Hands-on with the HP Mini 110

As the slim, snazzy HP Mini 1000 is one of our favorite Netbooks, we were excited to hear of an impending sequel. We just got our hands on one of the new systems, and while the Mini 110 doesn't stray far from the Mini 1000 mold, there are some subtle chan

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As the slim, snazzy HP Mini 1000 is one of our favorite Netbooks, we were excited to hear of an impending sequel. We just got our hands on one of the new systems, and while the Mini 110 doesn't stray far from the Mini 1000 mold, there are some subtle changes, not always for the best.

At first glance, the two systems seem identical, but when we pulled out a Mini 1000 for a comparison, we saw the Mini 110 was slightly thicker and heavier. Not by much--but in a tiny Netbook form factor, a small change can make a big difference, especially when compared to something like the new Asus Eee PC 1008HA, which is slimmer than its predecessor, not the other way around.

The thinner Mini 1000 versus the thicker Mini 110.

The display was also different, with the edge-to-edge glass replaced by a standard inset panel. It's not as slick a look, but the display itself was matte, instead of glossy, which is a very hard-to-find feature in a Netbook, and especially good if you're bothered by screen glare.

On the left, the glossy Mini 1000, on the right, the matte Mini 110.

Other than that, we found a standard set of Netbook components, including an Intel Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of RAM, Windows XP and a 160GB 5,400rpm HDD (which beats the 80GB 4,200rpm drive found in most Mini 1000 models). HP has mentioned an optional "hardware video decoder" for better HD video playback, but we haven't seen that in action yet.

One new feature that did catch our eye was the inclusion of a third-party software app called Syncables, which promises to connect different machines on your local network, allowing you to easily share documents, photos, video, and music, and even sync Outlook and Thunderbird e-mail accounts. The program even claims to work on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems.

In theory, it seems like a good idea (we often use Gmail and Google docs for this kind of thing). In practice, we found the Syncables software difficult to use. The screens are clearly not designed with the Mini's 1,024x576 resolution in mind, and the layout and navigation were confusing, even when installed on our desktop computer.

After creating an account, we could sometimes log into it, and sometimes hitting the login button would simply do nothing. We were eventually were able to see our desktop from the Mini 110, and vice versa, but in our brief hands-on time, but could not actually access any files from the other machine. We're sure with a few hours of troubleshooting, we'd be able to figure it out, but the entire process seemed fairly nonintuitive.

The HP Mini 110 is available starting June 10 with both Windows XP and HP's custom Linux-based Mi software for $329 (for XP) and $279 (for Mi). That's a decent break from the $450 price of a comparable Mini 1000, but you also lose a little of the brand's unique character in the process. Pink and white versions will be available around July 8, and a business version, the HP Mini 1101 is expected next week, starting at $329.

 

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