HP "Entertainment PC" Revisited

I started to write this as a follow-up comment on my new HP dv2-1010ez netbook/notebook. However, as I have been writing I realized that I also want to say a bit about HP netbooks in general.

I started to write this as a follow-up comment on my new HP dv2-1010ez netbook/notebook. However, as I have been writing I realized that I also want to say a bit about HP netbooks in general. I have now owned, or purchased, configured and passed along, a variety of these, including the following:

- 2133 Mini-Note, low resolution (1024x600), Linux preloaded

- 2133 Mini-Note, high resolution (1280x768), Vista preloaded

- Mini 2140, 1024x576, Linux preloaded

- dv2-1010ez, 1280x800, Vista preloaded

Of course, regardless of what operating system came preloaded, I have always loaded various Linux distributions on them. It goes without saying that the ones which came with Vista were more or less useless when running that operating system. The two which had Linux preloaded were both rather old SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) systems, which worked reasonably well, but were nowhere near as complete or pleasant as the newer Linux distributions that I loaded. All of them worked with one or more of Ubuntu, Mandriva, openSuSE, Fedora and other distributions - and most often with all of them.

They also have a variety of hardware configurations. The 2133 has a VIA C7-M CPU and VIA Chrome 9 graphic controller; the 2140 was a very standard Intel Atom based system, and the new 1010ez has an AMD Athlon Neo CPU and ATI Radeon graphic controller. Screen sizes range from 8.9" on the 2133 to 10.1" on the 2140 and 12.1" on the 1010ez. The one thing that is more or less constant on all of them is the excellent keyboard - large and comfortable to use.

The point is, in my opinion, HP is producing an excellent line of innovative and useful netbooks. I wish that they would offer Linux preloaded on a few more of them, and Windows preloaded on a few less, but only the market is going to convince them to do that. As it is, though, at least it is generally easy to load the desktop Linux of your choice onto them.

Ok, having said that I will get back to the original point. It has been an interesting two weeks since I bought the HP dv2-1010ez "Entertainment PC". Overall, I could hardly be more pleased with it. The 12.1" 1280x800 display is wonderful - although I am able to work with the typical 1024x600 netbook displays, it is really much nicer to have the higher resolution. The AMD Athlon Neo processor is noticeably faster than the typical Intel Atom netbook CPU, and of course the ATI Mobility Radeon 3410 graphic controller is so much faster than the usual Intel 945/950 GME that there is no comparison. Contrary to what I had read in some of the technical specifications, the Aheros AR9285 WiFi adapter does draft-N connection in addition to the standard B/G wireless connection, and the throughput is good - typically 750 KB/sec with my Linksys WRT350N router.

The thing you have to be aware of, and careful about, is that some of the components of this system are so new that driver support for them is included only in the newest distributions (the most common problem is the Atheros WiFi adapter, but some also have trouble with the audio). So don't expect to load Ubuntu 9.04 or Mandriva 2009.1, for example, and have everything "just work" as it usually does. In fact, the only current "final" distribution which I have found that works out of the box is Zenwalk Linux 6.2. The test distributions of a number of upcoming releases also work, though, including Ubuntu 9.10, Mandriva 2010 and openSuSE 11.2. So it won't be long before you should be able to use the Linux distribution of your choice.

The only thing I would change or add to this system is Bluetooth support. However, the 1010ez is part of the much large dv2-1000 "family" from HP, and other models do have Bluetooth, but mine was chosen on the basis of price and availability, not features, so I can't complain much about that. It might also be nice to have a PC-Card (PCMCIA) or Express Card slot, but I honestly don't know where they could squeeze one in. Finally, if it had a FireWire/IEE1394 connection I could probably convince several of my golf professional friends that this is an ideal combination of size and performance.

Last minute update: I have just installed the latest daily build (29 Sep) for amd64 processors on the 1010ez, and it looks extremely good. Installation was amazingly fast, and as far as I can tell at first glance, everything works. This bodes very well for the Karmic Beta release that is due out on Thursday.

jw 29/9/2009