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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.