HP Mini 210 review

26 Apr 2010

Excellent design, build quality and ergonomics, plus good battery life; a high-quality netbook

Price when reviewed: 
301(£301 inc VAT)
5

The rosy glow that surrounded netbooks a couple of years ago has all but vanished thanks to the rise of CULV-based laptops and the upcoming wave of tablets, but the steady trickle of new models, of which the HP Mini 210 is the latest, indicates there’s still a market for these diminutive machines.

It’s also clear that the firms remaining in the market are now producing some of the best netbooks we’ve ever seen. The A-Listed Toshiba NB305 is a great-looking departure from the bland machines of old, and mere seconds with the Mini 210 is enough to see that it's in the same league.

The good impressions start with the metallic red finish on the lid, which gently curves at its edges, and continues to the netbook's smooth underside. Crack it open and you'll see an edge-to-edge 10.1in screen and a sharply styled interior, entirely coated with matte black plastic.

The Mini 210 looks sleeker than most of its rivals, and gives the Toshiba a run for its money in the style stakes. Even the HP’s various status lights – for hard disk access, wireless connectivity and power – all use the same cool, white LEDs.

The good-looking Mini 210 also feels well built. The wristrest barely deflected under pressure, the base felt just as sturdy, and the lid needed plenty of persuasion before any ripples could be seen on the LCD display.

That screen is good quality too. Reasonable colour accuracy is lent extra sheen by a glossy finish – which isn’t too distracting under the glare of office lights – and the native resolution of 1,024 x 600, while slightly cramped, strikes a good balance between desktop space and legibility.

The HP’s panel exhibited a grainy finish across lighter areas, but it’s no worse than the majority of its competition. Below the screen is a Scrabble-tile keyboard and it's very comfortable to use.

Each key has a surprising amount of travel, and each one responds in a consistent manner, thanks in part to the solid base. Couple this with a sensible layout and it’s easy to get up to speed.

HP Mini 210 rear view

The trackpad, meanwhile, is responsive and accurate, but it isn't perfect. It sits just too close to the keyboard for comfort, so that a stray thumb will cause the cursor to jump around the screen.

We're also not too keen on the fact that the buttons are built into its flat surface, along the bottom edge. Though they’re far better than the similar system used on Dell netbooks, we prefer separate, physical buttons.

Core components, as with most other netbooks, is where the excitement ends. It boasts a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, a single gigabyte of RAM, a 250GB hard disk and Intel GMA 3150 graphics, which proved especially weak.

While the GPU streamed our 720p test files from the hard disk without fuss, HD content on YouTube and BBC iPlayer was unwatchable. The HP falls down on connectivity too, with only 802.11bg wireless. Performance, as you'd expect of a netbook with this sort of specification, isn't stellar.

Battery life is a more important point for comparison, however, and aside from the design it is the HP Mini 210's main highlight. In our light use battery test, it scored a highly creditable 8hrs 39mins – two minutes shy of the Toshiba NB305 – good enough to facilitate an entire day away from the mains.

Good battery life, design and ergonomics, plus a reasonable £256 exc VAT price, mean that HP’s latest netbook immediately becomes one of our favourites. The Toshiba retains its A List crown thanks to a better trackpad and wireless, but it’s a close-run thing and the stylish HP is good enough to earn a Recommended award instead.

Details

Price ex VAT £256
Price inc VAT £301
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 2

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 260 x 189 x 36mm (WDH)
Weight 1.300kg
Travelling weight 1.6kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N450
RAM capacity 1.00GB
Memory type DDR2

Screen and video

Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 600
Resolution 1024 x 600
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 3150
Graphics card RAM 256MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 250GB
Hard disk usable capacity 232GB
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Hitachi Travelstar 7K500
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 6,000mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support no
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset IDT HD Audio
Speaker location Front edge
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 9hr 36min
Battery life, heavy use 5hr 21min
Overall application benchmark score 0.34
Office application benchmark score 0.41
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.34
Encoding application benchmark score 0.30
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.32
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Starter
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery disc