HP Mini Review

I’ve been working with the HP Mini 1000 Netbook for about a month. I chose it for its keyboard. HP says the Mini’s keyboard is 92% the size of a full size keyboard. It’s laid out edge-to-edge, similar to 12" Mac laptops. This allow for larger keys than other netbooks, and it’s a decided advantage for comfort and function. I used it during a board meeting and took notes during a visit to Southwest Airlines general offices and found it a good choice. I got nearly three hours of battery life before re-charging.

The HP Mini has been priced slightly higher than other netbooks but Costco recently sold it online at a competitive price and street prices seem to be edging downward.

It weighs in at 2.3 lbs and easily slipped into a carry-on bag. Thankfully, it won’t cause back strain. I travel frequently and weight makes a difference.

In most other features , the mini is competitive with other netbooks but it has a few limitations. It has a single switchable jack for mic or earphone use and two USB ports. Dell has three USB ports and jacks for both audio and mic. And HP also expects you to buy a proprietary SD card for an external drive. A standard media card would probably have been sufficient. The Mini comes with a webcam. It runs on the same Intel Atom processor others use. This processor is adequate but you can over-task it and you’ll have wait for it to catch up, and eventually it does.

Mouse keys are located on the left and right of the touchpad and I found it easy to adjust to this arrangement. The left side of the touchpad moves the cursor while the right side scrolls the screen. I’m used to Mac touchpads that allow me to use one finger to move the cursor and two to scroll. The transition here is easy enough, yet it’s not quite the same. Sensitivity, however, is a moving target. I’m still experimenting with touchpad sensitivity and cursor speed.

The netbook came with Windows XP but after a couple of weeks I downloaded HP’s Mi Linux operating system. If you buy it configured on the netbook, this edition is approximately thirty dollars less than the XP version. HP recommends the XP version but in my opinion Linux is more intuitive and functional, especially if you’re used to the Mac OS. The HP Linux adaptation, however, disables the command line function of the Ubuntu Linux operating system which I find frustrating.

However, after using it for a week, I’ll keep the Ubuntu system even with HP’s limits. It’s closer to the Mac OS, but far from equivalent to it. I like the desktop which includes easy access to email, favorite web pages, videos, music and a file browser. The open source software performs remarkably well. I’ve synced my bookmarks on Firefox , and Thunderbird email works as well as any off-the-shelf program, in fact, better than some that cost a pretty penny. Open Office is more than adequate for word processing. I haven’t tried the spreadsheet or presentation software.

I plugged in a new Minos Flipcam to see how it would work with the HP and the media player downloaded and played the Flipcam video without a hitch. However, the HP doesn’t want to download the Flipcam’s editing software which is written for Windows and Mac. I also discovered it won’t play TokBox video online. When I tried it set off a loud screech that brought staff running into my office. That’s a humbling experience in a technology company.

Netbooks won’t replace full-featured laptops. They’re made to read email and access the Internet. They’re mostly plastic, inexpensive and, therefore, replaceable if stolen, lost or dropped. I like the HP, but after using it for a few days while traveling, I returned to a full-size MacBook Pro with a smoothly operating glass touchpad and it felt like a cool drink on a hot day. I realized how constricting the small screen is, and how it requires to you attend to it more intensely. A netbook is a useful, functional utility. A MacBook is a wholly different experience.

3 Responses to “HP Mini Review”

  1. Matt Carlisle March 13, 2009 at 6:41 pm #

    Larry. I own the same model and have used it for about 6 weeks. I agree with your assessment. I’ve come to realize that my desktop is for “work”. My HP Mini allows me the accessibility to blog or tweet around the house or take notes easily during a meeting. My laptop was often cumbersome and didn’t provide me quick access.

    A sidenote — the size and weight of the Mini is also perfect for my six year old daughter. I’m more comfortable having her learning the basics on a $300 computer. 😉

  2. Wade March 31, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Larry,

    I’m considering the same model, and I was wondering which hard drive option you chose. I’m considering either the 16 or 32 GB solid state drive, and I plan to use the computer for little more than email access when on vacation and out of the house. Think 16 GB is enough? How big is the XP install on your model?

    thanks!
    -Wade

  3. Larry March 31, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Hi Wade,
    I think 16GB drive is adequate. However, if it’s not too much added cost, I would consider the larger drive simply because I sometimes like to upload photos or work documents while traveling. I don’t expect the netbook to replace a laptop but I’m used to this kind of storage and would consider a larger drive (mine’s 16GB) if I were doing it again.

    The XP version works well. I tend to expect the Atom processor to work more quickly than it is capable. I found I was over taxing it with too many tasks and it took it a few seconds to catch up. I never actually crashed the system, but it appeared to freeze when I tried to open one program, close another, and type an email message in short order. That’s also the result of working with a fully featured laptop that can handle these tasks without much delay.

    All this aside, I like the netbook. It functions well. It’s a friendly little machine, easy to carry, works flawlessly otherwise and I’m pleased with it. Especially for the price.
    Larry

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