HP's 2133 Mini-Note takes on the Eee PC

The latest ultraportable is a bit heavier and pricier than the Eee, but has a better screen and sleek design

Vista ready?

After plugging it in, I was surprised to find that the test unit came with Windows Vista Home Basic -- Vista is notoriously resource hungry, so mini-notebooks are, almost by definition, light in processing power and RAM departments. (In fact, Microsoft recently extended the life of Windows XP so that it could be installed on small, low-cost notebooks incapable of handling Vista.)

My concerns about a lack of power were initially justified when the Mini-Note took what seemed like forever -- well, 45 minutes, actually -- to go through its first-time startup routine as it configured itself, installed software and re-started multiple times. I expected subsequent boot-ups to be excruciatingly slow, but re-starting the device after that required only about two and a half minutes, which isn't exactly screaming performance but still isn't far out of line for a Vista laptop.

Not surprisingly, applications took longer to load than they would on a typical desktop, but again, performance was quite reasonable given the lack of power (besides, nobody buys a small device like this because of its blazing speed). Still, the Mini-Note's Windows Experience Index score was a relatively paltry 1.7 (higher is better). By comparison, even my five-year-old 2.8GHz Pentium desktop computer with a mere 512KB of RAM scored 2.0. And Lenovo's X60 tablet/laptop, with a 1.83 GHz Core Duo processor and 2GB of RAM, scored about 5.

Usability

The ultimate test of ultra-small laptops is usability. Needless to say, like any small device, the 2133 Mini-Note PC has its trade-offs, but not as many as you might expect.

In particular, its 8.9-inch display is very bright, sharp and pleasing to use. My only complaint with the Mini-Note's screen was that its default resolution of 1280 x 768, while quite sharp, resulted in icons and text that were too small to comfortably view. That problem was easily solved by lowering the resolution to 1024 x 768.

Input is the other key area of on-the-road usability and, in this area, the Mini-Note achieves mixed results. The keyboard is laudably large for such a small device -- HP claims it is 92 per cent the size of a full-sized laptop keyboard. It's about 10 inches wide, which is almost exactly the same size as the keyboard on my old Dell X300 laptop. The individual keys are also large -- about two-thirds of an inch square.

However, the keys are packed together, flush with one another with no beveled edge to provide a tactile distinction between the keys. As a result, I found my fingers sliding off the keys from time to time, leading to mis-typed words.

I did get comfortable with the keyboard after a while, but not the touchpad. The size of the touchpad is generous at 2.75 inches wide and 1.25 inches high. But the mouse buttons are on the right and left sides of the touchpad instead of below it, which is the case with virtually every other laptop I've ever used.

When buttons are below the touchpad, you can click a button with your thumb while keeping your index finger on the touch pad. However, to click a button with the Mini-Note, you must either take your finger off the touchpad or twist your hand uncomfortably so you can use your thumb. And click-and-drag operations require use of fingers on both hands. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it is an annoyance.

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David Haskin

Computerworld
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