Another week, another netbook - that seems to be the story when it comes to this latest trend in low-cost mobile computing.
The difference is that we're now seeing some hardware heavyweights enter the ring. Dell's Inspiron Mini 9 (from $799 at dell.co.nz) shapes up against the likes of the Asus Eee PC 900 and Acer's Aspire One: lilliputian laptops with 23-centimetre screens, solid-state hard drives and able to run all your favourite programs using Windows XP.
As with its competitors, the Mini 9 is fitted with Intel's Atom N270 chip. This pint-sized processor has a surprising amount of muscle. Partnered with 1GB of RAM, it gallops through everyday tasks such as email and the web and uses programs such as Microsoft Office.
This laptop is capable of an easy 3.5 hours between battery recharges and its one-kilogram weight and AC adaptor no larger than your fist make the whole kit incredibly portable.
On top of the inbuilt Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, memory card reader and notebook-grade webcam, Dell also has plans to release an internal 3G broadband modem so you can enjoy broadband internet almost anywhere via the mobile phone network.
The screen is perhaps the best of all the netbooks we've seen and the stereo speakers have sufficient punch for enjoying music and videos. The keyboard is comfortable, with a crisp movement and well-defined travel, although it's a little on the noisy side.
Dell has also adopted a sealed keyboard design to help the Mini 9 withstand liquid spills and avoid trapping breadcrumbs.
Another smart touch is the 2GB of free web storage through the box.net service, so you can store documents and other files online easily and securely. If you're in the market for a netbook, this should be near the top of your list.
- Sydney Morning Herald