Hands-On With The HP Mini 311 Ion Netbook

HP officially announced the existence of the HP 311 netbook with Nvidia Ion today, adding another attractive system to their lineup of Minis. We spent some time with this eagerly anticipated 11.6-inch system and were initially very impressed. The design, the bright and beautiful screen, and the price all make this netbook a head-turner.

Starting with the lid, the Mini 311 has a pleasing swirly pattern in the glossy HP Imprint finish. The unit we saw was white and you can also get it in black. Under the lid is a 92% of full size keyboard with springy and responsive keys. It reminds us of the keyboard found on the HP 2140. The trackpad is very smooth and our fingers glided easily across it. We also like that the two mouse buttons sit underneath instead of on the left and right sides. The bottom of these buttons is flush with the edge of the chassis, a nice design touch.

The 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 LED display is bright with rich colors that pop. It's capable of full HD and has a 16:9 aspect ratio for widescreen movie lovers. If you're eager to see HD videos on a larger screen, the Mini 311 has an HDMI out port.

The remaining port spread is typical of other netbooks -- 3 USB, microphone, headphone, Ethernet, and 5-in-1 card reader. Inside there's a 160GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM (expandable to 3GB), and a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU.

Of course the star component is the Nvidia Ion graphics chip which will make it possible to play more graphics-intensive games than netbooks can currently handle and full HD video playback. We didn't get a chance to see the netbook's full capability, but we're looking forward to testing it out.

The unit we looked at was running Windows 7. It'll be available with Windows XP first, then Windows 7 Premium in late October. The starting price is a very attractive $399.

Check out our hands-on video below: