A)
||28.5 / 0 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
Since the cooling system puts up with a high amount of case warming so that it can do without a fan, the high measurements, particularly on the underside of the base unit, are not very surprising. Here, a maximum of up to 43 °C could be measured, which makes the case feel very warm, subjectively, but would rarely if ever be reached during normal use.
Top side of the base unit heats up only marginally from less demanding office-related functions. In this context, the maximum heat values under high performance move to about 39.0 °C.
The Inspiron Mini 9's speakers are located in the lower region of the display and therefore produce sound directly in the direction of the user. Although they deliver only thin and bassless sound with a moderate maximum volume, this is nevertheless thoroughly acceptable and sufficient for a netbook in this price category. Normally, headphones will presumably be used, anyway, and can be attached to the device through the 3.5mm adio port. In the test, this port delivered flawless sound.
The extremely low minumum power consumption, which is no more than 6.7W at maximum energy saving setting, allows one to hope for a reasonable battery life for the Inspiron Mini 9.
As a mattery of fact, in the maximum battery life test, the BatteryEater Readers Test (minimum brightness, energy saver profile, WLAN and Bluetooth deactivated), the netbook achieved a battery life of no less than 254 minutes, or more than 4 hours.
Under high demands in the Battery Eater Classic Test (maximum brightness, WLAN and BT on), the 32 Wh Li-Ion battery held out for 160 minutes.
While surfing over WLan with the display brightness at maximum, the Dell Inspiron Mini could give a similarly good result: 230 minutes.
Also, during video playback with maximum display brightness (in the test, an mpg video), the batter can easily last around 200 minutes.
|Off / Standby||0 / 0 Watt|
|Idle|| 6.7 / 8.6 / 9.2 Watt|
13.6 / 14.7 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||4h 14min|
|WiFi Surfing||3h 50min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||2h 40min|
In the test, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 presented itself as an extremely mobile and agile companion that specializes in making long drives and travels seem shorter. Thanks to the WLAN, the netbook always has access to to any available hotspots. Furthermore, the performance of the Mini 9 is sufficient to run everyday office functions and to perform simple tasks.
The case of the netbook is extremely compact and robust, and therefore allows for an intensive mobile use of the laptop. The weight, which is no more than 1050 grams, and the compact power supply, only 190 grams, also fit well with this concept. Only the high gloss display cover requires somewhat more maintenance and careful handling in transit.
The keyboard is, with lots of practice, also suitable for text compositions using the 10-finger system. The keys on the right side around the enter key n particular are very small and can only be singled out while typing with a single finger.
While the display offers very good brightness with good illumination, the mirrored glare-type display is anything but optimal for outdoor use. Especially in brightly lit areas, one has to put up with bothersome reflections and mirroring on the display.
The battery life of the netbook is also thoroughly adequate. The Dell Mini 9, equipped with a 32 Wh Lithium Ion battery, can easily reach lifetimes of 3-4 hours, depending on the required performance.
With a sale price starting at 370.- euros, the Inpsiron Mini has lots of competition from products such as the classic Eee PC from Asus, the HP Mini-Note, the MSI Wind, and the Acer Aspire One.
For netbook fans, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is an interesting alternative in this market.