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Of all the new 1.66 Ghz Pine Trail-powered netbooks we got our hands on at the Consumer Electronics Show last month—and there were many—HP’s Mini 210 felt the best. Some might argue that by now netbooks are a commodity. All a PC manufacturer has to do is create a cheap, tiny body and pack it with cheap, tiny components. Just pop in the new Pine Trail—the newest flavor of Intel’s Atom puts the graphics and memory controller system right onto the processor chip, which is more energy efficient than the old version that had the controllers on a different chip.
HP did that, too, but the way it executed its design, along with a few software extras, makes the Mini 210 ideal for stowing and going.
The Mini 210 is available at Newegg for $349.99.
Let’s start on the outside. Instead of a glossy finger-print smudged body, the 210 features a smooth, matte shell. It is tough, scratch-resistant, and attractive. The silver and black versions of the laptop feature an inlaid pattern, but the other available colors—blue and red--are more subtle with a solid shimmer. We especially like that the colored body appears on the bottom and top of the netbook.
The notebook itself is one of the lighter and thinner models we’ve seen—coming in at just under an inch and 2.7 pounds. Wrapped around the sides we found three USB ports (one on the left, two on the right), a VGA video port, headphone jack, Ethernet jack, power slider, and 5-in-1 card reader (3G service is available but wasn’t included with our review unit). Jutting out of the back is a prominent 6-cell battery which tilts the netbook to a slight downward angle when sitting on a flat surface.
A smaller, weaker battery is available, but we’d rather have the fat battery—it gave us all-day power. For a computer designed to be used on the go, battery efficiency is of utmost importance. We think the Pine Trail chip contributed to the fact that we were able to use this netbook for a full work week’s worth of night-time sofa veg-out sessions without charging. We think it is reasonable to say that it could last at least eight hours of normal use.
Upon opening the 10-inch netbook we found a Web cam and a glossy LED backlit display with a resolution of 1024 x 600. The black keyboard reaches 92%, which was just big enough to make our (admittedly smaller than average) hands fly over the keys. That, coupled with the fact that the keys are of the “chiclet” variety—they’re spaced out like individual islands rather than cramped together plateaus—gave us speed and comfort. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the 210 features the most comfortable keyboard of any 10-inch netbook we’ve tested.
The touchpad, however, is merely average with the entire thing acting as one giant button with stripes dictating where the right and left buttons go. It is better than having vertical buttons along each side of the touchpad, as some netbooks do, but we still prefer two real buttons.
On the software side, though the 210 comes with Windows 7 Starter Edition, we liked the option to start up HP’s Slashtop QuickWeb tool, which grants speedy access to a Web browser and Internet applications without booting into Windows. Other bits of software you probably won’t uninstall include HP’s CloudDrive online storage tool for music, files and photos, and MediaStream for streaming to another PC.
When factoring in looks, price, battery life and comfort (what else would you ask for in a netbook?), the Mini 210 is our choice for mobile bloggers.