With the iPad launch having gone full swing and tablet PCs going to be the talk of the town at Computex in Ol' Taipei we thought we'd go firmly against the grain and take a look at a netbook, the HP Mini 210.
HP Mini 210
The first thing you'll notice about this netbook is that it's light as anything and it looks prettier than your average netbook. The sample copy sent over was a masculine pinky red. The base and lid are smoothly textured while the 1024x600 screen is shiny and a very reasonable size for a netbook. It's not going to get you the same level of attention is a brand spanking new tablet PC but as far as a traditional keyboard netbook goes it's a sleek and cool design that you won't feel embarrassed about getting out at a trade show, a conference, on the train or wherever you take it - should you be as terribly bothered by vanity as us.
When you boot the system up you'll notice it's fairly quiet, and it stays so for extended use, even when its little fan is going bonkers trying to keep the kit cool.
When you've started up the Mini you're taken to a quick-access page before it boots up Windows 7. This has all the sort of stuff you may need to access sharpish on the web: instant messaging, emails and browsing are all included without needing to head into Windows 7. Quickweb is great and lets you toy around with your media files too. We found start-up for Windows 7 was quick and painless, but in a rush Quickweb is very useful.
In terms of ease of use, the main thing you'll have to struggle with is the keyboard. It's a diddy keyboard for diddy hands and diddy fingers - small, that is, not branded by the hip hop mogul who we hear paradoxically has rather big hands - but then again, the netbook itself is small, so what were you bloody well expecting!? In actual fact it doesn't take long at all to get used to the smaller keys and spacing. The touchpad is generally pretty good though we did find that a flailing thumb could scupper the window you're working in - but that's touchpads in general. You can quickly turn the touchpad off by double tapping the top left. The only issue we found was the left-and-right click buttons. They're stuck in, as usual, at the bottom of the touch pad, however they are built into the touchpad itself instead of being raised. This makes the touchpad pretty to look at but occasionally annoying to use, particularly with scrolling or moving windows about.
In terms of what's inside, it's standard-ish fare: the HP 210 is powered by an Intel Atom N450 which clocks at 1.66Ghz. It's got a huge 250 GB of storage space and packs in 1GB of RAM memory. While this doesn't seem like much, compared to the other netbooks below we found the HP 210 to run extremely well.
WiFi is, of course, built in but there's no 3G. This makes train travel a bit of a pain but since most of us are dongled-up it's not much of a problem really. Another impressive aspect of the 210 is its long battery life, built with a six-cell battery by default. Your mileage may vary but we got around four and a half hours out of the netbook each time without a charge. When your juice has run out, the charge is fast and you're good to go again in no time.
The Good: It's pretty and light. You won't feel like a huge nerd bring this out in front of a bunch of Macbook'd types. It runs smoothly and Quickweb is a great addition. Generally sample kit is fun and we'd like to keep it, but we were really sad to part with the 210 and this review is considering buying one.
The Bad: The touchpad can be annoying at times. We wouldn't have minded some additional memory but generally the 1 GB fared well.
The Ugly: Hey? What!? The netbook BSOD'd on us once and on reboot it told us that there was no operating installed! We let it cool down for a while and on the second reboot all was well again. Phew.