Quest For Netbook Nirvana: HP Mini 2140

IMG_0284.JPG10 Inches, it seems, is a bit of a sweet spot for netbooks, and the HP Mini 2140 has a 10-inch screen. But sadly, that line that drivers of expensive sports cars tell themselves all the time: "It's not how big it is, it's how you use it that counts" is ultimately true, at least with this particular device.Of all the netbooks I've handled so far on my quest for Netbook Nirvana, the Mini 2140 is by far the best looking. Its shiny, brushed aluminium body is as solid as it is good looking as well. The keyboard, at 92% of full size, is far superior to any others I've tested (including the Dell Mini 12) with its satisfying resistance to pressure and its soft, tapered edges.

But even though there is so much to like about the Mini 2140, there are so many things that could be done better, the biggest of which is the 10.1-inch screen.

My first foray into the wild world with this netbook was an unmitigated disaster, thanks to the Mini 2140's screen. At 1,024 x 576 pixels, it's too low a resolution to avoid real world problems. For me, the disaster came in the form of my 3 Internet key, whose software won't work on anything less than an 800 x 600 screen.

Now that's a stupid decision on 3's part, and shouldn't necessarily affect the HP's review. Except that every time you turn on the computer, Windows XP itself tells you that the screen resolution is set too low. Now if the OS itself has problems with the screen res, shouldn't that be an indication that 576 horizontal lines aren't enough?

Another odd decision was the choice of including an Expresscard slot, especially when there are only two USB ports. Sure, having the ability to add ports and expand functionality is a good thing, but there's not a lot of extra functions you can't add through a simple USB 2.0 port, without taking up a latrge chunk or real estate on the side.

The 2140's trackpad was a little narrow for my liking, and the buttons on the side were frustrating. Still, a Bluetooth or USB mouse fixed that problem easily enough, and considering the amazing keyboard comfort, it was a sacrifice I was willing to take.

The Atom processor handled all the day to day web browsing, post editing, minor image resizing and document writing I threw at it without struggling, which was a bit of a surprise after the Mini 12.

The review model I was sent came with the 3-cell battery option, and it showed when compared to the 4-cell batteries in most of the previous netbook nirvana contenders. I was lucky to get a full trip to work on a charge (about 90 minutes) without the computer dying for me, and days travelling from one event to the next were nigh on impossible to post from the road. Not to mention the fact that the charging cable was of the massive brick type that essentially doubles the netbook's weight. And while I'd definitely spring for the 6-cell option if I were buying the Mini 2140, the screen is too big an issue to make purchasing a realistic option for me.

And it's sad, because the Mini 2140 had the potential for greatness. I thoroughly enjoyed using it - moreso than the offerings from Dell and Toshiba - largely based on its fantastic keyboard. I even enjoyed looking at it, thanks to its gorgeous design.

But at the end of the day, the quest for netbook Nirvana just seems that much further out of reach. Maybe we'll find it next fortnight, when we look at the Asus 1000HE.

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