HP Mini 210 Review: Fusion is Fast, but Atoms Last
Heat and Connectivity, Battery Life and Portability, Software
Heat and Connectivity
The temperatures inside the HP Mini 210 were average. At idle the internals usually hovered around 40 degrees Celsius, while benchmarking shot the reading up to a completely mundane 55 degrees Celsius. The temperature increase was noticeable both on the laptop’s bottom and on the keyboard, but it only became a problem during the benchmarks. Less demanding tasks, such as working on a Word document or browsing the web, never caused the netbook to become uncomfortably warm.
While heat wasn't an issue, fan noise was. The HP Mini 210's fan isn't particularly loud, but under load it varies in speed frequently, sometimes changing every few seconds for minutes at a time. This calls attention to the fan noise and makes it seem much louder than it actually is. This characteristic was not a problem when browsing the web or using Microsoft Office, but it became apparent when playing video content and running our benchmark suite.
Connectivity is typical for a netbook. On the left side there is VGA-out along with a single USB port and a combo mic/headphone jack, while the right side carries two more USB ports, a card reader and an Ethernet connection. The Ethernet jack is, for some reason, covered by a small plastic hatch that must be removed for use. This seems to be included as a means of retaining the netbook’s smooth appearance, but the hatch is connected by nothing more than two thin strips of rubber. I would not be surprised if this didn’t survive frequent use. The Ethernet port only supports up to 100 Mbps, however, so there’s not much reason to use it if you have access to wireless n.
Battery Life and Portability
Many netbooks with six-cell batteries have had issues with a bit too much junk in the trunk. The latest Lenovo X120e is a good example, as it six-cell battery sticks out of the back significantly. Other netbooks instead force the battery downward, letting it double as a sort of ergonomic netbook stand. That’s fine for use on a desktop, but causes problems if you place the netbook on your lap.
HP has figured out how to include a sizeable battery without compromising a netbook’s design. The oddly shaped HP Mini 210 battery is rounded, with a large connector at one end that reaches deep into the netbook’s chassis. When removed, it looks and feels quite large – this is a 5700 mAh battery, which means it’s larger than the one found on the recently reviewed ASUS N53, a 15.6” laptop with a quad-core processor. But when installed the majority of the battery is hidden, and that which is visible contributes to the laptop’s rounded appearance.
The sizeable battery, when combined with Atom’s efficiency, serves as a reminder why Atom has remained relevant despite its poor performance. The Mini 210 served up six hours and forty six minutes of life in our Battery Eater standard test, and lasted almost ten hours in the reader’s test. During continuous use, the battery lasted just over eight hours. That’s with WiFi on, surfing web pages frequently, and the display usually at full brightness (during our other benchmarks, the display is at 70% brightness).
I’d argue that most people don’t need a PC that lasts this long, but if you do, Atom is just about the only game in town. Although at least part of the credit can be given to the battery, the AMD E-240 powered Toshiba Satellite C655 didn’t hit five hours during real-world usage with a battery that was about 20% smaller. When adjusted to compensate for that fact, it seems clear that AMD’s Fusion APU cannot match Atom on the field of battery endurance.
The HP Mini 210 ships with a quick-boot feature called Quickweb. This is a basic operating system that lacks the functionality of Windows but provides access to web browsing, email, an instant messenger and a few other basic programs. The idea is that you can use this operating system instead of Windows whenever you need to pop in and check something quickly, and you don’t want to deal with resuming or booting Windows.
Quickweb ‘s promise of boot speed is fulfilled thanks to a boot time of 10.3 seconds, but the operating system itself is just barely functional. The web browsing experience feels like something out of 1999 and managed a dismal score of 328 in Peacekeeper after throwing up several script errors in protest. This anemic pace was visible outside of benchmarks, as well. For example, Quickweb took me to an MSN.com home page by default, and the top story carousel there was lagging visibly, something that does not occur when booted into Windows.
Speaking of Windows, the HP Mini 210 (like many sub-$400 netbooks) ships with Windows 7 Starter. The Starter edition comes with some limitations including a lack of the Aero Glass theme, lack of personalization features such as wallpaper, and lack of multi-monitor support. Although it’s disappointing that reduced functionality is the price of buying a small netbook, I didn’t find any of these limitations to be an issue in my use of the HP Mini 210.