So far, then, we’ve established a few things. We like the basic design of the Mini 9, the screen, touchpad and keyboard are all as good they could be and we adore the form factor and the presence of integrated HSDPA. These are all good things, but there are areas where the Mini 9 doesn’t perform as well and is lacking compared to competing offerings.
One such area is audio. It doesn’t, like the Windows XP versions of the Eee PC 901, have Dolby Sound Room support – a non-essential, but very attractive option to have if watching lots of video through headphones. Likewise the integrated speakers that sit below the screen aren’t a patch on the Eee PCs, lacking severely in volume to the point that you need to be in a very quiet environment for them to be of any use.
You also don’t benefit from Wireless-N Wi-Fi and though we don’t really consider this an essential feature, if you happen to have an N capable network in your home then the benefits of the greater speed and signal strength would be noticeable.
In addition to both these points it’s a bit galling that no slip case is provided in the box. This, we feel, should be compulsory for any netbook given they’re bound to be lugged about in non-purpose bags along with other bits and pieces. One can only assume this is a case of penny pinching really, since there’s no other logical reason not to include one.
More pressing, however, is battery life and here the Eee PC 901 continues to reign supreme. All Mini 9s come equipped with a four-cell 32WHr battery that, in fairness to Dell, does outperform those found on some other netbooks. During mixed use, writing documents and surfing the web at 50% brightness, our Mini 9 lasted two hours and 45 minutes. Video playback meanwhile, under similar conditions but with wireless turned off, turned in a battery life of two hours and 40 minutes. Neither of these results is awful and by reducing screen brightness further you could stretch things beyond three hours, but when you consider the Eee PC 901 can manage close to five hours or more under similar conditions, the difference is quite marked.
Factor in HSDPA and battery life will only decrease further, since HSDPA is legendary for its battery draining abilities. Use it really heavily and you could be looking at around one and a half hours, though two hours is more likely for general use. Thus if you’re a power user you’re going to need another battery, but as yet Dell hasn’t announced availability or pricing for any secondary batteries, or the possibility of an extended six-cell one which given the design and placement of the battery, could be difficult. Until this happens we can see a lot of people waiting to see what happens before taking the plunge.
On the plus side the power supply for the Mini 9 is integrated into the plug itself. This is a great feature; one we haven’t seen since the Eee PC 701, which makes carrying your power supply and plugging-in anywhere that much easier.
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