From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dell Mini9 (the server) and a Dell Mini10v Review


A few months back, I wrote about my Dell Mini9 running the Ubuntu Server. There's a picture just above, as it has been installed at my parent's house as my co-lo machine. The Mini9 is the machine standing vertically, on the far right, next to a couple of external USB hard drives, a cable modem, and the wireless access point.

I'll reiterate what I stated before... This little machine makes a perfect little server. It usually runs on less than 20W of power. And it is extremely compact, particularly considering that it has a built-in battery backup, keyboard, mouse, and video. All of this, for somewhere around $200, with Ubuntu pre-loaded. Unbeatable, really...except that the Mini9 is no longer available. :-(

Alas, the Mini9 is discontinued. I did, however, pick up a Mini10v recently. Excellent machine as well! My wife, Kim, is using it as her daily computer, and she loves it. The keyboard is far more usable than the Mini9's was. The screen is slightly bigger, and supports much better resolution. The built in web cam is very nice, and works perfectly out of the box.

There were a couple of regressions, in my opinion, from the Mini9's design, though.

In the Mini9, the SD card snapped all the way into the reader, fitting flush with the case. In the Mini10v, the card juts out by a couple of centimeters. For the Mini9, I picked up an 8GB SD card for $20 or so, and used it as /home, with the rest of Ubuntu fitting comfortably within the 4GB SSD. My Mini10v did come with a 16GB SSD, so in the end there's more space.

Also, the touchpad/mouse is really difficult to use and poorly designed. The mouse buttons are actually on the touchpad, in the corner. I find it difficult to perform a click, without also moving the cursor at the same time. I use a retractable USB mouse as much as possible.

Finally, the RAM compartment was trivial to access on the Mini9--just a single screw. The Mini10v requires major surgery to upgrade the RAM. It took me 2 hours, plus the service manual, to disassemble the entire machine and install a 2GB stick. Spend the extra few bucks and max out the memory when you order it.

Minor issues aside, this is a spectacular little machine. The base Ubuntu 8.04 installed is a solid OS. I played with it for a day or two before reinstalling with Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook remix. One word... Wow! The Netbook Remix absolutely rocks! Props to everyone involved in delivering this. Kim really likes it too, by the way. She found the interface intuitive and the unique program tabbing across the top quite useful. Jaunty's boot performance improvements are really nice too. I have highly recommend this machine to friends and family in the market for a netbook under $300. It's certainly been worth it to us.

:-Dustin