I’ve had my HP Mini-Note for a few hours now, and while I’m not ready to write up a complete an thorough review, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

I purchased the $549 model which has a 1.2GHz processor, 120GB hard drive, and runs OpenSUSE. The first time you boot up the computer, it takes 10 or 15 minutes to configure your OpenSUSE installation before you can use the PC. After that, it takes about a minute and a half to boot up. This is comparable to the length of time it takes to boot my Eee PC 701 running eeeXubuntu.

Now, keep in mind, I have eeeXubuntu installed on an SD card, which means I need to hit F2 during startup, select my boot device, navigate GRUB, and then enter my username and password before I get to a working desktop. And the Eee PC still won the race by a few seconds. I have Windows XP installed on the device’s main memory, and it boots in about half the time. So the Mini-Note running OpenSUSE is no speed demon when it comes to boot times.

Once my computer was configured, my next goal was to get it online. The Ethernet connection worked immediately. WiFi was a bit trickier. While the Mini-Note automatically recognized my router, my router didn’t recognize the Mini-Note. Since I use a MAC access list to limit access to our home internet connection, it took me a moment to plot my next move. Fortunately, I realized that I could enter my MAC address by hand. So after 15 minutes of setup, and 2 minutes of trying to figure out how to connect to the internet, my Mini-Note was up, running, and online.

One thing I should note here is that the 1280 x 768 pixel display is amazingly crisp. My primary laptop has a 1280 x 800 display. But it’s on a 15.4 inch screen, while the Mini-Note has an 8.9 inch screen. I’m seriously thinking I might need to use a lower resolution for some day to day tasks to prevent eye strain. Or I might see if I can increase some font sizes instead. Overall, this is a pleasant problem to have. My biggest complaint with the Asus Eee PC is that it’s small screen and low resolution make it difficult to fit large windows on the screen. No such problem with the Mini-Note.

OpenSUSE has the Firefox web browser and OpenOffice.org installed by default. Since I use these same applications on a day to day basis on my Windows and Ubuntu machines, I felt right at home. If all you need to do is browse the web, write and edit documents, OpenSUSE should do the trick. But I found the operating system a bit offputting once I dug a little deeper. It’s not immediately clear to me how to do things like write files to an external hard drive. When I plugged in a USB hard drive so I could backup my default settings, I was told I didn’t have write permission for that drive. So I logged off and logged back in as Root, and I still didn’t have permission.

I’m fairly certain that I could figure out how to live with OpenSUSE, but since I write about Windows and Linux software for a living, I really want to be able to run Windows on this computer. So my next step will be installing Windows XP. It looks like HP did include a 400MB system restore partition on the Linux version of the Mini-Note, so I’m hoping I can restore OpenSUSE if I want later. But Windows can be pretty picky about which partitions it runs on, so I might wind up losing my restore partition. If that happens, I’ll just learn to live with the consequences — at least until HP gets around to offering a restore disc or any other kind of support for the OpenSUSE model on its web site.

Before I do the XP thing though, I’m going to shoot a little video walkthrough of OpenSUSE on the Mini-Note. So stay tuned for that…

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