HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

Summary: The HP Mini 100e is generally a solid educational netbook. Will the $300 base configuration actually meet your needs, though? Or will upgrades and software costs erode the value prop?

SHARE:

I received a demo unit of the HP Mini 100e last week and have been giving it a go for a few days now. When HP first announced the device in June, I was none too kind to what I saw as a me-too, clamshell Classmate wannabe. Having lived with the device for a short time as my primary laptop, I can definitely say that, although it bears a striking resemblance to Intel's low-end educational netbook (their non-tablet, clamshell version of the Classmate), it does bring a fair amount of value to the table. The question is, where does it fit in the market and where can it compete?

The Mini 100e has a couple things going for it that are missing from mainstream netbooks at this price point. The keyboard is waterproof and the chiclet keys on the 92% keyboard are well laid out and incredibly easy for touch typing. Score one for the 100e on usability and durability from the keyboard perspective.

It's semi-ruggedized like it's Intel and Dell cousins and has soft, rounded corners like the Classmate. While it's a bit heavier than other 10" netbooks, it feels solid and distinctly droppable. The materials are rubberized and pleasant to touch and the multitouch trackpad, with its dimpled surface, provides wonderful tactile feedback. I've never used a touchpad like it and it just feels nice. This is begging for a kid with tactile sensitivity to use it.

Next: There are advantages to buying an HP »

It's also available in quantity from a tier one OEM. This makes it much easier to buy domestically if schools are leveraging state contracts which oftentimes can't be used with the US Classmate manufacturers. HP will also entertain bids and customize the hardware and software images for customers looking to buy in quantity. Although HP notes that there is no minimum number of netbooks for which it will provide these services, clearly costs will go down as quantities go up. HP is, of course, hoping for ministries of education, school districts, and states to buy in quantities of tens of thousands.

Aside from a handle, the rest of the hardware is standard netbook fare. No fancy dual core Atoms here. This machine is certainly appropriate for the target K-6 audience, but with just 1GB of RAM, a 5400rpm hard drive, and an Atom N450, the Mini 100e (like most netbooks) is not for older students who will push it to multitask. Since it does support DDR3 RAM, an upgrade to 2GB would go a long ways towards making it K-8 appropriate.

One hardware niggle that I found surprising was the AC adapter. Its connection to the netbook was tiny and flimsy and begged to be broken with just one trip over a cord in a classroom. Dell, Intel, and Lenovo all use large, heavy, tight connectors on their education-oriented netbooks.

Still, it's priced well below Dells Latitude 2110, so that's easy to overlook, right? Sort of, but in a netbook that is suppposed to be rugged enough for young kids both in the States and abroad, it's an important consideration that wouldn't add anything to the hardware cost. Similarly, costs start to rise quickly if you want or need a larger battery (the included 3-cell won't make it through a day and the included chargers can't match Dell's rapid charge adapters that it sells with its Connected Classroom charts.

The memory upgrade or an upgrade to Windows 7 Professional (from Starter Edition) to allow for domain join and system management takes you away from the attractive $300 price point very quickly, as does any software you want to add. These would certainly be candidates for OpenOffice or, better yet, Google Apps, assuming that they were deployed where Internet access was reliable. While HP will pre-install the software of your choosing, the base $300 includes a very minimal software stack (think Notepad).

I'm certainly more impressed than I expected to be with the Mini 100e. The overall feel of the netbook, from materials to keyboard to touchpad is excellent (AC adapter notwithstanding) and completely friendly for kid and teacher hands. What are your software needs, though? And what will you be doing for the older kids once large cohorts of your younger kids have become accustomed to 1:1?

Topics: Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Mobility, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

8 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

    Does it run Edubuntu? Not sure Windows 7 is really the right OS for such young children...
    Jeremy-UK
    • RE: HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

      @Jeremy-UK

      what an idiot
      sackbut
  • RE: HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

    We have a Dell notebook program at our institution, and so many of our students spill juice, beer, and other liquids on the keyboard, so the waterproof keyboard is a big plus.
    elepage23
  • RE: HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

    I used it for a few minutes (15Mins) to be exact and it was nice, I liked it more than the 1101 which I have, but I did not like the handle yes it comes with a handle...and to me the water proof is a big seller.
    amoschrls@...
    • RE: HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

      @amoschrls@... I've got a "Fizzbook Spin" (Classmate) with a similar handle. Works for me, but I'm 44. Not so good if a young owner likes to swing it around. A well padded soft case doubling as mat would be nice. I carry mine in a "courier bag" - no, I'll be honest, a handbag with shoulder strap.

      Otherwise... probably you don't need Win 7 Pro for a school-use computer. If you have to have it for the network at home, you're nuts. You also can choose SuSE Linux (SLED 11) or Win XP Home, but I assume (really) that Windows 7 Starter comes with speech recognition, which I hope more people will be using by the time you buy your next computer -after- this.

      However, the processor probably isn't wonderful for that, and you probably want more RAM, too, either for speech or for Win 7 - you can put it up from 1 to 2 GB, then you have a spare 1 GB card - what do you do with those, recycle?
      Robert Carnegie 2009
  • K-8 appropriate??

    Children in Kindergarten shouldn't be using computers.
    8th grade is about when they've had the fundamentals drilled into them and are ready to start using a computer for its purpose; data acquisition and manipulation.

    Then again, a child is far more likely to learn far more, faster, just by surfing the internet than by wading through the indoctrination called modern education.
    hiraghm@...
    • RE: HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

      @hiraghm@...
      8th grade...wha?????????
      My kid learned to touch type with Mavis Beacon in the 2nd grade. It's THE most important skill a child can learn.
      "...using a computer for its purpose; data acquisition and manipulation."
      yeah - writing, photography, video, music ...that's all rubbish. You sound like a real fun guy.
      bigjuliefromchicago
  • RE: HP Mini 100e first look: What does $300 get you these days?

    Is sackbut not being offensive? Jeremy was merely responding to one of Chris's points, namely that "an upgrade to Windows 7 Professional (from Starter Edition) to allow for domain join and system management takes you away from the attractive $300 price point very quickly, as does any software you want to add." Still, perhaps I'm an idiot too!
    xelmirez