So I wrote up a rather lengthy “review” or at least partial review last week for this new machine I’ve been using. The thing to note is that, for the most part, I didn’t mention much actually pertaining to the device.
That’s where this post comes into play.
After careful consideration, I went with the HP Mini 311. In my research, I’ve found that for the most part, most Netbooks have essentially the same specs. There are quite a few options if you’re willing to spend more than $500 but for anything less you’re going ot get more or less the same formula.
- N270 or N280 processor
- 1 GB of RAM
- 160 GB hard drive
- Windows XP SP3 or Windows 7 Starter (DON’T GET STARTER)
- 3 USB Ports
- VGA Port
- 9-10” screen
The Mini had two main advantages that swayed me to pick it and one minor advantage. The minor advantage is really minor, I like the way it looks. It has a nice two tone black and silver chassis that isn’t obnoxiously colored but isn’t too boring.
The major advantages come in the visuals. Firstly, it has an 11” screen. This makes it slightly larger than your average Netbook but not as humongous as a laptop. The footprint is almost identical to a standard 8.5”x11” sheet of paper.
Secondly is the nVidia Ion Chipset. Basically, instead the of integrated Intel graphics chip most Netbooks have, this has a separate chip made by a company that more or less specializes in graphics chips. According to CNet’s benchmarks, this machine scores a massive factor (think hundreds to a thousand) times higher than most netbooks in the graphics department. A bit of research actually suggests the Ion is a rebranded downsized version of the GeForce 9400 chipset, which is conveniently the same card i use in my desktop machine.
So what does this mean? Two things. Firstly, it runs video better than most Netbooks. Secondly, I can play some 3D games. No, I’m not going to be playing with screaming FPS and ultra graphics settings but it’ll still work. I’ve already tested this with the two most graphically intense games I play, Team Fortress 2 and Second Life. TF2 will need some settings tweaks (I only spent like 5 minutes testing it out) but it’s doable for a quick game. SL is definitely usable and reasonably smooth is less busy areas.
As for other aspects, the wireless rage is decent, much better than my old laptop. The speed is good, I’ve loaded this thing down fairly heavily and haven’t seen a huge dip in performance (more on this in Part 3). I’m even dual booting with Ubuntu, though there was a bit of a hassle making that work smoothly. Battery life is decent and works for 3-4+ hours easy.
In short, I’m pretty satisfied with my experience so far. I’ll go into more detail on exactly what that experience entails however in the next post…