Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

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March 14, 2009 • Reviews

HP Mini 1001 First Impressions

This week I started back at uni, and I was instantly feeling the two problems I have with my MacBook Pro: it’s not overly light for lugging around, and the battery is gooooone. Basically this left me with a choice of either buying a replacement battery or finally getting myself a decent “netbook”. Carrying around the Shift showed me how nice it is to carry around a small and light notebook, so I decided on the latter, and today picked up an HP Mini 1001TU. This model has the 1.6Ghz Atom CPU, 60GB HDD, 1GB RAM and Bluetooth. I paid AU$740, which becomes AU$640 after cashback. The store threw in a free neoprene case which makes for a nice package.

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Straight up, HP have to be given kudos for a nice unboxing experience. The slick black box is very reminiscent of the MacBook Pro box, which isn’t a bad thing, and gives the Mini an air of quality before you even open it up. Inside the box is quite spartan, including only the essentials: an AC adapter, a few documents directing you to soft-copy manuals, an XP SP3 reinstallation CD and a glasses cloth for cleaning the screen. A soft case would have been a nice inclusion (you get one with the ASUS netbooks), but the store I bought mine from rectified that for me 😉

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I have mixed feelings about the AC Adaptor. The transformer box is very small and light, which is good, but the wall plug is big and bulky, and doesn’t fit nicely in a slim case with the Mini. It would be perfect if it was a slim, 2-prong connector, would fit nicer in a sleek bag.

The Mini itself feels fantastic. I’ve owned one of the original ASUS Eee PC’s, and this feels completely different. The Mini 1000 series really feels like a quality compact notebook, rather than a cheapy web surfing device. Sure it lacks the metal casing of it’s bigger brother, the 2140, but the plastics have a quality feel to them, and the whole thing feels like a sturdy piece of kit, partly owing to the fact everything is so tightly packed together.

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The Mini is thin two, which unfortunately means the battery is a rather small 3-cell job. I can’t make a judgment on the battery life yet, I haven’t even had it a day, but I think I’ll pickup a 6-cell when they become available here, and funds permit. Until then my trusty BatteryGeek external battery will be backing up my Mini, I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of runtimes I can get with that!!

The display is a gorgeous 10.2″, LED backlit, 1024×600 panel that looks great inside and out. A higher resolution would have been nice, but 1024×600 is certainly passable on a netbook, and when used in conjunction with the scaling capability of the major browsers offers a very pleasing browsing experience.

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Above the screen is the low-res webcam, which I quickly found to be affected by the light-blocking film Judie mentioned her Mini suffered from. A few minutes with a thin torx screwdriver and the film was gone. I’ve hardly used the webcam in my MacBook Pro, and I don’t expect to use the one on the Mini, but it is nice to have the situation rectified none the less.

Below the screen is the speaker, which is absolutely woeful. Volume is poor, and the clarity is just terrible. It sounds like the Mini is underwater. Not that it really matters that much though, if you want to play music out of your Mini, hook up some speakers or a set of headphones, they will be infinitely better.

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Flowing on from that is the keyboard, and the reason that I chose the Mini 1001 over any of the other netbooks it the same (and lower) price brackets. Having read many glowing reports of the Mini’s keyboard, hearing Judie rave about it, and subsequently trying it for myself in-store, I knew this is the one I would have to buy. With its large, well-spaced keys and standard layout, it doesn’t take any adjusting to be typing normally. One thing I liked is the lack of a fake numeric pad on the keyboard, it makes the keys look so much cleaner. Honestly, who ever uses them?

The touchpad below is a little small, something that bugs me a bit since the pointless touchpad on/off button takes up a good 5mm which could be better used for mousing. Not only is it a waste of space, but the white LED behind it is so bright it’s distracting. Gonna have to stop that somehow. The buttons either side of the pad take a little getting used to, but since most actions require a left-click which can be simulated by tapping the pad, it really isn’t a big deal.

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My Mini came preloaded with Windows XP SP3, which was very clean from first boot, the only useless software included being Microsoft Works. It didn’t really matter though, since after the first boot to check everything was functioning properly I blew it away and loaded up Windows 7. Everything was automatically recognised which was great, though I did install the Synaptics touchpad driver to get scrolling working.

As I sit here typing away on the lounge I can’t help but be impressed by how complete the Mini feels. While it doesn’t have an optical drive (which I rarely use anyway), its just perfect for most of the things I do on a daily basis. Web surfing is excellent, typing isn’t a problem on the spacious keyboard, the screen is bright and clear, and it’s so thin and light you can toss it in any bag and it won’t be a drag.

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I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces at uni over the coming weeks, and I’ll be posting about how it fits into my routine, and whether the 3-cell battery is a cause for concern. I’m also on the hunt for an adaptor to convert the stupid propriety video-out connection to VGA, anyone know where I can get one?

13 Responses to " HP Mini 1001 First Impressions "

  1. Haesslich says:

    The volume and sound quality issues are due to the driver which ships with the XP version of the Mini, from what I’ve read – you’d need to install a Vista driver which fixes that sound problem.

    http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/genericSoftwareDownloadIndex?cc=us&dlc=en&lc=en&softwareitem=ob-65037-1&jumpid=reg_R1002_USEN

    Beyond that, the video-out cable’s HP proprietary, and last I looked isn’t available yet. The 6-cell battery is shipping from HP, at about $95 USD (on sale) at the moment – fairly expensive, to put it mildly.

  2. Mitchell Oke says:

    Thanks for that mate! Loaded up the driver, and while sound quality has improved, it’s still poor. It is an improvement none the less.

    $95 is like AU$165 here at the moment, so I’ll be holding off on that for now!

    Yeah I looked around and couldn’t find the adaptor, hoping someone else has come across it. A bit annoying that it isn’t out yet…

  3. Haesslich says:

    As I said, ‘putting it mildly’ – there are better drivers out there, but I don’t have a direct link for any. Have you looked at the MyHPMini community? They’ve been working on the issue for months, and the Linux drivers are somewhat better. Then again, when you start from rock-bottom, you can only go up.

    How do you like the keyboard after extended use? It doesn’t seem to have the major heat issues the 2133 had, but I’m curious.

  4. mikecane says:

    I’m strangely attracted to the 1000 despite not liking the 2133 at all.

    The sound problems mentioned are the first I’ve read. Others have stated the sound is great!

    hp’s site is built to frustrate me. I can’t find the 6-cell battery listing. An URL would be appreciated.

    I look forward to more reports. Try Safari 4 Beta on it!

  5. Mitchell Oke says:

    @ Haesslich: I’ll be posting a followup article with my thoughts on the keyboard, battery life and general usability. So far though it’s looking good!

    Eeek, that’s some serious dollars for a battery considering how much the laptop itself cost!!

    @ mikecane: The sound is certainly better than without loading the driver off the HP website, but it’s still flat and bassless, not surprising really.

    Agreed, HP’s website is terrible, just a confusing mess.

    Safari 4 Beta was the first program I loaded after Windows 7, works great 😉

  6. mikecane says:

    Ach. Tx for battery link (WTF?! $200 for Tam stuff?! Did Judie buy it yet???). It looks like it raises the back. Are there any pics of it in use on the Net?

    Since I’m hardly an audiophile, I’d be surprised if the speaker disappointed. The volume *is* loud, isn’t it? Others wrote it was. Are you sure you don’t have a unit with bum speakers?

  7. Mitchell Oke says:

    The speaker is perfectly loud enough, but it doesn’t sound good. But that may be just me. I never use notebook speakers, if I want to listen to something other than YouTube I’ll use either my Seinnheiser earphones or my Harmon Kardon speakers.

  8. Haesslich says:

    As I said… ‘putting it mildly’. When the battery costs a third of what the unit itself might cost, that’s kinda expensive. Even if it is a LiPoly battery.

    Also, have you considered installing the Ubuntu Netbook flavor they’ve been offering as well? It’s fairly usable on first glance, but I’m just wondering how people feel about it.

  9. Marie says:

    i just came home with my mini and I am loving it too! I have two questions, however. One it did get a little slower when after I updated Windows…also after charging the unit to 100% battery life, i unplugged it and instantly the screen is not so bright any more! How can I make it brighter without plugging it back in?

  10. Marie says:

    i just came home with my mini and I am loving it too! I have two questions, however. One it did get a little slower when after I updated Windows…also after charging the unit to 100% battery life, i unplugged it and instantly the screen is not so bright any more! How can I make it brighter without plugging it back in?

  11. DawnMarie2 says:

    just got home with my Mini! I have two questions if anyone can answer, I would be very happy!

    I just charged my mini up 100% and when I unplugged it the screen was not so bright anymore! I need it brighter, is there a way to do this?

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