HP's second-generation mini-notebook - the HP Mini 1000 - falls in the middle of the current netbook pack.

HP's second-generation foray into the mini-laptop space, also known as netbooks - the HP Mini 1000 - has a couple of advantages over its predecessor (the HP 2133 Mini-Note, which we reviewed back in July). Gone is the Via C-7M processor; gone, too, is the pipe dream that any current netbook could handle Windows Vista (the Mini 1000 runs Windows XP).

The HP Mini 1000 that we received for testing packs Intel's 1.6GHz Atom processor; 1GB of RAM; a 4200rpm, 60GB PATA hard disk; and Windows XP. Translation: it falls in place with the rest of the current mini-notebook pack. There's a cheaper, stripped down version called the Compaq Mini 700.

HP Mini 1000

The Compaq Mini 700 will be available as of mid-December at an estimated starting price of £299 inc VAT. The model we reviewed, the HP Mini 1000 as outlined above, will set you back £399. That price instantly pushes the HP Mini 1000 to the high end of the mini-notebook category - and to nearly as much as a full-blooded all-purpose laptop.

If anyone asked us what we would have done to change HP's first mini-note, the aforementioned HP 2133, we'd have had a pretty cut-and-dried checklist: add a more capable CPU; amp up the RAM; use XP instead of Vista (one version of the 2133 used Vista Business Edition, no less); change the touchpad's design (we grew to hate the mouse buttons that flanked the pad's left and right sides); and, if HP could, drop the price a little. But they'd better not mess with the keyboard, the speakers, or that sweet metallic shell.

The HP Mini 1000 incorporates many of those suggestions. However, in spite of its Atom processor, the Mini 1000 slips a little toward the back of the pack. Of course, we've learned to keep lowered expectations for netbooks - the average WorldBench score for the category hovers around 35. HP's Mini 1000 eked out a 30. So, while it's not nearly as speedy as Lenovo's IdeaPad S10 (which earned a 41), the Mini 1000 also is notably faster than both Dell's Inspiron Mini 9 (which crawled across the finish line posting a 25) and the original HP 2133, which scored a poky 23.

HP spokespeople feel comfortable saying that the 3-cell battery lasts about 3 hours. We'll see. In addition, HP plans to release an optional 6-cell battery wedge that sits below the Mini 1000 and props it up (it's due in January 2009, price to be determined).

While not in our test unit, HP briefed us on a forthcoming optional video processing chip that can go into the Mini 1000.

NEXT PAGE: not heavy metal

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HP's second-generation mini-notebook - the HP Mini 1000 - falls in the middle of the current netbook pack.

HP Mini 1000: not heavy metal

The HP Mini 1000 doesn't stop with just changes to its inside guts. This time, HP chose to use a 261x165x23mm plastic shell, as opposed to the 2133's aluminum case. That metallic exterior made for a meaty, mature netbook: it didn't feel like a toy - it was something sturdy in your hands that could take a beating.

With the HP Mini 1000, you get a reasonably hard plastic lid with a groovy design on top. That makes it slightly more stylish than many mini-notes - but not much. Citing a lighter weight (1kg) and lower production costs, HP sees the plastic as a better choice. You may prefer the heavy metal if only because of the gleaming lines and substantial feel.

We also weren't a huge fan of the original touchpad, but this one is a little more tolerable. While we still think it's annoying to have the mouse buttons flanking the left and right sides of the touchpad, the implementation is better this time around. The buttons are slightly raised and angled toward the mousepad and, if we are ever annoyed, we can always disable the on-board mouse with a button touch. But why should we have to do that?

Thankfully, some things haven't changed - particularly, the size of the fantastic keyboard. The oversized, square keys look like something that belongs on a full-size notebook. In fact, the main qwerty and number buttons are large enough to fit your entire finger. No need to carefully hunt-and-peck on this keyboard.

We found the audio impressive, and it matched our experiences with the earlier model. The ingenious top-mounted speaker also serves as a sturdy hinge for the device; this design saves space. And while we're not one to say that you could use the HP Mini 1000 as some incredibly dorky boombox, it does get decent audio without turning into a crackly mess.

NEXT PAGE: the screen, unseen

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HP's second-generation mini-notebook - the HP Mini 1000 - falls in the middle of the current netbook pack.

HP Mini 1000: the screen, unseen

Now, the 10.2in screen - like most glossy screens - is a little hit or miss. Indoors, you can easily make out what's happening on the 1024-by-600-pixel panel - and images look great. If you were to see the HP Mini 1000 on a store shelf, you'd likely be attracted to it like a very nerdy moth to a flame.

Try taking it outside in direct sunlight, though, and you've got yourself a large portable mirror. It's still usable, but you really need to crank up the brightness all the way to see anything. Even then, we could easily shave in its reflection. (HP also offers a smaller version of this model, with an 8.9in screen; a tweener screen - 10.1 inches - will be available later this year).

One thing we've always liked about Acer's Aspire One is how Acer puts two SD card slots in the device. One was a little more recessed so that you could pop in extra memory and just let it sit there as additional storage. Here, HP is taking a cue from Acer - kind of. In the back right side of the device is a well-hidden and way-recessed USB slot.

That allows you to pop in an additional 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB USB flash drive. The problem: where Acer's solution lets you insert any card you have, HP has you buy their proprietary form-factor memory (Mini Mobile Drive) that wedges deep inside the machine. This approach isn't nearly as compelling as Acer's.

We also noticed that HP decided to cut out some of the inputs. The machine skimps a little by providing a shared headphone/mic jack, a 10/100 ethernet jack, two USB 2.0 ports, an SD Card reader, and a proprietary dongle port if you want to shoot out video to VGA.

Just be prepared to shell out for the VGA dongle. At least it has 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi and optional Bluetooth 2.1 to compensate for the lost ports. Also bank on 3G broadband, which will be available later this year.

As for the software, HP tries making a clean go of it on the Windows flavour of this machine. Our test unit came preinstalled with Microsoft Works, AIM 6, and an HP Wireless Assistant. While we salute the bloatless install, we quickly found myself missing a backup solution, like the one that Lenovo smartly packs into the IdeaPad S10.

HP also skimps on a detailed physical instruction manual. Instead, you get a glossy foldout sheet that basically shows you where the power button is and how to get to the computer's onboard Help & Support Center. It's a fairly handy series of links to the user manual, but it's just gussying up what Microsoft already offers in its operating system. To give credit where it's due, though, HP's Help & Support Center is a little more user-friendly.

The other bonus is a free six-month subscription to HP Upline. This online storage option covers three PCs, and appears similar to the services offered by Dell with its Inspiron Mini 9: a free basic account for Box.Net good for a couple gigs of online storage.

NEXT PAGE: other models, other OSes

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HP's second-generation mini-notebook - the HP Mini 1000 - falls in the middle of the current netbook pack.

Other models, other OSes

HP doesn't offer only a Windows version of the Mini 1000. The Linu... sorry, HP... the Mobile Internet Experience version of the HP Mini 1000 is due to come out in January with a tiny 8GB or 16GB flash drive. That interface, while it looks fairly fresh, is still very much in a beta stage, so we'll reserve comment for now.

And probably the flashiest mini-note to date, set to arrive by mid-December, is a customised red take on the Mini designed by Vivienne Tam. The Asian-themed model comes with painted trees on the lid and a "Double Happiness" enter key. Umm, yeah. And proof that you can put a price on Double Happiness: you're paying £399 for the privilege of rocking this prêt-a-computer.

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HP Mini 1000: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 4200rpm, 60GB PATA hard disk
  • Windows XP
  • 10.2in, 1024-by-600-pixel screen
  • 3-cell battery
  • 261x165x23mm
  • 1.1kg
  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 4200rpm, 60GB PATA hard disk
  • Windows XP
  • 10.2in, 1024-by-600-pixel screen
  • 3-cell battery
  • 261x165x23mm
  • 1.1kg

OUR VERDICT

With the HP Mini 1000, HP does a good job keeping most of the things that worked on the HP Mini-Note 2133, while upping the performance and managing to cut prices in the process - well, not counting the fashionista-flavoured model. Is an HP Mini 1000 right for you? If you're limiting your outdoor use (the glare can be a pain), this is a good choice; but it's not the swiftest mini-note on the block.

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