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Review: HP Mini 2140 Puts It At The Head Of The Class

HP is the market-share leader in notebooks and, judging by its latest entry into the netbook space, it likely will be very aggressive there, too.

The company's new HP Mini 2140 Notebook PC, unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is an aggressive entry into the space. HP provides a netbook with a number of key features that other manufacturers have had difficulty delivering: a nice, comfortable keyboard, decent performance and wide-screen viewing.

In addition, HP brings the Mini 2140 to market below the $500 price point (listed at $499), ensuring it will fight and claw for every point of share in the mobile PC space even as it scales down to the netbook space.

The Test Center reviewed a Mini 2140 that came to the lab loaded with Microsoft XP Home Edition, Service Pack 2, and built with an Intel Atom processor at 1.60GHz and 1 GB of RAM. The system also came with a 160-GB hard disk drive.

Using Primate Labs' Geekbench 2.1 benchmarking software, the Mini 2140 scored 877—not the best-performing netbook we've seen but far from the slowest, either. We installed the six-cell battery that came with the system rather than the three-cell and ran our standard battery life test: turning off all power-saving software and running a video from the hard drive until the system shut down. Under this test, the six-cell battery lasted a full five hours almost to the second. That's among the best we've seen in this class.

The six-cell battery, it should be noted, is designed to tilt the unit slightly up toward the display. That's not really obtrusive and, actually, the slight angle makes typing a little easier. HP lists the weight of the Mini 2140 as 2.6 pounds, but we found that it came to 2 pounds, 15 ounces with the six-cell in. That still makes it light and comfortable enough to carry around all day or slip into a carry-on bag for air travel.

Speaking of typing, the keyboard is one of the areas where HP engineering makes a noticeable difference. Compared with other netbooks, the Mini 2140's 10-inch-wide keyboard is nice and comfortable and feels like a normal, "full" keyboard. It's not missing any shift keys, nor are any traditional English keys placed in a weird spot to make everything fit. HP says it's 92 percent of the size of a normal, QWERTY keyboard, but it's hard to notice the missing 8 percent.

HP also added what it calls DuraKeys engineering: a clear coating over the keys to preserve them and keep the lettering from wearing over time. It also gives it nice touch.

Since tiny, uncomfortable keyboards have been a major complaint of first-generation netbooks, HP's effort pushes it to the head of the class in this segment.

The 10.1-inch, wide-screen LED screen is very bright and easy on the eyes (for someone with 20/20 vision) and makes moderate multitasking or movie viewing much easier than even displays that are just an inch smaller.

Other features: sound through its built-in speakers is fine, as is its built-in Webcam. Neither is overwhelming, but both are enough to get the job done on the go.

There is one glitch: HP has pre-loaded XP Home Edition with Service Pack 2, but the system was unable to immediately log onto wireless networks that presented WPA2 encryption. The problem was solved by downloading and installing Microsoft's hot fix for that OS. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is an annoying step HP itself might have taken before shipping the systems.

The bottom line: If HP and other vendors continue to improve netbooks at the current pace we're now seeing, netbooks could start doing what they failed to do last year: eat into sales of full-blown notebooks.

Regardless of the market positioning or overall trends, the HP Mini 2140 starts the company off in 2009 with a nice entry into the space and one that gets a four out of five technical stars for its effort.

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