Review: Dell Mini 10v

Dell Mini 10v

I needed a computer I could take with me. My last laptop was an HP tx1000 Convertible that I’ve given to my father. That laptop was used for some personal, but mostly business. My next laptop was going to be for personal only. I had seen the cheesy Dell “candy” commercials (got the song stuck in my head and everything!) and liked the idea of a netbook. Sacrifice an optical drive for a lightweight ultraportable? Yes, please.

My primary functions on a computer are internet, email, programming, and IT scripting–all of which use very little computing power. I’m a command/keyboard-oriented user–I’d prefer to type a command in vs. a GUI and I don’t need a mouse if I don’t want one.

Configuration

Original Configuration (My Configuration)
Processor: Intel Atom N270
1.6 GHz 533 MHz, 512 MB L2 Cache
Display: 10.1″ Widescreen Display
(1024×600 Native)
Memory: 1 GB DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics Chipset: Intel GMA 950
Hard Drive: 160 GB, 2.5″, 5400 RPM SATA
16 GB SSD
Battery: 24 Wh (3-cell) Lithium-Ion
Wireless Card: 802.11g (1397)
802.11n (1510)
Webcam: Integrated 1.3 MP
Bluetooth: None
Integrated 2.1 w/ EDR
Operating System: Windows XP SP3
Ubuntu 8.04 LTS

Pre-Sales
I researched this netbook for two weeks comparing brands. Dell was always the top choice because of past experiences I have had with the company. The larger debate was between the 10 and 10v, and I settled on the 10v because of issues with Linux and the Graphics Chipset that comes with the 10.

I like the ability to connect to whatever I need to, thus 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth, and the webcam were all required.

The hard drive was also a debate. At the time there were very few reputable SSD’s out there, so it was hard to see if the performance was worth losing the space. Ultimately, it was a “try the new latest-and-greatest” decision.

I’ve always used Windows because of my reliance on proprietary software. For the purposes of this computer, I do not need any proprietary software, and my linux/unix skills are rusty. Thus, I opted for Ubuntu Linux as the operating system.

The Good
This netbook is LIGHT!  It weighs less than my desktop keyboard.  I don’t feel the weight of it when I’m reclined in my office chair.  I can pick it up and move it around with one hand WITH EASE!

It is quiet.  The form factor + the SSD means no fans, no moving parts.  Makes a big difference when you’re trying to think.

It’s fast.  Based on the specs of the processor, and having only 1 GB of RAM I was expecting it to act a little sluggish.  The operating system helps, since with this computer I moved from a Windows computer.  If I were going to run Windows on this machine I’d opt for the 2 GB, especially now with Windows 7.  I constantly run Firefox, Empathy, Evolution, and a Terminal.  With these open I’ve opened one or two more programs up, but real estate on the screen is precious, and I typically don’t need anything else open at once.  I’d bet it could do more though.

When I need/want to, I can use the heavier bats.  Terminal Services/Remote Desktop work fine (as long as my wireless router isn’t acting up, and being wireless in the first place doesn’t help).  I also installed VirtualBox and had an Ubuntu VM running with very little performance loss.  Packet sniffers and network crawlers have no problem.  OpenOffice runs just as fast as on my desktop.  I was able to take a Sprint USB AirCard, click Connect, and be connected WITHOUT Sprint’s software.

The smaller battery lasts 2½ hours on constant normal use.  The AC adapter packs up nicely, and is easy to tote around, should I actually use it that long.

The Bad
No Ubuntu Key: Ubuntu was factory default from Dell, but the Windows key is still on there.  @Dell: when you make the super key with the Ubuntu logo, or even Tux, make sure and send me one.  For now, thank you System76!  Get your own Ubuntu stickers!

Mousepad is sensitive: because of the design, click-dragging is nearly impossible.  I know this is a software issue because the Mini’s I observed with Windows ignored the bottom part of the pad where the buttons reside.  It takes some getting used to.  However, I still prefer this layout than the mouse buttons clearly on the left & right sides of the pad.

Hard to Modify: Aside from the battery removal, the only compartment on the underside is for the mini-PCI slot, which has my WiFi card in it.  To get to everything else including RAM is the equivalent of performing thorassic surgery.

Preloaded Dell software: Pet peeve of mine, but I’d like to choose my own favorite search engine, instead of having 4 links to a certain unmentioned one.  I also couldn’t upgrade to the latest stable build of Ubuntu without uninstalling Dell’s copy of Ubuntu and using Canonical’s package.  I ended up with Ubuntu Netbook Remix 9.10, and I’ll be upgrading when stable 10.04 is released.

Screen could be bigger: I am glad the keyboard got bigger from the Mini 9 to the Mini 10, but I feel that with today’s technology, we don’t need a 1″ plastic border around the screen.

Can’t secure RGB cable in place…no screw holes on the side of the port.

AC Adapter required the bottom plug on a single-gang outlet box.  Plays well on other sides though.

Thoughts
When Moblin gets further along, this will make a great machine to test it on.  Same with Chrome OS.

The WiFi card is a half-mini PCI, and Dell moved the connector over to accomodate.  Was that necessary?

If Dell is going to bundle Ubuntu with hardware, then I’d like to see some more involvement from them in the community.  I’m not saying you’re not there…I just don’t see you.

Conclusion
This is a great buy for the money I paid.  It’s not top of the line, but it will do what I need it to and then some.  I don’t know if I would combine this configuration with Windows, but for Ubuntu I’d highly recommend it.

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One Response to Review: Dell Mini 10v

  1. toogreen says:

    Congrats! I also own that very same machine, and love it to death. Bought it in August and still very happy with it. Regarding the OS, even tho its still Beta, I recently upgraded to Ubuntu Netbook Edition 10.04… And it’s pretty stable already! Everything seems much faster, and there are a lot of improvements. Love how empathy is integrated, Gwibber (for twitter, flickr, facebook, etc) It’s actually gorgeous! I’ve put a screenshot of mine there:

    http://www.google.com/buzz/108807597209687392863/iGQKsZaGvh8/This-is-the-default-interface-in-Ubuntu-Netbook

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