Build Quality, Oh Sweet Build Quality

Here’s where ASUS falls short and Dell succeeds: the Inspiron Mini 9 feels like it’s worth much more than you’re paying for. The Eee PC, especially the 901 is actually not all that low-cost, and while build quality has improved it's still not perfect. The problem for ASUS is that the Inspiron Mini 9, at $349, feels like a more expensive product. Consider the bar raised.

That's right, white LEDs

The equivalent on the Eee PC. The Dell looks more...Apple-like

This thing feels amazing, it’s the MacBook Air meets the Eee PC. There are $1500 notebooks that don’t feel this put together. Dell has been promising me that over the next 12 - 18 months that their products are going to get significantly better in terms of functionality, build quality and design - the Mini is the first example of just that. That's not to say that the Eee PC was bad, far from it, it's just that the Mini is better.

Eee PC (left) vs. Inspiron Mini 9 (right)

Eee PC (left) vs. Inspiron Mini 9 (right)

Stylistically the Inspiron Mini 9 borrows a lot from the Eee PC. The beveled edge on the top cover is nearly identical to that on the Eee PC 901. Even the back of the screen is nearly identical, but Dell improved upon ASUS’ design by softening one of the harder angles on the Eee PC.

Eee PC (left) vs. Inspiron Mini 9 (right)

Part of Dell’s trick to making the Inspiron Mini feel more expensive than it is has to do with materials choices on the inside. The frame around the screen and keyboard are made of the same material, and it hides fingerprints. The Eee PC on the other hand mixes two different types of coating and the area around the keyboard happens to show fingerprints/grease a little too well, regardless of whether you got the white or black version.

The Mini's hidden hinges

Dell also hid its hinges as best as it could with the Mini, while ASUS displayed them prominently on the Eee PC. Stylistically, the Inspiron Mini looks more modern, while the Eee PC is more reminiscent of the notebooks of yesteryear. Given the low price point of these devices, you expect slightly older styling, but again - Dell raised the bar with the Inspiron Mini.

ASUS' exposed hinges

Index Expansion: More than a MacBook Air


View All Comments

  • mmntech - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    #3 is the most important IMO. While SD drives deliver great speed and load times, 8gb or even 16gb really isn't a lot. Once you get your music and videos on it, that space is going to get eaten up quickly. Carrying around portable HDDs or SD cards defeats the purpose of these systems. I don't understand why they aren't offering a HDD as an option as MSI, Asus, and Acer did.

    Other than that, this definitely looks like a solid system. Any chance on getting some Cinebench 10 benchmarks? I'd like to be able to compare the Atoms to my current laptop, which is a PowerPC Mac.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    A 2.5" HDD is absolutely huge compared to the form factor of these netbooks. At best, 1.8" HDDs are what you should look at, and honestly I think 4-16GB (and future 32 and 64GB probably) SSDs make a ton of sense. No moving parts, less heat, and lower power requirements are all things you want in such a small computer. Reply
  • advillain - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Nice detailed comparisson. Why wasnt the Acer Aspire One included? maybe i missed an explanation in the article. For the price, the Aspire Ones are very nice. I have one with a 6 cell, and am able to web browse, msn, watch a vid or two, and have the battery last 5.5-6.5 hours (with lcd brighness turned down of course) Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Thanks for the comments :)

    Unfortunately I didn't have the Aspire, although the Eee PC 1000 is on its way to me. I'll definitely do a followup with the 1000, although it is clearly a larger netbook.

    I'll see about getting my hands on the Acer model...

  • rvikul - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    A netbook round-up would be perfect (pushing my luck?). Thanks for this review.

    (btw, Chrome is doing funky things with this comment box).
  • Lonearchon - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    I agree the Acer Aspire One is closer in design to the Dell Mini. They both have glossy screens with LED back light. But the keyboard on the Acer is larger making it easier to type on. It does sacrifice the touch pad to accomplish this. Reply
  • Chadder007 - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    I thought the ASUS had an LED backlight also, I'd like to see the Lenovo thrown in for comparison too though. Reply
  • rvikul - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    Yes, why wasn't it compared with Aspire One which is more comparable to dell mini?

    I was really looking forward to that.
  • dsity - Thursday, September 4, 2008 - link

    6 cell is 50% more than 4 cell? Reply
  • piroroadkill - Friday, September 5, 2008 - link

    dear god Reply

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