Hands on with HP's Mini-Note netbook

Hewlett-Packard's Mini-Note is one of the most expensive netbooks, but you get what you pay for

Hewlett-Packard's 2133 Mini-Note may end up as the premium choice among the entire mini-laptop, or netbook, category of devices announced so far.

And people interested in the device will pay for it. HP's Mini-Note is the most expensive netbook I've tested so far at NT$25,900 (US$844) in Taiwan for the premium model running on Microsoft Windows Vista Business.

For a lot less money, you can get a much less powerful Mini-Note. Prices start at US$499 for a Mini-Note running on SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 from Novell, a 3-cell lithium ion battery and a 4G byte flash memory module for storage. And there are rival netbooks even less expensive than the cheapest Mini-Note, such as Acer's Aspire one, which I found for NT$13,500 (US$440) at one store in Taipei.

HP offers a variety of Mini-Note models at different prices and software. In Taipei, one with SuSE Linux and a 120G-byte HDD (hard disk drive) sells for NT$17,900. The company also offers Mini-Notes with Windows Vista Home Basic OS, one with Windows XP available only in China, and FreeDOS.

But this is a situation where you really get what you pay for.

The Mini-Note is made of aluminum and is the most professional looking netbook I've seen so far, a mini-business laptop that runs well. It does a lot of the things a netbook should do well, for a mobile device aimed at Internet surfers.

The sturdy build of the Mini-Note will help limit damage from drops, which are bound to happen more often with a mobile device than one that sits on a desktop all day.

The aluminum finish doesn't add significant weight either, with laptops in HP's Mini-Note line-up ranging between 1.2-kilograms to nearly 2-kilograms for the top end model with a 6-cell lithium ion battery that I tested. The small device is 255-millimeters by 165mm and 33mm thick.

The difference in the aluminum build compared to other netbooks such as the Eee PC by Asustek Computer of Taiwan, is striking. Most netbooks launched so far appear to use light plastic materials as their outer covering, a big difference from the Mini-Note in terms of feel.

The quality of the 8.9-inch screens on the Mini-Notes are excellent, with 1280 by 768 pixel resolution. The nice screen was complemented by decent speakers on either side. It's the kind of device you could watch a movie on.

The Mini-Note I tested was running on a 1.6GHz C7 M ULV microprocessor from Via Technologies, had 2G bytes of DRAM, a 160G byte HDD (hard disk drive), could connect to the Internet via an Ethernet port or wirelessly on WiFi 802.11a/b/g.

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