Typical. Just as I’ve finished writing a few entries espousing the benefits of the Dell Mini 9, Dell decide to discontinue it 🙁
Dell’s closest replacement is the Mini 10v. This has a lower price point than the Mini 9 for the Ubuntu/1GB RAM/8GB SSD configuration, bringing it down below the magic £200 mark. It has a 1.3MP webcam (the Mini 9’s was 0.3MP in the base spec), and if you really want to pretend it’s a full notebook you can pay a bit extra for a hard drive (120GB or 160GB) instead of the SSD. The wireless card can be upgraded to 802.11n, and there’s the option of a 6-cell battery.
So the 10v is cheaper, more configurable, and the larger size brings with it a much better keyboard. So this sounds like an improvement, right?
For many people, yes it is an improvement. However there is one notable bit of the spec where the Mini 10v is actually inferior to the Mini 9: the screen resolution. This may seem a bit strange, given that the Mini 10v has a 10.1″ screen compared with the Mini 9’s 8.9″ screen, but you actually lose over 24,000 pixels with the larger screen. It sounds a lot, but is actually “only” a reduction of 24 pixels in vertical height (1024×576 compared with the 9’s 1024×600). That said, vertical resolution is one area where netbooks are already compromised, so losing pixels there is especially annoying.
The other notable difference between the Mini 9 and the Mini 10v is the physical size of the machine. The 10v is still a small, cute machine – but it’s not as small as the Mini 9. If you want to use the machine as a notebook replacement then the better keyboard more than makes up for a little extra size, but if you just want the machine to be a netbook – a very portable way to browse the web, without the limitations of a mobile phone screen – the smaller size wins out over improvements to a keyboard that you rarely use.
Dell also sells the Mini 10 (note the absence of the “v”). This is the same physical size as the 10v, but has the option of a 1366×768 pixel screen. This is a great resolution in a machine of this size – but the Mini 10 starts at £100 more, is only available with Windows, and has no SSD option.
So if you want a netbook from Dell you have the choice between a cheaper SSD-based Ubuntu machine with an inferior screen resolution, or an expensive hard-drive-based Windows machine with the option of a much better screen.
I’m glad I bought a Mini 9 when I did. If I was buying now, I’d seriously consider the Mini 10v, but I’d also be tempted by the Acer Aspire One – it’s closer to the specs of the Mini 9, and the only thing that stopped me buying one in the past was my dislike of its touchpad buttons. With several vendors preparing ARM-based netbooks, however, it might be better just to wait and see how the market develops. If none of the new offerings appeals to you, I’m sure the Mini 10v will still be available in 6 months time – and perhaps by then Dell will have seen sense and let you configure it with the superior screen.