The slim, sleek HP Mini 1000 remains, in some ways, the pinnacle of Netbook development, with its whisper-thin design and large edge-to-edge keyboard. Verizon is now offering a 3G-enabled version of this system, called the Mini 1151NR, as part of a package that will seem familiar to mobile phone buyers; the laptop's price is subsidized, at $199, as long as you agree to a two-year contract for data services from Verizon, which currently runs between $39 and $59 per month.
Other data providers, such as AT&T, are planning to offer similar packages, and the marriage of 3G with a Netbook feels like an obvious mashup of two useful technologies. While a comparably equipped HP Mini 1000 would cost $439 without the 3G antenna, or $569 with, companies such as Dell are offering largely similar Netbooks for as little as $299, making the subsidized price less appealing after you factor in roughly $1,400 in data fees. But mobile broadband data is expensive no matter how you slice it, and having anytime, anywhere Internet access on one of our favorite Netbooks is very appealing.
If you're not married to either the HP Mini or Verizon, a USB mobile broadband antenna from your preferred provider plus your favorite low-cost Netbook can be a more flexible option.
|Price as reviewed||$199|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Atom N270|
|Memory||1GB, 533MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||80GB 4,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel 945GM Express|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 950 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows XP|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.3 inches wide by 6.6 inches deep|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.5/3.1 pounds|
The Mini 1151NR is virtually identical to the two HP Mini 1000 models we've tested. It remains one of the thinnest Netbooks available, although newer competitors, such as the Asus Eee PC 1008HA, are catching up. For frequent travelers, HP's business side offers a slightly thicker and heavier version, called the Mini 2140, that's built into a rugged aluminum chassis, but that's not part of this Verizon promotion.
The excellent, wide keyboard remains one of our favorites on a Netbook, and its large, flat keys are good for anyone who has been put off by the chiclet-size keys on other small laptops. Samsung's N120 takes a different, but also excellent, approach, squeezing in a traditional 12-inch laptop's tapered-key keyboard. The touch pad remains a weakness in the Mini's design, with a wide-but-short surface and mouse buttons pushed to the far left and right sides, rather than below the touch pad. We're also not fans of the Mini's power switch, which is a small slider on the front edge that's hard to hit (although it does make it unlikely that you'll accidentally turn the system off or on when you don't mean to).
Initially setting up the 3G access took about 15 minutes for installing and updating software. We were pleased to see the dated VZAccess Manager software, which we remember from when we used to tether our Palm Treo 700p to laptops, can be refreshed with a newer, smoother-running version after downloading a hefty update. The software can control your access to both the Verizon data network as well as local Wi-Fi points, and helpfully displays data usage when you log on. The two data plans currently offered are $39 for 250MB of monthly data and $59 for 5GB of data (which is the same as other wireless providers usually allow for their so-called "unlimited" plans).
The 10.1-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,024x576 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 long, vertical pages and Word documents can require a lot of scrolling to read. While the glossy screen looks sharp, especially under its edge-to-edge glass overlay, it still picks up a lot of glare from ambient light sources.
|HP Mini 1151NR||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Combo headphone/mic jack||headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Verizon 3G mobile broadband modem||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
The Mini has fewer ports and connections than many other Netbooks, but the two USB ports should be enough for most users, especially if you don't need one for a USB mobile broadband modem. Watch out for the split, single headphone/mic jack, which can cause problems if you need to record and monitor audio at the same time.
Intel's single-core 1.6GHz Atom 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. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, performance was comparable to other recent Atom-powered Netbooks we've looked at, including HP's non-3G version of the Mini 1000.
One area we were concerned about was the battery. With only a three-cell battery, the Mini line doesn't have a very long battery life, and even with the 3G modem turned off, the Mini 1151NR ran for only 2 hours and 30 minutes on our video file playback test, about 15 minutes less than the original HP Mini 1000. Unfortunately, a six-cell battery seems to be a requirement for extended use of a Netbook. HP offers one if you buy the Mini direct from them, but we didn't see any way to get it as part of your Verizon order.