HP 2133 Mini-Note PC  (Source: Hewlett-Packard)

  (Source: Hewlett-Packard)

  (Source: Hewlett-Packard)

  (Source: Notebook Review)

HP 2133 with the 6-cell extended battery installed.  (Source: Notebook Review)

The HP 2133's innards.  (Source: Notebook Review)
HP swings for the fences with its 2133 Mini-Note PC

When ASUS launched its Eee PC 401 4G last year, not many people knew where the tiny $399 device would take the industry. Within months, ASUS flanked its original 4G model with the $299 2G model and the $499 8G model.

As sales skyrocketed, ASUS dropped another bombshell on potential customers with the announcement of its second generation Eee PC 900 with a larger, 8.9" display which calmed the fears of some of those upset over the original unit’s 7" display. ASUS' efforts to carve out a niche in the low-cost PC market along with a number of competitors arriving fashionably late to the party even enticed Microsoft to extend the availability of Windows XP Home by another two years.

Not one to be left out in the cold by a growing trend in the PC market, HP no doubt eyed the original ASUS Eee PC and decided to make a machine to outpace it -- that machine is the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC. We first heard about the 8.9" 2133 Mini-Note back in February when Engadget leaked a couple of rendered images of the device, but today HP is fully prepared with a press release on the device.

Unlike the Eee PC which is currently only available with a solid-state drive (SSD), the 2133 Mini-Note is available with a variety of storage options (2.5" form factor) and can be configured to your liking. The $499 model will get you a 1.0GHz VIA C7-M processor, 512MB of RAM and a 4GB SSD running Novell Suse Linux. $549 will get you a 1.2GHz VIA processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 5400 RPM 120GB HDD -- an extra $50 entitles you to Windows Vista Home Basic.

Finally, the top-of-the-line model rings in at $749 and throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Whereas the previous three models incorporate a 3-cell battery, the range-topping model sports a 6-cell battery for extended mobile duties. The device also sports a 1.6GHz VIA processor, 2GB of RAM, 5400 RPM 120GB HDD, Bluetooth, webcam, and Windows Vista Business. All machines are equipped with two USB 2.0 ports, SDHC slot, an ExpressCard/54 slot, VGA port and GbE. HP also makes 7200 RPM 120GB and 160GB HDDs available as an option.

Moving on to the exterior, the 2133 Mini-Note is dominated by its 8.9", 1280x768 display. The resolution on the notebook far outpaces the original Eee PC's 7", 800x480 display and even betters the new Eee PC 900's 8.9", 1024x600 display. The display is of the glossy variety which means that colors should be rich and vibrant; however, you'll have to deal with pesky reflections.

Unlike the Eee PC with its mostly plastic construction, the 2133 Mini-Note goes further with a mixture of brushed aluminum and plastic to give it a more expensive look and feel. HP also thankfully gave its latest notebook a 92% full-size keyboard which should be leagues better than the cramped keyboard on the Eee PC 401/Eee PC 900.

The HP 2133 Mini-Note isn't exactly a featherweight, but its mass is quite reasonable given its size and price range -- especially when compared to other ultra-portables like the MacBook Air which are more than twice the price of even the most expensive model. The 2133 Mini-Note weighs in at 2.63-pounds in its base configuration with a 3-cell battery -- that figure swells to 2.86-pounds with a 3-cell battery and a 160GB HDD and 3.23-pounds with a 6-cell battery and 160GB HDD.

Up to this point, the HP 2133 Mini-Note looks to be a great machine on paper, but here comes the caveat: the VIA C-7M processor. Notebook Review was able to sample the $749 model with its 1.6GHz VIA C7-M processor and 160GB HDD and was less than impressed by its performance. Despite the high clock speed, the machine often bogged down with surfing the web and struggled with multi-tasking -- an Eee PC 4G clocked at a mere 630MHz was able to outpace the machine in PCMark05. The slower models will fare even worse.

"On paper the 1.6GHz VIA C7-M processor should provide excellent speed for general computing tasks," said Notebook Review's JerryJ. "In reality, web pages rendered slower than expected, multi-tasking was painfully slow, and most processor-hungry applications like Photoshop or video encoding software just didn't like the VIA processor."

The VIA C7-M processor also ran very hot necessitating the system fan to run most of the time. According to Notebook Review, the machine became uncomfortable to operate after 30-45 minutes due to the heat output which surpassed 110 degrees Fahrenheit on various portions of the device.

Battery life scores varied from different reviewers around the web. Notebook Review got around two hours and fifteen minute with the 3-cell battery and four hours and eleven minutes from the 6-cell battery. got just under four and a half hours with the 6-cell battery.

The HP 2133 Mini-Note looks to be a worthy entry into the burgeoning field of relatively inexpensive ultra-notebooks. The notebook gives other ultra-portables like the MacBook Air and Lenovo ThinkPad X300 a run for the money with features while offering a nearly full-size keyboard and an affordable price tag.

The machine, however, appears to be hampered by its VIA processor and excess heat. One wonders why HP didn't go with Intel's Atom processors which promise better performance and low thermals, but it could possibly be an option in the future.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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