48 hours with a Dell Mini 9 netbook (the keyboard and battery)


I’m on day two of my little netbook experiment and I’m still in that honeymoon phase and everything’s pretty peachy. The diminutive netbook has been the perfect sidekick for my travels around south Florida and has been serving my needs quite well.

There are two nits that are starting to get a little annoying however. The first is Windows XP. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Machead and have been since 1984, so my Windows skills are somewhat lacking. Let’s chalk that one up to user error. If you’re a Windows nut, you’ll be right at home with the Mini 9, Penguin heads will opt for the Ubuntu option and save themselves $65. The Windows thing doesn’t bother me much though as I’m wiping the drive and installing OS X on it as soon as I step off the plane at Atlantic City International airport.

The second nit I have is with the Mini 9’s keyboard. It’s full of compromises.

As I previously noted, the the main A-Z letter keys on the Mini 9 are full-size, full-width keys but the period, comma and number keys (and some others) are about two-thirds the width of a regular key. This in and of itself isn’t a problem because I can find the smaller keys pretty easily with a little training. My problem is with the keys that Dell moved to completely different locations.

Case in point are the apostrophe and dash keys which have new homes. The apostrophe key moved from its usual home two keys to the right of the “L” key to the bottom row, two keys right of the space bar. Ugh. While it’s murder for Irish folks with last names like “O’Grady” its a pain any time you have to type a contraction like “it’s,” “he’s” or “they’ll.” Get used to typing a carriage return in place of the apostrophe.

The other problem is the dash/underscore key which is normally located to the right of the zero on the number row. Dell saw fit to move the dash key one row down, to the right of the P key.This wreaks all kinds of havoc for touch typists, especially those that are dyed-in-the-wool in this or that. Oy vay as Morgenstern would say.

Some quick notes on the Mini 9’s 4-Cell Lithium-Ion battery:
  • Battery life is a solid 3+ hours, which is impressive. I’m pretty sure that I can hit 4+ hours with a little optimization. I’ve been using the stock XP Home power settings and relatively happy so far.
  • Re-charging from dead/forced hibernation is around 3 hours which could be better, but all-in-all not terrible.
  • Extra batteries cost $100 from Dell (PN 312-0831) which is a little spendy but not excessive.
  • The battery in my Mini 9 is labeled 32 watt hour but the serial number starts with “KR” which, according to this blog post, is an inferior 3-Cell 24 wH model. (Update: this post debunks the 3-cell myth, which was apparently based on erroneous battery software.)


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