Review: HP 2133 Mini-Note - Page 2

By Eric Grevstad | Posted April 18, 2008

Too Good To Let the Kids Keep It?

With the 4GB flash drive installed, HP says, the 2133 tips the scales at 2.63 pounds. Since our system had a hard drive instead, it weighed in at 2.88 pounds with the smaller or 3.25 pounds with the larger battery pack.

That's heavier than the 2.06-pound Eee, but not enough to notice the difference when lifting your briefcase; the Mini-Note is as much a pleasure to travel with as are far more costly featherweights like Lenovo's ThinkPad X300. At about 6.5 by 10.3 by 1 inches, the HP is almost as easy to fit into that briefcase as the Eee, though its AC adapter is bulkier and heavier (14 ounces).

Power and wireless on/off switches are handily located on the laptop's front edge. On the left side are headphone and microphone jacks, a VGA monitor connector, and a powered USB 2.0 port for an external storage device.

A second USB port is on the right, as is an Ethernet connector (what's that you say, Apple MacBook Air owners? You don't have these things?). You'll also find a slot for an SD flash-memory card and an ExpressCard/54 slot -- suitable for the 3G broadband wireless adapter the HP definitely needs.

As we've already noted, the Mini's keyboard is downright luxurious for a subnotebook -- its practically full-sized span makes up for a good-but-not-great (slightly flat and soft) typing feel. The touchpad is wider than you'd expect, too, with large, rubbery mouse buttons on either side. Except for a finger repeatedly straying into the vertical scrolling zone at the right of the pad, it worked fine.

Take a Long Look

Your first sight of the 2133's screen will be a dim one -- every time the system restarts or awakes from hibernation, it's turned the backlight brightness off rather than retain the level you set earlier for the sake of babying the battery. And we were happy with the LCD's brightness only at the highest or second highest of the settings available.

Once it's brightened up, however, the display is clear and colorful, if a bit prone to doubling as a makeup mirror. We're torn between cheering and complaining about its impressively high 1,280 by 768-pixel resolution -- images and fonts look ultra-sharp, but small pull-down-menu text (and the cursor, until we resized it) were almost too tiny for our middle-aged eyes. Yes, we wear bifocals, but we'd never found ourselves sliding them up and down our nose and bobbing our head like a sitcom geezer before.

Speaking of the battery, the 6-cell, 55-watt-hour battery is an option that should be standard. The flush-fitting 3-cell, 28-watt-hour pack averaged just an hour and a half in our real-world work sessions, while the protruding battery/keyboard prop lasted for a solid three hours, stretching to three and a quarter in non-heavy-duty word processing and Web surfing sessions.

Of course, we always wish for longer battery life, but that isn't our greatest wish for the Mini-Note. Our greatest wish would be more horsepower under the hood.

To be sure, the 2133 doesn't pretend to be a high-end gaming or video-editing platform, and it feels adequately responsive while you're typing documents or putting together presentations -- the 2GB of system memory sufficient to bear the ponderous weight of Windows Vista, although we're dismayed that the HP can't be upgraded above 2GB.

The bottom line? Seems those HP execs weren't entirely kidding about selling to the educational market: They could have waited until summer or fall to ship a Mini-Note with VIA's faster replacement for the current C7-M processor, or -- even more likely -- with one of Intel's elegant new Atom ultraportable processors. But that would have missed school districts' budgeting and buying for this September.

Size, Price and Style

So should you buy an HP Mini now, or wait for a probably improved version? That depends. The Eee still has its picture in the dictionary under cute, but the 2133 should be listed under style or glamour. You won't see a more chic handheld this year.

Against that, when Asus unveiled the Eee at $400, the conventional notebooks available at that price were easy to shun -- or to rationalize, "Yes, I know I could have more screen, keyboard, speed and storage, but I'll trade that for the convenience and portability of the Eee." Today, the fully loaded HP faces some pretty darn nice conventional notebooks available at $750.

But show us a configuration with a faster CPU, Windows XP instead of Vista, broadband wireless, and even a smaller (80GB?) hard disk if necessary to stay under $600, and we are so there.

Adapted from Hardwarecentral.com.

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