Operation Foxbook: Livin’ Small With the HP Mini-Note

By  |  Friday, September 26, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Operation Foxbook–my experiment of dumping my MacBook Pro and desktop apps for an HP Mini-Note netbook and Web-based apps within Firefox–continues apace. And the hardware side of things is turning out to have as big an impact on the experience as the software aspect.

The MacBook Pro I use most of the time is relatively thin and light given how powerful it is, but it’s no subnotebook. And it’s the largest, heaviest machine I’ve carried in years. I used to be addicted to subnotebooks like the Fujitsu Lifebook B112 and Fujitsu P-1000, but in 2004 I had an epiphany and bought my first Mac in years–the 12-inch PowerBook, which was a bit larger and heavier. Then I replaced that with the even larger, heavier 13-inch MacBook. And when I started Technologizer, I decided I wanted more screen space and resolution, and bought the MacBook Pro.

So for me, the Mini-Note doesn’t feel exotic so much as a return trip to the kind of notebook I used to tote. As netbooks go, it’s not cheap (you can buy a basic Linux-based Asus eee PC for less than half its $829 price) but it’s well-equipped, with stuff like a decently -sized hard drive, 2GB of RAM, Bluetooth, a long-life battery, Gigabit Ethernet, and a large-for-a-netbook keyboard that resists spills (HP aims the Mini-Note at students).

Here’s a T-Grid comparing it to the MacBook Pro configuration I own, which weighs twice as much and costs close to three times the Mini-Note’s price–probably the only time you’ll ever see these radically different computers head to head:

The notebooks
HP Mini-Note
Apple MacBook Pro
Windows XP
OS X (and Vista and XP when I need them)
$829 (not including available $100 rebate)
1.6-GHz Via C7-M
2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Hard drive
Optical drive
SuperDrive DVD burner
Screen size, resolution, graphics
8.9-inch; 1280 by 768; Via Chrome 9 integrated
15.4-inch; 1400 by 900; Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT with 256MB of RAM
Size and weight
1.05″h by 10″w by 6.5″d
1″h by 14.1″w by 9.6″d; 5.4 lbs.
Battery life (advertised)
4.5 hours
“5 hours wireless productivity”
2 USB 2.0; VGA; microphone; headphone
2 USB 2.0; 1 FireWire 400; 1 FireWire 800; Mini-DVI; optical audio in; optical audio out
Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11 a/b/g; Bluetooth
Gigabit Ethernet; 802.11 a/b/g/n; Bluetooth
Touchpad size (diagonal)

So how has life been with the Mini-Note? A few notes:

Performance: The Mini-Note is, by design, a basic computer, with a basic Via CPU. I’m not sure if I’d want to throw Photoshop at it. But it runs Firefox well enough. I’ve been opening up scads of windows at once–WordPress, Meebo, Polldaddy, Twitter, Picnik, two instances of Gmail and more–and it does seem like it may get a little sluggish at times. But I’m not positive about that and want to spend more time with it before coming to any conclusions.

Input: Like I said, the Mini-Note’s keyboard isn’t too small–it’s only about half an inch narrower than that of the much wider MacBook Pro. I feel like I’m angling my hands in a bit when I type, but I’ll bet I’m just learning to adapt to it, since I was happy for years with small keyboards in the past. The touchpad is really small, but the main issue I’m having with it is that the mouse buttons flank it rather than sitting below it. If I used the Mini-Note permanently, I might do something I usually don’t do with notebooks: invest in an undersized mouse.

Screen size: I’ve definitely grown used to having a reasonably roomy screen like the one on the MacBook Pro. Or maybe my eyeballs have aged more than I realized over the past few years. My biggest issue with the Mini-Note at first was dealing with type size. Then I remembered that Firefox has a feature I almost never use: Zoom. I magnified everything a bit, and am no longer squinting. It’s not a perfect solution–a few sites I use have layouts that don’t quite work–but it’s close enough.

Portability: The Mini-Note is small and light–a laptop you can carry anywhere without giving it much thought. Operation Foxbook hasn’t involved any airplane trips, but this machine would work fine in a coach seat; I sometimes have to angle the MacBook Pro out into the aisle to work on it. (Someday, a flight attendent will whip by with the drink cart and put a dent in it, I’m sure.)

Software: One of the biggest differences between the Mini-Note and the MacBook Pro is their operating systems. But for the purposes of Operation Foxbook, it doesn’t matter much at all. I’m living in Firefox, and it’s nearly identical in both OSes.

The bottom line: Actually, I want more time with Operation Foxbook and the Mini-Note before I come to one. I know I like the Mini-Note for what it is; I also know that there are things about the MacBook Pro that I’ll enjoy having back when the experiment is over.

Stay tuned for more Operation Foxbook updates over the weekend. This isn’t going to be a long-term project–I borrowed the Mini-Note from HP, and need to send it back. But I’ve got more stuff to try, and more thoughts to share, before I wind things up.

Price: I mentioned the Mini-Note isn’t much more than a third the price of the MacBook Pro, right?


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Michael Anderson Says:

    Very nice article – on my desk at home I have a new Macbook Pro (the high-spec one with 512MB video RAM) and also the same HP2133 but with Vista. I love both of them, but the performance differential is staggering …

  2. Xkakabch Says:

    Ei7gnV comment2 ,

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