HP recently entered the affordable mini-laptop category with its eye-catching 2133 Mini-Note PC. UPDATED: July 29 2008

Small, light and affordable is the name of the game in the flourishing market for mini laptops right now.

But when HP, one of the world's biggest computer makers, entered the fray this year it made its own original statement for the midget laptop - the HP Mini-Note 2133.

Unfortunately, while the HP Mini-Note 2133 is one of the finest of the breed in certain areas, it really misses the mark in others.

Quite unusually HP opted for a VIA processor rather than the usual Intel or AMD offering, in the HP Mini-Note 2133's case a VIA C-7M CPU designed for low-power use rather like the Intel Atom.

This single-core unit, clocked at 1.2GHz, must take most of the blame for the HP Mini-Note 2133's biggest weakness: speed. Not everyone needs a racehorse as a runaround, but the fact is that the Mini-Note is dreadfully underpowered – never more so than if you follow HP's recommendation to use Vista.

Our Vista-burdened HP Mini-Note 2133 came from Research Machines, who also kindly provided the necessary discs to 'upgrade' to Windows XP; or alternatively there's a version with Red Hat Linux preinstalled.

We used the HP Mini-Note 2133 initially with Vista, but soon grew impatient with the time it took to get simple tasks done, or even to open and view Windows' Control Panels.

Our real-world benchmark test also bore out the subjective experience. Scoring just 21 points, we subsequently wiped the disk and installed Windows XP Pro. Now with slightly less bloat and DRM to slow the machine down, the HP Mini-Note 2133 earned a WorldBench 6 score of 25, still pitiful even by the standards of other mini laptops. All the ensuing tests were made using Windows XP.

NEXT PAGE: slick looks, feel and construction > >

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The HP Mini-Note in pictures

HP recently entered the affordable mini-laptop category with its eye-catching 2133 Mini-Note PC. UPDATED: July 29 2008

In look, feel and construction, the HP Mini-Note 2133 is a real class act, showing the kind of build quality and attention to detail that will shame most other notebooks, budget to high-end.

There's a smart aluminium construction, finished in a brushed gunmetal effect, with nicely hinged lid that drops the screen below the case level when opened.

The screen itself also scores something of an own-goal, though. It carries the high gloss finish beloved of many manufacturers these days – great for colour richness, bad for viewing in daylight conditions. But the bigger issue is the HP Mini-Note 2133's screen's resolution, which at 1280x768 on a sub-9in panel means that fonts, icons and buttons are eye-strainingly tiny.

Then there's the issue of keyboard, trackpad and mouse buttons. On the one hand we have one of the greatest qwerty keyboards you can lay hands on – keys are a good size for even fat fingers, and the action is smooth and positive and really inspires confidence as you type.

But below that is a trackpad bordered by left/right click buttons on the outside edges. It's not just that these buttons are soft and spongy; their very position out of thumb's reach means the simplest drag-and-drop task now requires two hands to achieve reliably. Fortunately, trackpad clicking is also possible, and the pad sensor is smooth and responsive.

Other plus points are the built-in speakers, sited each side of the shiny screen, which not only give good audio localisation to what you see on the screen – they also sound great, for their limited size. A visit to YouTube showed the possibilities in watching full-screen video, playing smoothly on the Windows XP setup.

VERDICT

Rarely does a notebook leave us so ambivalent – there's a truly great product within the HP Mini-Note 2133 waiting to get out, if only the ergonomics of the mouse buttons and the low processor performance could be addressed. Until then, the HP Mini-Note can be recommended only to those who can look past these issues at an otherwise superbly finished portable.

NEXT PAGE: PC Advisor's original review of the HP Mini-Note, from May 2008 > >

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The HP Mini-Note in pictures

HP has entered the affordable mini-laptop category with its eye-catching 2133 Mini-Note PC.

While an earlier contestant - the Eee PC 701 from Asus - is a great entry-point for the One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) crowd, that mini-laptop's slight keys and featherweight heft makes it feel more like 'My First Computer' than something for the One-Laptop-Per-Adult set. (Read our OLPC XO review.)

HP is betting that, for a few pounds more, you'll want to invest in its slightly more mature approach.

See our Laptop Advisor website for expert reviews of today’s best laptops, plus read our essential advice to make sure you choose the right specs

Configurations

The HP 2133 Mini-Note offers several different options than the Eee. Depending upon which pre-configured model you pick, the HP 2133 Mini-Note ranges anywhere from a $499 (£250) system running Linux to a $749 (£375) model using Microsoft's Windows Vista Business operating system.

In the UK, Clove is taking pre-orders for the HP 2133 Mini-Note at £464 inc VAT, although the official specification, price and availability is yet to be confirmed. The low-end Linux version, which sports a 1GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM, is probably the closest matchup for the Eee. The Vista machine we review here today sits at the top-end with a 1.6GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM.

Right off the bat, the HP 2133 Mini-Note's a looker. The aluminum casing makes the little laptop feel more substantial that its Asus competitor - and it is. Weighing just under 1kg, the HP 2133 Mini-Note just feels way more capable of taking a beating than the plastic Eee (which weighs about 900g).

A little larger than the Eee, the HP 2133 Mini-Note measures 165x27x255mm, and every millimetre counts. This allows for a crisp 8.9in display, capable of a 1,280x768-pixel resolution and a comfortable, large keyboard. In fact, considering the HP 2133 Mini-Note's form factor, this is a perfectly proportioned layout for dainty digits and thick fingers alike.

The HP 2133 Mini-Note also happens to be a feature-heavy mini-notebook offering everything the Eee does (this includes three USB slots, an ethernet adaptor, an SD card reader, VGA out, a webcam, a microphone, and integrated Wi-Fi), then tops it with a PC Express card slot. Surprisingly, the speakers also do a fairly impressive job making music sound like it's coming from something larger than a pint-sized PC. In short, the HP 2133 Mini-Note offers plenty of flexibility.

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Performance Anxiety

What it doesn't deliver is peak performance. Now, we understand that Vista is the Microsoft's newest OS, and HP is likely obligated to offer it on these new notebooks. But, if you ask me, using it in this small laptop is a big mistake. The HP 2133 Mini-Note we received came installed with Vista Business and while hardly dog-slow, it was no speed demon, either.

Blame the 1.6GHz C7-M ULV processor wedged inside. Frankly, this class of low-speed laptop isn't built for the rigours of Vista. And even though there are 2GB of RAM muscling through the test applications in our unit, the HP 2133 Mini-Note's VIA processor has no business running Vista Business.

While it worked decently enough in basic tasks, the HP 2133 Mini-Note is a little pokey. It takes about 35 seconds to copy 'Guns 'N Roses Greatest Hits' (a 73MB folder) over a USB 2.0 connection. And, in our initial WorldBench tests, the HP 2133 Mini-Note laptop scored poorly. Bear in mind that this is the same gauntlet of tests we throw at every laptop, whether it's an ultra-cheap, ultraportable model or a monstrous and expensive desktop replacement.

WE do like the Total Care Advisor Applet, which came pre-installed with the HP 2133 Mini-Note. Obviously geared toward basic use, it is a handy graphical breakdown of what's going on with your PC. Whether it's the status of updates and security, battery power left, or shortcuts to data backup tools, the important actions most users will need are all right here.

>> NEXT PAGE: HP 2133 MINI-NOTE IN PICTURES, AND OUR EXPERT VERDICT

HP 2133 Mini-Note
HP 2133 Mini-Note
HP 2133 Mini-Note
HP 2133 Mini-Note
HP 2133 Mini-Note

HP 2133 Mini-Note: Specs

  • Exact spec to be confirmed. 1GHz processor
  • Linux
  • 512MB RAM OR 1.6GHz processor
  • Windows Vista Business
  • 2GB RAM. Both models: 8.9in display (1,280x768-pixel resolution)
  • 3 x USB
  • SD Card reader
  • ethernet adaptor
  • webcam
  • mic VGA-out
  • Wi-Fi
  • 6.5x1.05x10.04in
  • 2lbs, 13oz
  • Exact spec to be confirmed. 1GHz processor
  • Linux
  • 512MB RAM OR 1.6GHz processor
  • Windows Vista Business
  • 2GB RAM. Both models: 8.9in display (1,280x768-pixel resolution)
  • 3 x USB
  • SD Card reader
  • ethernet adaptor
  • webcam
  • mic VGA-out
  • Wi-Fi
  • 6.5x1.05x10.04in
  • 2lbs, 13oz

OUR VERDICT

Rarely does a notebook leave us so ambivalent – there's a truly great product within the HP Mini-Note 2133 waiting to get out, if only the ergonomics of the mouse buttons and the low processor performance could be addressed. Until then, the HP Mini-Note can be recommended only to those who can look past these issues at an otherwise superbly finished portable.