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HP Mini 1000 – First impressions

December 31st, 2008

I have a new toy!

HP Mini 1000, Left View

HP Mini 1000

I’ve been wanting one of HP’s new Mini 1000′s since they came out. But, patience has proved to be a virtue, and instead of paying $900 retail, I managed to pick one up at the boxing day sales for $720, with another $100 off via cash back from HP. In my opinion, the Mini simply looks a lot nicer than the various offerings from Asus and Acer, and the keyboard doesn’t give me instant RSI.

Since I live in New Zealand, they won’t offer it with Linux, or the bluetooth option. No matter, one USD$4 mini USB bluetooth adapator and some careful netbooting later and these problems were solved. I purchased the 1004TU model that has an 8GB SSD instead of a 60GB PATA disk, because it means less moving parts to break and explode.

The Good
For a netbook, the keyboard is awesome. Every time I’ve showed it off so far, it is the first thing people comment on. The keys are 92% the size of those found on a full sized keyboard, and have a minimal bevel, making it actually possible for me to hit the right keys on the first attempt.

The screen is nice. It’s not amazing, but it’s big enough (10.2″) to read off for a while without making me blind, with a high enough (1024×600) resolution to allow full width web page viewing.

All hardware works out of the box under Linux (Ubuntu 8.10). I assume this is because HP released an Linux version of the same hardware, and it’s easier to use supported hardware on model, rather than having multiple hardware variants.

The Not-So-Good
The shortish list is; The single fan get quite noisy when the CPU is running at full throttle. There’s only two USB ports, HP has elected to have a single audio port for microphone and headphones – cellphone style, the network manager seems prone to dying occasionally (though this may be an Ubuntu bug), and the built in microphone seems to pick up environmental noise better than my own voice.

The webcam exhibits some odd behavior where it sets the brightness to zero, leading me to initially assume that it wasn’t supported in Linux. Standard webcam software controls will fix this, and Skype appears to be smarter about handling this particular problem than Cheese or Ekiga.

The clamshell design, while exceedingly pretty, limits the angle to which you can push back the screen to about 30 degrees from vertical. This turns out to be incredibly annoying if you using it anywhere except at a table or desk.

The Bad
The 3-cell battery only just manages to offer three hours of battery life when using wireless. Thankfully suspends works well enough, but it doesn’t bode well for when the battery inevitably starts to wear out.

Finally, it’s clear that HP has a love affair with proprietary ports. There’s this weird connector on the left hand side instead of a VGA port. In theory, this will eventually allow me to plug in kind of docking station type affair for ethernet, power, and video output. In reality, I can’t find the adapter on HP’s website. I also would have been much happier if the unit had shipped with a VGA or DVI adapter cable. As if that weren’t bad enough, HP has seen fit to include something they call ‘HP Mobile Drive’ on the rear right hand corner of the unit. To my eye, it look suspiciously like a buried USB port with a slightly non-standard pin out. Another USB port or second SD slot would have been a much better option.

Wrapping Up
It looks good, and it’s possible to type something of significant length. If you’re the cafe blogger or travelling office hopper, it’ll probably suit you incredibly well. Just don’t expect it to last through an international flight.

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