RANDOM REVIEW

RANDOM REVIEW REVISITED – HP Mini 1000

I have owned my HP Mini 1000 netbook for just over seven months now, and it seems like as good a time as any to discuss my experience so far.

The original review can be read here.

WAS I A BETA TESTER?

It would appear that HP has corrected most, if not all, of the gripes that I had with my netbook.  Newer models of the HP Mini 1000 now have three USB ports, a standard VGA output, and I believe the whole “Mobile Mini Drive” malarkey has been done away with as well.  Big thumbs-up to HP for making those fixes, but they won’t be doing ME a whole lot of good anytime soon!

ITS SO SMALL AND KYOOT!

For all the press and hype, I don’t think Netbooks have become commonplace as of yet (not in San Antonio, anyway).  I have personally only seen two other Netbooks “in the wild” myself, and my Mini garners the occasional stare when I am out and about with it.  This usually leads into what has quickly become a prepared speech on the pros and cons of owning a Netbook.

Every so often I will get an “OMG ITS SO CUUUUTE!” from a woman, but I have yet to get any significant part of that attention thrown my way.  *sigh*

CRASH BANG BOOM!

Its as inevitable as the tides; you WILL eventually drop your portable computer at some point in time.  It happened to me in June, the Mini fell off of a countertop and the side smacked into a chair on the way down.  Needless to say, I freaked out.  Luckily, there appears to be no permanent damage, save for a nice dent in the speaker grille …so maybe NOW its not so cute!  As a consequence, the battery now has a tendency to fall out at random times, but it wasn’t nothing a little electrical tape could’t fix!

WHAT A DIFFERENCE AN OS MAKES

I was intrigued by the thought of installing Windows Vista on my Netbook at first.  Despite the optimizations and upgrades I had made to the Mini, Windows XP would still grunt and groan when running on the Mini’s modest hardware.  I did some research and found a few reports saying that installing Windows Vista on a Netbook was an excercise in futility, and having had my own bad experiences running Vista on underpowered hardware, I decided not to try.

Meanwhile, the computing press was busy gushing over the Windows 7
beta, and I became intrigued again.  On the surface, it sounded like madness: a newer version of a Microsoft operating system running better than the older one on underpowered hardware?  Unpossible!

Actually it was VERY possible!  I installed Windows 7 and the Mini felt much more responsive than it ever was under XP.  The Aero effects work just fine despite Intel’s nearly-worthless graphics hardware, and tethering my smartphone to get on the Internet when I’m “off the grid” works without any intervention on my part.  When Microsoft offered a discount on Windows 7 back in July, I jumped on it.  I installed Home Premium and I have been very happy with it.

The Mini was pretty good with Windows XP, but it’s GREAT with Windows 7.

ULTRA-PORTABLE BLISS

I have found my netbook to be a great portable computer; it has enough power to do everything I need it to do when on the road, and upgrading the RAM to 2GB made Windows happy.  I wish the battery life could be a bit longer, but except for that little gripe, I consider my HP Mini 1000 to have been a good purchase.

I would encourage anyone who needs a ultra-portable computer for basic tasks to look into purchasing a Netbook.  The price is right, the performance is good, and the portability is great…just be sure you test out the keyboard first!

NOTE: The author received no compensation for this review.

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Uncategorized

No, it is NOT a “Murse”

Shortly after buying my HP Mini, I purchased a bag to carry it around in, as well as its charger, a mouse, a short USB cable, my spiral notebook, DSi and any other stuff I could cram into it.  The case looks good (I think, anyway) and it does the job well.  In addition to the traditional “suitcase” handle, it also has a permanently attached strap for carrying it over one’s shoulder.

Now I’m as secure in my masculinity as the next Manly Man (some would argue a little too secure, but that’s a discussion for another time) but for the life of me, I cannot bear to use that damn carry strap.  Because of the Mini’s (and thus, the bag’s) smaller size, I feel as if I am carrying a purse.   It is just a little too small.  Every time I have slung it over my shoulder, I start to become very self-conscious…I might as well be wearing a dress.

The feeling lasts for about five minutes, and then I will stop whatever it is that I am doing, take it off my shoulder immediately stuff the strap back in, and carry it by the handle, my Manly Manhood restored by carrying my Manly Netbook in its Manly Man-Bag as I Manly Manhandle it by its Man-Handle.

*insert Tim Allen-esque grunting here*

My neurosis over the netbook strap might be explained by the fact that I have a penchant for picking out things that are described as “cute” by women.  The first thing my aunt and female cousins said upon seeing my new 2005 Dodge Neon was “its cute!”  The HP Mini itself often elicits the same response from women, much to my aggravation.  Sadly, I have been unable to use that tendency to any sort of advantage, but maybe its A Good Thing.  After all, if the trend continues, maybe the next cute thing that comes my way will be a woman!

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Computers, RANDOM REVIEW, TECH

RANDOM REVIEW – HP Mini 1000

WHO NEEDS A LAPTOP?

For all the yakking I have been doing about my iMac, it has been easy to forget that I also recently acquired an HP Mini 1000 (just prior to the Great Gateway Crash of 2009).  It is also the second portable computer I have ever owned.  The first was a “luggable” 386 that I had back in college that also happened to be my first PC (my first-ever computer was a Commodore 64).  Eventually, it went to binary heaven and all of my PCs before purchasing the Mini since have been desktops.

I never gave any thought to owning another portable computer, having rarely lugged my luggable anywhere.  It was nice to be able to take it home during long holidays, but it was bulky enough to where I really didn’t want to take it anywhere else.  My advice to friends regarding laptops was always the same:  “Be 200% certain you need one before you buy one.”

I held to that philosophy for quite a few years.  At the time, laptops were expensive and easily broken.  To me, they only made sense for students and businesspeople, but not really for anyone else.  Prices eventually went down, but even then, I was uncertain of the quality of the less-expensive models.  I was also unwilling to spend enough to purchase one of decent quality; I figured that even the best laptop wouldn’t last very long. That mindset kept me from even considering a laptop.  I would occasionally flirt with the idea, but would never follow through on it.

ENTER THE NETBOOK

I was intrigued by Netbooks when they first came onto the scene, but I initially turned my nose up at them.  They had limited storage space, cramped keyboards, underpowered processors, small screens, no CD/DVD drives (admittedly, not as big a deal as it used to be) and just plain could not do all of the things that a full-powered notebook could.   Also, my T-Mobile Dash was good enough to get by when I was “off the grid.”  I could check my email and do some light web browsing with my Dash, and that was all I needed.

It soon occurred to me that if the only things that I were doing on the road were email and web browsing, why not do them on a bigger screen using an actual computer that could also do a few other things?  After all, whenever I was on the road, I was doing little things like email and web.  The desktop was for all the big nasty stuff.   I figured that spending $300 on a quality Netbook was a better idea than spending $400-600 on a cheap notebook, so I picked up a HP Mini 1116NR at Ye Olde Best Buy.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The first thing that impressed me about the Mini was its size.  The length and width are about equal to a comic book and it is only one inch tall.  The 8.9-inch screen is nice, but I should have spent the extra fifty bucks for the 10.  The keyboard is easily one of the best things about the Mini.  According to HP, the keyboard is about 92% the size of a laptop keyboard, and quickly took to it.  Incidentally, the iMac’s keyboard is just a bit larger, the difference being a little additional space in between the keys.  Unlike the iMac’s keyboard, though, the Mini’s keyboard also has all the keys I need to get around Windows.  The touch pad took a little getting used to, and I eventualy started carrying my iMac’s Mighty Mouse around for extended computing.

I was a little disappointed with the Mini’s performance at first; there were noticeable lags when running Firefox, and occasionally the system would stutter as if waiting for something.  It also seemed to take awhile to get going after I turned it on.

After doing some research I found that the main bottleneck is the hard drive.  The Mini has a new-fangled Solid State Drive which is basically some flash memory chips with a hard drive controller attached.  The benefits are durability and reduced power usage, but they come at the cost of speed and performance.  After doing some searching online, I found some Windows tweaks that improved performance somewhat, and tossed in an extra gigabyte of memory for good measure.  The Mini takes a little while to get up to speed, but once it gets going, the performance is acceptable for web browsing and running Microsoft Word.  I have also been able to do some light audio editing using Audacity.  Frankly, I think this could be a pretty capable PC if it had a regular hard drive.

Speaking of the hard drive, the 1116NR has a 16GB hard drive, about half of which is taken up by Windows and the (thankfully small) amount of crapware installed on the machine.  Expansion options are available (see below) and an SD card slot provides an easyway to transfer files.

ON THE ROAD

The first “road trip” I took with the Mini was to my parents’ house for Easter.  Everyone oohed and aaahed at the Mini’s size and I was pleased to find that I could tether it to my cell phone and surf the Net at a whopping 10 mb/sec on T-Mobile’s crappy 2G cell phone network.  The connection would get flaky at times, and T-Mobile’s 3G coverage is way behind their competitors.  I think I’ll be looking for a new cell phone provider when my contract ends in December.

I soon bought a small case for the Mini, and while I’m pretty sure carrying it around costs me a few Man Points, the utility of having everything I need (and a few things I don’t) is worth it.

DICK MOVES

Ironically, the HP Mini’s biggest problem is HP.  I know that they have mouths to feed at home, and stockholders that need to be kept happy, but there are some pretty blatant design decisions that appear to have been made for the sake of squeezing more money out of customers.  It might be good business, but certain things come off as outright “dick moves” when compared to other Netbooks.

Many Netbooks have standard VGA connectors, which are identical to those found on full-sized notebooks. These are used to connect the Netbook to a monitor, which can be used as a secondary display.  You simply plug the monitor’s cable into the connector and press the appropriate button.  Instead of a standard VGA connector, though, the HP Mini uses a custom connector, which, of course, requires a custom cable, which, of course, can be bought from HP.  Shortly after I purchased the Mini, I went to HP’s website to see how much the cable was going to cost.  Initially, the cable was priced at $20…and was out of stock.  A few weeks later, the cable was available, but priced at $35.  While I certainly now have no intention of using the Mini’s VGA-out functionality, I would be pretty upset if I needed to.

The HP Mini also “features” a recessed USB port on the right side to the back. This connector is for HP’s “Mini Mobile” expansion drive, which can be had for $25 and bumps up the Mini’s internal storage capacity by an additional 4GB.  Some smart guy figured out that the “Mini Mobile” drive was actually a thin Transcend USB drive attached to a cover…the same cover that is included with the HP Mini.  I picked up a 8GB drive for $30 from Amazon, attached the cover, snapped it into place, and got twice the storage capacity for only a few dollars more.

The Mini’s 3-cell battery life clocks in at about two and a half to three hours.  I have read that is good for a Netbook, but I find myself looking for an outlet quicker than I would like to at the coffee shop.  HP is more than happy to sell an extended life battery for over a hundred dollars which makes zero sense to me considering that it raises the Mini’s cost of ownership into cheap-laptop territory, which, in my opinion, defeats the purpose of a Netbook!

CONCLUSION

Overall, the Mini does its job well, has a great keyboard and screen, and is highly portable.

If I could go back and do it again, though, I would have gone with the 10-inch screen, as well as purchasing a Mini with a standard hard drive instead of the SSD.  In my opinion, the performance hit that comes from using a SSD is too high, and mars what is an otherwise nice portable computer.  Also, while I can easily live with 16GB of storage, I know I am in the minority.

Despite the performance issues and HP’s over-reliance on add-ons, I have enjoyed my Mini so far, and hope to continue to do so for some time.  I may try to install Windows 7 out of morbid curiosity, XP is growing a little long in the tooth, and I hear 7 has some SSD optimizations that just might give the Mini a performance boost.

The decision to get a Netbook rests on whether you can live with the compromises that come with owning one.  The HP Mini is not meant for power users or gamers, but for those who would like an inexpensive computer to handle light duties while on the road, it hits the spot.

NOTE: The author received no compensation for this review.

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Computers, TECH

Lilliputing

So my desktop went kerplotz this past Sunday; the lousy Gateway junkheap didn’t even make it three years.  I’m trying to figure out what to get next.  I’m leaning toward Mac, but I’ll have to save up a few paychecks to float the cost.  I could get another Windows machine (and still might) but for the time being, I’m getting by with a little help from my netbook.

I must say, I’m pretty impressed with my HP Mini 1000 so far.  It gets a little pokey every so often because of the slow SSD drive, but it gets the job done.  I kicked up the memory to 2GB and the storage to 8GB.  Granted, I’m not certain I’m going to need all that, but its nice to know its there.  🙂

I took it to my parents’ house for Easter, and everyone was quite impressed.  I used my T-Mobile Dash to connect it to the tubes (folks are on dial-up, gak) and it worked quite well.  No more being “off the grid” for me or using my brother’s old crappy PC.

Its somewhat fortuitous that I have my netbook to tide me over until I get a new desktop…otherwise I may have done something CRAZY like put an iMac on my Mastercard.

Hmmm.

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