The HP Mini 2140, the latest entry in Hewlett-Packard's 2100 series of netbooks, is what the company's Mini 1000 aspires to be when it grows up. But it carries a grown-up price as well: $529 for our test unit's midlevel configuration.
Like the Mini 1000, the Mini 2140 has a fairly large keyboard (92% the size of a full-size QWERTY keyboard) with wide, flat buttons. The mouse configuration remains the same, too: The right and left mouse buttons flank the mousing surface instead of sitting below it, which makes navigating and editing documents more difficult. But at least the mouse buttons on the 2140 are rubberized and rise above the surface, improving the mouse's manageability.
The 2140 has a few other things in common with the Mini 1000--and with the rest of the netbook market. The base-level, $499 version of the 2140 comes with Intel's Atom 1.6-GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive (which spins at 5400 rpm), a three-cell battery, and Windows XP. For an extra $30, you can bump up the configuration (as we did) to include a six-cell battery, or you can cough up the maximum $629 asking price for a three-cell unit that has 2GB of memory and a 7200-rpm, 160GB hard drive. Even then, the Mini 2140 is smaller and less expensive than the Asus N10Jc.
We're still waiting for final results of the PC World Test Center's performance and battery life tests; when those numbers are available, we'll update the story and assign the netbook an overall PCW Rating. HP suggests that the Mini 2140 will last 4 hours with the three-cell battery and just over 8 hours with the six-cell unit.
In my informal hands-on testing of the 2140, the 10.1-inch backlit LED display stood out. Colorful and crisp, this screen has a native resolution of 1024 by-576 pixels. (An optional high-definition 1366-by-768-pixel display will be available in February.) Like the display on the Mini 1000, the one on the Mini 2140 carries glossy coating that makes it a little tougher--but not impossible--to view outdoors.
The unit's rugged frame and aluminum lid make it a little on the meaty side. It weighs 2.6 pounds with the three-cell battery in place, compared to the Mini 1000's 2.25 pounds; but the Mini 2140's remain notably svelte, at 1.05 by 10.3 by 6.5 inches. The metal alloy hinges are recessed, for durability. And both the spill-resistant keyboard and the 3D DriveGuard that parks the hard-drive head during a sudden movement (such as a drop on the airport floor) enhance this model's ruggedness for the road.
The 2140 supports 802.11n, and Bluetooth 2.0 is optional. HP claims that the netbook can recharge up to 90 percent of capacity in about 90 minutes. And for the $629 flavor of the 2140, you can get "Genuine Windows Vista with downgrade to Genuine Windows XP Professional custom installed." Don't go looking for more software, though: You're just getting the basics here. If Windows isn't your thing, you can request FreeDOS or SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 with your unit.
Even though it's a business-class machine, the Mini 2140 puts on a reasonable audio show. Its speakers, parked in the hinge between the display and the keyboard, performs on the same scale as the Mini 1000 (it sounds a bit tinny, but good enough to fill an office or hotel room).
The only major downer involves a limited capacity to accommodate external devices. The machine has a few handy ports such as an SDHC flash card reader, VGA-out, an ethernet jack and two USB ports. But the USB ports are located on either side of the device, creating a potential problem if you want to plug in an external hard drive that requires a spare USB port to power the device. This issue isn't unique to the 2140, but it is something to keep in mind if you're a big-time data jockey.
HP has assembled a compelling package that could go toe-to-toe with the Asus N10Jc. But like Asus's heavyweight netbook, the Mini 2140 in its premium configuration bears a price tag that approaches what you'd expect to find on a good all-purpose machine like the Sony VGN-NR485 ($800).