By August 1, 2008

HP 2133 Mini-Note review

INTRODUCTION

The HP 2133 Mini-Note joins a crowded marketplace, which a year ago didn’t exist at all. HP have a lot of catching up to do, but of the “big 2”, HP is the first to market with its own ultra portable laptop. Clove Technology have given us a rather rare review device, so lets see how it compares with its older rivals.

HP 2133 Mini-Note

The HP 2133 Mini-Note (click to enlarge)

What’s in the box?

I’m not 100% sure we’ve got a full retail set up here, but the box contents we received looks like this:

HP 2133 Mini-Note Hardware
Battery
AC Power brick
Boring warranty stuff
User guide on CD – hmm

That’s all folks!

Have a look at our HP 2133 Mini-Note unboxing video for more.

HP 2133 Mini-Note Specification:

  • Operating System: Genuine Windows Vista Business, Genuine Windows Vista Home Basic 32, FreeDOS, or SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (our review machine)
  • Processor: VIA C7-M ULV Processor (up to 1.6 GHz, 128 KB L2 cache)
  • Chipset: VIA CN896NB and 8237S SB
  • Memory: DDR2 SDRAM, 667MHz, one SODIMM memory slot, supports up to 2048MB
  • Internal Storage: 120GB/160GB 5400 rpm SATA, 120GB/160GB 7200 rpm SATA with HP 3D DriveGuard; or 64GB Solid State Drive; optional 4GB PATA Flash Module with SuSE Linux
  • Display: 8.9-inch diagonal WXGA (1280 x 768)
  • Graphics: VIA Chrome 9
  • Audio: High Definition Audio, stereos speakers, integrated stereo microphones, stereo headphone/line out, stereo microphone in
  • Wireless support: Broadcom 802.11a/b/g, b/g, optional Bluetooth 2.0, HP Wireless Assistant
    Communications Broadcom Ethernet Integrated Controller (10/100/1000)
  • Expansion slots: (1) ExpressCard/54 slot, Secure Digital (SD) slot
  • Ports and connectors: (2) USB 2.0 ports, VGA, power connector, RJ-45/Ethernet, stereo headphone/line out, stereo microphone in, optional VGA webcam
  • Input device: 92% full-sized keyboard, touchpad with scroll zone
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.05 (at front) x 10.04 x 6.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.63 lb (with 3-cell battery and 4 GB Solid State Drive, 3.23 lb with 6-cell battery and 160GB hard drive, 2.86 lb with 3-cell battery and 160GB hard drive.
  • Power: 6-cell (55 WHr) or 3-cell (28 WHr) Lithium-Ion battery, 65W HP Smart AC Adapter with HP Fast Charge
  • Warranty: Limited 1-year and 90-day warranty options available, depending on country, 1-year limited warranty on primary battery

GENERAL

Immediately upon opening the box I was impressed by the aesthetics and build quality. It looks and feels expensive. I understand people like the EEE’s basic look, but give me the polished brushed metal of the Mini-Note any day! There’s no argument here – this is a pretty machine.

Opening the lid is perhaps a little more difficult than it should be. There is no clasp, but it closes tightly, and without some nails, it takes far too much effort to prize the lid open. Having said that, I could just be lazy.

HP 2133 Mini-Note open

HP 2133 Mini-Note open

Rather like the Eee pc from Asus, the screen does not use the full area available to it. Stereo speakers are positioned either side of it, and there is a large space to the top of the LCD panel, where only the VGA webcam resides. This is a bit disappointing personally, because laptop speakers are never ever going to sound very good – so stick them in the lower portion of the laptop, below the keyboard, and give us a bigger screen!

Despite all that – the screen is possibly one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen on a laptop – more on that later.

On the left hand side, we have a VGA port, to add an extra monitor, or to replicate the laptop screen, a large grill (which pumps out a LOT of heat), a single USB port, and audio ports for speakers and a microphone. The USB plug has a weird hole next to it, and I still haven’t figured out what it is for!

HP 2133 Mini-Note left side

HP 2133 Mini-Note left side

 

Swapping to the right hand side and we find another more normal looking USB port, the Ethernet port and the AC power socket. Talking of the AC power, unfortunately the Mini-Note does have a smallish power brick – a step back from the first Eee PC with its phone-charge style setup. We’ve also got an express card port sitting above a SD card slot. SD Card’s click in nicely, but are not flush with the laptop chassis. I guess there just wasn’t enough room.

HP 2133 Mini-Note right side

HP 2133 Mini-Note right side

 

As with most laptops this size, the back panel is free of ports and connectors, and just features the battery pack.

The keyboard itself is a lot larger than the Eee PC and is infinitely more usable – both for quick net surfing, and lengthy documents. I can type fairly quickly 50-60 WPM on my desktop, and managed a similar speed on the Mini-Note – something I found impossible on the Eee’s tiny keyboard. My only slight niggle was a possibly one-off issue – the spacebar only seemed to press successfully on the left hand side of the key, and often missed when pressing the right hand side.

HP 2133 Mini-Note keyboard

HP 2133 Mini-Note keyboard

 

The trackpad works nicely, and is accurate. I don’t like the left-right click buttons though – because of space limitations, these are placed either side of the trackpad, rather than above as found on most laptops.

A nice feature that deserves a mention is the trackpad switch. This is found on nearly every HP laptop, and has made it to the first sub-notebook from the company.

mininote_trackpad

HP 2133 Mini-Note trackpad

 

Finally the front panel contains power and WLAN buttons, complete with indicator lamps, and a hard disk activity lamp too. I have to admit, it looks me a few minutes to work out how to turn the thing on as the switches look a bit like latch controls, but are just actually just momentary slide buttons.

mininote_front

HP 2133 Mini-Note front

 

Inside we have a slightly-lacklustre Via processor, and a massive 120GB laptop hard disk – no SD Cards required here!

Highlights

  • Awesome looks, great build quality
  • Software packed linux install
  • Superb Screen
  • 120GB Hard Disk

Lowlights

  • A little too heavy at times
  • Trackpad buttons hard to get used to
  • CPU can be a bottleneck
  • Gets extremely hot!

REVIEW

In preparing this review, I had a read through of Matt’s previous reviews of the Asus 701 and 900 laptops. One paragraph that stood out was this:

It has to said that the keyboard, trackpad and mouse button does feel distinctly cheap, but that said the device IS cheap so you get what you pay for and given what you get on the inside it’s hard to grumble.”

Luckily the 2133 Mini-Note is completely the opposite in every way. The keyboard and trackpad looks well built and feels anything but cheap. It definitely looks more businessy, and if you turned up to a lunch meeting with the Mini-Note, the Eee PC users may feel a little put out!

Now to the screen. Its a classic vicious circle – people say the screen is too small, but then say the battery life isn’t good enough when the size is increased. HP have found a nice middle ground I reckon, with a smallish 8.9inch screen, with a huge WXGA resolution of 1280×768. It is a amazing sight to behold – possibly the sharpest, highest quality screen I’ve seen. The size IS still an issue, but websites are no much easier to navigation with a proper – desktop size – resolution. Every time I turn the thing on, I am amazed by the quality of the LCD panel. It is truly exceptional.

Its impossible to compare with other sub-notebooks – they don’t even get near the quality of this. Think expensive large LCD panel, for TV or your desktop computer – this is that level of quality. The contract, colours and bleed levels are excellent, and viewing photos or videos on it, nearly make anything look HD!

Our review device comes with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop – and it is aimed at business types. Novell clients are installed, and a lot of freeware linux software is included.

I wonder how many percentage points Firefox have been given in the browser wars purely due to everyone and their uncle sticking it on their Linux ultra portable laptops! It’s included here – albeit version 2, and it works swiftly, and renders pages extremely well on the beautiful screen. The vast majority of extensions will work on Linux, so you can make your browsing experience as close to your desktop machine as you like.

Open Office is also pre-installed, Evolution – a email client is included too. Other software includes a music player, photo browser, cross-network instant messenger client, RealPlayer, FTP software, and RSS reader and plenty more besides.

Linux works well, but the Mini-Note lacks the simplicity of the Eee PC’s custom Linux shell. Even for young kids, the Eee PC was easy to use. The Mini-Note is certainly aimed more towards businesses. Any concerns about the Linux install can be fixed fairly simply – By installing XP! An edition also comes with vista anyway, and for me, that would be the ideal ultra portable laptop for me.

The Linux wireless (And for that matter Ethernet) connection software is easy to use, and I had no problems connecting to the wireless networks at home, at work, or on the incredibly flaky National Express WiFi! Although I hate to admit it, the WiFi software implementation is better than Windows.

The Mini-Note doesn’t use latest “ever ever” processor – the Atom, but instead a Via processor. It does OK in Linux, but I have concerned about the Vista edition, even taking into account the faster processor. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how well it performs with Vista or XP – if you can, let us know in the comments!

Unlike the Eee PC, I could see myself using this device a lot more – mainly due to the larger keyboard, and impressive resolution on the LCD. While the device is heavy, its slightly thinner than its rivals, and isn’t much trouble to carry around. The battery life is acceptable, if not amazing, and I managed to get about 2 and a half hours of casual use before it had had enough.

Its a shame HP didn’t make a home/student/kids style Linux install as well as the Novell friendly business version we find here. Asus got away with running Linux, because the interface made it easy to use. The SUSE enterprise edition is powerful, but will lose a lot of the audience I mentioned above, unless they install XP – which shouldn’t be any more difficult than the older ultra portable’s. It’s easy to get lost in Linux, unless you have a nice UI to guide you.

Although I love the laptop itself, in struggling to see who this Linux version will be sold to. Business users will probably pay the extra for the windows version, and home uses are possibly going to end up disappointed by the OS.

Having said that, as a hardware device, its outstanding – and trumps both the Eee PC and the newer MSI Wind. The jewel is definitely the screen – truly breathtaking, but the large keyboard also adds value to the product.

Its more expensive than the lesser models, and perhaps should do more for the price. But that’s only a minor point – the HP 2133 Mini-Note does what it does, and it does it extremely well indeed. It’s just about worth the premium.

mininote_angled

HP 2133 Mini-Note

CONCLUSION

The HP 2133 Mini-Note has taken ultra mobile laptops to the next level. No longer a toy computer – this is a serious laptop, fit for business and personal users alike. The screen and keyboard combination means this CAN be a laptop replacement.

The Mini-Note only falls short in the area of performance – and its not such a big deal. Its more disappointing because the rest of the device is so beyond anything else we’ve seen before.

For $499 in the states, and even taking into account Rip-Off-Britain prices, this is a cheap yet expensive looking laptop.

One final point for HP: Put a decent processor in this (anyone for Atom?) – and this will be the best sub-notebook on the planet. End of argument. Oh and if you fancy sending me an XP version feel free – preferably one I can “lose”!

 

Review by: Mark

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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