I'm still here, I promise.
I might even have pictures by the end of this weekend!
Monday, November 10, 2008
We got a Dell Inspiron Mini 9 on Friday, mostly because I was drooling over it when it was announced. Originally on hold until sometime this week, it actually arrived well ahead of schedule. I had the chance to take it home tonight, so I've collected my thoughts.
Size & build: Numerically, you ought to know this is tiny. All of the netbooks are, and I do know the Dell is one of the larger of the crop. That said, it's a very solid feeling machine; with the density inherent, it's pretty much gotta feel like a brick.
The 8.9 inch screen doesn't feel as cramped as 1024x600 would make it seem. Of course, it would be nice if the Windows system screens were aware of the aspect ratio change, but hey - it's XP home, we can't expect perfection. Seems bright enough. Using it and then switching to the PowerBook is like night and day in terms of immersion. I feel like I'm on the mini while I'm using it, and going to the PB feels like I'm just being presented with a wall of keyboard and monitor.
Vs. the eMate 300: For the interesting comparison - this is the mini 9 alongside the eMate 300. As you probably know, the eMate happened in 1996, a full 12 years before the mini. I don't know that you can say they're conceptually similar. We didn't have wireless internet in 1996, and it certainly wasn't necessary to do work or keep yourself entertained. By that same token, some of the elements are similar - look at the eMate's low weight, (extremely) low power consumption, high portability, and flash-based storage.
As far as working surface is concerned, there's very little appreciable difference between the two. The eMate's screen is a bit smaller, and there's obvious allowances for space for the tablet/handwriting recognition features, and the absence of the trackpad makes a big impact in the placement and layout of everything.
The difference in keyboard between the two is appreciable. While the actual caps are smaller on the eMate, the "traditional" key shaping makes it much easier to type at a long stretch - if your hands are tiny midget hands like mine. I've known I could type on one of those for years, though, so I was interested to see how the mini would go. The good news - letters are easy, so is tab. The bad news is that most people would probably have some degree of trouble with misfires related to the tiny size of comma and period. Also, if you're like me and you live on contractions, the location of the apostrophe will drive you insane.
Here's the real difference. Closed, the eMate is basically twice the size of the mini 9. The shot doesn't include the physical size cost of the 802.11b card I have, either.
What's the point? Well, the mini is a neat trick. After having spent all of the last week of October on the MacBook Air, I've grown to appreciate the small size and weight factor of these travel-sized computers. The screen on the Air is a lot easier to deal with, but the hinge doesn't go far enough for my tastes. Also, I hate the new keyboards. I get so many misfires that the correction process drives me insane.
Meanwhile, the Dell is enormously tiny and, while the keys are pleasing to use and fairly accurate for me, the placement of the apostrophe means "no writing. ever." Internet on it is good, battery life appears to be in line with 3.5 to 4 hours - the fact is it's really not much of a savings considering how hard the keyboard is to use.
That said, as a classroom support solution, it rocks. It drives 1024x768 just fine, and PowerPoint's presenter mode works great on both screens. Since the networking seems robust, it's actually shaping up to be the perfect addition to our projector bags.
I want to see what's up with their mini 12 whenever it gets around to coming to this country, but more importantly, I want to see what Ubuntu and Netbook Remix are like on this thing. It's already reasonably snappy with windows except for when it comes to I/O.
Recommended? Well, depends a lot, but if you're after a netbook, I can say it'll probably please. I don't have much experience with competitors, but someone had a different brand (probably Acer or Asus) at a special event a couple weeks ago and the two just weren't in the same league at all in terms of construction.
Slightly larger shots here.