Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
The HP Mini 110 originally offered a decent combo of cool design, typical Netbook components, and a reasonable price. In the months since its initial release, we've seen other Netbooks do more for less, and without the Mini 110's most damning compromise, an awkward elongated touch pad with mouse buttons pushed off to the side.
This particular retail configuration, the HP Mini 110-1131dx Tord Boontje Edition, is different only in that it features a graphical treatment from Dutch industrial designer Tord Boontje (who also designs products for Target stores). The white floral print, on stacked semi-transparent layers that give off a slight 3D effect, is pleasant enough, but not so much as to justify a $50 price increase (to $399) over identical configurations in plain solid white.
Other than that, we found a standard set of Netbook components, including an Intel Atom N270 CPU, 1GB of RAM, Windows 7 starter, and a 160GB 5,400rpm HDD. HP's own newer Mini 311 offers an HD screen and Nvidia Ion graphics for the same starting price, so while we're very fond of the Mini 110, this model makes sense only if you can find it at a reasonable discount.
|Price as reviewed||$399|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Atom N270|
|Memory||1GB, 533MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 5,400rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel 945GM Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 950 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.3 x 6.6 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.6/3.2 pounds|
The Mini 110 mixes up typical Netbook dimensions, adding some thickness, but reducing the front-to-back depth, making for a smaller desktop footprint than usual. It feels chunky in the hand (and in your laptop bag), but when open, the keyboard tray has essentially zero wasted space.
While the new inlaid graphics are attractive, we found it somewhat bizarre that HP reps, when originally showing us this Tord Boontje design, kept breathlessly repeating that it was expressly for the purpose of attracting female customers. Perhaps because they thought it looked like a wedding invitation?
The excellent keyboard, with wide, flat keys, is still one of our minilaptop favorites, but the wide-and-short touch pad surface is awkward and makes scrolling a pain. The mouse buttons are pushed to the far left and right sides, rather than sitting below the touch pad, and are also inconvenient. Since we first saw this design, most Netbook-makers (including HP) have settled on a traditional touch pad/mouse button layout.
The 10.1-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,024x576-pixel native resolution, which is slightly lower than the 1,024x600 standard for a screen this size. That's generally fine for most Web surfing, but newer Netbooks have traded up to 1,200x768 screens, which provide more readable real estate.
|HP Mini 110||Average for category [netbook]|
|Audio||Combo headphone/mic jack||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
The Mini 110 has a reasonable set of ports and connections, but watch out for the split single headphone/mic jack, which can cause problems if you want to record and monitor audio at the same time.
Intel's single-core 1.6GHz Atom N270 CPU offers enough computing power for the basic tasks for which Netbooks are designed--namely Web surfing, working on documents, and some basic multimedia playback. Keep in mind that the next generation of Atom chips is around the corner, and even some current or very imminent models include the dual-core Atom and Nvidia's Ion graphics chip; so the standards of acceptable Netbook performance may be about to change.