I was excited when Julie told her main article contributors that she was sending us HP Mini 1000 netbooks in December, but for an entirely different reason.
See, I’d already purchased an Acer Aspire One only a few months earlier, and I was quite interested in seeing how the HP Mini stood up against the stiff competition of the netbook I’d grown to love so much. And when I say “love”, I really mean “love”. My AAO has a 160GB hard drive, 1.5GB RAM (I went ahead and upgraded), a long-lasting six-cell battery, and all the standard fare for a netbook – 8.9″ 1024×600 display, 0.3MP webcam, USB 2.0 ports, integrated SD/MemoryStick reader, and the requisite 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor.
One has to wonder – with all the netbook offerings on the market, are they really that different? The technical specifications are very similar across the board. Every netbook available (in the United States, at least) packs the 1.6GHz Atom. Microsoft has put the kibosh on allowing more than 2GB RAM in any netbook running Windows XP, so you’re likely to get 512MB or 1GB preinstalled. Although more 10″ displays are finding their way onto the market, the resolution is the same on every brand, make, and model – 1024×600, and the graphics are always an Intel integrated mobile chipset.
What sets apart one netbook from the others are subjective things, like the aesthetics of the case, the quality of the webcam, or the feel of the keyboard and trackpad. In these ways, I love, love, love my One. It’s got a sparkly blue exterior, a good webcam (for what it is, anyway), and a fabulous keyboard. I have little bitty hands, and the One’s keyboard is amazing – I can touch-type on it just as quickly as a full-size keyboard, at my normal speed of roughly 120-130WPM.
In fact, I love this little $400 laptop so much that I frequently find myself using it in lieu of the $2,000 Dell XPS M1330 I received through my employer. It’s lightweight, the battery lasts all day, and it does everything I need from a laptop except handle gaming or particularly heavy Photoshop work.
So did the HP Mini win me over? Could it convince me to switch from my beloved Aspire One to a different kind of netbook?
The short answer is no. The long answer takes, well…a longer explanation.
There are some differences between the two laptops, to be sure. As previously stated, the technical specs are similar – the real differences are in the details:
Acer Aspire One
- 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor with Intel integrated graphics
- 1GB RAM stock (512MB onboard + 512MB SO-DIMM)
- 160GB 5400RPM SATA 2.5″ hard drive
- 1024×600 glossy 8.9″ LCD
- 0.3MP (300,000 pixel) webcam
- Integrated Atheros 802.11g wireless
- 6-cell battery
- Three USB 2.0 ports
- Two media slots (SD storage expansion and SD/MemoryStick media reader)
- VGA video output
HP Mini 1000
- 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor with Intel integrated graphics
- 1GB RAM stock (1GB SO-DIMM)
- 60GB 4200RPM PATA 1.8″ hard drive
- 1024×600 glossy 10″ LCD
- 0.3 MP (300,000 pixel) webcam
- Integrated Atheros 802.11g wireless
- Integrated bluetooth 2.0 EDR+
- 3-cell battery
- Two USB 2.0 ports
- One media slot (SD/MemoryStick media reader)
- VGA video output
The Aspire One has the disadvantage of having 512MB soldered directly onto the motherboard, which means it can only be upgraded to 1.5GB total – adding a 2GB DIMM won’t do anything, since the chipset on the motherboard is only capable of supporting a 1GB DIMM.
The Mini 1000, on the other hand, has a much lower quality hard drive – not only is the speed slower (4200 RPM vs the One’s 5400RPM), but it’s PATA and 1.8″, whereas the One uses a standard laptop-size 2.5″ SATA drive, making future upgrades much easier.
Additionally, the Mini has bluetooth built in, while the One does not. There are plenty of sites online talking about modding the One to support bluetooth. In the meantime, I picked up a super compact USB bluetooth adapter for mine.
The One has one additional USB port and an option for a 6-cell battery, which I chose (I got my configuration on eBay, although at most retailers it is available with a 3-cell or a 6-cell). this adds to the bulk and the weight of the laptop, but it also means I can go for five or six hours without really needing to recharge it.
Both have the sub-par Atheros wireless card. Personally, I think this was a poor choice, although I’m guessing that card costs less per item than a Broadcom or Intel-based card. My One’s wireless card randomly quits working, forcing me to turn off the computer, unplug the charger, and remove the battery just to get wireless working again. My research online has indicated that this is a problem with the wireless card, so it’s an easy fix – since both machines use a standard MiniPCI-e form factor for the wireless, I can just replace the existing card with an Intel-based module purchased online.
On paper, the technical specs are fairly similar. The HP’s mediocre hard drive is offset by the larger display and inclusion of bluetooth, while the One’s extra bulk and smaller screen are offset by a bigger, better hard drive and much longer-lasting battery.
This is one area where the HP can pull a little more weight. It has a larger keyboard, a far more attractive casing, and a larger trackpad with bigger buttons. While I like the blue casing on my Aspire One, the HP has a nice patterened lid, and the entire device looks sleeker and more symmetrical.
You can see a big difference comparing the HP to the Aspire One and the eeePC 900:
Here’s a close-up of the swirl design on the Mini 1000 (enhanced so you can see the pattern more clearly):
The larger 10″ LCD on the HP has good and bad – the glass on top of it covers the entire display area including the bezel, so getting cat hair and whatnot off it is a bit easier (dust and hair gets stuck in the corners of the LCDs on both my XPS and my Aspire One). The downside is that the display itself is noticeably lower quality than the hardware in the Aspire One. The backlight seems weaker, and the quality of the image is just subpar – blacks appear very washed out and almost gray. It’s harder to tell this when using the HP by itself, but when placed next to the Aspire One or my XPS, it definitely stands out.
There is a single switch to toggle bluetooth and wifi on the HP. I do prefer this hardware – the switch is sturdier and feels higher quality, and the HP uses sexy blue and white LEDs instead of the more boring, ho-hum orange and green ones on the Aspire One.
Between the two laptops, there were some surprising differences in general usability. I’m a very fast touch-typer and discovered that the extremely low-profile keys on the HP’s keyboard meant I frequently missed letters while typing. While I could probably fairly easily adapt to the shorter travel on the HP, I definitely prefer the Aspire One for typing.
My boyfriend, however, has big, manly hands, and he finds that the HP’s keyboard is much, much better – the keys are physically larger, and he found that adapting to it was much easier than using my Aspire One. He also prefers the larger display, even though the colors are more washed out.
I think the keyboard is probably the most important component of a netbook (along with the display), because you’re likely going to be typing on it plenty. You can see a comparison of the two keyboards here:
And here’s a handy visual comparison of the keyboards on the Mini 1000, the Aspire One, and the eeePC 900 (which has a much smaller keyboard) for your reference…
HP Mini 1000:
Acer Aspire One:
Asus eeePC 900:
The HP’s power switch is a little weird – it springs back, so you have to push it and hold it in place for a few seconds to get the machine to turn on. When the laptop is in standby, the power switch’s white LED slowly blinks. The Acer has a more standard power button above the keyboard, which illuminates with a green LED when on, and blinks orange when the machine is in hibernate or standby.
I didn’t find that I had problems using the Acer’s trackpad buttons. The HP’s trackpad buttons are a bit larger and easier to find with your thumb, and the HP includes a handy one-click button to disable the trackpad. All in all, I definitely prefered the HP’s trackpad over the one on my Aspire One. The One’s trackpad is also glossy, and the buttons are flush with the sides – too often I find myself trying to scroll on the right button instead of the right edge of the trackpad!
That being said, although both machines use the high quality Synaptics line for their trackpads, the Aspire One has the added bonus of supporting multitouch. Scrolling through long documents is accomplished through what Synaptics calls ChiralMotion – you start sliding down on the trackpad, and then move your finger in a circular motion to scroll. It’s much faster for long webpages and documents than the traditional scrolling method of coasting at the bottom right corner of the trackpad.
Both machines have certain advantages and disadvantages. If you want something that’s very sexy with an almost full size keyboard, I’d recommend the HP. However, the Aspire One is definitely has better technical specs for the price, and being the frugal-minded girl that I am, I’m glad I chose it over the HP when making my original purchase.
If you’re interested in buying a netbook, I highly recommend hitting your local shopping area to look at models on display. Your best bets for checking out the physical laptops are Best Buy, Sam’s Club, and Fry’s. The technical specifications are so similar across the entire netbook line that it comes down to subjective preferences on appearances, keyboard, port placement, and other fairly minor details. I love my Acer Aspire One, but my boyfriend Dan much prefers the HP Mini 1000 – it’s just a matter of what’s important to you.
At the end of the day, we both adore having netbooks. We tend to keep ours on our nightstands for late-night browsing and light gaming (these little guys are great for old-school DOS games!), and we’ll be taking them along when we go to Florida at the end of April. Even though Dan’s a heavy gamer, he’s already decided that his next laptop purchase will be a netbook – they’re just that great.