Small Is Beautiful
HP Mini 311:
‘Style and sophistication’ is HP’s buzzword and the Mini 311 lives up to it! And how! It packs an 11.6 inch LED 1366x768 screen as well as NVIDIA’s ion graphics chip all at AU$ 899. Slightly expensive, yes, but a spec-check will put rest to your concerns. The product you'll see on the shelves will have an Intel Atom N280 CPU, 2GB of RAM, 250GB hard drive, and you can choose whether or not to include Bluetooth, seemingly at no price increase. The best feature, however, is the NVIDIA Ion which offers enough power to play HD video files smoothly as well as playing basic games. For non-graphics tasks, it won't affect performance much (and GPU support for Flash video, such as Hulu, is still a bit of a work in progress), but it does solve some of the frustrations associated with notebooks, without driving up the price. The screen is high-res and the graphics are better than average-priced notebooks. It is less flashy than low-cost notebooks.The keyboard looks good with slightly scalloped, wide-faced keys. The touchpad was a tad disappointing. Made of the same material as the wrist-rest, it offered too much resistance to roving fingers. The screen makes the notebook readable and is far better than lower-res, claustrophobic ones in low-cost notebooks. The Mini 311 ran for five hours and twenty minutes with full video playback which was excellent. It deserves a thumbs-up! Enough said!
Asus Eee PC Seashell (1201 N):
Two major trends have hit the notebooks markets recently: new atom processors and the spread of the NVIDIA ion GPU to finally give little “atom” powered notebooks some power to flex their graphics muscles. The absence of the new “pine trail” Atom N 450 processor should not disappoint because it has a feature that few notebooks can boast of: the rarely-used dual core Atom at its heart. Normally found in desktops or set-top small form factor machines, the Atom N 330 gives the 1201 N the power to multitask, something quite uncharacteristic of notebook computers. The 12-inch screen and the keyboard are decent and along with the NVDIA ion graphics, the 1201 N seems like a good package. Looks wise this hardly differs from other Eee PC models with its black, sleek, curved case and glossy shine. The hinges swing open to reveal a nice, minimal looking interior. The only other features inside are the touch-pad, the toggle and the power control. The colors appear bright and sharp on the 1366X768 pixel resolution screen and the speakers are god enough to be used without plugging your headphones in. The 0.3 megapixel web cam offers better than average resolution. The 1201 N has three USB ports, 802.11n Wi-Fi and HDMI out- definitely a better package than most notebooks. The only disappointing features are the awkward touch-pad whose edges are hard to feel if you are not looking at it. So if ‘fluke’ clicks are not your cup of tea, your fingers might end up feeling tired and you’ll be compelled to go for the good old mouse. But at AU$ 699, this little guy with 2 GB RAM and 250 GB HDD is a great find.
Gigabyte Booktop M1022M:
On the surface, it may look like any other 10 inch Atom powered mini from a minor player. But a spec-check will assure that it is much more. It doubles up as a desktop with a docking station that is included within the price tag of AU$ 699. One may feel that the docking station should have been made optional as not everyone wants to use a notebook as a desktop. The exclusion of the docking station might have lowered the price. But it packs more punch that makes the price tag look perfectly reasonable. The docking station puts the notebook in an upright position to minimize its footprint and makes the unit resemble a nettop. The Booktop never for once felt that it would topple over despite the accessory not having a heavy base. The dock includes VGA and Ethernet pass-through ports as well as three USB slots so you can keep the Booktop connected to an external display and peripherals. The 10.1 inch 1024x600 display is not HD ready but it is good enough to serve the main purposes of a notebook which is surfing the net and checking emails. The Booktop runs off a 1.66GHz Atom processor, 1GB RAM and 160GB HDD and the battery life is an impressive five hours and two minutes with full video playback- perfect for the compulsive traveler.
MSI Wind U 135:
The first thing about this notebook that would make you gasp is its keyboard. The evenly spaced-out keys will leave you feeling wonderfully freed from the constraints of typos. The full chiclet-style keyboard extends out to a millimeter from each side. The other features of the U 135 resembles those of any other notebooks but unlike the Asus 1201 N, this one has the "Pine Trail" Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz processor, 1 GB RAM and integrated Intel GMA 3150 graphics. The 10 inch screen packs 1024x600 pixels hidden behind a glossy screen. The six-cell battery may look bulky but it gives the U 135 very good power back-up which is typically not found in notebooks. Performance wise, the spaced-out keyboard is a huge bonus. But the single-button touchpad with central rocker is a let-down. The glossy screen does nothing to cut-out the glare but the portability factor of notebooks itself implies that glare is something users would have to contend with anyway. It is an upgrade from other Wind models but at AU$ 599 you couldn’t ask for more.
Dell Mini 10v:
If you’re wondering what the ‘v’ stands for, it could be safe to assume that it means a victory sign! It may also stand for “value” for money! Either way, the Dell Mini 10v is one of those under AU$ 600 laptops that will give you more than you’ve bargained for. Dell inspires all that is class and quality in laptops and the Mini seems to have kept itself nicely contained within those lines. The design is slim, the keys are wide and flattish and the battery runs for a full five hours and forty-five minutes on video playback before getting drained. Now that’s already more than you could ask for. The other features are pretty regular as runs in the Dell Inspiron series. It’s got a 160GB hard drive and it uses the Atom N270 instead of the Z530 found in the Mini 10. Regardless, if you're a fan of the wide flat keys and reasonably slim design of the Mini 10, the less expensive Mini 10v version offers the same basic look and feel for less.