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.
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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?