Review: FIRST LOOK: HP Mini-Note 2133, makes my leg feel like it's on fire

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Review: FIRST LOOK: HP Mini-Note 2133, makes my leg feel like it's on fire

We're worried about the damn hot operating temperature, but otherwise we're blown away by this mini notebook.

With the industry (including ourselves) going bananas over the Eee PC, it was only a matter of time before the big boys jumped into the mini notebook space with tiny sub-$1,000 alternatives. We've been salivating over the HP Mini-Note since the first announcement, and we can now report it's a brilliant laptop, though more expensive than the Eee (and hot, which we explain below).

There's been a bit of debate in our labs over this machine. It has several major advantages over the Eee PC 900, but is priced at $899-$999 - right in regular size laptop territory, and more expensive by a few hundred dollars than the Eee PC.

This is a tiny laptop, around 1.2Kg with an 8.9inch screen, and perfectly suited to tucking under your arm to meetings, or banging out a report or watching some DivX movies on the train or bus or in a cafe.

The killer is the Mini-Note's keyboard - a beautifully proportioned job that's only a tad smaller than the main QWERTY section of a normal desktop keyboard. It's not possible to understate how important this is - typing on the Mini-Note is much, much easier to do than with the Eee PC (though you can train yourself to master the Eee's tiny keys).

The other big difference to the Eee PC 900 is the operating system - our review model came with Windows Vista Business, though Windows Home Basic and various flavours of Linux will also be an option. There's no XP option though, which is a brave move considering the criticism Vista is copping online at the moment (check out the comments on our Eee PC review).

HP will cop abuse for loading Vista on the Mini-Note, but here's the thing - our review sample performed surprisingly well with 2GB. There are benchmarks around the Web indicating poor performance, but don't let this put you off - for basic jobs the Mini-Note whips along. In fact it's actually more responsive under small loads than some $3,000+ ultraportables I've used, even under power saver mode.

We were a tad worried by the heat generated by our review sample. This laptop runs hot, and by hot, we mean groin-endangering hot. We left the unit on for 24 hours and got a 45 degree celcius reading from the surface of the bottom of the case. HP told us we had a pre-production unit, so finger's crossed this will be ironed by the time the Mini-Note goes on sale (sometime later this month, we're told).

The unit itself is wider than the Eee PC 900, at 25.5cm wide versus 17cm for the Eee. The screen is a gloss type and looks great at the 1280 x 768 resolution. Our review unit came with 2GB RAM, 802.11 (though no draft-n). The other advantage the HP has over the Eee is the large onboard storage - 12GB - 180GB of hard drive space.

The big disappointment with go-anywhere laptops is often the battery life. In our anecdotal tests, running the HP's standard 3-cell battery in power saver mode, with sleep and hibernation turned off, hard drive sleep disabled, display brightness set to 40%, and critical battery level set to 0, we got about 2 hours of use, occasionally surfing the Web wirelessly. That's less than the Linux powered Eee PC 900, which lasted for about 2.5 hours. Fortunately there's an optional 6-cell battery for the HP, which will be an absolute must for most users.

We're big fans of the Eee, but the beautiful keyboard, storage and decent performance put the Mini-Note in a class above the Eee 900. That said, an asking price just shy of $1,000 makes us start to question the value. For that price you could pickup a first gen Eee AND a cheap mid-size HP notebook.
We'd rather use the HP, but if you want the cheapest available we'd be hard pressed to recommend it over the Eee.

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