"Your computer is so cute!"
The Mini 9 beside a 13" MacBook.
The Mini 9 beside a 13" MacBook.
Image by InfoMofo via Flickr
This is what a random stranger on the train told me today. It is not the first time.
I wouldn't normally think of computers as cute, but in this case it's an understandable comment because my new computer is a netbook–tiny, functional, inexpensive, and yes, cute.
There are several good netbooks on the market now, but the cheapest one I could find with all the functionality I need is the Dell Mini 9.
It's no longer a big decision whether to take my laptop with me when I leave home because instead of nine pounds of computer and battery pack hogging all the space in my bag and killing my shoulder, it's a barely noticeable 2.38 pounds that takes up no more space than a book–why not bring it? I can do research on the train, take notes at the library, check my e-mail in between classes, chat with a friend if I get stuck in a waiting room somewhere....
By the way, this is not a paid post or a plug for Dell. It's just my own independent review.
Granted, the Mini 9 is no good for running any applications that use up a lot of memory, but when I'm traveling or just out and about, I don't tend to use those anyway. Besides all the standard package applications you'd expect a computer to come with, the Linux version I have comes with OpenOffice (pretty much the same as the MS Office suite), a decent music player, an easy to use browser (just like Firefox) and chat application, and some others that I haven't used yet. Really, that's all I need.
I was worried the keyboard would be too small to type on comfortably, but after a day or two I was completely used to it. I can see how it might be cramped, however, for people with large hands.
The screen is great, no different from my iMac, just smaller, but the touchpad is uber-sensitive and even seems to pick up my finger hovering over it. That might cause some problems, but since I much prefer to use a mouse anyway it's not really an issue for me.
The AC adapter is delightfully small and light, it charges quickly, and the battery holds for about 3-4 hours of steady use (so far). Also, the internal wireless works great–it can pick up a much better signal than my old laptop.
Obviously netbooks, with less memory and less capacity, have significantly less functionality than regular laptops, but as I've said that doesn't much bother me.
The Mini 9 has three USB ports and a multi card reader, as well as a VGA slot, and an Ethernet port, neither of which I'll ever use. The model I have only comes with 1 Gig of memory, so that may be an issue in the future when it starts filling up. But that's where USB jump drives and memory cards come in.
The only thing I've really missed so far is being able to burn to and read from CDs and DVDs (i.e. transferring music isn't easy and there will be no movie-watching on that long plane ride). I haven't tried to plug my iPod in yet, but I'm interested to see if it'll be compatible with the no-name music software.
And of course, the tiny display takes some getting used to. I definitely have to do more scrolling than usual.
At just over $200 (including a nice sleeve), I think the Mini 9 is a steal. It's the portability that makes it worth it. And it's pretty sleek looking, so that doesn't hurt either. I'm really glad I didn't spend $1200 on a normal-sized notebook I'd only use for internet, music, and writing anyway. I wouldn't recommend it for a main computer–its functionality is too limited–but for travelers and people on the go, it's solid. By the way, guess where I'm blogging from? That's right. Roughly 55 sq. in. of adorable.
If you use a netbook or have considered one, let us know what you think about it. Leave a comment below.
Update: Thanks to Greener Pastures for including this post in The Money Hacks Carnival #59 - The Duct Tape Edition.