Yet, how it looks is the least interesting part of the Mini 9’s design. What really interests us is that the Mini 9 features passive cooling and thus has no fan. Given it also utilises solid state storage this makes for a completely silent machine, something that will no doubt please many. It works pretty well, too. Though subjectively the Mini 9 gets slightly warmer than the Eee PC 901 or other similarly fan-equipped netbooks, it’s rarely excessive and it’s a more than acceptable trade-off for Dell’s own bespoke version of silence.
Inside, the Inspiron Mini 9 features most of the components we’re very accustomed to hearing about: a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, Bluetooth and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi – so far, so unremarkable. Storage is supplied, on the Vodafone model, by an 8GB SSD and this is loaded with Windows XP. If you buy direct from Dell, however, you get a 16GB SSD on the Windows XP version (£299) and an 8GB one on the Ubuntu (£269) version. Neither, of course, has integrated HSDPA as the Vodafone model does, but though a netbook is hardly in need of bundles of storage, one can’t help but feel 8GBs for Windows is a tad small, especially when post-formatting and pre-installed programs this is reduced to under 3.5GBs.
Or at least one would think this if it weren’t for the fact that you can buy a 16GB SDHC card for only £17.99, an item we tested in the Mini 9 which it read instantly with no problems at all. Bearing this in mind it’s hardly a trial to buy a 16GB SDHC card, leave it in your netbook and store all the videos, music or photos you want to access when you’re on the move without anything sticking out of the side, like a flash drive or a USB HSDPA modem would.
Taking a closer look at the machine, its connectivity, like the specification (HSDPA excluded), is exactly the same as 90 per cent of the netbooks out there. Starting on the left there’s a lock slot and that’s followed by the power input, a couple of USB ports side-by-side and the memory card reader. As already noted this has no problem with SDHC cards up to 16GB (we can’t comment on 32GB) and by extension it supports SD and MMC as well as Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro cards.
Then on the left there’s a 10/100 Ethernet port, VGA out, another USB port and the headphone and microphone jacks. Just above the screen is a 1.3-megapixel webcam and it’s a pretty decent one too, displaying crisp and well defined images. Strangely, we couldn’t get the integrated microphone underneath the front edge to work. Whether this was an isolated issue with our unit or something that’s common to the Vodafone versions of the Mini 9 we’re not sure, but we’ve contacted the relevant people and will let you know when we know.
One thing that definitely works, however, is the integrated HSDPA. As is typical, the SIM card slot is located behind the battery, so you’ll need to remove it to insert the provided SIM card. This might be annoying if you want to use the SIM in another device, but for most this isn’t any kind of problem. What’s more, the integrated HSDPA in the Mini 9 is a full fat 7.2Mbps module, so if you’re lucky enough to be somewhere where full speed HSPDA is available (i.e. an airport), you’ll benefit from some very fast speeds. Even outside these areas, speeds are excellent and Vodafone’s 3G coverage is widely regarded as the best around so if you’re going to be tied to one company, Vodafone is a pretty good bet.