I have been playing around with my Dell Mini9 (1Gb RAM, 32GB SSD) netbook that I picked up recently over the holidays and finally got around to swapping the Ubuntu installation that came from the factory with a slimmed down version of Vista Ultimate. For a machine that has the type of resource constraints and intended use (email/web/light office app work) a typical full Vista install wouldn’t be practical but thanks to the vLite configuration tool I was able to shrink my installation footprint down to roughly 3.5Gb. If you have the right tools (a couple gig flash drive, access to a copy of Vista, and some patience) then the conversion isn’t that painful or time consuming. The one recommendation that I would like to emphasize is make sure that you have all the drivers downloaded ahead of time especially the network drivers since neither the wireless or Ethernet drivers got installed by default.. You can dump them on the flash disk as they don’t take up that much space and it will expedite the process of getting your system fully operational.
Here are some of the links that I relied on heavily to get me through the conversion:
- Rick at Night’s Install Vista on Dell Mini 9 (USB) Guide
- K-Lite Mega Codec Pack
- Dell’s Inspiron Mini 9 (910) Driver Downloads (You can use the Windows XP drivers)
For a resource constrained machine it certainly does not seem sluggish. The Vista experience, while not in the same league as my tricked out M1530, is not terrible and the solid state drive really makes a world of difference in these netbooks as they are silent, low power, and fast as hell.
In my eyes the one serious drawback of these Mini9’s is the size and layout of the keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard on a 9” laptop obviously has to be compressed and tradeoffs conceded but for someone like me who has stubby fat fingers this becomes more of a problem than I’d thought. The other major issue I have is with the touchpad. The touch sensitive surface that comprises the touchpad runs all the way to the space bar without any buffer or separation. I continuously hit the touchpad surface causing the cursor or focus to jump to where the pointer is. The keyboard issue by itself isn’t a terrible problem, I’m sure I’ll acclimate, but when you compound that with the lack of a buffer between the space bar the whole keyboard/mouse experience becomes extremely frustrating. I bought a bluetooth notebook mouse and can turn off the touchpad so I am not impacted by inadvertent contact but that defeats the purpose of this device for me since I’d much rather have my 15” laptop if I am going to have to be sitting at a table/desk/tray to use the external mouse for any length of time.
Overall the Mini9 isn’t bad for couch surfing and travel but this isn’t a machine that I could use for extended periods of time in the situations where a netbook would be convenient. While I like the concept and the price point that this class of portable addresses I can’t strongly endorse the mini9 due to the layout and design of the keyboard and touchpad. s