The HP Mini 1000 is Hewlett Packard’s second entry in the netbook space. The HP 2133 Mini-Note was one of the best looking netbooks around, with its sturdy aluminum case and high resolution 1280 x 768 pixel 8.9 inch display. But the netbook was hampered by its slow VIA C7-M CPU and its relatively high price tag (models ranged from $499 to over $800, which is a lot for a netbook). I’ve been spending the last few days using an HP Mini 1000, which I’ll be giving away soon as part of the HP Magic Giveaway. And I have to say, HP got a few things right with their second go around. But the company also made a few compromises that I find odd.
HP allows you to choose several different configuration options for this netbook. But the unit I reviewed has a 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, 1GB of RAM and a 60GB HDD.
The HP Mini 1000 is one of the thinnest and lightest netbooks around, weighing just 2.25 pounds and measuring just 1 inch thick. That puts it squarely in the same territory as the Asus Eee PC S101 when it comes to size and weight. But the S101 has a starting price of $699, while the HP Mini 1000 starts at just $359.
But in order to keep the price and weight down, HP replaced the sturdy aluminum chassis used in the HP 2133 with a cheaper plastic case. While it’s attractive enough, it just doesn’t feel as solid as an aluminum case. And I find the plastic keys aren’t as satisfying type on as the keys on the HP 2133. But more on that in a minute.
The super-thin design of the HP has also lead to a few other baffling design choices. For example, the HP Mini 1000 comes with a solid state disk or a hard drive. HP decided to go with a 1.8″ inch hard drive in the HDD models in order to accomodate the netbook’s small size. But that means the maximum storage capacity is 60GB and you wind up with a 4200 RPM hard disk, while most comparable netbooks have 80GB, 120GB, or 160GB hard drives which spin at 5400 RPM.
HP has also skimped a bit on the ports. The HP Mini 1000 has just 2 USB ports, while most other netbooks have three. You’ll need to purchase a separate VGA adapter if you want to plug in a monitor. And instead of two distinct jacks for a mic and headphones, there’s a single combo jack.
The mini-notebook also has one of the best speakers you’ll find on any netbook thanks to a unique design that combines the speaker and the screen hinge. Because the the speaker is out in the open, you get louder and crisper audio than you’ll find on netbooks with the speakers buried on the bottom of the computer.
Overall, the HP Mini 1000 is one of the nicest looking netbooks I’ve seen thanks to its slim design and the attractive pattern on its glossy lid. But personally I’d prefer separate headphone and mic jacks, a VGA port, and an extra USB port. And while I’m not an engineer, it certainly looks to me like there’s room on the chassis for a few of those elements.
The HP Mini 1000 has an excellent 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel glossy display. You can adjust the heck out of the screen brightness, with the dimmest setting being barely visible in a modestly lit room and the brightest setting being almost bright enough to hurt your eyes. Note that because the netbook has a glossy screen, you’ll likely have a hard time viewing it in direct sunlight.
HP also offers a version of the netbook with an 8.9 inch display with the same 1024 x 600 pixel resolution. The HP 2133 Mini-Note had an 8.9 inch, 1280 x 768 pixel display that was incredibly sharp. In fact, I often found it too sharp and wound up squinting to read the screen. But I do wish that HP would have at least offered customers the option of paying extra to get a higher resolution display for the HP Mini 1000. I know some folks would really appreciate the higher resolution, and I have a feeling it would look better on a 10.2 inch display than an 8.9 inch screen.
Keyboard and Touchpad
At first glance, the HP Mini 1000 has one of th ebest keyboards you’l find on any netbook. The keys are nearly full sized, thanks to the way HP uses the full width of the device to accomodate the keyboard with almost no unused space on the sides. But as I mentioned, I find that the keys don’t feel quite as responsive as the keys on the HP 2133. And I actually prefer the typing experience I get on the Asus Eee PC 1000H, which has keys that are a bit higher and indented like you’ll find on most non-Macbook keyboards. The HP Mini 1000 keyboard has flatter keys.
One thing that I know will make some users very happy is the enormous Enter and Shift keys on the right side of the netbook. Asus and several other mini-notebook vendors have often been criticized for shrinking these keys or putting them in awkward locations.
And one thing that annoys the heck out of me is that little button just above the touchpad. You can press it to enable or disable the touchpad, which is a nice feature. But it has a glowing LED that can be incredibly distracting.
Speaking of the touchpad, HP has decided to stick with the long and narrow touchpad design used in the HP 2133 Mini-Note, with the buttons on the left and right sides instead of directly below the touchpad. While this provides more room for the keyboard, some folks find it awkward to have the buttons so far apart. Personally I don’t mind this layout that much, but then I also typically carry a travel mouse in my backpack for times when I need to do some serious audio or image editing.
While most netbook makers have opted to place the battery near the back of the unit where it can protude from the rear or bottom, HP has built a 3 cell battery that fits flush with the laptop by fitting into a slot beneath the computer. The result is a thinner netbook. But it also means that when HP releases an extended 6 cell battery (which the company is expected to do sometime in the next few months), it will add a bit of bulk to mini-laptop.
In terms of battery performance, the HP Mini 1000 does quite well. I estimate that you’ll get between 2.5 and 3.5 hours of battery life if you use the netbook primarily to surf the web, edit documents, and do other basic tasks. CPU-intenstive tasks like watching video will run down the battery faster. I watched a 44 minute video from Hulu.com and watched the battery meter go down to 56%. You’ll probably be lucky to get two hours out of the HP Mini 1000 with a standard 3 cell battery if you plan to spend those two hours watching online video.
I also ran the Battery Eater Pro test, which taxes the processor pretty heavily, and the netbook died after about 1 hour and 56 minutes. But again, I suspect you’ll get closer to three hours of battery life if all you use the netbook for is web surfing. You may even be able to eke out a bit of extra life if you turn off the WiFi and use the notebook for offline tasks.
The battery does get a bit warm when you run CPU heavy tasks for a little while, but the HP Mini 1000 doesn’t get unreasonably hot, especially when compared with the HP 2133 Mini-Note which sometimes got ridiculously hot. The part of the HP Mini 1000 that seems to get the warmest is the area directly below the touchpad. But again, this is far from the hottest netbook I’ve used.
HP does not load much software on the HP Mini 1000. You get a copy of MS Works and that’s about it. Noticeably absent is any sort of software for overclocking or underclocking the computer. Asus, MSI, and many other netbook makers let you take advantage of the Intel Atom processor’s adjustable clock speed by pressing a hardware button to overclock or underclock the machine, or by using a software utility. This lets you boost performance a bit when you need it, or slow down your CPU a bit to prolong battery life. HP doesn’t give you any such option.
Another feature I’ve grown accustomed to seeing on netbooks is some sort of on-screen indicator to let you know when you’ve adjusted the volume or screen brightness. While it’s pretty obvious that the screen brightness goes down when you hit Fn+F3 and up when you hit Fn+F4, I’d really like to see some sort of visual cue to let me see the volumelevels when I hit Fn+F10 or Fn+F11.
The HP Mini 1000 performs pretty much as you’d expect a machine with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 4200RPM had drive to operate. Applications launched fairly quickly, I had no problem loading web pages, and I was able to surf the web using Firefox with more than 4 or 5 tabs open without any slow downs, or run several programs including Firefox, Skype, and IrfanView simultaneously without any problems.
This isn’t the fastest machine around when it comes to startup times. It took about 60 seconds to reach a fully usable Windows XP desktop after I hit the power button. Shutdown was much zippier, taking about 12 seconds.
The built in microphone worked fairly well when making a test call with Skype in a quite room, but I wouldn’t recommend using the HP Mini 1000 or any netbook to make VoIP calls without a headset if you’re in a noisy environment. The machine’s fan is also audible, but it’s not exactly the loudest computer fan I’ve ever heard. And I imagine it’s just a matter of time before someone comes out with a utility like eeectl or A1Ctl that will allow you to adjust the HP Mini 1000’s fan and CPU speed the way you can with an Eee PC or Acer Aspire One.
If size is your only concern, you should totally check out the HP Mini 1000. It’s small, light, and incredibly attractive when compared with similar netbooks like the Asus Eee PC 1000H. The HP netbook has a screen and keyboard that are at least as large as the Eee PC’s, but the Eee PC 1000H absolutely dwarfs the HP Mini 1000 in terms of size, as you can see in the pictures below.
But when it comes to other factors like battery life, hard drive capacity, and expansion, the HP Mini 1000 doesn’t fare as well against its competitors. While the netbook gets excellent battery life for a machine with a 3 cell battery, HP has yet to release the extended 6 cell battery, which means netbooks like the MSI Wind U100, Asus Eee PC 1000H, and Samsung NC10 can run for twice as long on a single charge.
If you need more than 60GB of storage, you may also want to look elsewhere, or at least invest in a high capacity SDHC card. And if you need to plug in more than two peripherals, you’ll need to pick up a USB hub. While you’re shopping, you may also want to look for a laptop case or slipcover, as HP doesn’t include one. I know it’s a little thing, but I really appreciate it when netbook makers include at least a flimsy slipcover to help keep the computer from getting scuffed up when you toss it in a bag.
It’s also worth noting that while the HP Mini 1000 has a starting price of $359, that model comes with an 8.9 inch display. You’ll have to pay more than $400 to get a model with a 10.2 inch display, and you’ll have to cough up even more money if you want additional storage or other features like a built in 3G modem.
Or if you want to pick up an HP Mini 1000 without paying a dime, you can enter the HP Magic Giveaway contest. Dozens of participating sites are already running contests to give away the HP Mini 1000 along with several full sized laptops and an HP TouchSmart media center PC. We’ll be launching the Liliputing contest on Wednesday.
HP Mini 1000 and Asus Eee PC 1000H comparison photos
Because these happen to be the two netbooks I have in my house at the moment, I figured I’d snap a few shots of the two mini-laptops together so you can get a better sense of how they compare in terms of size and design: