Five Weeks with a Dell Mini 9

Dell Mini 9 - OS X

After seeing how well OS X ran on the Dell Mini 9 and how easy it was to install, I decided to buy one. I ended up with 3, but that’s a story for a different day. It costs about a 1/10th of what a MacBook Pro does so it’s an excellent 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) computer. Audio in and out works, WiFi works, external monitors work, it reads SD cards and has 3 USB ports.

I’m not going to discuss the OS X install as that’s been done here, here, here, and here. OS X is well suited to small screen use, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Dashboard, Spaces and Exposé. Safari 4 beta has a few new features that help keep you from typing urls all the way out; such as the new Top Sites view and they way suggestions and recent searches are laid out in the search box. 1password helps to keep from having to type out (or even remember) complex passwords. Shovebox stores notes and grabs webpages for offline viewing, I usually switch long articles to print view and then store them to read on the plane. Dropbox is an easy way to move files back and forth to your “real” computer. Using MobileMe or Google Sync keeps both computers in lock step.

Inspiron Mini 9n (‘n’ is the “Meant to be sold with Linux” variant)
Intel® Atom Processor® N270 (1.6GHz/533Mhz FSB/512K cache)
Obsidian Black
2GB DDR2 PC6400
16GB Solid State Drive
Glossy 8.9 inch LED display (1024X600)
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 950
Wireless 802.11g Mini Card
Integrated 1.3M Pixel Webcam

To install OS X you’re going to want the 16GB SSD, I’ve found it works just fine with 1GB. Black and White are the standard colors, others cost a bit more. The webcam is only really of any use in well lit rooms or outdoors. The computer is spec’d abut the same as one of the first White MacBooks. The main limit is the screen size. I’ve been using the Logitech VX Nano, the small receiver and overall size make it easy to keep with the netbook.

Most of you are already using Pandora and For listening to music while an interenet connection is present, I’ve been on the hype machine and thesixtyone lately. Both excellent sites with tons of new music.

While Hulu and other streaming sites will work, I find I mostly watch video off of a SD card, USB drive or plugged in iPod; and then mostly on airplanes or airports where I don’t have a decent internet connection.

I’ve used the MacBook Mini for the past few weeks as a travel computer, it saves on space, it fits on an airplane tray, it’s easy to grab and hop onto your flight as there’s nothing bigger than a paperback book to snap shut and run. I’d like to see Apple make the same thing, but I doubt they could do it for the same $325.

Try it. You’ll like it. If you don’t like it and have to sell it off, you’ll only be out $20 or so.

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  • An Bui

    Jeremy, I’ve been rockin the hackbook mini for 3 weeks now and I love it.

    It’s just sexy. :)

  • Abraham Estrada

    I have one and I totally agree, it is an excellent netbook for Mac OS X. It is not a replacement, it is more like an portable extension.

  • John Ellenich

    I picked up a refurb MacBook Air from Apple for $999– and love it as a “portable extension” of my iMac… I don’t know if I could deal with such a small screen for getting actual work done…

  • Jason Baer

    @penguin Thanks for this post. I’ve been thinking hard about going this route, and you’ve made it a lot less scary for me. I’ll still be DMing you when I screw it up!

  • Brian

    Very cool! I need to pick one up eventually. Especially now that I’ve upgraded to the 17″ MBP. It would be nice to have an ultra portable option.

  • Tom Markiewicz

    Nice!! Mine is supposed to arrive by next week. Can’t wait!

    I’d just add to anyone thinking of getting one that you can get cheap 2GB of Crucial RAM on Amazon for about $20. Dell charges $50 for the upgrade.

    And if you haven’t upgraded to the new iLife/iWork, you can get the Mac Box Set that includes iLife/iWork 09 plus a copy of Leopard for about $140 on Amazon. So it’s like getting a copy of the OS for about $15.

  • Brian DeWitt

    Out of curiosity, what made you pick that over the mini 10 and 12?

  • Daniel Brusilovsky

    When you showed me the Mini 9 at Startup Weekend San Francisco, I knew I needed one. Can I have yours? :)

  • Chris Lee

    Wow, Jeremy. This is insanely cool. I’ve been lusting a MacBook Air and this sound even better (ridiculously cheaper being huge).

  • Jeremy Tanner

    @Brian I wanted to run OS X and the Mini 10 and 12 wouldn’t do it, I still don’t think anybody’s figured them out. The components are different than those on the 9.

    @Daniel Ha! You’ll have to fight Jeffrey for it. I sold the one I had in San Francisco to him and picked up one with a webcam.

    @Chris I’m still really happy with it.

  • Tim C

    I wanted the larger screen of the Mini 10/12, but apparently the hardware isn’t OS X friendly like the 9 is. I read the Lenovo S10 works great, though, so I’m keeping an eye on that when I make the plunge.

  • Chris Lee

    Anybody know if you must order the Mini 9n? Does the Mini 9 with XP have the same hardware or must you get the 9n?


  • Jeremy Tanner

    The 9n is the same as the 9. The ‘n’ designation means it’s sold without Windows, making it a bit cheaper.


  • Jon

    I just ordered my mini 9 and have everything prepared for an OS X install. Can’t wait till it gets here! Good post, too. I had never tried dropbox before and had never heard of thesixtone. Those should come in handy. Thanks!

    Also, I heard that apparently the mini 10v (not mini 10) can take an OS X install.

  • Jon

    @Chris Lee, the “n” is just a designation that means it comes with something other than windows installed (usually this means Linux). The mini 9 and 9n are exactly the same from a hardware standpoint (although apparently Dell puts some limits on what you can upgrade at purchase depending on if you get it with windows or linux – this is just a configuration difference).

  • Alan Tanner

    How is the screen size for spreadsheets? Do you know if the linux version will run blackberry desktop?

  • Jane Radriges

    Hi, interest post. I’ll write you later about few questions!

  • Gary Patton

    Hello. I think the article is really interesting. I am even interested in reading more. How soon will you update your blog?

  • Brett Borders

    Awesome looking lil’ notebook… I love to see the Apple software / hardware liberated and used to its full potential, not just to its profit potential.

  • Lucretia Pruitt

    Wish you’d told me you were buying one – would’ve just sold you mine.

    I love Dell – but I want the 10″ — I’m a touch typist, have been for over a quarter of a century. Moving the apostrophe/quote key down 2 rows and over has made the Dell 9″ a nightmare for me.

    I’ve said as much on their feedback site and to a couple of Dell folks I know. :\

    Now the 10″…

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