HP's Netbooks have traditionally come in two versions: consumer 10-inch models such as the Mini 210, and pro-level Netbooks such as the Mini 5103. The $299 Mini 1103 is both and neither. An affordable business/education-targeted Netbook, it has a bare-bones design while offering better bells and whistles under the hood than similarly priced competitors: Bluetooth, a 7,200rpm hard drive, and mobile broadband antennas all come standard. An excellent battery life only adds to its appeal. In the end, the Mini 1103 is still a 10-inch single-core Atom Netbook, but it's one of the better budget Netbooks you can buy.
Interested consumers will likely ask: what's the difference between this "small business-oriented" Mini 1103 and HP's consumer-branded HP Mini 210, a perennial top pick at CNET among Netbooks? Mostly, not much. In terms of design, the Mini 1103 is spartan. Black is the only option, unlike HP's spectrum of Mini 210 colors. The price is better with the Mini 1103: instead of mid-$300s for a Netbook, the 1103's $299 price puts it on par with the least expensive Netbooks from Acer and Asus. Feature-wise, the 1103 actually comes out on top; instead of removing any features to hit $299, the Mini 1103 adds extras such as Bluetooth.
|Price as reviewed||$299|
|Processor||1.66GHz Intel Atom N455|
|Memory||1GB, 667MHz DDR2 RAM|
|Hard drive||250GB 7,200rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 3150|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.6 x 7.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.8 / 3.4 pounds|
Glossy black on the outside, matte black on the inside, the Mini 1103 has a clean, inoffensive look that doesn't try too hard. The plastic Netbook is lightweight, although slightly thick with the curved lid closed. To eliminate battery bulge, the long-life battery in the Mini 1103 is largely tucked into the space between the hinges. The top lid opens up completely to a flat 180 degrees, affording plenty of flexibility when lap-typing. Its design is an analogue to HP's consumer Netbooks, and is nothing like the high-end, crisp design of the more expensive HP Mini 5103. This one's a rental car compared with the Mini 5103's luxury coupe touches.
The flat keyboard and its surrounding deck are treated in matte black plastic that has a budget feel, but is sturdy and flex-free. The keyboard isn't full-size, but it's close enough to allow easy and fast typing. Enter and Shift keys are amply sized, and the volume/brightness buttons on top are function-reversed, meaning that they operate directly without requiring a Function button-press.
The multitouch touch pad beneath is wide but very narrow, making for awkward navigation. Two large discrete buttons beneath are generous, but the design would have made a lot more sense as a clickpad, thus saving real estate. We can't expect too much out of a budget Netbook, but Asus' Eee PC touch pads are more comfortably designed. The Synaptics touch-based gestures are varied, but hard to execute on such a small surface area.
The 10.1-inch LED-backlit matte display on the Mini 1103 looks better in direct light than other displays because it foregoes the glossy treatment on the majority of laptops, but the maximum brightness isn't that high. The 1,024x600-pixel native resolution is standard for 10-inch Netbooks, offering easily readable text and clear-quality images and video, but browser windows and document layouts end up with less user real estate. Web browsing suffers the most, especially with multiple toolbars.
Video and audio playback aren't the strong suits of the Mini 1103, nor are they with any Atom processor-based Netbook. The front-facing stereo speakers built into the lower edge of the laptop achieve functional audio, but cap at an insufficiently low volume for Hulu and other movie playback with a wide sound range. The screen on the Mini 1103 has very limited viewing angles, and is best for single-user watching. A VGA Webcam included with the Mini 1103 has average recording and picture quality.
|HP Mini 1103||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
The Mini 1103 has three USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet port hidden away behind a flap on the right side; it also has Bluetooth, a rarity among budget Netbooks. Also included is a high-speed 7,200rpm 250GB hard drive, a step up and a contributor to zippier file-opening speeds. However, other specs are standard-issue for budget Netbooks: 1GB of RAM and Windows 7 Starter. This Netbook also lacks HDMI-out, so hooking it up to TV could be a hassle.
The single-core Atom N455 CPU is perfectly capable for basic tasks such as Web browsing, e-mail, and office document work, even some light multitasking, but the experience slows down significantly with any added multimedia tasks. Playback of full-screen streaming Hulu and Netflix videos degraded into choppiness while still being technically watchable, depending on your definition of watchable.
Bottom line: all Atom Netbooks are limited computing platforms that are fine as long as your expectations are curbed, and your concerns lie more toward size and budget than all-purpose use. There are no dedicated graphics, but the Mini 1103 could easily play casual Web-based games and the like.
|HP Mini 1103||Average watts per hour|
|Raw kWh number||23.00|
|Annual power consumption cost||$2.61|