HP Mini 2140 (HD Update) Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (51,105)
  • Pros

    • Excellent keyboard
    • Very good extended battery life
    • Higher resolution
  • Cons

    • Glossy, reflective screen
    • Second screen layer traps dust

by Jerry Jackson and Kevin O’Brien

With more companies entering the netbook market the one thing that is starting to set different models apart is the quality of the keyboards. The HP Mini 2140 offers an expansive keyboard that is comfortable to type on and is the closest you can get to a full-size keyboard on a 10” netbook right now. In this review we take a look at the Mini 2140 again, this time with the higher resolution screen option.

Editor’s Note: Since the HP Mini 2140 with high-resolution screen is virtually identical to the Mini 2140 with the lower resolution screen, much of the text in this review is borrowed from our last review of the Mini 2140. If you just want to see what’s new, skip ahead to the sections on the Screen and Battery.

Our HP Mini 2140 HD features the following specifications:

  • Operating System: Genuine Windows XP (Vista or SuSE Linux also available)
  • Processor: Intel Atom N270 Processor 1.60GHz (512 KB L2 cache, 533 MHz FSB)
  • Memory: 1GB DDR2 SDRAM, 800MHz, one SODIMM memory slot, supports up to 2GB
  • Internal Storage: 160GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD with HP 3D DriveGuard (also available with 160GB 7200 rpm SATA with HP 3D DriveGuard or 80GB Solid State Drive)
  • Display: 10.1-inch diagonal 16:9 HP Illumi-Lite LED HD display (1366 x 768 resolution) 
  • Graphics: Intel GMA 950
  • Wireless: Broadcom 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.0, HP Wireless Assistant
  • Expansion slots: (1) ExpressCard/54 slot, Secure Digital (SD/SDHC) slot
  • Ports and connectors: (2) USB 2.0 ports, VGA, power connector, RJ-45/Ethernet (Gigabit), stereo headphone/line out, stereo microphone in, VGA webcam
  • Input device: 92% full-sized keyboard, touchpad with scroll zone
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.05 (at front) x 10.3 x 6.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.96 lb with 6-cell battery (not including weight of AC adapter).
  • Power: 6-cell (55 WHr) or 3-cell (28 WHr) Lithium-Ion battery, 65W HP Smart AC Adapter with HP Fast Charge
  • Warranty: One-year standard parts and labor warranty, pick-up or carry-in, and toll-free 7 x 24 hardware technical phone support.

Pricing for the HP Mini 2140 with higher resolution screen starts at $479.

Build and Design
The HP Mini 2140, like last year’s Mini-note 2133, has a great design. Everyone in our office agrees that this ultra-mobile laptop has a solid chassis and attractive look. The brushed aluminum and plastic casing is durable and hides fingerprints well. It also keeps the Mini 2140 lightweight; only weighing in around 2.4 lbs as configured. The sleek business appeal feels at home in the corporate world, but the Mini 2140 is targeted toward students as well. One look at this machine and you can see why. Who wouldn’t want an inexpensive mini notebook to toss in a backpack between classes, especially one that pretty much has a full-size keyboard?

HP was smart to keep the design of the 2140 mostly unchanged from the 2133. Nothing about the Mini 2140 feels cheap. The chassis is solid thanks to a combination of aluminum, plastic, and a magnesium alloy support structure inside. The larger 10.1″ display is beautiful and easy to read indoors despite putting off some significant glare outdoors because of the protective coating. The Mini 2140 also comes with enough ports and storage capacity (thanks to the 160GB hard drive) that you might even consider using this business-grade netbook as your primary computer.

As I mentioned above, the keyboard is almost full size. It is 92% of a full sized keyboard, which is quite impressive for such a small form factor. It is much more comfortable to type on compared to the keyboards found on most 10-inch netbooks. However, the touchpad can be awkward since the placement of the right and left touchpad buttons are on the right and left sides rather than beneath the touchpad. As you can see from the pictures in this review the Mini 2140 also has neat power and Wi-Fi switches that light up and change from blue when on to orange when off.

Screen
HP uses a LG LP101WH1 LED-backlit panel under the glossy plastic cover. The display actually has a matte finish, which probably helps lessen reflections between the panel and outer cover. HP lists this panel as having a 200 nit brightness rating and a 400:1 contrast ratio. These figures are in line with what we observed in our testing. The screen brightness was in line with most full-size notebooks, but didn’t appear as bright as other netbooks. I think part of this is the Infinity cover and the higher resolution panel. Colors were bright and vibrant, making most images “pop” out at you from the display. Outside of a few high-end workstations I think netbooks offer some of the best color saturation levels. Vertical viewing angles were above average, with minimal color distortion at viewing above or below the optimal viewing angle. Horizontal viewing angles are better with colors staying accurate at wide viewing angles; although as the screen appears darker, reflections off the Infinity cover start to overpower the display. HP’s technical specification lists the official viewing angles at +/- 30 degrees horizontal and +/- 10 degrees vertical.

The higher resolution display is a huge benefit compared to the standard 1024×576 screen option for one reason; menus in Windows are almost all designed for a minimum height 600 pixels. It is a pain having to drag menus above the screen to find a cancel or confirm button. Other added benefits might include viewing a document and a webpage at the same time or editing large photos. Just be aware that if you have a hard time viewing small text on a screen, the HD display might not be the right option for you.

Viewing outside would be very difficult unless it was very late in the day, or it was overcast and you were under the shade of a tree. The added reflections from the additional screen cover make viewing in bright conditions difficult, making you change your position often to find a new sweet spot where a light isn’t bouncing off the screen into your face. Another problem we saw first-hand with the screen cover is its ability to capture dust between the layers. Some specs of dust were big enough to cast shadows on the display where the smaller ones just looked like white dots as they reflected light from overhead. On a normal screen dust is easily removed with a soft cloth, where this design requires full disassembly to carefully remove any dust without introducing more. In the picture below all the white specs of dust are ones trapped beneath the glossy surface. We tried cleaning the dust out ourselves using a cloth and compressed air, which took care of the big pieces, but still left a lot of small specks behind.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the Mini 2140 is simply fantastic. Last year we said the keyboard on the Mini-note 2133 “is the best keyboard we’ve seen on a notebook this small.” That statement holds true for the new Mini 2140 as well. Sure, you can find better keyboards on larger notebooks, but HP currently has the best keyboard we’ve tested on 10-inch and smaller netbooks. The keys have the silver “HP DuraKeys” finish that makes them resist dirt and makes the letters printed on the keys last longer over time. The surface of the keys are also smooth to the touch.

Regardless, the most important thing to remember about this section of the review is that the Mini 2140 has the biggest and best keyboard you will find on any netbook or notebook with a 10-inch screen. It is literally almost a full-sized keyboard, so writing papers for school or reports for work is a breeze. You won’t see spelling errors due to hitting the wrong keys as often as you might with the tiny keys on most netbooks. I didn’t notice any signs of keyboard flex and really liked that most of the keys were full sized except a few. The tilde (~) key and the number “1″ key are smaller than the rest of the numbers, which was quite odd. The space bar was also a little smaller than normal.

As mentioned previously, most people find using the touchpad on the Mini 2140 a little awkward. The right and left click buttons are what catch you off guard. The buttons are located on the sides of the touchpad and it’s easy to forget where they are located if you’re used to a regular touchpad. I would have liked the palm rest area to be a little bigger so the buttons could have been relocated below the touchpad like on standard notebooks and most netbooks. The button above the touchpad is a convenient feature that turns the touchpad off and makes it inactive when you are typing or using an external mouse.

Input and Output Ports
Every netbook on the market requires one minor compromise due to the ultra-mobile form factor: limited port selection. You simply cannot accommodate the standard array of ports you’ll find on larger notebooks in a computer this small. That said, HP did a remarkable job packing as many ports as possible into the Mini 2140. The complete list of ports includes:

  • One ExpressCard/54 slot
  • Secure Digital (SD/SDHC) card reader
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • VGA out
  • Power connector
  • RJ-45/Ethernet
  • Stereo headphone/line out
  • Stereo microphone/line in

Overall, the port selection is amazing for a notebook this size. However, we would have like to see one of the USB ports replaced with a combo USB/eSATA port. HP uses combo USB/eSATA ports on almost all of their larger notebooks and the combo port allows you to use either USB devices or eSATA devices such as high-speed external storage drives. Considering how easy it would have been to make one of the USB ports a combo port, we’re a little surprised HP didn’t do that.

Here is a quick tour around the HP Mini 2140:


Front view: Power switch, drive status light, Wi-Fi on/off switch.


Rear view: No ports here, just the hinges and battery.


Left side view: VGA out, heat vent, USB 2.0 port, microphone in, headphone out.


Right side view: ExpressCard/54 slot, SD card reader, USB 2.0 port, Ethernet, power connector, and security lock slot.

One additional thing worth mentioning regarding ports is that HP doesn’t offer built-in 3G WWAN (mobile broadband from a provider such as AT&T or Verizon) with the Mini 2140. If you want to stay connected to the internet via WWAN you have to use an adapter card in the ExpressCard slot or one of the USB ports. It’s sad to see that HP doesn’t offer the option considering that smaller netbooks like the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 offer built-in WWAN.

Performance and Benchmarks
If you’ve read our reviews of other netbooks that use the Intel Atom processors then you know that overall performance with the Intel Atom platform is very reasonable for most daily activities like web browsing, email, using Microsoft Office, listening to music, and even watching movies. You can even use photo editing software like Photoshop Elements or GIMP. That said, the Mini 2140 doesn’t make the ideal photo editing tool because of the low-resolution screen and the fact that the Atom processor is slower than a faster notebook or desktop when editing large image files. You can play some basic games on the Mini 2140, but don’t expect to play Crysis or Left 4 Dead at 60 frames per second … or at all.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.40GHz) 32.119 seconds
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240 seconds
HP Pavilion dv2 (AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 @ 1.60GHz)
103.521 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz) 114.749 seconds
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz) 123.281 seconds
Acer Aspire One (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz)  125.812 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 126.406 seconds
Samsung NC20 (VIA Nano ULV U2250 @ 1.30GHz) 173.968 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (2.40GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600, Intel X4500) 4,298 PCmarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 2,446 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.60GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB) 2,191 PCMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,851 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 1,839 PCMarks
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,555 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 1,535 PCMarks
Samsung NC20 (1.30GHz VIA Nano ULV U2250, VIA Chrome9 HC3) 1,441 PCMarks
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GM1 950) 1,437 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 comparison results against netbooks @ 1024 x 768 resolution:

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP Pavilion dv2 (1.60GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB)
1,520 3DMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,417 3DMarks
Samsung NC20 (1.30GHz VIA Nano ULV U2250, VIA Chrome9 HC3) 151 3DMarks
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GM1 950) 112 3DMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950) 92 3DMarks
Sony VAIO P (1.33GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 500, Windows Vista) 88 3DMarks

 

HDTune for the built-in hard drive:

Audio
The built-in speaker performance on the Mini 2140 was nice, but not as impressive as the superior speakers on last year’s HP Mini-note 2133. In order to accommodate the larger screen in the 2140, HP removed the large speakers next to the screen and used a pair of smaller speakers integrated into the chassis of the netbook. The end result is the speakers produce weak sound that’s good enough for basic web browsing and online chats but doesn’t provide a satisfying entertainment experience.

The best possible audio performance with this netbook comes via the use of external speakers or headphones. The audio output from the headphone jack is quite good and provides excellent, distortion-free sound for headphones or external speakers.

Heat and Noise
The ultra low voltage VIA processor in last year’s HP Mini-note 2133 generated far more heat than we typically expect from ultra low voltage processors. Temperatures on the new Mini 2140 are thankfully much, much more comfortable thanks to the use of the Intel Atom processor. Temperature readings taken from the outside of the aluminum and plastic chassis rarely spiked above 95 degrees Fahrenheit … compared to well above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the previous generation.

The cooling fan was usually running at low speed during our tests and rarely increased to full speed. Most of the time the fan can’t be heard even in a perfectly quiet office environment … unless you put your ear next to the fan exhaust.

Below are images indicating the temperature readings (listed in degrees Fahrenheit) taken inside our office where the ambient temperature was 74 degrees Fahrenheit:

Battery
Battery life with the 6-cell battery option was great for the average road warrior who needs to work on the go without wondering why they might plug in. In our test with the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and XP set to the laptop/portable power profile the system stayed on for 5 hours and 26 minutes. If battery life is all that you are concerned about the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE got 7 hours and 36 minutes on its extended battery, but doesn’t include a higher resolution screen option.

 

Conclusion
The HP Mini 2140 is a very solid netbook that offers an amazing keyboard instead of something condensed that might be difficult to type on for extended periods of time. It wooed us last time we reviewed it, and it gets the same response again now that it offers a higher resolution screen. The other alternatives at this time for a comparable resolution screen is turning to the Sony VAIO P, at the starting cost of $899, or the Dell Mini 10 for $484 for similar configuration. Our big complaint with this model is the glossy plastic layer over the display, which adds glare and created a trap for dust. This is one cosmetic change that might look great on paper and in pictures, but in real life becomes more trouble than it’s worth. Overall we were impressed with the excellent battery life, great build quality (except of the dust), and the starting price of $479 for the configuration we reviewed. If HP offered the Mini 2140 with a plain matte or glossy LCD, sans cover, this would be hands-down the best netbook money could buy. With the cover it is still an excellent netbook, but it loses some of its attractiveness.

Pros:

  • Excellent keyboard
  • Very good extended battery life
  • Higher resolution

Cons:

  • Glossy screen cover adds a lot of reflection
  • Second screen layer can trap a ton of dust


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