HP Mini 210: Inexpensive but Thoroughly Average in Every Way
By Jason Cross
At a Glance
Good screen with edge-to-edge glass
Large multitouch pad
Audible fan noise even at rest
Nothing particularly impressive nor disappointing distinguishes the HP Mini 210, but the price is right.
The HP Mini 210 consumer netbook is a basic netbook that does a decent job of providing what you’d expect from a typical product in this category, without any major surprises. Fortunately, it does so at a reasonable price: Mini 210 configurations start at $279, though the model we tested included a couple of upgrades that raised its price to $309.
Like lots of other netbooks, the Mini 210 runs on Intel’s Atom N450 CPU and integrated GMA 3150 graphics. You get 1GB of RAM, but no option for more and no easy way to upgrade the RAM yourself. The default configuration includes a 5400-rpm 160GB hard drive, but our review unit came with a 7200-rpm 160GB hard drive (a 250GB drive is available at extra cost). The faster rotation speed of our unit’s hard drive undoubtedly helped the Mini 210 in our WorldBench tests: The system scored a respectable 38–in line with the median for Atom-based netbooks–despite its limited amount of RAM.
The netbook’s battery life, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing: It conked out after about 6.5 hours in our lab tests. Though 6.5 hours isn’t a terrible figure, quite a few recent netbooks do better. Worse, the Mini 210’s rather bulky battery juts out at an angle from the base of the machine, adding considerable bulk and weight without delivering substantially improved battery life.
The 10.1-inch display is clear and easy to read, with good contrast and a wide range of acceptable viewing angles for a low-end notebook of this type. Handsome edge-to-edge glass covers the wide bezel, but If you’re a fan of matte-finish screens, look elsewhere: The Mini 210 is available only with a glossy screen that enhances contrast but also shows a lot of potentially distracting reflections, especially in bright light.
The Mini 210 has all of the basic features you’d expect; but beyond them, HP doesn’t exactly pile on the extras. You get a VGA port (on the back of the left side), but no digital video output. The three USB 2.0 connectors (one on the left and two on the right) are standard for modern netbooks. Disappointingly, HPprovides a single audio jack (in the form of a combination headphone/microphone plug), rather than separate plugs for headphones and for mic. A multicard reader and fast ethernet jack (no gigabit) round out the connections. The Mini 210 comes standard with an 802.11b/g wireless, but you can upgrade to 802.11n or 802.11b/g with Bluetooth (our review unit is configured with this last option). A pricey upgrade enables 3G wireless networking with various carriers.
The large, Chiclet-style keyboard is reasonably easy to type on, but it lacks the “clicky” feel we love in netbooks from the likes of Lenovo. The Shift, Tab, and Backspace keys are large enough to prevent most typists from accidentally missing them. The touchpad is smooth and quite large for a laptop of this size. You click on the left or right side of the lower edge for left and right click actions; when you aren’t pressing down, you can use the whole surface for pointer movement. Though it tracks well, I prefer separate, distinct buttons.
The stereo sound is weak and tinny–good enough for basic audio confirmations or the occasional YouTube video but not the sort of thing you’d want to spend much time listening to music or watching movies on. In my tests, high-def YouTube clips stuttered and skipped on the Mini 210, just as they do on most other Atom-based netbooks that lack special video-processing support. Our system came with Windows 7 Starter, though Windows XP Home is available,too, and may be a better bet, given the restrictions on customization in 7 Starter.
HP’s latest consumer netbook isn’t bad, especially for the price, but it isn’t especially praiseworthy either. Performance is average. The keyboard and multitouch pad are usable, and the ports and connections are bog-standard. If you need a netbook and don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Mini 210 will do the job without forcing you to put up with any serious design flaws or performance problems, but that’s about as much enthusiasm as I can muster for this machine.