Chris and I have been having quite a good time tweaking our MSI Wind netbooks. Both of us have run Mac OSX and Chris, who’s been a bit more aggressive in his hacking, now has his device booting with three different operating systems. Why then, you might ask, is my MSI Wind now in the Philippines with one of my writers from What’s On iPhone? It’s a long story that reflects my technology — fickleness.
Here’s my experience with notebooks thus far. Early on I had a number of Ultra-Mobile PCs, but then swore them off because they were overpriced and underpowered. I played around with an EEEpc but found that it was too small, underpowered, and overall it felt like a toy.
A few months ago, I decided to give the new classification of netbook computers another try. I briefly had an Acer, tested the trackpad and returned it. I had the HP 1000 and absolutely loved it. I would’ve kept the device except I wanted to be able to load OSX, and it was clear that the MSI Wind was a far better and easier hack at the time. So away went the HP 1000, and I picked up a Wind.
I loved hacking it. It was fun, relatively easy, and I couldn’t believe how well it ran OSX. I truly didn’t mind keeping it for a while, but the HP 2140 was coming out, and at exactly the same time, a friend needed a notebook to replace one that had been stolen from him. Selling him my MSI Wind was a good way to get a few dollars towards the purchase of the 2140 for me, and it was a great way for him to get a really good deal on a computer.
So off the Wind went to the Philippines while I waited patiently (okay, not so patiently) for the 2140 to ship. It arrived the other day, and I am loving the device!
The packaging was nondescript, and it really does the beautiful machine a disservice.
The 2140 is by far the most Mac-esque of the diminutive notebooks I’ve seen so far. Its brushed aluminum finish is both beautiful and – I suspect, durable. It’s small with great lines, and it packs a good bit of power into a very sleek case. Quite honestly, compared to the HP 2140 the MSI Wind feels like a toy. (It doesn’t run like one however, especially after Chris helped me overclock it.) But the 2140… There’s no question that HP took the best features of the Mini Note 1000 and the 2133 and created the love child that surpasses both.
The HP 2140 keeps the same form factor as the HP 2133; but upgrades the processor to an 1.6gHz Atom from the Via processor that the 2133 had. It also has a 10 inch screen rather than the 2133’s 8.9 inch screen. I have not used the 2133, but I understand that this is a huge upgrade. Other than that the external look of the device, it’s apparently the same. The brushed metal is as slick as can be, and it feels polished – almost like something that would’ve come out of Apple’s own design center. Best of all, it runs very well.
I’m being careful about what I actually load on the device, since the 1.6 Atom processor isn’t a powerhouse; but thus far, I’m finding that there’s really nothing I can’t do with this device. I watched some streaming video last night and it rarely sputtered at all. In fact, the only place I’ve really seen a processing issue hasn’t been when trying to run movies, its using iTunes. That hasn’t been all that satisfactory. The 160 GB hard drive is really quite nice, especially for a device that isn’t intended to be a primary computer. I’m not using the 160 gig hard drive however, but that’s another post for another time…
The 10″ screen is actually gorgeous, and it offers enough real estate to be more than functional. The keyboard is – fantastic. When I wrote about the Mini Note 1000 a few months ago, I raved about the keyboard. I like the keyboard on the 2140 even more, since it keeps the same design and uses the same finish as the rest of the device.
The trackpad is small but responsive. I hate the placement of the mouse buttons; but more on that in a bit. The computer has a three cell battery, and while I haven’t had a chance to really test out the runtime, it certainly seems to be pretty good for such a small battery. However, I will likely end up getting the extended battery since I see myself using this device quite a bit.
One of the best aspects of this netbook in my opinion, is the phenomenal way it runs Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I loaded version 10 of the software on the device; and I expected it to not only require me to use a high-quality headset but also wait as it processed each sentence. I was wrong on both counts.
First, to either side of the video camera (hidden in the black bezel in a MacBook-esque manner) are microphones that work together to create a superb array mic. I tested out the device using Skype and Google talk, and the quality is excellent. I’m finding that I do not need to use a headset in order to dictate; and I am presented with tremendous accuracy. In addition, version 10 of Dragon NaturallySpeaking must place far less of a demand on the processor because I’m not finding a lag at all as a dictate. It is- quite frankly – the best, easiest, most accurate dictation experience I have had; and that’s on a $450 netbook no less. In fact, this entire post is being dictated without a bit of editing required. And I’m not even wearing a headset. That alone makes this device a winner for me.
The device isn’t a powerhouse when it comes to computing. It’s got just 1GB of RAM, a physical hard drive, and an 1.6gHz Atom processor. Certainly, it is not a device that’s going to wow the computer world; and yet it runs everything I need just fine. No, actually, it runs better than just fine; and for a device that is primarily meant for web browsing, and (in my case) dictation, it’s nothing short of great.
There are, however, three downsides to the device.
First off, the screen resolution is lacking. Sometime in the next few months HP will release a new version that will have a far better screen resolution than the one that I’m currently using. Having used a number of Ultra Mobile PCs, I expected I would be used to funky screen resolution; but I am finding it a bit of annoyance.
The second issue is a little bit harder to deal with. The trackpad is certainly better than the majority of the netbooks I have used; but it still falls short. It’s small but not so small as to be unusable. The placement of the trackpad buttons, however, is a bit of an issue. Placed on the left and right side of the diminutive trackpad, they are just plain awkward to use. Sure, the small size of the device likely made this a design requirement, but they leave a lot to be desired. To be fair, though, I am more than a bit spoiled by the huge multi-touch trackpad on my 13.3 inch, aluminum MacBook.
My final gripe isn’t really about the device, as much as it’s a personal disappointment thus far. For the life of me, I can’t get MacOS X to run on this thing. And believe me, I’ve tried. Sure, it wasn’t designed to run Mac OSX, but this device running the superior operating system (in my humble, fan boy opinion) would be fantastic. I’m sure at some time in the near future I’ll be able to load Mac OSX on it; but for now I’m saddled with XP. Fortunately that means the device is stable and runs Dragon perfectly, so I guess I can’t complain too much. Believe me though, as soon as the hack-meisters do their thing, I’ll be doing mine.
Those minor complaints aside, it couldn’t be happier with this device. The fact I’m able to hold such a small light notebook on my lap and simply dictate this entire post with almost no mistakes is nothing short of amazing. Well done HP – well done.