Having had my HP Mini 1000 (or technically, a 1004TU) for about a couple of months now, I thought I’d write up some of my impressions that turn up after the initial “Ooh! Shiny!” aspect has worn off. Some of these I touched on in my original post.
Firstly, I do like the machine, and the keyboard is nice to type on. It’s the first thing that people notice, and several people have commented on getting a similar model solely because of the keyboard. What they don’t notice is the lack of back light, luminescent keys glyphs, or anything that lets you use it in the dark. Immediately after that observation, everyone complains that the mousepad buttons are weird – though the layout frees up space, and I’m used to it now – and that they keep hitting the touch pad when trying to type – which I also still do after two months.
After a bit of fluffing, it appears that HP will send me my cash back. This is good, because frankly, I think the initial price I saw it for (NZD$900) is over priced. It’s good, but it’s not that good. What follows now is a list of my gripes that are only mitigated by the fact that I got it for a steal during a boxing day sale at 20% off ($720 minus a further $100 via cash back). These issues aren’t enough to make me chuck it on trademe, and go buy something else, but they are annoying, and worth noting for anyone thinking of buying one.
In the normal course of events, such as putting the device in a bag, it’s possible for the screen to touch the keyboard. This leaves marks on the screen, which is bad. To alleviate this problem, the unit comes with this weird cloth thing that you need to put between the screen and the keyboard when you close it. Naturally, you will lose this cloth, repeatedly. A couple of rubber stops at the top of the screen would have fixed this, but clearly HP has decided short term sales aesthetics must override the long term usability of not having a smudged grid pattern permanently etched into the screen.
The battery just scrapes in at three hours. This is high enough to be useful, but low enough to be annoying. In addition, it takes about as long to recharge, which is also frustrating.
The sound volume is all kinds of weird. It’s impossible to hear anything until the volume is cranked up to about 85%, and then the volume rises rapidly. This weirdness actually prompted me to hunt down the volume control resolution in gconf (/apps/gnome_settings_daemon/volume_step), and may have caused temporary deafness a couple of times.
The bizarre ports configuration is where this netbook really falls down. The combination 3.5mm head/microphone jack means that I can’t use my regular headset for skype. and the built in microphone is rubbish. The obvious solution is to use bluetooth, but HP clearly felt that it was important to get that extra 50 cents they saved by removing bluetooth from my model. Of course, it’s possible to use a USB bluetooth module, but this takes away one of the two precious external USB ports. There is a third one, but that’s recessed a good 3cm into the case simply so HP can ream you once more for their propriety-but-not-really HP Mobile Drive, which is really just a generic USB drive with some extra plastic on it. Rounding off this lazy rendition of embrace and extend is the expansion port on the left side, which, in theory – supports power, USB, VGA, and audio, thus allowing a docking station of sorts.
Except that I still can’t buy cables for it. So, I have no VGA out, or docking capability.
They even managed to screw up the camera.
Finally, the screen tilts back just far enough to make it virtually impossible to use while crashed out on a couch. Words cannot express how much this disappoints me.
Finally, the ethernet is kind of buggy. If it’s not plugged in when you turn the device on then, you don’t have ethernet. If you then unplug said ethernet cable, the kernel panics and the whole machine locks up. Awesome.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy with my purchase, but only because I managed to get it at such a low price. If I’d paid the full price of $900 or so, I’d be feeling somewhat ripped right now.