The last (and first) netbook I set my apparently gigantic hands on was the Sony Vaio P. While the device itself was adequately beautiful, the price was straight out of a horror film.
I’m typing this review of a Dell Mini 9 on a Dell Mini 9, courtesy of Vodafone. If you click that link (or this one) you might notice something interesting about the price. Vodafone are asking for nothing up front when you buy a Mini 9 with a 24 month contract. The price for your soul over those 24 months is $75 with 1GB per month of bandwidth, or $90 for 3GB. Not too shabby at all, and certainly better than the price Sony want for the Vaio P.
If you want to purchase the device outright, you’ll need to hand over $800. Consider this: apart from the screen size, the guts of the Mini 9 are almost identical to those in the Vaio P. You can buy exactly three Mini 9s for the price of one Vaio P. I know drugs are supposed to be mind-altering, but whatever Sony is snorting must be some powerful juju.
For your $75 per month, you get a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, a 9″ screen, 1GB of RAM and an 8GB SSD hard drive sporting Windows XP. The SSD drive is completely non-mechanical, meaning the whole netbook is as quiet as a dead mouse. Truthfully, the lack of noise is disconcerting sometimes. With no noise, I found myself wondering if the machine was doing anything at all when some programs were slow to start just after booting the machine.
The nickname netbook stems from the fact that these low-powered devices are pretty much limited to performing day-to-day internet tasks. They will handle basic Microsoft Office type stuff too, but purchasing the Mini 9 with a 3G plan really puts the net into netbook. You can open the thing up pretty much anywhere and be on the net within moments. This is the ubiquitous availability of cyberspace that I dreamed feverish protogeek dreams of when I had my first Psion 5.
The little beast does alright with multimedia too. I had it quite happily streaming standard-definition video over my home wireless network – somethign I couldn’t get the Vaio to do from its local hard drive. This does make me think something was seriously squiffy with the video (hardware or drivers) in the Sony model I had.
One issue with the Mini 9 (apart from the silent treatment) is that it makes me feel like a giant trying to type on a midget’s keyboard. There are some strange key placements, the shift keys get the squeeze, and the general key spacing is just enough to make my (admittedly large) fingers produce phantom letters regularly. However, the length of this post has been enough practise to have me typing pretty well on the puny keys.
If you have a bit of a hacker bent, you might also be interested to hear that the Mini 9 is one of the more hackintoshable netbooks on the market. The 8GB SSD in the Vodafone version makes it rather difficult, but y0u can pick up a 16GB version direct from Dell for $900.
In conclusion, I really like this stubby little machine. I’m going to have a hard time handing it back to Vodafone. If I do end up getting one myself, the recent tax cuts in New Zealand would go some way to filling the $75 hole in my pocket each month.