HP takes second stab at netbooks with the Mini 1000

A few months after Asus' Eee PC came out, HP got its foot in the door of the netbook market with the Mini-Note 2133. We liked the system's build quality, near-full-size keyboard, and ample screen resolution, but we weren't so crazy about its high price tag and somewhat underpowered Via C7 processor. More affordable and speedier Atom-based netbooks have since stolen the spotlight.

Today, HP is taking another stab at the netbook concept with the Mini 1000. While it initially targeted the education market with the Mini-Note 2133, HP is aiming the Mini 1000 squarely at consumers. That means sub-$400 prices, a choice of 8.9" or 10.2" displays with 1024x600 resolutions, and—of course—1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processors as standard. HP has nevertheless kept the Mini-Note's keyboard intact, and it's stuck pretty closely to the original design, down to the squished trackpad with buttons on either side. The Mini 1000 is a couple of millimeters thinner than its predecessor, though, and it weighs a lighter 2.25-2.4 lbs (1.01-1.08 kg) depending on the display size.

Aside from the ubiquitous Atom CPU, HP's Mini 1000 comes in Windows and Linux versions. The former has either 512MB or 1GB of RAM, while the latter can sport up to 2GB. Both versions also come with a choice of 60GB 4,200-RPM hard drives and 8GB or 16GB solid-state drives. (HP mentions that the SSD versions support an external Mini Mobile Drive accessory that adds 2-8GB of storage capacity and "sits flush against the HP Mini, so that is doesn't disrupt the sleek design.") Otherwise, expect your typical netbook features: 802.11g, optional Bluetooth, a 0.3-megapixel webcam, and a card reader.

Speaking of the Linux version, HP has followed in Asus' footsteps by rolling together its own custom Linux interface—Mobile Internet Experience. Essentially, MIE is Ubuntu Linux 8.04 with a simplified, task-centric shell that provides easy access to the web, multimedia content, basic applications, and so on. HP pre-loads MIE with OpenOffice.org, a Mozilla-based browser (not Firefox), instant-messaging software, Skype, and an e-mail client. The Windows flavor of the Mini 1000 just has plain old XP Home, though.

So, when can you get your hands on one of these? HP tells us the Windows-powered Mini 1000 should be available today for $400. The Linux version will follow at $380 in January, and a $700 designer model prettied up by Vivienne Tam will show up in mid-December. The $400 and $380 flavors will both have 8.9" displays and three-cell batteries—getting the bigger 10.2" panel will involve paying a $50 premium, and HP says six-cell batteries won't become available until January. Finally, HP intends to offer Mini 1000 netbooks with built-in 3G connectivity in December.

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