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Dell Joins Netbook Fray With Inspiron Mini 9

After months of leaked details, Dell today officially launched its own offering to the growing netbook market.

Despite the anticipation that Dell might actually bring something new to the table, the specifications for the new Inspiron Mini 9 don’t appear to set the new product apart from the competition.

Dell’s official line, as written in its company blog, reads, “Purpose-built to keep teens, tweens, travelers and “Tweeters” connected, the Mini is optimized for that ‘30-minute connection’ experience – blogging, surfing, e-mailing, chatting, viewing photos, videos and music – you get the idea.”

The entry-level Mini 9 starts at $349 and comes in a 2.28 lbs package with a customized variant of Ubuntu 8.04, 512 MB RAM, a 4 GB solid-state drive. The rest are the standard fare Intel Atom N270, an 8.9-inch 1024X600 LED display, 802.11n and a 4 cell battery.

An extra $50 on top of the above configuration will upgrade to an 8 GB SSD and add a built-in 0.3 MP webcam. Another $50 more at $449 will buy the XP Edition, which will include the Windows operating system and 1 GB RAM.

On the page, there is little to make the Inspiron Mini 9 more attractive than the rest of the pack. With the standard 4 to 8 GB of mass storage looking a little small, Dell has teamed up with to offer web-based file storage, access and sharing to Inspiron Mini users, including a free basic plan with 2 GB of remote storage space, expandable to 25 GB for additional fees.

The Inspiron Mini 9 will likely be the most attractive to those who are already planning to buy a Studio 15, XPS M1530 or XPS M1330 – as the Inspiron Mini 9 can be added to those purchases for only $99 through 6 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 (U.S. only).

Consumers in the U.S., Japan and select countries in Europe can now shop for the new netbook. Availability elsewhere will be handled on a country-by-country basis, said Dell in its release.

Dell is the big dog in PC retail, but its Inspiron Mini 9 will be jumping into a segment with already fierce competition. With strong alternatives already on the market from Taiwanese OEMs, one can’t help but feel that Dell is just phoning this one in.

Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.