These are my first impressions of the HP 2133 Mini Note. After reading many positive reviews on several different websites, including the excellent video review by fellow blogger James Kendrik back in April, I decided to take the jump and make a purchase.
PROS: Keyboard, screen, build quality, features, functionality
CONS: Pricier than the competition, poor performance with Vista
I have been envious of the 2133 from HP ever since seeing the first video review by James Kendrik on jkontherun.com back in April. Several other manufacturers including Acer and MSI have introduced newer (and less expensive) models since then, but I decided to go with the HP for reasons I’ll share with you.
The unit is a true netbook size and weight, with a brilliant 8.9” screen. The unit I have (KR964UT) came installed with Windows XP, 1.6GHz VIA C7-M, 2GB of RAM, 6-cell battery, wireless a/b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 and 160GB HDD. That’s pretty much the top end in netbooks, and the top model HP has available. The price? $819.00 Ouch!
When you open it up, however, you’ll be greeted with an excellent, near full-size keyboard, with a full-size right shift key and isolated inverted-T cursor keys. The shift key is quite a pet-peeve for those who use their netbooks to type and don't want to deviate from the ergonomics of their regular keyboards. Bloggers, editors and writers (as myself) know this all-too-well. The keyboard alone is one of the best features of the 2133, as it’s comfortable size and layout makes typing on it a dream for editors and bloggers. Finally, each of the keys is also coated with a special layer that HP claims resists wear over time. If your job (or pastime) requires lots of typing, the 2133 is the netbook for you!
The display is also the best you will find for an 8.9” netbook. It’s resolution of 1280x800 is more than the 1024x600 most other netbooks offer. 1280 across is better for work than 1024 and let's you see more without having to scroll left-to-right. Cells in spreadsheets look better, text is clearer, photos much sharper and your taskbar/icons will have more room. Keep in mind though, its small size does take some time to get used to, but I found fonts even at a size 6 can be read on it clearly.
The top of the display also has the integrated webcam. While I did not use Skype for my tests, the webcam does work well with MSN Messenger and gave acceptable quality/framerate. The built-in microphones picked up my voice clearly.
The finish and build quality is the best you will find on a portable device. Unlike plastic, the 2133 has a magnesium-alloy frame, which not only makes it more durable but acts as a giant heatsink for the CPU. That being said, the unit will get warm, but no where near uncomfortable, and the trackpad/keyboard stays cool.
Another great safety feature/advantage is the HP 3D Driveguard technology. Using accelerometers the 2133 will park the heads of the hard drive when a fall or drop is detected, protecting the data on the drive. While not quite MIL-810F, it will save you if you frequently tend to “grab and run” with the unit turned on or have it in your bag and throw your bag around. I know it saved me when my 2133 had a 2-foot drop off my sofa, the HDD led turned amber, indicating the heads had parked and HDD activity stopped for a brief period.
Speaking of hard drives, the 2133 uses a standard 2.5 inch SATA notebook drive that is user-upgradeable. The great benefit here is not just being able to have 500GB storage capacity in a 8.9” netbook, but using 7200rpm drives you will get much faster speed and better performance. Even better, you can upgrade to a roomy 128GB SSD drive if your wallet allows.
Business users and broadband warriors will appreciate the express 54 slot on the 2133. Especially useful if you need eSATA connection to do a fast full-system backup, have a plug-in TV tuner, a firewire device or other special item you need connected to a small ultra-portable laptop.
But the burning question most will have is “How does it perform?” I can confidently say that it does perform exceedingly well. Windows XP works great with the VIA C7-M and 2GB RAM, and while not a multitasking giant, the 2133 runs single tasks very well. Web pages open in a snap, office documents can be created as easily as on a full-size notebook, and the fantastic keyboard makes email and blogging a real pleasure. The speakers on either side of the display can play very loud, and the 1280 screen allows playback of 720p HD video content, which combined with the huge hard drive makes the 2133 a great mobile multimedia device.
I use Cool Edit Pro for audio recording. The stereo line-in jack is great for feeding in an external analog source, and the VIA CPU handles the program smoothly. XP plays a big role here, as Vista does not run too well on the 2133. VOB files play back off the hard drive using WinDVD easily, and the C7-M handles 720p HD video content surprisingly well. I even used Windows Media Encoder to encode a short 2-minute HD movie trailer with no trouble.
Can the 2133 replace your notebook? Depending on what you use your notebook for, I would not think it couldn't be done. To put it this way - if a great notebook can replace a desktop, there's no reason why a great netbook cannot replace your notebook!
Battery time with the 6-cell is a decent 4-5 hours, which for some will be enough for a mobile work day. But when you look at the small SIZE of that battery, carrying a spare 6-cell in your POCKET will enable 10 hours of power – enough for even the hard-core Starbucks squatters and mobile web warriors. The 6-cell also gives the unit a nice lift on the rear, giving you not only a slanted keyboard for even more typing comfort, but gets more airflow to the fan and air vents lowering fan noise.
Speaking of fan noise, the fan regulates with CPU usage, going on full at 100% CPU usage and turning off at idle. It is not annoyingly loud when on full either. Another feature of the VIA is adaptive CPU speed throttling, enabled through XP with the powercgf.exe command. The 1.6GHz VIA can throttle down to 800MHz if need be, useful if you are on battery power for extended periods.
What don’t I like about the 2133? Very little I must say. Sure, a more powerful mobile CPU would benefit, but the C7-M is no slouch for most applications I went through, and is quite suitable for what most folks would use a netbook for. What does disappoint me is the price. $819.00 is just too much to ask for a netbook, even such a full-featured and quality device as the 2133 Mini Note. To make a comparison, for that very same price I could get a 14” dv4 notebook from HP, or a 17” dv7 on sale at Best Buy or Circuit City. Mind you, the dv7 isn't something I would want to carry in one hand all day, unlike the 2133 which I can effortlessly whip under my arm and keep both hands free for coffee and handshakes. Were the 2133 priced at $549 (as mine was configured), I think HP would be selling a lot more of them.
If price doesn’t affect you, are able to take advantage of the many features the 2133 offers, and need something small and light with an impeccable keyboard, this will be a netbook that doesn’t disappoint.
UPDATE: HP will be announcing a refresh for the 2133 series in Q209 with an Intel Atom CPU. HP has also this month released the Mini 1000, essentially the consumer version netbook, as the 2133 is targeted for business users. You can get a good look at the Mini 1000 here courtesy of JK.
UPDATE #2: That refresh is coming ahead of schedule, the new HP 2140 will be available in January 09 with an improved 10" 1366x768 display and Atom CPU. It keeps everything that was great about the 2133 - expect a review of the 2140 on lgp On The Move soon!