Running our standard battery life test, which involves playing standard-def video full screen on repeat, at maximum screen brightness and with Wi-Fi turned on, we found the Mini 9 could still give its rivals a run for their money. It came in just two minutes shy of the Advent 4213, giving it a mid-table placing for battery life.
The Vodafone-supplied model comes with XP pre-loaded - you'll need to go direct to Dell if you want the Linux version. You also get a copy of Microsoft Works thrown in to boot and thankfully, unlike the version seen on the Advent 4213, you don't need to sit through adverts while working away.
A copy of Vodafone's Mobile Connect software is also pre-loaded to manage the 3G connection and there's an SMS app included as well so you can fire off 160-character missives without having to resort to predictive text.
The SIM card slots in underneath the battery - which would normally be a bad thing, but since the only way to get a 3G enabled Mini 9 is with a new contract from Vodafone, chance of you wanting or needing to swap it out on a regular basis are slim.
Shiny, sexy... fingerprint magnet
That's probably true of the Mini 9's internal workings too. But if you do fancy tinkering with the storage, memory, Wi-Fi and 3G cards, they're all easily reachable by removing just two screws and a panel on the Mini 9's base.
Without doubt, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is easily the nicest looking netbook on the market so far, and its performance scores show it's no slouch when it comes to crunching numbers. Despite its small footprint, it has a decent-size keyboard and provided you can live with the function keys being relegated to a secondary location, it's a good compromise.
On the downside, its SSD drive is not only small but also a bit on the slow side. The built-in 3G is also a bit of a mixed blessing as currently you either have to enter a two-year contract with Vodafone or go without completely. We'd much prefer at least the option of buying a 3G enabled Mini 9 outright - especially given that who knows what the laptop market will look like in two years' time. That said, if you're going to £25 a month to spend anyway, a free netbook certainly isn't to be sniffed at.
Dell Inspiron Mini 9 with Vodafone HSDPA
"Furthermore, why do El Reg not make more of a point of exposing these "deals" that the networks periodically try to punt on to us, as the duds they really are?"
Because if they were honest and trashed the product, no one would send them shit to review anymore. I am surprised people think that el reg is some bastion of neutrality. They are a business after all. Not that I like it, just take what they say with a grain of salt.
salt shaker in the pocket....
There is no space on the motherboard. The Mini 9 runs hot like most netbooks but there is no internal fan. I've had my system board replaced twice in one month. First time the card reader died, the second time the SSD burned, literally burned. A note from the tech engineer who repaired it stated that I shouldn't run the Mini 9 plugged in for longer than two or three hours due to the overheating issue, even less if running wi-fi. As a third-party repair outfit contracted by Dell (Flextronics) he's dealt with a number of overheated Mini 9s and filed reports with Dell.
Needless to say I returned the thing disappointed.
Re. 'silent' Advent 4213
As per Register Hardware's review of the Advent 4213:
The 4213's so-called 'silent' mode isn't - it just undeclocks the CPU which may or may not, depending on processor load, make the fan run more quietly.
AC: "Hmm the 4123 has a silent mode??? what on earth can be too noisey in one of these?"
Sometimes any noise is too noisy in a quiet enviroment - and I would like to use one to do audio newsletters. The EEE 900's screen whined until a BIOS update was provided.
AFAIK the Dell is the only Netbook that is fanless. The EEE 900 which sounds like an angry mosquito; the Acer Aspire One is less intrusive.
Why no metric for battery life using 3g?
Surely the whole point of integrated 3g is that you can use the thing where mains power and wifi are unavailable. Why does the review not give ANY indication of battery life when running over the 3g connection?
I currently use a 3g usb dongle, do these 3g integrated netbooks offer better battery performance or not?
Instead of covering the angles that might make the review a bit more useful and interesting you instead do yet another generic netbook review. Whilst in whine mode: Being that so many of these machines are using the same 1.6ghz atom processor how come there's these differences in CPU performance?