HP shrunk their notebooks
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
June 24-30, 2008; issue 974
High Tech Office column
The past few weeks we’ve
been looking at stuff that is smaller and lighter than usual but
capable enough to make it worth taking with you.
While slim and
light notebooks such as Apple’s Macbook Air or Toshiba’s Portege R500
have been getting a lot of attention, they’re not the smallest
notebooks you can tote.
So-called Ultra Mobile PCs (or UMPCs for
those addicted to acronyms) have quietly been sneaking into an
increasing number of road warriors’ briefcases.
UMPCs are bigger
and more capable than smartphones or PDAs – and with more usable
keyboards, but more portable, and hopefully more affordable than
standard notebooks – even ultralights like the Air or the R500.
I’ve had loan of two very different UMPCs: HP’s 2133 Mini-Note and the
HTC Shift (available locally from Rogers Wireless).
HP’s Mini-Note seems like a standard notebook if it had been in the
movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
a high-end 15-inch notebook that has shrunk to about 60% of its
original size, at the same time shrinking the high-end price. Its
brushed aluminum case and solid feel make it seem more expensive than
its $500 to $750 price.
While it’s difficult to type on many smaller
than usual notebooks, the Mini-Note fools users – its 92% scale
keyboard feels full-sized and is far and away the best keyboard on any
of this season’s crop of mini-notebooks.
The 8.9-inch screen is
also best of breed: clear and crisp with 1280 by 768 resolution,
letting users view the entire width of most web pages – again,
something unusual on UMPCs.
The small size forced HP to
compromise on the touchpad, however, placing the buttons on either side
of the pad, an awkward arrangement that forced me to use two hands for
mousing and clicking.
The small size also affects the batteries
– the standard battery gives only two to 2.5 hours of life. An optional
larger battery doubles battery life but sticks out of the bottom of the
notebook, upping the weight from 2.8 (1.23 kg) to 3.2 pounds. Even so,
it remains exceptionally portable.
All Mini-Note models include
a pair of USB ports, a wired Ethernet port, and WiFi wireless. As with
other small and light notebooks, there’s no optical drive, and no room
for one. (Expect to see CD and DVD drives going the way of the floppy
drive during the next few years in any event).
My $749 test
model sported two GB of memory, a 120 GB hard drive, a 1.6 GHz VIA
processor, and Windows Vista Business; the $499 model comes with 512 MB
RAM, a four GB flash drive instead of a hard drive, a one GHz
processor, and SuSE Linux. Perhaps the best price/performance ratio is
obtained in between: $549 (Linux) and $599 (Windows) versions with one
GB RAM, 1.2 GHz processor, and 120 GB hard drive.
Even with the
1.6 GHz processor, the Mini-Note is no speed demon, especially running
Vista; XP might offer better performance with this configuration. But
no one is going to buy this for complex photo or video manipulations;
for standard web access and office computing on the road, performance
is more than adequate.
Ultra-light notebooks such as Apple’s
Macbook Air or Toshiba’s Portege R500 SSD cost between $1,900 to
$2,700. Buyers expect to pay a premium for notebooks that are somewhat
smaller and quite a bit lighter than standard.
HP’s Mini-Note is
even smaller while weighing about as much as the Macbook Air, with the
look and feel of a high-end notebook but at a much more affordable
The HTC Shift is smaller and lighter, with features not
found on most other notebooks. Next week we’ll see why it’s being
offered by cellphone provider Rogers Wireless. •