Dell Inspiron Mini's Guts Reveal Upgrade Opportunities

You wouldn't know it from looking at the outside of Dell's new Inspiron Mini 9, but the new netbook offers a slew of hidden upgrade possibilities for intrepid hardware modders willing to pop open the hatch. Even Dell is touting the ability to mod the system. First, as we demonstrated in this RAM upgrade how-to, it's very easy to replace the preinstalled memory with a higher capacity DDR2 DIMM. Of course, there's only one DIMM slot so you'll have to toss out the perfectly-good 512MB or 1GB to move up to 2GB. On the lower right, there's a Wi-Fi card which supports 802.11g connections. While 802.11n would probably be wasted on a netbook like this, the default card could probably be replaced with another mini PCIe card that suports the draft N wireless standard. On the lower left, there's an unused mini PCIe slot next to a space that says WWAN and a pair of wires which are meant to connect to some kind of antenna that's probably sitting somewhere else in the chassis. Clearly, this is where the mobile broadband card will go when Dell starts offering mobile broadband as an option. For now, though, this is a free slot that can be used for something else.

On the upper left, you'll see the system's SSD, which we have identified (through perusing the BIOS and consulting with our friend Kevin Toefel of jkOntheRun) as a STEC UM-SSD. Unfortunately, we have the Linux version of the Inspiron Mini so we haven't been able yet to run a serious disk benchmark like HDTach or Sisoftware Sandra to tell us what the read/write performance is like. However, STEC's description of its SSD claims 85MBps read / 25MBps write, which would be a really great read time, but a rather poor write rate.

The really interesting thing about the Inspiron Mini's SSD is that it's attached via a mini PCIe slot so, if you can find a mini PCIe drive for sale somewhere, you can replace it or, bettery yet, add to it by using the empty mini PCIe slot on the lower left. We took an ASUS-Phison mini PCIe SSD out of our Eee PC 901and tried to pop it in, but found that the Eee PC's SSD was twice as long as a normal mini PCIe card and just wouldn't fit in the space allotted. We couldn't find a single vendor selling STEC SSDs or any mini PCIe SSD that would fit in this slot, but we know somebody's going to figure out a way to hack this.

Check out the pictures below that have been posted on Dell's Service Manual site.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.