HP Mini 210 review
Excellent design, build quality and ergonomics, plus good battery life; a high-quality netbook
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£256|
|Price inc VAT||£301|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||5|
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||260 x 189 x 36mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom N450|
Screen and video
|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|
|Hard disk usable capacity||232GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Hard disk||Hitachi Travelstar 7K500|
|Optical disc technology||N/A|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||no|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||3|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial 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|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||IDT HD Audio|
|Speaker location||Front edge|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
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|