Dell Mini 9 from Vodafone

Dell Mini 9The 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.

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  1. Dell aren’t shipping the Linux version of this machine here YET, but I’d be really keen to whether the Ubuntu version of the Dell Mini 9 plays nicely with VFNZ mobile internet.

    D’ya think you’ll be able to give that a whirl as part of your review?

  2. I suspect you’ve just bought a comically over sized pencil form the 2 dollar shop and taken a photo of a regular sized laptop.
    I want to see another picture, this time with todays newspaper and $200,000 (two hundred thousands dollars) in unmarked bills delivered to the duck ponds in the domain or … ummm….. mumble mumble… gets it!
    you’ll be met at the pond by a man disguised as a duck dressed as a man.

  3. How’d you find the Vodafone service? My flatmate has one of those vodem things and he’s not too happy with the service on it. When it works its good but often he can’t connect at 3G. He had a version 1 one and upgraded to a version 2. He’s also locked in for 2 years but with no free netbook since he signed up a few months ago… his contract break fee is like $500.

    Also I’ve tried configuring the vodem with my Vista box and it doesn’t play nicely at all… Buggy drivers and software.

    1. I haven’t had too much issue with the reception and connectivity around Auckland. I had to wander around a bit out at Maraetai to find service, but once I did it worked fine.

  4. The VFNZ service is location dependent. I’ve used a couple of the Huawei cards and it works GREAT in the central city, but gets a bit questionable once you reach Henderson. Which is not quite tumbleweed territory, despite the televised reputation.

    These are tempting devices. I’m just waiting to hear how it behaves on Linux (or OSX, even – I wonder how much an SSD swap would cost?)

      1. This is an interesting question, I had the same one myself. The specs for the Mini 9 make no mention of a 3G modem, neither in the standard specs, nor in the “customise” options. So I have to assume that you can only get 3G via Vodafone.

        I’ll chase Voda to ask them too.

  5. Got a hook-up with Dell to the review the Mini 12 for me?

    Did you find coffee in Wairau?

    The white on black text on this blog is *insane*. My eyes! Love your work tho!

  6. Yeah Dave, funny you should say that. I stuck this theme up as part of the S92a blackout, and am still trying to come up with a nice black-on-white replacement.

    No luck on the Mini12 yet though.

  7. You can add 3G to your own (it looks like all the non-3G version lacks is the SIM holder) if you buy one outright.

    Seems that Dell NZ lack a lot of the options that are available in the US – colours, Ubuntu, and the nicer looking Vostro A90 “business” model (same machine, nicer looks). I wonder why … Dell do quite a bit of advertising here, but maybe their presence isn’t large enough to support a full range. Pity.

    The Vostro A90 sells for USD$294, which means buying it online from the US leaves about NZD$300 to spend on shipping 🙂

    Still keen to hear your feedback on this machine under OSX or Linux 🙂

  8. Hi,

    I purchased the Mini9 on the weekend and absolutely love it!! It’s small but perfect. Great for browsing the web and doing all the online basics at home. Plus – there are no cords! The only downside is the size of the screen – that may feel too small after a while? other than that – I’m a big fan

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