Over the past weekend I picked up one of the new HP Mini 1000 netbooks. As much as I love my HP DV6000 entertainment laptop with its massive 17″ screen, it is heavy (12 cell battery), near impossible to work with on an airplane without paying for a business class seat or being lucky enough to sit in the exit row, and boots slowly because of all of the software I’ve got loaded onto it. I needed something simple, small and very portable to complement the beefier computing environment I surround myself with on a day to day basis. The Mini fills the bill. With a tiny 10″ screen, no optical drive, a microscopic 60G hard drive, and a tiny 3 cell battery, the Mini weighs just over 2 lbs and is the size of an oversize paperback book.
Despite the small battery, one can comfortably get 2.5 hours of use from a single charge. HP’s decision to go with the Atom processor rather than the VIA C-7M they used in their previous netbook (the 2133) makes a difference in both power consumption on and performance.
The big advantage of the Mini over other netbooks I looked at from Toshiba and Acer was keyboard size. With a near full-size keyboard (HP claims 92%) the Mini is a serviceable replacement for a laptop when used for email and some lightweight computing. It’s enough for the light email I do in front of the television at night, or email and powerpoint presentations on the road. However, with it’s 1G of RAM, small screen and relatively modest single core processor, you won’t be editing video or photos using this device. And with 60G of storage space only, that doesn’t leave much room for music. Better to carry an iPod for that.
The Mini comes with very little software — Windows XP and Microsoft Works — and is blessedly free of the mountains of “free offers” and other shovel-ware that PC manufacturers cram onto their products today. I removed Works, and added Office 2007 Standard Edition, Skype, Tweetdeck, and Google Chrome. I also added Microsoft’s Live Mesh (which I find more and more useful every day), and because I have a large number of files I manage under Foldershare which I haven’t migrated to Mesh, Foldershare as well.
Performance, with this minimal set of tools, is excellent.
If you’re lucky enough to live in the US, the Mini comes with a SIM slot tucked away behind the battery. Insert a SIM with a broadband data plan, and presto, the Mini becomes an always-on, always-connected device. Forget about Cafe’s — open the Mini up anywhere that 3G coverage exists, and you’ll be online and working instantly. I’m hoping we see a similar initiative by Rogers in Canada. The SIM slot is in the device sold in Canada, but the drivers and dial-up software aren’t available.
The Mini is priced at $499 US. Here in Canada Future Shop sells them for $550. At that price point, it’s clear that this device is intended as a super mobile companion for another compute environment. So far, I’m quite impressed.