Netbook showdown: Toshiba NB300 vs. HP Mini 210

We pit Toshiba's NB300 netbook against HP's Mini 210

If you're thinking about getting a netbook, the latest 10in mini-notebooks from Toshiba and HP have a lot to offer. Both have identical specs, but that doesn't mean they share the same features. We've pitted the HP Mini 210 (NB-210-1017TU_01) against the Toshiba NB300 for this netbook showdown

Physical design: The HP Mini 210 (NB-210-1017TU_01) netbook has a very different design to the Toshiba NB300 netbook. The Toshiba NB300 is slim and feels sturdy, but it's also rather run-of-the-mill as far as netbook design is concerned. The keyboard is standard, as is the touchpad. Apart from the slim base and the large palm rest, there is nothing that really screams, "Hey buddy, pick me up!"

We also don’t care much for the power light in the centre of the Toshiba NB300 netbook.

The design of the HP Mini 210 is a little more appealing. Its body has a 'grippy', textured feel to it, despite being made of plastic. It actually feels a little rugged, even though it’s not. We like its keyboard, which has island-style keys, and there is a fancy touchpad with concealed buttons that’s smooth to use.

You can easily remove the bottom panel of the HP Mini 210 without using tools, which is a nice touch. The Toshiba requires a Torx screwdriver to get to its hard drive -- no big deal unless you need to repair or replace the drive.

We love that the function buttons on the HP allow you to directly change the brightness and volume without first having to press the Fn button, and we also appreciate that there are no bright lights at the top of the unit.

Ultimately, we like the HP Mini 210 because it doesn't look and feel run of the mill.

Winner: HP Mini 210

Performance: Both the HP Mini 210 and the Toshiba NB300 rely on an Intel Atom N450 CPU, integrated Intel graphics, 1GB of RAM and a 250GB, 5400rpm hard drive. Therefore, they perform quite similarly, but each one is a little faster in different areas.

Performance Benchmarks
Test HP Mini 210Toshiba NB300
Adobe Photoshop CS21301sec1310sec
Firefox 21102sec 1070sec
MS Office 2003 with SP1740sec 731sec
MS Windows Media Encoder 9766sec 769sec
Multitasking: Firefox and WME1477sec 1433sec
Nero 7 Ultra Edition801sec 733sec
WinZip 10696sec 718sec
MP3 encoding7min 42sec7min 46sec
Blender 3D rendering6min 56sec6min 48sec
Hard drive transfer27.53MBps18.92MBps

The NB300 showed that it has a good amount of CPU speed in the Blender 3D rendering test, but it was let down by its hard drive, which was almost 10 megabytes per second slower than the Mini 210's. The slow hard drive didn’t affect its overall performance in the office application and graphics tests, but it took slightly longer than the HP to perform the Photoshop, Windows Media Encoder 9 and WinZip tests. It was faster than the HP in the FireFox, multitasking and Nero tests, but it was slightly slower in the MP3 encoding and 3DMark06 tests. Both netbooks felt a little sluggish at times when using them for everyday work. Because the HP beat the Toshiba in six of the 11 tests, it’s the overall winner in this round.

Winner: HP Mini 210 by a hair

Battery life: Both the Toshiba NB300 and the HP Mini 210 have long-lasting battereis that are perfect for watching movies and TV shows when you’re on the go. However, the HP Mini 210 has a slightly larger battery capacity than the NB300 — 62 Watt-hours as opposed to 61 Watt-hours. The NB300 lasted 5hr 2min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable the wireless radio, turn up the screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. The HP Mini 210 lasted 5hr 11min.

Winner: HP Mini 210

Notable features: The combination of a USB Sleep-and-Charge port and a long battery life makes the NB300 a great unit for travellers. Having been caught out with a dead phone battery and fully charged laptop while away from an outlet, we can fully appreciate the convenience of this feature in charging USB devices anywhere, anytime, as long as you remember all your cables. The best part is that the NB300 even charges iPhones, which are always quick to deplete. Both the NB300 and the HP Mini 210 feature 3D hard drive protection. The Mini 210 also has QuickWeb, which allows you to quickly boot into a pre-Windows environment to get online or browse files on the hard drive. The NB300 has 802.11n wireless networking, while the Mini 210 only has 802.11g. We’re giving this round to the Toshiba NB300 for the USB Sleep-and-Charge port and faster Wi-Fi.

Winner: Toshiba NB300

User comfort: Both the Toshiba NB300 and the HP Mini 210 are easy to use for netbooks. Their keys have plenty of travel and bounce-back. The touchpad on the HP Mini 210 is very smooth and has concealed buttons. It feels great to use, but because the buttons are underneath the touchpad and the area above them is used for navigation, it can be hard to click with one finger and drag with the other. Both the Mini 210 and the NB300 support two-finger gestures for zooming, scrolling and rotating. The NB300 has a bigger touchpad and palm rest area than the Mini 210; this is a big deal to us, as is the fact that it’s ever-so-slightly lighter at 1.25kg compared to 1.3kg. Not only that, but the Toshiba runs a little cooler when performing the same functions over the same period of time. This round goes to the Toshy.

Winner: Toshiba NB300

Price: Both the Toshiba NB300 and the HP Mini 210 have the same recommended retail price of $599.

Winner: Tie

Overall, the HP Mini 210 comes up trumps, but it’s a very tight race. The HP has only a slight edge in performance and battery life tests, and its design is also very appealing. However, the Toshiba NB300 has a better feature-set, which includes a USB Sleep-and-Charge port — this is why it got a higher rating when we first reviewed it. We’d say that if you are a regular traveller and have USB-based devices (such as an iPhone or BlackBerry) with you, then this feature will make your life a whole lot easier: you’ll be able to charge a device while it sits in your backpack next to the switched off NB300.

Overall winner: HP Mini 210

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