Here it is at last. The HP Mini-Note: a much vaunted, aluminium coated, high definition ultraportable that has owners of a certain Asus-branded notebook feeling slightly sheepish about their purchase.
There's only one question they or anyone else cares about when it comes to this notebook: should you get it instead of an Eee PC? In a word, no.
Built to last
Inevitably, that ‘no’ will turn into a ‘well, maybe’ for some. There’s a lot about the Mini-Note that is fantastic, and deserves to win you over. The 120GB hard drive and built in Bluetooth, for example, make it hugely versatile with a mountain of storage and the ability to synch with a mobile modem wirelessly.
The lid-mounted speakers are great too. They won't have you trading in the Bang&Olufsens, but they're pleasantly bearable, unlike those in most notebooks. Most importantly, it looks much more professional than the toy-like Eee.
With tasteful aluminium armour and an (almost) full-size keyboard this is a sub-notebook to be reckoned with, although the overall impression is one of po-faced business nous rather than – like the Eee – fun.
If, for example, you could wean him from the abysmal Amstrad Em@iler, Alan Sugar might carry a Mini-Note into a board meeting to display his corporate gravitas and sharp-cuffed entrepreneurial spirit. His less devout, but more interesting, apprentices will be planning a road trip using their Eee.
Cramming a whopping 1280x768 pixels into a panel that's just 8.9 inches wide makes the screen very crisp indeed. Although text is a little small, there’s room for several open windows at once.
The colours aren't quite as bright and well contrasted as we'd been led to believe, but overall it's a big step for miniature notebooks everywhere.
The problem for the Mini-Note is that the Eee was innovative three ways: it was tiny, cheap and a break from Microsoft. A bohemian revolution that offered computing for the masses, it won our hearts.
The Mini-Note is none of those things – it’s bigger and slightly heavier, a hundred pounds more expensive and our review sample runs Windows Vista.
The battery issue
If you want practicality there’s an Acer Aspire 2920Z which for £20 and only a few grams more gives you dual core processing, an optical drive and a much bigger screen.
The Mini-Note isn’t quite as practical. Whether it’s the large hard drive or constant background activity in Vista, every last drop of juice is used up in just over an hour and a half. That’s rubbish. Plus the mousepad, with its side mounted buttons, is horrible.
There is a Linux-based version available, which we’re hoping transforms the Mini-Note into the sexy style icon it deserves to be. For the time being, though, you’re probably better off waiting for the more powerful second generation version, by which time it’ll be usurped by the MSI Wind or the Acer One. So, just like the Eee then.