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Travelling with Mini-Me

A decade ago I had one of the first Sony Vaio executive notebooks.  It was a gloriously light, metallic purple titanium-clad affair which turned heads everywhere I went.  At just 12 or 13 in size, it was the perfect travelling companion, and with my Microsoft budget, affordable for an aspiring young mid-manager.  I used it everywhere — meetings, planes, coffee shops — you name it, it was always with me.

In recent years, however, notebooks have ballooned in size.  My Toshiba Tecra A-1 had a 15″ screen.  My more recent HP DV6000 was even larger.  Weight has increased to the point where I walk with a permanent lean, and the possibility of working on a plane has all but disappeared as airlines have crammed seats together.

For the last couple of days I’ve been travelling with the HP Mini 1000 — Mini-Me.  This diminutive “netbook” weighs just over 2 pounds, has a 10.1″ screen, and runs Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2007 just fine.  I’ve used it in airports, on airplanes, in board rooms and hotel rooms.  Size-wise, it’s perfect for travelling.  The battery lasts long enough at 2.5 hours, although I will probably upgrade to the 6 cell battery coming in the new year which claims to extend usage to over 4 hours.

Caveats?  Sure, there are a few.  If you buy a Mini, consider the following:

  • To be really productive in a hotel, you’re going to want to get a travel mouse as well.  My choice was a slim little number I picked up at Fry’s, but any mouse will do.  Skip the wireless mouse — the dongle is just one more part to carry and lose.
  • The Mini has no VGA out.  That’s right… none.  It does, however, have a proprietary peripheral port, and HP has promised to ship a VGA adapter cable for that port in the new year.  In the meantime, if you need to do presentations from the mini, you’re going to need an USB VGA adapter.  I’m using one from GXT.  It works fine.
  • You’re going to need a bag.  The appeal of this device is that it’s small, but that also means that the external peripherals — including the small brick-like power charger — are going to be extras you carry everywhere with you.
  • You’ll need to get used to scrolling your screen.  Most web sites now assume 1024×768 as a standard screen dimension.  The Mini’s screen, while very readable, is a non-standard 1024×600.

Despite the small drawbacks, I’m very happy. For the first time in a long time, I’ve not felt the stress of the massive pile of work accumulating “at home” while I’m on the road.

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Andrew November 28, 2008, 12:37 pm

    Just buy a MacBook already! Seriously Alec, I have a full featured workstation, that is just marginally larger than your netbook. The new Aluminum unibody MacBooks are an incredibly efficient, light and powerful travel companion, light durable amazing battery life.

    Case in point – I had my snow tires put on earlier this week, 3! people in the waiting room had unibody MacBooks and were working away… naturally we all started geekspeaking and agreed we never would have done this with PC's in the past, but it was just so easy to grab the MacBook and work anywhere it was just reflex to bring it to something as odd as snowtire changing….

  • Alec November 28, 2008, 3:21 pm

    But Andrew, I'm doing exactly what you are doing. Just got home, flipped open the Mini, checked email and the blog and now I'm replying to you. AND… I spent $499. How much was your Macbook?

  • Tom Purves November 28, 2008, 4:01 pm

    Agree with everything you say about laptop bloat. I think anyone would be batshit crazy to buy a 7lb 15″ notebook or worse a 17″ (I mean, get a desktop already)

    But I couldn’t do the mini’s, even though I really really wanted to like them.

    I just sold my dell mini on ebay. A number of reasons: Atom processor was just too slow for video playback and some flash apps were like slideshows, the SSD on the dell horrifically slow and freezes the computer for seconds at a time, and the 9″ keyboard too painful for my long fingers to type on (seriously, ouch).

    So I traded up to dell d420. 12 inches, core 2 duo 1.33Mhz, 2GB ram and 1280×800 resolution (a joy compared to 1024×600).

    It’s not quite as cute or as light as the mini, but still barely 3lb and, on the whole, I am SO MUCH HAPPIER.

    cost of dell mini fully loaded: ~$500 CAD
    cost of lightly used <yr old dell 420 on ebay: ~$650 CAD

    Sounds like the HP is a little better size-wise than the dell, but I will be curious to see if you can stick it out 😉

    The world needs more 12″ notebooks. (are you listening apple?)

  • Alec November 28, 2008, 7:26 pm

    Tom – I like the keyboard on this thing quite well, and it’s fast enough. I’ve had no trouble with flash video playback. I’ve even been playing back high bit rate 1024 wide 16:9 aspect ratio video. So far I haven’t found it to be much of a compromise.

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