HP Mini-Note a Sound Choice

Thursday Jul 10th 2008 by Paul Ferrill
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HP's entry into the sub-Mini-Notebook arena comes in the form of the HP 2133, a sleek-looking, brushed aluminum finished, lightweight, but well-built beauty. You'll find just about everything you would expect in an ultra-mobile laptop.

HP's entry into the sub-Mini-Notebook arena comes in the form of the HP 2133, a sleek-looking, brushed aluminum finished, lightweight but well built beauty. You can see the attention to detail in the engineering when you first open it up. From the sturdy hinge to the scratch resistant display and connectivity options you'll find just about everything you would expect in an ultra-mobile laptop.

For this test we were provided with an HP 2133 equipped with a 1.2 GHz VIA processor, 1 GB of memory, a 120 GB 5400 rpm SATA disk drive and an 8.9 inch screen. The standard 3-cell battery is supposed to give you up to 145 minutes (2 hours 15 minutes) of run time depending on usage. They do offer a 6-cell battery that increases your run time up to 5 hours, but we weren't provided with one.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) SP1 was the installed operating system as delivered on our test unit. Novell has recently released SP2 for SLED, and we went through the update process to give it a spin as well. HP markets this unit to the educational market which would seem to point toward college students. The unit is great for surfing the web, checking e-mail or instant messaging although the battery life with the standard 3-cell battery will be a drawback.

SLED comes with a number of productivity tools as a standard part of the distribution.

OpenOffice.org 2.3 Novell Edition is one of the key tools along with the rest of the Open Office Suite. Browsing the Internet is a pleasant experience with the installed Firefox version 2.0.0.13. Updating to SLED SP2 installed Firefox version 2.0.0.14.

Evolution takes care of the Personal Information Management (PIM) duties of e-mail, contacts, calendaring and tasks quite nicely. Configuring Evolution to work with Google Mail was a snap. Once that's done you have a very capable e-mail tool you can carry around with you (see Figure 1). Importing contacts from an external VCF file takes no more than three mouse clicks.

One of the annoying things about some of the pre-installed tools is the configuration process. For example, the first time you start Evolution you must enter information on a number of dialogs that exceed the screen real estate at 800X600 on the Mini-Note. While it isn't impossible to get past the screens, it does require a little mouse movement to get to all the text boxes and "Next" buttons.

Software updates must be enabled before they will work. This requires you to go to Open Administrator Settings from the Control Panel and go through the Novell Customer Center Configuration process. Once this is complete you will have access to the main software update repositories, and the automatic notifier should work.

After these actions I was able to update the Mini-Note to SLED SP2. There were a few dependency issues that popped up during the update process (see Figure 2). I chose to ignore the conflicts where I could, and the update seemed to finish without any issues. Rebooting the system was required and after that I was presented with pretty much the same user interface as before.

The size and weight of the HP 2133 Mini-Note makes it really easy to tuck inside a small backpack or even a medium sized purse. Individual USB plugs are available on both sides of the unit for ease of access along with power, wired networking, an SD card slot, external VGA monitor, an Express Card/54 slot and headphone / microphone jacks. I did notice that the unit got pretty hot while turned on with the AC power supply connected and the battery charging.

Typing on the 98% full size keyboard takes a little getting used to. The first draft of this article was written on the Mini-Note to get a good feel for using it in everyday activities. The touchpad has buttons on both sides and while it does have the scroll pad function on the right side, it didn't seem to consistently work. There is a button at the top of the touchpad to disable it should you desire. This can help when you're typing a large amount of text and don't want the cursor to jump around if your thumb touches the touchpad.

The default screen size setting is set to 800 X 600. This isn't a real problem when running most of the productivity software as you can adjust your zoom size to fit the application. The display will support 1280 X 768 which you can change through the display configuration screen. This made the text a little hard to read, but that too is configurable.

Networking options include 802.11 a/b/g wireless and 10/100/1000Mbps wired Ethernet. The unit I received did not have Bluetooth so I was not able to test out any wireless peripherals. I did have to make one change to the security settings to get the Mini-Note to see a Windows-based server. From the Control Center you must select Open Administrator Settings. From there you must choose Security and Users and then Firewall.

By default SLED comes configured with all network interfaces set to the highest level of protection. Changing the configuration for a specific interface requires you to select a different zone that the interface will connect to. The default zone is External, but you'll need to change that to Internal to enable the ports needed to communicate with Windows servers. Once this change was made I was able to see all the Windows machines on the network and easily move files to and from the Mini-Note.

I did have some problems with the unit locking up at random times. It happened several times while rapidly browsing through web pages using Firefox and another time while editing a document using OpenOffice.org. The only recourse was to power cycle the device by sliding and holding the power button for five seconds. I didn't have any problems restarting the system after the power cycle and was able to recover the OpenOffice.org document I was editing.

Overall the HP 2133 Mini-Note is a solid, light weight, well built machine. It should perform well for the target market with the noted exception of battery life with the 3-cell battery. Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop comes with all the productivity software a student should need along with the essential Internet tools. While the price tag is a little higher than similar sized models from ASUS and others, you definitely get additional value for the money.

Resources

These websites have lots of information and links related to the HP 2133 Mini-Note:

http://Mini-Noteuser.com/

http://www.hp2133guide.com/

HP 2133 Mini-Note model KX869AT

$599 as tested from http://shopping.hp.com

$129 for 6-cell battery

This article was first published on LinuxPlanet.com.
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