Hands on with HP's Mini-Note netbook

Hands on with HP's Mini-Note netbook

Hewlett-Packard's Mini-Note is one of the most expensive netbooks, but you get what you pay for

It also had a Web cam and Bluetooth 2.0, the wireless technology for file transfers and other uses.

Boot-up time is one area the Mini-Note failed to match its rivals. The Vista-based netbook took over 60 seconds to boot-up, the slowest of all the devices I've tested so far. The Aspire one running on a Linpus Linux Lite OS, by contrast, booted-up in just 12 seconds.

Other applications also seemed to take more time to boot up and run. I came away from the trial unimpressed with the idea of using Windows Vista for netbooks. Components such as the microprocessors in netbooks are far less powerful than on a regular laptop or desktop. On netbooks I've tried with Linux OSs or Windows XP, software has been generally faster and smoother.

The Mini-Note makes up for that fault in other areas.

The big keyboard on the Mini-Note was among the nicest I've used. HP shrank the keyboard to 92 percent of normal laptop size but kept some of the main features that make typing easy, such as space between keys so your fingers know when they've left one key to strike another.

I was able to type comfortably without mistakes on its keyboard.

Some of the keyboards I've used on rival netbooks haven't worked out so well, and it's not rocket science. Intel's ClassMate PC, designed to be as cheap as possible for distribution to school kids in developing countries, boasts one of the best downsized keyboards I've used. The secret to a good keyboard design seems to be raised keys, instead of flat keys, and space between keys. That's all the ClassMate keyboard does and it's a lot smaller than most keyboards used on netbooks.

Other things make typing easier as well, for those who plan to use it for a lot of e-mails, messaging or writing.

The 6-cell batteries on these devices makes typing easier by elevating the keyboard and screen. The trade-off is that the 3-cell batteries make the device flatter, and are lighter.

Raising my hands a bit above the keyboard, as opposed to resting my palms or wrists on the space in front of the keyboard as I do on my regular laptop (IBM ThinkPad), also helps make typing easier on a netbook. But it gets tiring.

HP product manager Phil Devlin also points out that the Mini-Note's keyboard is spill-resistant, another nice feature for a mobile device likely to find its way into a coffee shop. However, spill-resistant, he said, does not mean spill-proof.

HP describes the Mini-Note as "Small but Mighty" on its Web site, and I couldn't agree more. It's stylish, sturdy and easy to type on.

But it's one device where the major drawbacks, the heavy price tag and slow boot up and run time with Vista really hurt. Netbooks should be inexpensive and run fast, and some rivals to the Mini-Note that use XP or Linux OSs are better at that.

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