Small is beautiful, they say, and the rush seems to be on to produce tinier ultra-portable laptops that won’t break the bank but will still be able to perform all the daily functions needed by the businessman on the go or the student rushing to lectures. No surprise, then, that HP has billed its 2133 Mini Note as “ideal for instructional use or general purpose business applications.”
Two things strike you immediately when you lift the machine out of the box: just how miniscule it is compared to a regular laptop and how smart and chic its appearance is next to, say, the bland white of Asus’s Eee PC. The Mini Note weighs just 1.27kg, is a mere 33mm thin (full dimensions are 25.5 x 3.3 x 16.5cm) and comes in an urban silver, all-aluminium case.
Flipping open the lid we were expecting a typical Toy Town mini keyboard, but here was the next pleasant shock: we were confronted with a beefy, 92 percent full size, QWERTY keyboard that was a dream to operate. True, there are a few anomalies, such as an undersized tilde and ‘1′ key (maybe they could have reduced the size of the plus and minus keys?) and the tiny Del key relegated to top right, but all this is forgiven now that there’s no danger of writer’s cramp.
In order to conserve space the mouse buttons have been moved up on either side of the touchpad and that might take a little getting used to. However, there is a useful additional button just above the touchpad that can be used to disable it while typing; a brilliant idea and one that should become universally in-built as standard on all future portable PCs.
The main casualty of the Mini Note’s size is the reduction in the number of extras. So there’s no optical drive but there is an ExpressCard/54 slot plus a Secure Digital Reader, two USB 2.0 ports, VGA, microphone in, stereo headphone/line out and an RJ45 Ethernet port. Wi-Fi is possible either via WLAN or optional Bluetooth and you get an additional integrated VGA webcam.
There’s a glossy (and rather reflective) 8.9-inch diagonal, scratch-resistant, WXGA display with a respectable 1280 x 768 resolution, framed by two superb quality speakers that produce some of the best, distortion-free sound yet heard on machines of this size and bigger.
This is all magnificent but unfortunately disappointment was to come when we saw the processor under the bonnet. The extent to which we long for the new Intel Atoms is illustrated by the painfully slow VIA C7-M ULV 1.2GHz processor found here. The Mini Note comes in two optional OS versions: Windows Vista Business 32 and SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. We were reviewing the Linux edition and the OS was struggling with multiple operations and even loading web pages, and clearly the VIA Chrome 9 graphics chip wasn’t meant to take on much more than YouTube videos.
The battery life manages around 2 hours and 15 minutes with the supplied 3-cell Lithium-Ion pack when doing word processing and anything not too memory hungry, and you have the option to upgrade to a 6-cell version. We wouldn’t advise too much usage on your lap, though, as the front end and bottom become uncomfortably hot within half an hour.
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