So when HP offered to send me the HP Mini 110 by Studio Tord Boontje to evaluate, I was intrigued. I’ve heard a lot about netbooks this year, but hearsay has been the limit of my exposure. A netbook could provide a budget-friendly central solution for those who simply need writing and internet tools, or offer someone like me a compact way to blog and surf remotely while not needing to haul around my life’s work. The Mini 110 also appeals to my design sensibilities (via modern nature inspired motifs) and my commitment to eco-living (via a mercury-free LED backlit display for increased energy efficiency, as well as packaging and user guides made from recycled materials and printed with soy based inks).
So that’s what I knew from reading about the Mini 110 online. And when it arrived, I was even more impressed.
Aside from the pretty, eco-friendly packaging, I immediately was struck by the Mini 110’s truly mini size. The unit is 10.3” x 6.77” (10.1” diagonal display) and weighs 2.35 lbs (i.e., totally fits in my primary selection of handbags…sweet!). Yet despite its petite proportions, under the hood is an impressively sized keyboard (my laptop keys are about 3/4” square; the Mini 110 keys are just an 1/8” shy of that) and a solid amount of memory and storage (1024MB/2048MB DDR2 system memory and 160 GB internal storage; upgrades also are possible). I do find it a tad awkward to have the right and left click buttons on either side of the track pad instead of below, where the thumb is naturally positioned, but that may be a function of being a mouse user (i.e., not as facile using track pads in general). I suspect this is the sort of thing I could get used to with enough practice, but if this layout seems challenging to you, you could purchase the coordinating wireless laser mouse (arguably the prettiest mouse I’ve ever seen) or opt for the HP Mini 311, which positions the right and left click buttons below the track pad. However, note that the Mini 311 does not share the nature/eco design elements of the Mini 110, and what you gain in track pad ergonomics you lose a bit in compactness; the Mini 311 is larger at 11.4” x 8.03” (11.6” diagonal display) and 3.22 lbs (see side by side comparison).
Getting set up was lightning quick. The Mini 110 boots up to the HP Instant Web operating system; a simple and clean interface where you can check your email (via Gmail, Yahoo, or a web-based email client of your choice), surf the web, chat, access your music and photo files, Skype (via built-in webcam), or access your calendar (e.g., Google Calendar, Windows Live). It took mere seconds to get online; in my case, I simply needed to enter the network key for my wireless network at home. I love when it’s that easy!
And when you’re ready for additional functionality, simply click the Start Windows button to switch operating systems. (Note that on first use, you’ll need to enter your network key again since the HP Instant Web and Windows operating systems are separate animals.) Once you’re in Windows, you can access programs such as Wordpad, Adobe Reader, Paint, Windows Fax & Scan, Windows Media Player, Seesmic, and the very impressive Windows Live Writer desktop blogging client. I was new to Live Writer before testing the Mini 110 and was impressed with this program. Live Writer is very easy to set up: simply enter the name of your blog, user name, and password and Live Writer accesses your blog platform so you can edit, preview, and publish easily. Depending on blog platform you may need to edit permissions; for example, for my Blogger blog, I didn’t need to do anything other than enter the blog URL, username, and password, whereas for my Wordpress blog I needed to enable XML-RPC in the Writing Settings within my Wordpress account before I could interface with Live Writer. However, this was not difficult; after entering my URL, username, and password (as I did in setting up my Blogger blog), Live Writer directed me to the specific URL within my Wordpress dashboard enable permissions. I think Live Writer will appeal to bloggers who get frustrated with the ins and outs of blog dashboards (the interface basically looks like you’re editing in Word), and what I really love about this blogging client is that you can set up then easily toggle between multiple blogs within one program -- so much simpler than accessing different platforms via the web.
One final noteworthy feature: if you have another computer on your network that runs HP QuickSync, you can sync up the Mini 110 and your other computer wirelessly. Alternatively, you can simply sync to an external storage device.
In sum, the HP Mini 110 by Studio Tord Boontje is an impressive blend of form and function; it’s pretty to look at, packaged responsibly, and is great for those who love being plugged in and want something super portable for writing and surfing on the go. Whether you use the Mini 110 as your primary machine or as a travel arm to your existing desktop or laptop configuration, at $399.99 the Mini 110 is competitive pricewise with other netbooks on the market and delivers excellent value.
Visit Christine Koh at BostonMamas.com.