So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Hewlett-Packard Australia 2133 Mini-Note PC (FH441PA)
A good looking, well-featured and affordable ultraportable
- Good performance, ExpressCard slot, 1280x768 resolution, big keys, 160GB hard drive
- Battery life, got noticeably warm after prolonged use, LEDs were distracting
It's small, affordable and easy to use. Business users will appreciate the fast networking options and the ExpressCard slot. Travellers and students will love its large hard drive capacity and the fact that it's compact but still easy to use.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
While it has some similarities to the ASUS Eee PC, the Hewlett-Packard 2133 Mini-Note PC is a different beast altogether: it has a 5400rpm notebook hard drive instead of a solid-state drive, it has a higher screen resolution (despite being 8.9in in size), and it has huge keys! Not only that, it runs Windows Vista Business edition and it even has an ExpressCard slot.
Only the lack of a solid-state drive can be seen as a weakness — the hard drive's moving parts mean it can be damaged if you drop the Mini-Note — but this is off-set by the drive's comparably huge capacity of 160GB (the Eee PC 900 (Windows XP version) has only 12GB of space). In fact, this Mini-Note trumps the Eee PC in almost all areas; and it should, as it costs $999, whereas the Windows XP version of the Eee PC costs $599.
When it comes to processing power, the Mini-Note shuns Intel technology and instead favours a VIA C7-M 1.6GHz CPU, a VIA chipset and integrated graphics. With 2GB of DDR2 RAM installed (256MB of this is dedicated to the integrated graphics), it runs Windows Vista relatively swiftly, but don't rely on it for taxing tasks.
In our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite, which runs Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Firefox, Windows Media Encoder, WinZip and multitasking tests, the Mini-Note garnered a score of 29, which is very slow. In particular, it took 1900sec to finish the Photoshop test (most Core 2 Duo notebooks can do this in about 500sec), but it is impressive that it ran the test at all. It's not an ideal unit for multitasking, although you can work on documents or browse the Web while listening to music — you might find scrolling long documents to be a little slower while the music is playing.
Nevertheless, you can still load 10-megapixel photos easily and perform basic tasks on them, such as cropping and contrast adjustment. The Mini-Note will even play movies without any tearing or stuttering, and they'll look pretty good on the 8.9in screen. It has very good contrast, which makes colours look vivid, and it's also quite bright; however, its vertical viewing angle suffers from colour shift. The speakers on either side of the screen are loud and relatively clear for listening to music and watching videos, so there's no need to plug in a set of headphones (unless you don't want to disturb other people!).
Away from an outlet, the Mini-Note isn't overly impressive. Its three-cell battery has a rating of just 2700mAh (milliamp hours). In our worst-case scenario battery test (in which we loop a video and disabled power management), the unit lasted only 1hr 12min. This is almost exactly half the time of the Windows XP-based Eee PC, which has a battery rating of 4400mAh. So while working on the road you'll have to employ a smart power-saving strategy.
With a weight of only 1.2kg, you'll want to take this unit on the road with you often; it's very easy to use, despite being only 26cm wide and 17cm deep. Its keys are full-sized (apart from the arrow and function keys), so typing won't get tiring, and you won't be able to attribute spelling mistakes to a cramped keyboard! However, the implementation of big keys means that palm-rest space has been sacrificed; this may take some getting used to.
Navigation is by way of a Synaptics touchpad, which is wide and also takes some getting used to. Vertical movements are limited and the placement of the left- and right-click buttons either side of the pad is unnatural. We do appreciate the on/off button for the touchpad, which comes in handy when typing.
Getting online is easy thanks to the integrated 802.11a/b/g wireless networking module; the Mini-Note even has a Gigabit Ethernet port. There are only two USB 2.0 ports (one either side of the unit), but business users might appreciate the ExpressCard slot, which can be used to conveniently house a mobile data card, for example. An SD memory slot is present, and it also has a D-Sub port, and a built-in webcam.
While running office applications and browsing the Web for a prolonged period of time, the unit will get noticeably warm — especially at the front. This could become uncomfortable when using it on your lap. There is an exhaust fan on the side, and this runs relatively quietly.
On the underside of the notebook, there aren't any access panels. If you want to change the RAM or the hard drive, you have to remove the battery and unscrew and lift the keyboard. There is only one memory slot.
Physically, the unit feels solidly built and it looks good, too. Its screen is protected and has a slightly glossy finish, although this isn't a problem. However, we don't like the location of the power, hard drive and wireless networking LEDs on the front of the unit, as they are distracting.
When you weigh up the pros and cons of the Mini-Note, the pros tip the scale easily; the only real drawback is its poor battery life. We can safely say that if you're in the market for a new notebook for word processing and Web browsing that you can also easily carry to and from the office or the classroom, the Mini-Note is a worthwhile option.
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