Toybox: HP enters the mini-notebook market

The Mini-Note basically has it all, except an onboard optical drive

Weighing in at 1.2 KG, Hewlett-Packard’s 2133 Mini-Note PC is heavier than the Eee 701 PC, but it features a much bigger hard drive (my review unit has a 120GB hard drive that spins at 7200 rpm), more memory and, at 8.9 inches, a slightly bigger screen.

At 1280 by 768 pixels, the screen is quite high-resolution for its size.

In New Zealand, the Mini-Note comes preloaded with Windows Vista or XP Pro with a Vista Licence, but HP also offers the choice of SUSE Linux and FreeDOS in some markets, for example the US, for a lower price. (The model with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 and a 4GB Flash hard drive costs US$499.)

Buyers can opt for either a 120GB or 160GB hard drive.

The little HP machine looks pretty smart in a MacBook Pro-esque brushed aluminium coating. It has a slightly fat and rounded appearance that I like. No sharp corners.

Under the hood, HP chose to go for single-core C7-M processors from Taiwan-based Via Technologies, instead of the usual suspects, Intel and AMD. HP chose the low-power processors to get the most of out of battery life, which is reportedly four hours with the weight-adding 6-cell battery. However, the standard option is the 3-cell battery, which gives around two hours battery life.

The Mini-Note sports a D-sub video out, two USB ports, an ExpressCard slot, a SD card reader, and microphone and headphone jacks. It also has a video camera mounted at the top of the screen. All it is missing, really, is an onboard optical drive.

A nice detail is the touch pad on/off button. This is very useful when typing on the keyboard, which is actually 92% of the size of a normal keyboard. I still found typing a little bit difficult, mainly because the lack of room for users’ wrists.

The little machine automatically finds and hooks up to wireless networks. It found one in the office I didn’t even know we had. There is also an external wi-fi power switch.

The specs seemed pretty good, so we tried it with a quite simple 3D game, ThinkTanks. This game was only just playable and the integrated graphics were not that strong, but everything else seemed to run well.

I found it a bit weird that the left click button is to the left of the touch pad and the right to the right, whereas these buttons are normally located directly below the touchpad on longer-bodied computers.

The charger weighs nearly as much as the laptop, and with just a couple of hours battery life, you are not going to be able to leave home without it. I was amazed at how heavy the charger was. It is even heavier than my MacBook charger, which is rated at 60 watts.

Also note that the charger can not be used on flights, as it has a warning label that says: “Do not charge on board aircraft”. But we found the cigarette lighter adapter cable very useful — we can charge the computer up in the car!

Overall, the Mini-Note is a nice looking and well-functioning computer. The target markets include the education sector, as well as mobile youths and travelling business executives, according to HP.

Priced at $999, it gives a lot of bang for your buck, but as your main working machine, it has its limitations.

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