Monday June 23, 2008 4:20 pm
HP Mini-Note 2133 review
Amidst a flurry of small and seemingly underpowered netbooks, HP has taken a slightly different tact in their release of the surprisingly capable HP Mini-Note device. While its up-to-$850 price tag places it in a significantly different category than the Eee PC and other cheap sub-notebooks, it easily makes up for this price difference with functionality and power approaching that of its larger siblings: full sized laptops.
We’ve got an HP Mini-Note unboxing gallery for you to check out if you want to see how the thing looks from all angles, and of course, you can click through for Gear Live’s in-depth review of the HP Mini-Note 2133’s features, capabilities, and user experience, below.
Build Quality and Design
The most striking thing about the HP Mini-note is its compact design. While larger than the Eee PC or other ultra-portables in that class, it’s still significantly smaller than any other laptops on the market, ranking in at about the size of the average hardcover book. The Mini-Note features rounded corners, and a mostly sleek exterior. Unfortunately the clean line is somewhat disturbed by the fact that the included battery sticks out significantly, however this does help raise the notebook up slightly on the desk it’s placed upon, which helps increase airflow and eases typing strain on the users wrists.
While typing upon the Mini-Note’s keyboard it’s easy to see the benefit of having the larger keyboard, versus the Eee PC. The keyboard is nearly full-sized and surprisingly easy to type on. Unlike some other ultra-portable computers, any touch-typist should have no problem typing away on the Mini-Note right out of the box with a very minimal learning curve. The large keys have a decent travel and provide reasonable amounts of feedback which allow typing at a user’s normal speed.
While the roomy keyboard makes typing a pleasure, the included trackpad is cramped and can feel awkward to use. HP designed the trackpad with the right and left mouse buttons off to the sides instead of the traditional bottom placement. This change - while minor - does take some getting used to. Virtually everyone else who has reviewed the Mini-Note has commented on non-standard button placement as “awkward” or “design-retarded”, so we aren’t alone there. One reviewer even commented that the design almost called out for two handed use – strange for a trackpad, stranger still for a device with a keyboard so directly aimed at touch-typists.
The trackpad does feature a deactivation button which is handy during extended typing sessions. Due to the small form factor of the device, it’s easy to accidentally activate the mouse while resting the palms of your hands on the Mini-Note while typing, and having a single button to disable does a great job of mitigating this problem. The trackpad deactivation button lights up while active giving the user clear feedback as to if it is activated – a nice touch for what became a frequently used feature.
The Mini-Note features a bright screen capable of displaying sharp text and bright colors on its 1280x800 LCD display. This is a common resolution for 12-14” laptops, and while the real estate is nice, the small 8” screen leads to small text and potential eye-strain from extended use.
The Mini-Note’s Via C7 processor and 2GB of RAM provide ample power to run the supplied Windows Vista Basic or Business. If running Windows Vista Business, the Mini-note is capable of running the Aero/Glass features for GPU accelerated window management and taskbar transparency. Although the machine is capable of running Vista, it should be noted that this notebook is far more geared towards email and browsing the web than gaming, or high end productivity tasks. Might wanna just wipe it clean and throw XP on it.
The Via C7 processor was a best of breed mobile processor for the last generation of ultra-portable computers, however with the release of the Intel Atom processor with its reduced power consumption and increased business productivity options, the inclusion of the C7 seems poorly timed. Like many portables released without the Atom in the past few months, the Mini-Note may end up being a transition product for HP to the up and coming Intel Moblin platform. Hey, what are you gonna do, right?
Despite our reservations on the C7 processor, the Mini-note’s overall performance is plenty to run Outlook, a browser, or other simple applications. When combined with its feather light weight the Mini-Note becomes an attractive option for travelers both of the globe, and of office-parks looking to quickly jump from meeting to meeting without lugging around a full sized laptop and power adapter.
It should be noted that the initial Mini-Note we reviewed got very warm during heavy usage. After pegging the processor for a few hours indexing mail in Outlook, the computer was warm enough to surprise and alarm this reviewer. The “Jay Leno chin” battery seems to prop the Mini-note up enough from the desk or table it is placed upon to prevent overheating. After speaking with HP and getting our hands on another review unit, we were able to confirm that the overheating problem was due to the initial unit being pre-release hardware - the production hardware runs at a reasonably cool level to be appropriate for every day use.
While the small size may tempt some to compare the Mini-Note to the latest netbook offerings, it really is in a different class of its own. While the form factor is similar to the Eee PC, the Mini-Note offers laptop-like levels of performance - as opposed to netbooks, which are primarily focused on basic web browsing at an affordable price. The Mini-Note is still a great value, but aimed at being a serious business tool, capable of virtually any task.
If you have embraced the cloud as your source of computing services, and don’t mind a significantly more cramped keyboard, the Asus Eee line may be a better choice. For anyone with a need for even moderate computing power, the Mini-note is the clear winner for when comparing value against the price and performance of what you get.
The HP Mini-Note 2133 impresses with its over-all well thought-out design and strong focus on business performance. While the unwieldy mouse button placement will likely throw most users for a loop, it is possible to adapt after a few hours of usage. If you are in the market for an ultra-light laptop with a roomy keyboard and high resolution screen, but don’t feel like waiting around to see if an Atom version is on the way, the 2133 seems like an ideal choice.
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