Editor’s note: Portions of this review were taken from our earlier review of the HP Mini 1000.
It’s not perfect, but the new HP Mini 110 ($329 as configured) is definitely the company’s best netbook for consumers yet. HP has addressed our biggest complaints with the earlier Mini 1000 (no VGA port, small and slow hard drive), and has added more style to the mix with new color options. On the other hand, the attractive edge-to-edge glass display is gone, and the Mini 110 is thicker and heavier than its predecessor, not to mention that HP still includes awkward vertical touchpad buttons. The HP Mini 110 is a good value, but there are better 10-inch netbooks for the money.
On the outside, the HP Mini 110 looks very similar to the Mini 1000, but is slightly heavier (2.6 pounds versus 2.4 pounds) and thicker (1.3 inches versus 1.0 inches). In addition to the Black Swirl Imprint lid design, HP will make White Swirl and Pink Chic finishes available in July. And, unlike the ASUS Eee PC S101 or the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, its pattern hid our fingerprints. Plus, the glowing blue wireless status lights for the power and wireless on/off switch project a futuristic look.
We quickly noticed that the latest version of this model sits a little higher in back when placed on a desk, thanks to slightly taller rubber feet. We’re assuming this was done to dissipate heat, as the Mini 1000 ran warm.
Keyboard and Touchpad
When we opened the lid, we also noticed that the finish didn’t have the same look and feel as the Mini 1000. This time, HP opted for a different resin for the plastic deck surrounding the excellent 92-percent keyboard, which results in a slightly grittier feel, and a somewhat cheaper look. The right Shift key is full size and placed directly under the Enter key. Additionally, there is a complete row of dedicated function keys. The only keyboard that can hold a candle to HP’s is that of the Samsung NC10. Some of its keys aren’t as large as those of the Mini 110, but many users may prefer their chunkier feel.
The 2.4 x 1.1-inch touchpad is vertically narrow, resulting in a lot of backtracking. Also, still present are the awkward right and left mouse buttons, which straddle the pad vertically. Nevertheless, because we adjusted to the layout in a few hours, we don’t think the touchpad is a deal breaker.
Ports and Webcam
The Mini 110 eschews the annoying VGA adapter port in favor of a full-size VGA port on the right, bringing this machine in line with most other netbooks. We also appreciate the new third USB port (two on the right, one on the left); the 5-in-1 memory card reader and the Ethernet port are on the right side.
The integrated 0.3-megapixel webcam on our review unit provided decent images in a video call over Skype; our caller could see our face clearly. The microphone, located to the left of the webcam, picked up some background noise, but our caller could hear us just fine without our needing to speak up.
Display and Audio
HP has nixed the edge-to-edge glass display in favor of a traditional bezel (we’re assuming to save on cost). On the plus side, many users will appreciate that this 10.1-inch (1024 x 576) LCD is an antiglare widescreen. The picture was bright and colorful when we streamed an episode of Family Guy, over Hulu. HP will offer a high-def display option (1366 x 768 pixels) for $30 on July 8.
The silver speaker bar on the original Mini 1000 has been replaced with a speaker panel that’s integrated into an area beneath the screen. When we streamed music over Slacker, we were impressed with the volume this tiny netbook pumped out.
Although our configuration of the Mini 110 has the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 processor and 1GB of RAM as the Mini 1000, the 160GB hard drive is a vast improvement. Not only is it more than twice the size of its predecessor, it spins at a much faster 5,400 rpm, vs. 4,200 rpm.
This translated to a faster boot time (45 vs. 64 seconds when compared to the HP Mini 1151NR) and a better PCMark05 score (1,587 vs. 1,370). We also saw a much higher score in the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media). With the Mini 1000 it took a sluggish 9 minutes and 21 seconds, which is a rate of 9.1 MBps; the Mini 110 notched a rate of 14.6 MBps, just above the netbook average. When we transcoded a 5-minute-and-5-second MPG4 movie to AVI using Handbrake, the Mini 110 took 28:55; that’s just four seconds longer than the Acer Aspire One AOD250, and about 30 seconds shorter than the netbook average.
We found that the HP Mini 1151NR we recently reviewed ran very hot, measuring temperatures exceeding 110 degrees. The Mini 110, however, was relatively cool, measuring only 82 degrees between the G and H keys on the keyboard. The warmest part of the system was to the left of the touchpad, but that area never exceeded 90 degrees.
New Sync Software
HP ships the Mini 110 with Syncables software, which was designed to enable automatic synchronization of music, pictures, videos, and other files between this netbook and a primary PC. The software works over a local wireless network. We were unable to get Syncables working on a second PC, so we will update this review when we’re able to troubleshoot.
1080P Video Playback Coming Soon
Broadcom is mostly known for its wireless cards, but the company will be providing a jolt to the Mini 110’s video playback capabilities come July. That’s when HP will offer a $30 optional Crystal HD Enhanced Video Accelerator, which will enable users to enjoy 1080p content when the netbook is connected to an external display.
That may be a compelling feature for some, but we think it would be more compelling if the Mini 110 had an HDMI port. And, unlike Nvidia’s Ion graphics, which will find a home inside the Lenovo IdeaPad S12 in August, this video accelerator won’t help you transcode video faster or play mainstream 3D games.
Battery Life and Wireless
The Mini 110’s 802.11b/g radio delivered fast throughput in our preliminary tests, notching 21.2 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point. That’s nearly 3 Mbps faster than the category average, and on a par with the Mini 1000. At 50 feet, the Mini 110 had a throughput of 14.4 Mbps, about 1 Mbps below average.
The HP Mini 110 comes with a standard 3-cell battery that delivered 2:45 of battery life—the average for 3-cell netbooks—on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi).
UPDATE: After receiving the 6-cell battery (which will be available to consumers on June 10), we ran the LAPTOP Battery Test, and found that it lasted for 5:36, just a few minutes short of the 6-cell netbook average. Considering that the 6-cell battery costs $40—bringing the starting price of $329 up to a still-reasonable $369—it's worth springing for the extra endurance.
Like many other netbooks, the Mini 110 comes with Windows XP Home Basic preinstalled; a lower-priced configuration with a 32GB SSD will also be available, as will a mobile broadband option for $125. HP will also offer the Mini 110 with its tailored version of Ubuntu Linux (called Mobile Internet Experience). This version of the Mini 110 (starting at $279) will be able to accommodate up to 1GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive. HP is also releasing a Mini 1101 model, which is aimed at business users. The Mini 1101 starts at $329 and will have more business friendly software and hard drive options up to 250GB.
Software and Warranty
In addition to the Syncables Mobile desktop, the Mini 110 comes preloaded with a bunch of applications, including Symantec Norton Internet Security 2009, Back On Track Recover software, LifeLock identity protection, HP Games (from Wild Tangent), Pandora, Snapfish, Skype, and AOL Instant Messenger. The system is backed by a one-year warranty and one year of 24/7 toll-free technical support. Click here to see how HP fared in our Tech Support Showdown.
Assuming the 6-cell battery on the Mini 110 gets close to the 6-hour runtime claim, the Mini 110 will be one of the better netbook bargains at $369. We’re still not fans of the vertical touchpad buttons, but HP has made several welcome improvements while still delivering one of the best netbook keyboards around. It's up to you to decide if the Mini 110's slightly heavier and bulkier design--and less striking display--is worth having a VGA port, an extra USB port, and a cooler-running system.