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Bangkok Post : Portable Prominence

1300683648 95 Bangkok Post : Portable Prominence

Portable computing is currently dominating tech talk and shelf space. while the iPad 2 grabs all the headlines, as it did here last week, netbooks maintain their sustainability with their lower cost, dominant functionality and comparable battery life.

HP is up to its armpits in portable releases, which is predictable coming from the world’s biggest PC seller. it has released slate devices, which near the specs and dimensions of iPads, but the manufacturer has so far failed to cash in on the tablet zeitgeist. instead, it continues its bread and butter netbook releases with a tempting upgrade of the Mini 110. Notebook and netbook technology is improving, but is it doing so fast enough to survive the tablet onslaught? The race is on.

Let’s look at the new HP Mini 110 to see if it has enough class to lure any of the frenzied Apple feeders.

APPEARANCE

Among the myriad HP netbook models, the new Mini 110 stands up as an understated and smart-looking machine. The top lid has a plastic finish, but is not too glossy. The bottom is matt, inside and out. Inside the lid, the screen is still housed in an oversized bezel, losing valuable screen space.

When closed, the Mini 110 is about 2.5cm thick, and weighs around 1.2kg, which is heavier than all tablets on the market, but the extra weight brings extra functionality. on the outside edge are three USB ports, a VGA and ethernet port, and a card reader, which are all welcome.

The six-cell battery gives the bottom edge a bit of a lip, but is easily justified by the extra battery life. and it remains surreptitious enough, hiding neatly under and between the lid hinges.

Under the battery is a quick release button that pops the bottom bonnet, giving easy access to memory and HDD ports. a quick view under the hood reveals how compact the inner mechanics are.

A new-generation dual-core Atom N570 processor is at the heart of the configuration. it runs at 1.66GHz and handles typical netbook tasks well. it is supported by 1GB DDR3 RAM, which is easy to upgrade by power users who need a little extra oomph. The 320GB HDD is a welcome luxury in such a small device.

The 10.1-inch WSVGA screen still only offers 1,024×600 resolution, which doesn’t handle HD content particularly well. The newer model Minis have increased their resolution, and have a graphics accelerator on board. it is still too glossy for outdoor or sunny indoor use too.

USABILITY

The Chiclet keyboard is responsive and springy. The touchpad is a little small, as always in this class of device, but its functional. I use mine with a USB mouse to speed operations up and reduce frustration.

My test version came without an OS, strangely enough, so I booted Ubuntu 10.10 for netbooks onto the system, with decent results.

Without predicting the decline of the Microsoft operating system empire, Ubuntu complemented the hardware impressively, especially for a system that downloads within half an hour and is free. on Ubuntu, HD videos played back seamlessly with the right media player, confirming the capability of the netbook to act in this role.

Battery life is decent, and stays true to the advertised seven hours with moderate use, with the six-cell battery option. The three-cell battery option is simply not worth considering.

VERDICT

HP continues its commitment to netbooks here with this tempting configuration in the new Mini 110 and the price is low enough to make it a genuine alternative to tablets for the time being.

For now, HP will find its old customers coming back, and even turn the heads of some budget-wary tablet shoppers. Netbooks remain streaks ahead in terms of combining content creation as well as consumption in a device. and needing both these functions from my portable devices, I will stick with netbooks for now.

The HP Mini is available in Pacific Blue for 9,697 baht from Hardware House, first floor, Pantip Plaza, call 02-685-8936. Email richardm@bangkokpost.co.th with any gadget queries.

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