Barely five months have passed since the HP Mini 1001TU passed through our Test Centre, and already a new HP Mini is upon us. This time it's the HP Mini 110 (NB-1006TU_09): a 10.1in netbook that has a swirly patterned lid for its LED screen and an Intel Atom N280 CPU. It's available with either a spinning hard drive or a solid-state drive, and you have the option of purchasing either a Windows XP or Linux model.
There are certainly more configuration options for the HP Mini 110 than there were for its predecessor, and it's a much better notebook than the HP Mini 1001TU in many other ways. For starters, it has three USB 2.0 ports as opposed to two. It forgoes the proprietary expansion slot that was available on the Mini 1001TU in order to offer the extra port. The HP Mini 110's battery design is also much better. It's attached to the spine of the netbook, rather than in a compartment in the middle of the chassis. This lets the Mini 110 use either 3-cell or 6-cell batteries.
The HP Mini 110 has typical netbook specifications, although it uses Intel's Atom N280 CPU rather than the N270. The N280 runs slightly faster than the N270 (1.66GHz as opposed to 1.6GHz) and has a faster front-side bus (667MHz as opposed to 533MHz). This means it can transfer information held in RAM to the CPU faster. Along with 1GB of DDR2 RAM (it has one memory slot and a 1GB module), integrated Intel 945 GMA graphics and a 160GB hard drive (Seagate ST9160827AS), it recorded a fast time of 7min 36sec in our iTunes test. This is not far off what the HP Mini 2140 achieved with twice the amount of RAM, but it's still not as fast as the ASUS Eee PC Seashell 1005HA, which has the same specifications.
With a 3-cell battery installed, the HP Mini 110 only lasted 2hr 10min in our video run-down test, in which we use maximum screen brightness and have the wireless radio enabled. This is slightly below average (the HP Vivienne Tam Special Edition and HP Mini 1001TU both lasted 2hr 20min) so if you want to use the Mini 110 for a substantial time while away from an outlet you should opt for the 6-cell battery (it costs $111).
The HP Mini 110's 10.1in screen has a native resolution of 1024x576 and it has an LED backlight instead of a fluorescent tube. It possesses good contrast and brightness. It is bright enough to be used outdoors on a sunny day (albeit not in direct sunlight). The screen has speakers built in to it, and they offer reasonable quality for videos and music at times when you don't want to use headphones.
We really like keyboard on the HP Mini 110; it's similar to the keyboards on previous HP Mini netbooks. The keys are 16mm wide and there is a 1mm gap in between them. They offer good travel and they don't make much noise when pressed. The keyboard itself is sturdily held to the chassis, so there is no uncomfortable bouncing. What we don't like is the grey labelling on the function key and the keys that are used in combination with the function key. It makes it hard to tell which keys need to be pressed to change the brightness and volume, for example. The labelling of all the keys is strangely off centre, too, which can be disorienting.
But the biggest drawback of this laptop is the touchpad, which is flanked by the left- and right-click buttons. It's hard to get used to these buttons and we wish HP would re-design the chassis slightly and implement a conventional design by placing both buttons below the touchpad. Nevertheless, the touchpad is responsive and feels good to use. It doesn't support multiple touches, so you can't use gestures to make the text smaller in a Web page, for example.
The Mini 110 weighs 1.1kg, which means it is a very light netbook. It has three USB 2.0 ports, a D-Sub port, 10/100 Ethernet and an SD card slot. There aren't separate microphone and headphone jacks, so if you want to use a microphone while using headphones you should invest in a USB-based headset. You also get Bluetooth and 802.11b/g wireless networking.
With a retail price $699, the HP mini 110 (NB-1006TU_09) is worth considering if you're after a very portable and relatively easy to use netbook; it looks good, too. You can also save some money by opting for the Linux version, which costs $499 and has a 16GB solid-state drive instead of a 160GB hard drive.
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