HP is launching its new Pine Trail netbooks today, and as expected it’s called the HP Mini 210. HP is calling the Mini 210 its third-generation consumer netbooks. The HP Mini 2133, 2140, and 5101 don’t count, because they were all business/education machines. So the HP Mini 210 is the descendant of the HP Mini 1000 and Mini 110. But that doesn’t mean it takes all its design cues from those models.
In fact, one of the first things that impressed me about the HP Mini 210 is the fact that it has a keyboard that’s virtually identical to the island-style keyboard on the HP Mini 5101/5102. Or at least, that’s true on some models.
There will also be a business-oriented version of this laptop, called the HP Mini 2102. That model will have a different set of software, but will otherwise generally be the same machine.
The HP Mini 210 comes in two basic configurations. The low end version has a starting price of $299, a slightly different keyboard, a glossy lid, and a matte display with a bezel around the edge. It comes with Windows XP Home.
The higher end version starts at $329 has Windows 7 Starter, a matte lid, and a matte display covered with a piece of glass that gives the illusion of an edge-to-edge display. This model has a chiclet-style keyboard.
Both models feature an Intel Atom N450 processor and a new touchpad design that integrates the left and right buttons into the bottom of the touchpad itself instead of putting them below or to the left and right sides. This could be a risky move, as integrated buttons tend to be hit or miss. Apple does them right. Dell has been widely panned for its implementation with the Inspiron Mini 10v. I’ll reserve judgement on the HP Mini 2102 keyboard until I’ve had a chance to test it myself, but it looked pretty slick when I saw it.
The new touchpad also supports multi-touch gestures such as pinching to zoom and two-finger scrolling.They also come with a palm rejection feature that shuts off the touchpad temporarily while you’re typing — a feature that I’ve learned recently not to take for granted.
There’s also a new design on the bottom of the laptops: Instead of the usual access panels held in by screws, there’s a single sheet covering the bottom. At first, I figured this meant you wouldn’t easily be able to upgrade the hard drive, RAM, or other components. But HP thought of that, and in fact, the entire base of the computer can be removed.
Here’s how it works. When you pop out the battery, you’ll see two orange buttons in the battery compartment. Press them both, and you should be able to remove the bottom plate and access the computer’s innards. So if you like the sleek look of a PC with no screws, you get that. But if you value the ability to upgrade or replace components, you get that too.
Speaking of the battery, HP offers a 3 cell battery that sits flush with the base and back of the computer or a 6 cell version that juts out from the back a bit. The new 6 cell battery looks a lot more like the batteries that competitors offer and it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb below the unit the way the HP Mini 110 high capacity battery does.
With a 3 cell battery, HP says you should be able to expect about 5 hours of battery life. A 6 cell battery should double the run time to 10 hours.
Like the HP Mini 110, the Mini 2102 comes with a number of options including an optional 1366 x 768 pixel screen, and an optional Broadcom Crystal HD Enhanced Media Accelerator for displaying 1080P HD video. The video accelerator also works with HD Flash video using Adobe Flash Player 10.1 Beta.
The Mini 2102 will be available with Windows XP or Windows 7 Starter Edition, depending on which model you purcahse. Windows 7 Home Premium will not be offered, although you can always pay to upgrade from Windows 7 Starter yourself.
You also get an “instant-on” desktop environment if you feel like getting online and checking your email or surfing the web in 10 seconds instead of waiting 45 seconds or so for Windows to boot. While HP’s competitors such as Asus and HP have chosen existing quick boot software such as SplashTop and HyperSpace, HP tweaked its Mi Edition Linux software. You no longer have the option of buying an HP netbook that comes only with Mi Edition. But the new version of the software comes standard on the company’s Windows netbooks. And as I mentioned, it now boots in just about 10 seconds.
Update: It turns out the quick boot software (called “HP QuickWeb”) is based on DeviceVM’s Splashtop. It’s just been customized to look like the HP Mi Edition software that used to ship on HP’s Linux netbooks.
Finally, HP is bundling its CloudDrive online storage/synchronization service with the HP Mini 2102. Users will get 1GB of free online storage for life. It will show up as a drive in the Windows Explorer, making it easy to drag and drop files to the cloud to back them up or access them on other computers. For the first 90 days after purchasing a computer, you’ll actually have 100GB of online storage, but after your 90 days are up you’ll have to pay if you want more than 1GB.
The netbooks are available in black, silver, blue, and red.
Here’s a rundown on the specs:
- CPU: 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 or 1.83GHz Intel Atom N470
- Chipset/Graphics: Mobile Intel NM10 chipset with integrated GMA 3150 graphics
- Display: 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixels
- OS: Windows XP Home, Windows 7 Starter, SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, or FreeDOS
- Memory: 1GB (max 2GB)
- Storage: 160GB (HP Mini 2102 available with 160GB/250GB/320GB 7200RPM HDD)
- Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n, Ethernet, optional Bluetooth, 3G
- I/O: 3 USB, VGA, 5-in-1 media card reader, combo mic/headphone jack
- Battery: 3 cell, 28Whr or 6 cell, 62Whr
- Dimensions: 10.55″ x 7″ x 0.9″ (at front)
- Weight: 2.69 pounds with 3 cell battery