None of what I’m going to say here is ‘news’ – this netbook has been out now for many months.  It intrigued me from day 1 though.

Netbooks are all the rage as we know, and those who know me know I have the ASUS EeePC 1000H.  Not the original EeePC thankfully, I couldn’t bare the small 7 inch screen.  Mine has the 10 inch screen, and a close to comfortable keyboard.

So, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 from Vodafone – it is just that, a Dell 9 inch netbook, but because it comes from Vodafone, built into it is a 3G Mobile Broadband connection.

I have mobile broadband – with Telstra Bigpond.  And it requires a ‘dongle’ or plug in device to make it work.  In the gallery below you will see that.

With this Dell it’s all incorporated, and it truely is seamless.  Connection is easy, and there is nothing to maintain.

What happens is you sign up for a 2 year contract for Mobile Broadband, and at the same time you sign up for the Dell to be paid off over that period.  Just like the original concept for Mobile phone plans.

The cost is clear – $59.95 – of which $40 is for the Mobile Broadbane (5GB of data) and $20 for the netbook.  So you’re buying the Netbook for under $500 over the 2 years.  Fantastic deal.

Frankly the whole thing is a great concept, especially I think for students or as a spare ‘travel’ PC for business.

However, I wouldn’t buy one myself.

It’s just too small.  Portable – YES which is great on the plane in terms of lugging it around.

Easy to use – yes.

But, the keyboard is simply too small.  The key configuration is hard to get used to, and because I can’t imagine it as a primary PC you’d always be adjusting your style to suit.

– As a side note, why do Netbook manufacturers put installation CD’s into the packaging?  Why not put it on an SD Card – it doesn’t have a CD player! –

That’s a very personal thing though, does this device ‘fit’ you.

The key for me here is the Broadband choice, because this won’t be the only one of it’s kind, I expect in years to come this to be a standard way to buy your laptop.

Telstra dominates the Mobile broadband space.  And for good reason – they are fast.

However, some interesting observations while testing my Bigpond side by side with Vodafone.

During office hours, the Vodafone download speeds were exceptionally better than Telstra – you’re looking at over 4Mbps consistently, and regularly over 5Mbps.  Telstra was consistent at between 3 and just under 4Mbps.

Uploads were the opposite.  Telstra managed a consistent 1 Mbps or more.  Vodafone struggled to get to 0.81Mbps.

In the evening – around 8pm at night – The results were much worse – for both.  Neither managed to get over 2Mbps in downloads.  Vodafone rarely got over 1Mbps.  For uploads, Telstra Bigpond was the clear evening winner, with 1Mbps or more time and time again, Vodafone was consistenly under 0.50Mbps.

This was disappointing, but proved that it can be all about when you need it, when you want to use it.

Bigpond was consistent – never huge fluctuations.  Vodafone had larger fluctuations over each test.

I actually think Vodafone could be a better offering for daytime Mobile Broadband, but remember, stick to the Cities – the Broadband Wireless network has some work ahead of it, but has recently been upgraded by Vodafone so I look forward to trying that out in a regional area.

As for the DELL Mini 9 – Great little unit – 2 and a half out of 5.  With the size a disadvantage for usability, and the impact that can have on workability – I really do prefer a 10 inch Netbook.

However, I still believe there is a great cost benefit in running one of these as your home PC simply with a Monitor, Mouse and Keyboard plugged in – a great, simple Home solution, and in this case – with Built in Internet Connectivity.