Don’t blink. Somewhere among the launches of the HP Mini 1000, the business-based Mini 2140, and the ridiculous, high-fashion Mini 1000 Vivian Tam Edition, HP released the Mini 1000 Mi. The difference this time around: the operating system. HP ships the Mini 1000 Mi with a customized Linux distro. Instead of using a more typical Windows-esque user interface, HP decided to make its own.
HP’s version of Linux isn’t hard to figure out–in fact, it’s very similar to what you’ll find in other Linux-based netbooks. Still, it might throw some users for a loop. Instead of a traditional desktop, you start at a home screen, giving you easy access to your music and photos, as well as the Web and e-mail.
Clicking the Start New Program button on the bottom of the home screen will take you to a categorized listing of other installed applications. Clicking the HP icon in the lower-right of the screen will take you back to the home screen from any program. In general, I felt that the HP user interface is usable, though a little confusing at first. And it certainly isn’t as polished as Windows Vista. Then again, how many netbooks out there can actually run Vista?
The Mini 1000 Mi comes bundled with a Web browser presumably based on Firefox, the Thunderbird e-mail client, Pidgin for IM, Skype, OpenOffice, and HP’s MediaStyle interface for playing music, photos, and video.
How does it perform? Unfortunately, because of the custom OS, we’re unable to provide WorldBench test results. WorldBench doesn’t work with Linux. Performance seemed good enough, and all in all, it was pretty responsive; I never felt I had to wait on it for an unacceptable length of time, even with several applications running simultaneously.
I played an 820-by-480 WMV-encoded video clip on the Mini 1000 Mi. Playback ran smoothly; in fact, the only time I was able to get it to drop frames was by going back to the home screen and then switching back to the video. The only real downer: The included media player software didn’t seem to recognize an MPEG-4 video file from a video podcast.
And while we can’t fully verify battery life, basic battery drain tests show the 3-cell battery lasts for about 3 hours.
Underneath the front-end, you can still access files on the hard drive by clicking Files in the upper-right corner of the screen. From here I could access just about anything on the hard drive that didn’t require root (super-user) access, and you can get to a number of advanced settings with a little digging. There’s nothing preventing you from having a nerdy field day with the bundled OS. I can get to the terminal, so it’s probably safe to say that HP didn’t lock down the OS completely.
As for the hardware, the Mini 1000 Mi edition remains identical to the Windows XP-based flavor: It packs Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom processor; 1GB of RAM; and a 4200-rpm, 60GB PATA hard disk. HP’s 10.3-by-6.5-by-0.9-inch plastic shell is identical to what you’ve already seen with the XP-flavored Mini 1000–groovy-looking hard plastic lid, great keyboard, annoying mousepad, and all.
The only real downer is the price of the Mi edition. You see, while HP says that these machines start at $400, our configuration costs $460. You’d figure that with Linux, we’d get a bit more of a price break on this netbook.