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HP Mini 2140 - Strongly Recommended!

The HP Mini 2140 that I had ordered and configured for my friend has come and gone, delivered to her last Friday evening. I was very impressed with it, and after just a few days of using it, she says that it works just fine and she is pleased with it.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

The HP Mini 2140 that I had ordered and configured for my friend has come and gone, delivered to her last Friday evening. I was very impressed with it, and after just a few days of using it, she says that it works just fine and she is pleased with it.

As far as I can tell, the packaging of the HP 2140 is identical to that of my HP 2133 Mini-Note. The same brushed metal case, the same excellent keyboard, the same switches and LEDs in the same positions. The only significant external difference is the 10.1" display, where the 2133 has an 8.9" display - and I have to say, the larger display really is much nicer, and much easier on the eyes. The other difference is on the inside, the 2140 has an Intel Atom CPU, Intel 945 GSE Express, Mobile Intel GMA 950 Graphic controller, whereas the 2133 has a VIA C7-M CPU and VIA Chrome 9 graphic controller. While I really like my 2133, those VIA chips have often made some things pretty difficult. I was hoping that the 2140 would be a lot easier - and it was!

I ordered the 2140 with Linux, which saved SFr 75 over the lowest priced Windows version (XP Home), SFr 140 over the version with Vista Home Basic (which I call Vista Home Bother, or Vista Home Why Bother), and a whopping SFr 200 over the Vista Business / XP Professional version. It came with SuSE Linux Enterprice Desktop (SLED) 10, which is rather old already, but that didn't matter to me because I already knew that I was going to reload it with Ubuntu Netbook Remix. Once I got past the problem with the BIOS setup claiming that it had a Dual Core CPU, loading UNR 9.04 was easy.

I tested as much of the networking as I could in the short time that I had it. Another significant advantage of the 2140 over my 2133 is that it has Wireless-N suport. I tested that with my Linksys WRT350N router, and it worked just fine. When I turned it over to my friend, I set it up on their Wireless-G network, and of course that also worked. I also set it up with a Bluetooth mouse, which paired just fine and reconnects automatically after reboots, power cycles and such. It also has Gigabit wired ethernet, which I tested only briefly and worked just fine.

I first tested the built-in webcam with cheese, and it worked just fine. Whew, at least no fiddling with the BIOS for that was necessary. I then tested the webcam, speakers and microphone with Skype, and that all worked as well.

I was surprised by how much I liked the display. It is "only" 1024x576, which I thought would be too low resolution, compared to the 1280x800 in my 2133, or even the 1024x600 in my partner's. But the display is bright and crisp, and I honestly didn't notice the lower resolution at first; once I had thought about it, and went back to look again, I found that it didn't disturb me at all. I think this is one of the situations where the Ubuntu Network Remix desktop is really good - with the (relatively) small screen and lower resolution, it is still very easy to read and use. The original 2140 announcements from HP had mentioned that there would be a model with a 1366x768 display, but I have never seen any evidence of such a model actually being available.

The bottom line is, I liked the 2140 a lot (obviously). More importantly, my friend has been using it for a few days now, and she likes it as well. She says that for the things that she uses it to do, she doesn't see, know or care about whether it is not running Windows - but what she does care about is that she save 100-200 francs compared to the Windows models. She finds the UNR desktop to be easy and intuitive to use. What more could you ask for from a netbook?

When I look at the Mini 2140 on the HP web site now, it looks like it is being phased out already. If that is true, then the price is likely to start dropping. Keep your eyes open, and you might be able to get a really nice netbook at a really good price! Especially if you decide not to pay the "Microsoft Windows Tax" on it.

jw 7/7/2009

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