Figure 5 shows the Mini 2140 side-by-side with my "reference" travel notebook, the Fujitsu P7120. I lined up the screens so that you can see that the HP is noticeably shorter than the Fujitsu. This is the primary cause for the third disappointment, the trackpad and side-mounted mouse buttons.
Figure 5: Fujitsu P7120 and HP Mini 2140 side by side
You're probably tired of listening to me
bitch complain about netbook trackpads, but here I go again. If the too-short screen wasn't enough to kill the deal, the too-small trackpad sealed it. It's small, it's cramped, it's twitchy and even "sticky" for some reason, catching my fingertip from time to time as I "moused".
I initially thought I was going to be able to get used to the side-mounted mouse buttons. After all they were nice and big and had good clickability. But I got a good hand cramp after only a couple of hours, most likely from the pinched thumb and forefinger position that I found myself using.
My last complaint (I think) is that the combination of short body and tall six-cell battery pack tilts the keyboard too much for comfortable typing, at least to my taste. Even though the tilt is exactly the same as my main Dell keyboard, for some reason it didn't feel right on the 2140.
Figure 6 is taken from the system specs and shows all the Mini 2140's ports, controls and indicators. There are only two USB 2.0 ports, probably to make room for the ExpressCard/54 slot. Kudos to HP for making the SD slot a normal push-push full-depth slot so that you don't worry about losing an SD card should you choose to keep one inserted.
Figure 6: Mini 2140 Ports, indicators, switches
As noted earlier, about the only button missing is one to make it easy to switch between normal an power save modes. That's too bad, because battery life is pretty good. My test consisted of setting the Power mode to Max Battery, screen to half brightness and always on and streaming web radio via WiFi and I got 6 hours and 35 minutes from full charge to shutdown with 2% power remaining.
In the few minutes that I was able to spend with the 2140 at CES, I just loved loved loved its so-darned-near-to-full-sized keyboard that I came as close to gushing about a product as I ever have. But as I have already
complained noted, with extended use, the love was not so much. But Figure 7 is the obligatory keyboard shot anyway.
Figure 7: Mini 2140 Keyboard
Despite my disappointment, however, I still think this is the best keyboard in any netbook. And I think the fact that Dell has essentially copied it in its Mini 10 is proof enough.
A few other things worth mentioning:
- Sound from the speakers mounted out of sight below the screen was surprisingly good. Much better than the tinny noise that comes out of my Fujitsu and louder than the Dell Mini 12
- The screen seemed grainy, especially with reduced backlight settings.
- There is a fan that I heard occasionally spin up and run quietly, but not annoyingly so.
- The 1 GB of RAM is in a single SODIMM slot. So you can upgrade to 2 GB. Both the RAM and hard drive are accessed by removing the keyboard.
- The system goes to sleep or hibernation when you close the screen. But it doesn't wake up again when you open the lid.
As you know from the first paragraph, the 2140 is going back. And I won't be re-ordering it once the higher-resolution 1366 x 768 px screen starts shipping sometime later this year. My experience with the Fujitsu P7120 has taught me that 1280 x 768 is eye-straining enough in a 10.5" diagonal format. So I know that I'm not going to like higher resolution in an even smaller screen. And then there are still the awful trackpad / mouse buttons.
Finally, for the record, I think the trend to 16:9 format screens in netbooks is a mistake, unless your primary application is watching video. Unless you want to be futzing with browser zoom settings, stick with netbooks with at least 600 vertical pixels. Which means I won't be looking at the Dell Mini 10 either.