Does the Dell Mini 9 use a fast mPCI-Express SSD?

Pcicard_smallI’m thinking that Dell didn’t go with a solid state drive module that’s soldered on the motherboard of the Inspiron Mini 9. Actually, that was my first thought when I heard you could configure your netbook for 4-, 8-, or 16-GB of SSD capacity. It’s far less expensive to have one base motherboard with an SSD module that you can add to on the fly.

My second clue was during the LAPTOP Magazine live video stream of the Dell Mini 9. Joanna Stern was kind enough to check the BIOS as I asked in the chat room. When she did that, she saw that the hard drive model was a STEC SSD x.x (sorry, I forget the numbers she read off). Some quick research let me to STEC Inc., which used to be known as SimpleTech, a make of flash memory modules and drives.

I can’t be sure exactly which of their products is used, but my gutleads me to their mini PCI-Express card. That would make the Dells easyfor a "build-to-order" approach. There are some other STEC flashproducts that could be inside, but I think they’re too big, i.e.:they’re the size of traditional hard drives and Dell has already saidthey see the netbook market better served by SSD and not magnetic harddrives. That doesn’t mean they didn’t go this route, but my best guessis that they didn’t.

If I’m right, this could be good news. Why? Two reasons: first, thiscard is also available in a 32 Gigabyte option from STEC. The highercapacity could later be made available as an option for folks whodesire more capacity. Secondly, this module has far better transferrates than the one in the Acer Aspire. According to the STEC product page,reads and write speeds are up to 85 MBps and 25 MBps respectively. Aquick test on the actual device would confirm that, of course, but Idon’t have one. ;)

I have a note into the folks at Dell to confirm this part because Ithink it could play a big role in purchase decisions for some. More tofollow as I’m trying to sleuth this out… bear in mind thisspeculation based on my limited information so far.

Update: thanks to some help from the LAPTOP Mag folks, I can confirm that Dell did use a mini PCI-Express module. Having seen a shot of the Mini 9 guts, I can tell you that I see no room for a hard drive. I do see (as expected), an open slot for a WWAN module.

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