HP’s MiniNote ticks all the boxes when it comes to specs, style and size but a number of irritating design flaws stop the machine from being the perfect purchase.
With its brushed aluminium casing HP’s inaugural entry to the sub-laptop market certainly gives the impression of being more substantial than its sometimes flimsy rivals, something that is justified by the device’s contents.
The first – and perhaps most important – thing to note about HP’s netbook is its large keyboard, which is far more comfortable than most similarly-sized machines have managed and only slightly smaller than what you would find on a regular laptop.
This in itself is a crucial point for anyone looking to work from their netbook on the go and its attraction is only enhanced by the 1GB of RAM, 1.2GHz processor and impressive 120GB hard drive contained beneath.
However the significantly-sized keyboard comes at the loss of a comfortable track-pad, which is not only much narrower from top to bottom but also flanked by its left and right mouse buttons as opposed to placed above them. This smaller working area and repositioning of the two buttons does take some getting used to, especially for regular users of normal laptops, although in reality the trade-off is worth it.
The MiniNote is perhaps one of the most generous netbooks on the market in terms of the connections it offers, which range from USB to VGA to Express and SD Card. For business and student users alike this should make it far easier to upload and download work, connect to the internet and attach external devices like HDDs and external DVD players.
However despite this versatility the device is limited elsewhere by another two seemingly minor design flaws – both of which relate to the viewing angle of the screen.
When using the slightly larger 6-cell battery, which protrudes from rear-underside of the machine, the keyboard is forced into a downward slope. This works quite well as a prop when the netbook is on a desk but causes serious screen-viewing and typing problems once the user puts it closer to their body – such as on their lap.
The type of hinge used on the screen means that it can only be pushed back so far, adding to this problem and creating many more of its own.
These screen problems, much like the track-pad’s design, are issues that are ignorable after a short time but it is more about getting used to the problem rather than finding a solution to it. For a machine that is supposed to be used in short bursts for on-the-go workers, this is far from an ideal situation.
An edited version of this review appeared in Business & Finance magazine on the 25th September 2008.