Last year, Asustek's Eee PC became a surprise hit by providing far more power and usability than a smart phone for light-traveling road warriors with far less expense and bulk than a traditional laptop. HP's new 2133 Mini-Note PC goes even further, providing a bigger, brighter screen and a host of other advantages that could make the device a mainstream hit.
The new HP mini-notebook computer is a bit bulkier and slightly more expensive than the Eee, but it is also more powerful, polished and usable. It does a good -- although not perfect -- job of negating one seemingly immutable law of mobile computing: The smaller devices get, the more sacrifices are required in terms of usability.
In fact, the Mini-Note's big, bright screen, its ability to run Windows Vista, and its reasonable starting price of US$499 (for a version with a 1.0 GHz Via processor, Novell's SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, 512KB of RAM and a 4GB solid-state drive) makes it worthy of serious consideration by travelers who need to regularly write e-mails and edit documents but who don't require heavier-duty computing tasks.
Out of the box
I tested a US$599 version of the Mini-Note outfitted with a 1.2GHz Via processor; 1 GB of RAM; a 120 GB, 5400 RPM hard drive; and, surprisingly, Windows Vista Home Basic. There are two other configurations: For $US549, you get the same configuration I tested but with Suse Linux, while US$749 give you a Via 1.6 GHz processor, 2 GB of Ram, Bluetooth, a 6-cell battery (rather than the standard 3-cell), and Windows Vista Business.
The first thing I noticed when taking the 2133 Mini-Note PC out of the box was its sleek anodized aluminum case. The notebook weighs in at 2.6 pounds and measures a hair over an inch high at its thinnest point. It's 10 inches wide, 6.5 inches deep and 1.05 inches (at front). That makes it roughly an inch wider but otherwise about equal in dimensions to the Asustek Eee.
That extra width is well-used by the Mini-Note's wider 8.9-inch display (versus 7 inches for the Eee). As a result, it is easy for HP to justify its higher price. At US$599, this Mini-Note is $100 more than Asustek's current high-end EeePC, although reportedly slightly cheaper than Asustek's next-generation Eee, which will sport an 8.9-inch screen.
The Mini-Note has one more feature that many road warriors will treasure -- DriveGuard -- which senses when the laptop is falling and automatically shuts down the hard drive to minimize data loss.