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HP Mini 2140

At a Glance
Product HP Mini 2140 Notebook PC (KS157UT)
Summary Well-built 10" netbook with flawed screen and touchpad
Pros • Beautiful, big keyboard
• Gigabit Ethernet
• 802.11b/g, draft 11n Wi-Fi
• Long battery life
Cons • Vertical screen resolution too small
• Side-mounted mouse buttons
• Small trackpad

I don't think I can remember when a product that I was really excited about was so disappointing once I spent some time with it. But HP's highly-anticipated (at least by me) Mini 2140 has earned that distinction.

I ordered the $529 KS157UT (since reduced to $479) with XP Home, 1024 x 576 display, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive and 6 cell battery. After a shipping delay due to the Chinese New Year, the 2140 arrived straight from Shanghai in a plain brown box similar to the way that Dell ships its notebooks.

My first disappointment upon opening the accessories box was to find a brick-style power supply instead of the small and light "wall-wart" style that had come with all the other netbooks that I have tried. Although smaller and lighter than the typical power brick, it still is more of a hassle to use and heavier to carry than a wall-wart.

I was pleased, however, with the silvery gray anodized aluminum case, which is thankfully neither black nor glossy and should continue to look good for both business and play even after hard use. The Mini 2140 is definitely a fine looking piece of technology.

As with other netbooks, the first boot installed XP Home SP3 without incident. The resulting desktop was pretty clean, with only a shortcut to the 60 day "try before buy" version of Office 2007 that comes with the install. I did, however, have to uninstall the trialware version of McAfee Total Protection to stop its constant nags to activate it.

I'll get the second, bigger, deal-killer, disappointment out of the way now. I removed the default desktop background for Figure 1 and opened the SNB home page so that you can see the screen real estate (actually the lack of) afforded by the 1024 x 576 screen.

HP Mini 2140 Desktop (1024 x 576)
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: HP Mini 2140 Desktop (1024 x 576)

In its default fixed-width format, SNB requires 1034 px to properly display its entire width. So Figure 1 shows that it obviously won't fit into the 2140's 1024 px wide display (even if I maximized the browser window). But I found that moving out two clicks using FireFox's Zoom control would get the entire page width to display.

But the bigger problem is the vertical display resolution. The 16:9 screen ratio, which I read somewhere was used so that the Mini could better display HD video, comes up way too short. Literally.

Take a gander at Figure 2, which shows a similar browser and desktop shot from my Fujitsu P7120 travel buddy. The generous 1280 px width handles SNB's full width with plenty of room to see the desktop behind it. But the bigger advantage is in image height.

Fujitsu P7120 Desktop (1280 x 768)
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: Fujitsu P7120 Desktop (1280 x 768)

For further comparison, Figure 3 shows the same setup on my Dell Mini 12. It's odd that the 32 fewer pixels in the Fujitsu (vs. the Dell) don't seem to make as much difference as the 24 fewer pixels in the HP (vs. the Fujitsu), especially since their heights are both 4% smaller than the comparison screens. But, I'll tell you, I really missed those 24 pixels on the HP!

Dell Mini 12 desktop
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: Dell Mini 12 desktop (1280 x 800)

I wish I'd had the foresight to take the same comparison shot on the MSI Wind U100, Samsung NC10 and Lenovo S10, all of which have 1024 x 600 px screens. But I don't recall the screen height (or lack thereof) on any of those machines bothering me so much.

Moving on. The default system tray was a bit busy with icons for HP Quick Launch and 3D Drive Guard Monitor among them. The first enables the function keys to serve double duty to put the system to sleep, enable the external monitor, adjust screen brightness and sound volume, etc. The latter monitors a built-in accelerometer that is supposed to halt I/O and park the drive heads to prevent drive damage if you drop your Mini. There's also a dedicated button between the space bar and trackpad to disable the trackpad.

But, like the Dell Mini 12, there is no button or function key shortcut to quickly switch between power modes. You have to figure out for yourself that adjusting the power properties also changes processor speed (as well as display brightness). Using the Max Battery setting seems to be the only way to drop N270 Atom CPU's clock speed to 798 MHz from the full-speed 1.6 GHz.

There is also no quick way to launch the HP Webcam application. While it's a quick way to look at yourself with the 640×480 (VGA) webcam, it provides only snapshot, Audio / Video and Audio only recording modes. Nowhere near as much fun as the Webcam Central program from Creative that comes with the Dell Mini 12.

Figure 4 shows some of the items in Device Manager expanded so that you can see key component details. Broadcom supplies both the Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n radios, despite the "HP Integrated Module with Bluetooth 2.0 Wireless Technology" name in the Bluetooth devices section. The Gigabit Ethernet (rare for a netbook) NIC is a Marvell 88E8072, which even connects via PCIe and supports 4 and 9K jumbo frames.

The display adapter is a popular Atom-based netbook choice, the Intel 945, while the SATA controller is an Intel ICH7M. I don't know why there is a copy of Intel Matix Storage Manager Console installed, given the single Fujitsu MHZ2160BH 160 GB 2.5" 5400 RPM SATA drive, but there is.

Mini 2140 Device Manager

Figure 4: Mini 2140 Device Manager

The screen wasn't tall enough to expand everything that I wanted to show. So you'll have to take my word that the Webcam controller is from Sonix, the trackpad is from Synaptics and the Audio chip is an Analog Devices Soundmax.

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