Preview: HP's Tiny New MiniNote 2133

You’re lucky to be able to buy the HP 2133 MiniNote. Originally it was developed just for the education market, but when the notebook division at HP saw it, they decided to bring it to a wider audience. We tried a prototype model for two days at HP’s partner conference in San Francisco, and discovered a very portable machine that feels much more like a real PC than do most machines this size.

hp mininote The sleek brushed aluminum case makes the HP MiniNote look like a much more expensive ultraportable PC.

The unexpected success of the Asus Eee PC means other UMPCs are measured against it. On paper, HP’s MiniNote ultra-mobile PC might sound like the Eee, but when you lay your hands on it, you find a lot of differences. For starters, the case is sleek brushed aluminum, which looks good combined with the glossy black screen surround. More practically, the metal case and magnesium alloy chassis will stand up to a lot of knocks and bumps in your bag - it was designed to survive in the schoolyard. Unusual for a budget machine is a built-in accelerometer, so the MiniNote can park the hard drive to prevent damage or data loss if you drop it. That makes it slightly heavier than the Eee PC - and much more solid.

The MiniNote has a 10" case, like the Eee, but the screen is much larger: its 8.9" widescreen display has a resolution of 1280x768, compared to the cramped 800x400 on the Eee. The custom-designed keyboard also makes much better use of space.

hp mininote

Most notebooks have space on either side of the keyboard to strengthen the chassis. The magnesium alloy construction means the MiniNote doesn’t need the reinforcement, so the keyboard runs right up to the edges. That, in turn, means much larger keys than on other machines this size - the keyboard is 92% of the width of a standard notebook keyboard, and even users with large hands and fingers will have no problem touch-typing on it. Like the case, the keys are metal, with a durable coating so the legend won’t wear away over time. The keys are smooth and square, with an excellent feel so you can type quickly, and enough of a gap between them that you’ll never accidentally hit two keys at once (something that’s far too easy to do on the Asus Eee PC). We wrote this preview on the MiniNote itself, with a minimum of typing errors.

The Windows key and right mouse key are in the usual places to the left and right of the spacebar. You get two Alt and Ctrl keys, an extra-large Backspace, Shift and Enter key, and the cursor keys are arranged in an inverted T shape in the bottom right of the keyboard, making them convenient to use. The Caps Lock indicator is above the full function key strip, so it’s not taking up any space needed by the keys.

hp mininote

The keys on the HP MiniNote are almost full size - just 8% smaller than standard - making for an excellent keyboard.

The wrist rest isn’t particularly deep, but the wide touchpad matches the aspect ratio of the screen, and the left and right mouse buttons are on either side to make better use of the space. If you find the touchpad too sensitive for the small area, you can use the Synaptics utility to customize it extensively. The two buttons are very responsive, and you can also double-tap on the touchpad to double-click. The right-hand side of the touchpad lets you scroll, and there’s a scrollbar marked there to remind you. If you’re using a mouse and you don’t want to move the cursor by brushing against it, there’s a small button under the spacebar to turn the touchpad on and off.

The screen doesn’t have quite the same richness of color as those of larger HP models like the 2710p, but it’s extremely bright and clear, with crisp text and vivid color. The scratch-resistant screen is flush with the black border, which also conceals a Webcam. While the screen is very glossy, we didn’t notice problems with glare or reflections using it next to a window. The solid metal hinges open smoothly and drop the bottom of the screen behind the keyboard, so the screen takes up even less space in use. You’d have no problem fitting it onto an airline tray, but it would also perch happily on smaller tray tables on trains. The 2.5 lb weight isn’t too much to carry around all day, but you couldn’t quite balance it on one hand.

hp mininote

Although there’s room for stereo speakers and a Webcam around it, the 8.9" screen is larger than most UMPC screens.

The stereo speakers on either side of the screen are surprisingly good for a machine of this size. They don’t have a great deal of bass, but mid-tones and treble are well reproduced, with good, crisp detail. There’s plenty of volume, and the volume and mute function keys allow you quick control.

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  • Luscious
    This laptop has already been reviewed on a few other sites and is definitely getting some attention.

    Reminds me so much of the Fujitsu P1120 I used to own back in 2003 - same 8.9″ screen, 2.5″ HDD, Windows XP, non-Intel CPU, same keyboard layout, battery, PC card slot… The resemblance is remarkable. It’s as if HP took the P1120 shell, redesigned it and stuffed it with 2008 hardware.

    For $499, this kicks Asus EEE butt. The $749 top-spec version will make $1799 MacBook Air owners go into rehab.

    I could throw in a 320 (or 500 if I wait) gigabyte hard drive in this device and retire my portable DVD player/Archos. With a wireless broadband card, it is small enough to sit down with ANYWHERE and instantly blog/email etc. Load up Cool Edit Pro on this and with the right audio cable you can transform it into a highly portable recording/editing/mixing deck. This mini-note is just a KILLER device.

    I suspect HP is closely scrutinizing early reviews of the unit, because even THEY must know XP on this is sure to run better, and if VIA does offer better performance with Isaiah, then you can bet this is just an introductory product and HP may offer something better in the near future.

    I had my eye on a tx2000t. Yes, that's the C2D version, until HP suddenly pulled it from the market. I'd like to know what else HP has in the works.
  • Anonymous
    This isn't anything I've been told by HP, just my own suspicion; I wonder if Microsoft is evaluating what license price to charge for XP on UMPCs as it works through plans for the Eee and the OLPC and the Classmate.
  • Luscious
    Tommycheck this out also... [...] l-atom-cpu

    I'd like to see how that 1.8GHz speed works in real life with Vista.

    Mary - you know XP will be off the market soon. Knowing M$, I wouldn't be surprised if they push (cough*force*cough) hardware manufacturers to develop better hardware. XP may get a few more months of final sales with the OLPC arrangement that's in place right now, but in the long term even these devices will have to saddle up with Vista - which is why I'm sure there has to be better products coming down the road. I cannot think keeping XP alive is in the best interests of M$. They want to sell Vista - it barely runs on it, but M$ wants to sell it.

    I'm surprised how very little battery time the HP gets though - my little Fujitsu ran for over 4 hours on the regular battery, and would probably have easily done 7 hours with an extended battery.
  • Anonymous
    Ever heard of kilograms, mrs. Washington? Don't let you medieval units confuse us, the people of 21st century.