Mini-Note top 9: Annoyances

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last week telling you how cool the HP Mini-Note is. But I don’t want you to think it’s all hugs and puppies or anything. This little machine has its quirks. None of them are deal-breakers for me, but if you’re holding out for the perfect low-cost ultraportable, you might want to take a look at this list before pulling out your credit card. And keep in mind, HP, Asus, and a whole slew of other companies will be releasing new and upgraded computers in the coming months that will make use of the next generation VIA Isaiah and Intel Atom processors designed for ultraportable devices like the Mini-Note and Eee PC.

In no particular order, here are 10 things about the Mini-Note that I find mildly annoying:

  1. This laptop gets hot. Sure, most laptops get a little hot when you use them, but the Mini-note heats up so much that you really might want to be careful about putting it on your lap while typing. I haven’t conducted any extensive tests here, but I can say the Mini-Note definitely feels hotter than the Eee PC or most other notebooks I’ve ever actually tried resting on my lap.
  2. The Mini-Note isn’t great at multi-tasking. VIA C7 processor is certainly good enough for doing most day to day tasks like surfing the web, creating office documents, or even watching movies (especially if they’re stored on your hard drive, not the web. But if you try running a web browser with several tabs open while playing music and chatting with some friends, things start to slow down considerably. If you need to do any processor-intensive tasks, I’d recommend doing them one at a time.
  3. What’s with the three prong power adapter? I’m glad that you can fully charge the Mini-Note’s 3 cell battery in about an hour thanks to the standard power brick, so I’m willing to put up with an adapter that’s larger than the Eee PC’s. But it’s hard to find an outlet that takes a three prong adapter at some coffee shops, with limits the portability of this ultraportable.
  4. The 1.3 megapixel webcam is kind of pointless. I tried recording some video, and only managed to get about 5 or 6 frames per second. Skype video calls are a bit better, with average frame rates around 10 or 12. But I wish HP had either put a webcam with a lower resolution in here, or a faster processor. In the interest of keeping the price low, I think a 0.3 megapixel camera would have done the trick.
  5. HP does not include any restore discs or driver discs with the Mini-Note. If you buy the SUSE Linux version and decide to overwrite the operating system, there’s currently no going back. Well, not officially anyway. MiniNoteUser has a restore image, but it was created by MikeZ, a Mini-Note user, not HP. Hopefully HP will add Windows XP drivers and a Linux restore image to its support web site. But right now all you’ll find are drivers for Windows Vista.
  6. The screen is sharp. Almost too sharp. HP crams almost as many pixels onto an 8.9 inch screen as Toshiba put on my 15.4 inch laptop. And while that means you can fit a whole lot of data on the Mini-Note screen, if you’re not used to a super-sharp tiny screen, you’re going to want to change your system fonts and change the default zoom level in your web browser.
  7. There’s no slip cover. This probably wouldn’t be a big deal, but the Mini-Note is smaller than most laptops, so if you throw it in a laptop case it’s going to slide around a bit and potentially get a bit scuffed up. You’re either going to want to buy a third party slip cover or get a tiny case like one made for a portable DVD player, not a computer.
  8. The keyboard ain’t exactly perfect. While it’s much larger than the keyboard you’ll find on the Eee PC, not everyone’s going to find it easier to type on. It’s still a little smaller than a typical laptop keyboard, and you’ll need to make user of the Fn keys to access some features like page up/down, home and end. And if you’re used to resting your palms on the laptop body and placing your fingers over the keyboard, there’s no room for that here. Your palms will basically sit on a table or rest in the air if you want to place your fingers over the keyboard.
  9. The fan isn’t quite as jet engine loud as the Eee PC fan, but it can get a bit noisy. If you’re hanging out at a coffee shop, you probably won’t notice this. But in a quiet space, it’s hard not to hear the whirring of the fan. That said, the Mini-Note adjusts its fan speed depending on what your computer’s doing, so so you won’t hear it all the time.

I was going to make this a top ten list, but really, that’s about it. Like I said, none of these issues are dealbreakers for me. And I expect at least a few of these issues to disappear over time. HP may eventually put drivers and system restore images up on its support web site. And in a few months, the company will probably release an upgraded model with either a VIA Isaiah or Intel Atom processor. It’s not clear whether these chips wild dramatically improve multi-tasking or video performance. But they probably won’t hurt, and they’ll certainly help improve the laptop’s battery life.

  • name

    i’m not defending HP or the 2133, but we shouldn’t be resting our palms on anything in the first place. it’s one of the causes of carpal tunnel and related disorders.

  • Kennedy808

    Do you have an impression of the Via C7’s speed vs the EeePC’s Celeron running at the full 900mhz?

  • http://zude.com/caldude caldude

    I’m seriously considering the Mini-Note when it’s available with XP and the newer processor. I edit the daily radio show and encode MP3s and WMAs for rense.com and I want a smaller computer that will allow me to do that anywhere with maximum convenience. Do you think the Mini-Note will be adequate for that task?

  • http://www.whydoineedtoenteraurl.com Oliver

    Nice summary, Brad. I got my top-of-the-line Mini last week and just started using it Friday (busy week). This is the first machine I used with Vista (after reading reports of how it impacts battery life, I never installed the free “upgrade” on my Thinkpad X60t). And I am honestly shocked that HP thought this was a usable configuration. So right now True Image is creating a backup, should I ever want to go back to Vista. And then it’s time for an upgrade to XP Professional.

    The three pronged plug bugs me, too. A lot of my international adaptors are only two-pronged; time to go shopping for three-pronged ones, I guess. It also was nice to be able to use the same cable for a variety of chargers (e.g., Sony ebook reader) and save some space in that crammed gadget bag.

    The keyboard/touch pad isn’t really ideal for using the Mini in bed. I guess I should have thought about that earlier :)

    Not sure what kind of slip case solution the 3rd party manufacturers will come up with for the extended battery configuration. Hmm.

    I love high-res screens and have a 1400*1050 screen on my Thinkpad, but with the Mini I had to increase the font size.

    No restore disks. Not good. No software to create them. Really bad.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    I haven’t performed any benchmarks, but the Mini-Note with the 1.2GHz processor feels like it might be just a tad slower than the Eee PC with a 900MHz Celeron processor. If you leave the Eee PC underclocked to 630MHz, I’d say they both perform about the same. For most day to day use, like web browsing or creating documents, you won’t see much difference between the two machines. But when doing things like compressing WAV audio to MP3, the Eee PC feels a bit zippier.

    You can read a bit more here: http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    The Mini-Note is better suited to audio editing than the Eee PC, simply because of its higher resolution display. I find it difficult to do much more than a little copying and pasting in Audacity, Reaper, or CoolEdit on the Eee PC because of its display. That said, neither machine is a speed demon. If you’re going to be applying a lot of processes and saving large files, these machines will do that, but not as well as a PC with a faster chip.

    I’d highly recommend the Mini-Note for light audio work, but I wouldn’t recommend replacing your primary computer with it.

  • kripken

    Regarding the heat issue: If I remember right, you have an HP 2133 with the 120GB hard drive? Is there any chance that the 4GB SSD version might be a tad cooler, or is this a CPU issue?

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    In a word, yes. The VIA processor doesn’t come close to your Turion in terms of performance. The advantage to these little computers is their portability. But they’re really meant for light weight tasks, not CPU intensive tasks like encoding audio or video.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. You can totally use the Mini-Note to do audio editing on the go. Just don’t expect it to perform as well as your Pavillion.

  • http://zude.com/caldude caldude

    Well, I’m using an HP Pavillion dvd2000 with an AMD Turion 2X64, 1.61 Ghz…the speed has been good though not stellar. I have 3 one-hour segment MP3s at 64Kps…..I remove 3 commercials from each one…..encode MP3s at 56 kps as well as WMAs at 32 and 16. Do you think I’m going to notice a significant slowdown?

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    If you upgrade your BIOS and/or install any “overclocking” tools to run an Eee PC at 900MHz instead of 630MHz, odds are your fan is going to kick into high gear occasionally. When it does, it’s a bit like being in a wind tunnel. Well, not really, but it’s loud.

  • Andy

    Do you have a faulty eeePC to compare this too? The fan on both my eeePCs are almost inaudible.

  • twalk

    You may want to look at a Fujitsu P1610. They’ve got a 1.2GHz core 2 solo in them, so they should be fast enough. You can get a refurb from the Fujitsu store on ebay for around $800-$900.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    I don’t find it problematic. But I think it’s just a matter of taste. Some people hate glossy screens, others love them. I’m not really sure I have an opinion.

  • http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com Mike Cane

    >>>The Mini-Note isn’t great at multi-tasking.

    So what you’re basically telling me is that I would be cursing at it a *lot* as I tried to get some multi-tabbed Net work done. I do that *now* at my desktop with a 1.8GHz Celeron!! The Mini would be WORSE than that?

    I guess I should either wait for the Wind or come up with the money for the Lenovo u110 (in RED, of course!).

  • http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com Mike Cane

    It sounds to me (ouch, no pun intended!) that the Lenovo u110 might be better for him, no?

  • http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com Mike Cane

    Someone on my blog asked about screen glare. That’s not an issue at all?

  • Korgmeister

    Yes, it would be worse. VIA C7 processors are significantly slower than Celerons.

  • w4tt4n4b3

    I was in favour of the Mini-Note over the Asus…and I say “was” because if the VIA processor is so bad at multitasking 6-7 firefox tabs with p2p software downloading stuff or creating a photo slide-show, then it’s no use if you have to close all applications to do a decent job. And since I am connected to the net there is always an antivirus/firewall and adware shield on the guard…I am afraid that the VIA won’t make it. On the other ASus 900 has only 4gb for OS and softwart. That’s big limitation. Very poor battery and small keyboard. Does not seem ideal although it has better processor. So I am stuck in the middle waiting for the MSI to give me the solution I am looking for.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    It’s important to remember that there’s a reason these new ultraportables are so much cheaper than yesterday’s ultraportables: they have cheaper parts. Hopefully the new Atom and Isaiah processors will help some, but I would never expect one of these cheap tiny laptops to do everything you can do with a more expensive machine. Or you know, a desktop that costs about the same price.

  • JStern

    Number 1 is dead on! I responded with this post here: http://blog.laptopmag.com/my-hp-mini-note-keeps

  • http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    Ah, bugger! MSI Wind, then… or if that craps out, then an Isaih Mini Note. Or if money falls from the sky, the U110!

  • http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    Argh. Your use sounds a lot like mine. Although out and about, I’d forgo the always-running anti-virus (I use Avast on the desktop) and make sure I stick to websites I knew.

    Yeah, looks like the Wind will have to save us. But that U110 sounds like the best — but that price!!

  • http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/ Mike Cane

    >>>they have cheaper parts

    Which was what MS planned Origami to be, and look at what happened there!

  • tomelwood

    Something you might not have thought of with warm laptops, but definitely worth considering: infertility.

    “Scrotal hyperthermia has been identified as a risk factor for male infertility…scrotal temperature elevation with working laptop computers was significantly higher…”
    (To read the whole abstract http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15591087 or go to pubmed.com and search for 15591087) Hum Reprod. 2005 Feb;20(2):452-5. Increase in scrotal temperature in laptop computer users.

    Note however that they didn’t measure fertility in this study – see the comment on this study at
    http://www.ivf1.com/laptop-use-and-infertility/

  • 88CHLee

    My unit come with a 3 cell battery which only last about 2 hours of normal usage,I overcome this issue by purchasing a DC-AC converter to have it charged in the car before visiting another client.
    I am glad that my unit come with a beautiful case with HP logo on it.
    Due to the excessive heat when recharging the battery with home AC power,I have sent my unit back to the service centre and have not collect it yet.They did not tell me its normal,so I am giving them time to find solutions solve this issue.

  • 88CHLee

    My unit come with a 3 cell battery which only last about 2 hours of normal usage,I overcome this issue by purchasing a DC-AC converter to have it charged in the car before visiting another client.
    I am glad that my unit come with a beautiful case with HP logo on it.
    Due to the excessive heat when recharging the battery with home AC power,I have sent my unit back to the service centre and have not collect it yet.They did not tell me its normal,so I am giving them time to find solutions solve this issue.

  • 88CHLee

    My unit come with a 3 cell battery which only last about 2 hours of normal usage,I overcome this issue by purchasing a DC-AC converter to have it charged in the car before visiting another client.
    I am glad that my unit come with a beautiful case with HP logo on it.
    Due to the excessive heat when recharging the battery with home AC power,I have sent my unit back to the service centre and have not collect it yet.They did not tell me its normal,so I am giving them time to find solutions solve this issue.

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  • http://www.laptopbatteriesinc.co.uk/asus-eee-pc-701-laptop-battery-p-6877.html mini laptop battery

    when recharging the battery with home AC power,I have sent my unit back to the service centre and have not collect it yet.

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  • Anonymous

    Gotta say I’m not impressed.  Fujitsu’s p1610 came out late 2006, over a year before this HP Mini-Note review, and it sounds like it’s better in every aspect.  Lighter but about the same size, same 8.9″ 1280×768 screen, much faster processor but no fan noise and longer battery life.  Only problem was that the p1610 cost $2400 in 2006, but now you can buy one for next to nothing but that 1.2ghz core solo processor is still faster than the latest Atom cpus.