HP Mini 2140 Review

by Reads (121,826)

by Jerry Jackson

The low-cost ultraportable notebook or “netbook” market might have exploded in 2008, but HP plans to take the top spot in 2009 with the all new Mini 2140. This business-grade netbook features a 10.1-inch screen, a remarkably large keyboard, a high capacity hard drive, and plenty of impressive specs. Did HP learn from the mistakes of the past? Is the Mini 2140 this year’s ultimate road warrior machine? Keep reading to discover the answers.

Our pre-production HP Mini 2140 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 (1024 x 576) 
  • 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) 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: 2.4 lb with 3-cell battery and hard drive, 2.93 lb with 6-cell battery and hard drive (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 starts from as little as $499 for the base configuration.

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

Compared to the screens on other netbooks with 10-inch screens, the screen on the HP Mini 2140 is a bit of a mixed blessing. On one hand, the screen is nice and large with bright colors and good contrast. The screen doesn’t offer wide viewing angles so people sitting around you won’t have the best view of your screen. However, the biggest annoyance with the screen is the meager resolution of 1024 x 576 in the base configuration. This is actually lower resolution than the 8.9-inch screen used on last year’s Mini-note 2133 which featured a 1280 x 768 resolution. The lower resolution on the Mini 2140 makes it easier to read small text, but the tradeoff is you can’t fit as much text on the screen at one time. This means you have to scroll up and down more when viewing websites and some software menus might not fit on the screen as they should (since many software designers assume a modern computer screen has at least 600 pixels worth of vertical resolution.

Beyond the limited resolution the only additional issue that caused concern with the screen on the Mini 2140 was the use of an additional protective layer of glossy plastic over the screen. While this extra layer of plastic helps protect the display, the unfortunate side effect is significant reflection. We’re not talking about a typical glossy screen you might have seen on notebooks prior to 2008. We’re talking about a screen with a completely separate glossy layer applied over (and in front of) the actual display surface.

The reflections on the screen aren’t noticeable at all in a dark room, but most people don’t use their notebooks in the dark unless they’re just watching movies. If you aren’t sensitive to reflections then the screen is beautiful when viewed from straight ahead.

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
HP Mini 2140 (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz) 138.812 seconds
LG X110 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 124.609 seconds
ASUS N10 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 126.047 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 1000HA (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 117.577 seconds
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 127.172 seconds
Acer Aspire One (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz)  125.812 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 901 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 123.437 seconds
MSI Wind (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz) 124.656 seconds  
ASUS Eee PC 900 (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 900MHz) 203.734 seconds
HP 2133 Mini-Note (Via CV7-M ULV @ 1.6GHz) 168.697 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 4G (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 630MHz) 289.156 seconds
ASUS Eee PC 4G (Intel Celeron M ULV @ 900MHz) 200.968 seconds
Everex CloudBook (VIA C7-M ULV @ 1.2GHz) 248.705 seconds
Fujitsu U810 Tablet PC (Intel A110 @ 800MHz) 209.980 seconds
Sony VAIO VGN-G11XN/B (Core Solo U1500 @ 1.33GHz) 124.581 seconds
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.2GHz) 76.240 seconds
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile @ 1.6GHz) 231.714 seconds

 

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

Notebook PCMark05 Score
HP Mini 2140 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,489 PCMarks
LG X110 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,463 PCMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,531 PCMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,851 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HA (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,527 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 1,446 PCMarks
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950)  1,555 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 901 (1.60GHz Intel Atom)  746 PCMarks
MSI Wind (1.60GHz Intel Atom)  N/A
ASUS Eee PC 900 (900MHz Intel Celeron M ULV) 1,172 PCMarks
HP 2133 Mini-Note (1.6GHz VIA C7-M ULV) 801 PCMarks
HTC Shift (800MHz Intel A110) 891 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 4G (630MHz Intel Celeron M ULV) 908 PCMarks
ASUS Eee PC 4G (900MHz Intel Celeron M ULV) 1,132 PCMarks
Everex CloudBook (1.2GHz VIA C7-M ULV) 612 PCMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600) 2,446 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook P7230 (1.2GHz Intel Core Solo U1400) 1,152 PCMarks
Sony VAIO VGN-G11XN/B (1.33GHz Core Solo U1500) 1,554 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R500 (1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600) 1,839 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores indicate better performance):

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
HP Mini 2140 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 118 3DMarks
LG X110 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 81 3DMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 73 3DMarks
ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB) 1,417 3DMarks
ASUS Eee PC 1000HA (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 95 3DMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) N/A
Acer Aspire One (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950) 122 3DMarks
HP dv2500t (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB) 1,055 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100) 532 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks

 

HDTune hard drive performance results:

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 to 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

Overall, the HP Mini 2140 did a reasonable job in terms of power management. With the Mini 2140 connected to a Wi-Fi network and browsing the web with the display at about 80 percent brightness, we obtained 2 hours and 21 minutes of battery life with the standard 3-cell battery. Using the same settings we obtained 4 hours and 15 minutes of battery life with the 6-cell extended life battery.

Bottom line, the Mini 2140 makes an excellent mobile business companion with the extended life battery. The only possible negative to using the extended life battery is that the larger 6-cell battery sticks out from the bottom of the notebook adding both size and weight. However, this also has the advantage of providing a more ergonomic angle to the keyboard for typing.

Conclusion

The HP Mini 2140 proves HP can make a serious netbook for business professionals and students alike. Unfortunately for HP, the amazing design and solid range of features are diminished by a low-resolution screen. That said, there is a silver lining to this stormy cloud. HP informs us that the 2140 will be offered with a higher resolution screen (1366 x 768) later in 2009 for a modest price increase, and we’re glad to hear that.

Last year after we reviewed the HP Mini-note 2133 we said, “If HP decides to replace the VIA processors with the new Intel Atom processors or alternative processors from Intel, the Mini-Note would become the undisputed champion of the subnotebook market.” The truth is the Mini 2140 comes very, very close. If HP hadn’t lowered the resolution of the screen in the base configuration of the new Mini 2140 this netbook would easily be an Editor’s Choice.

As it stands now, if you’re willing to put up with the lower resolution screen the Mini 2140 is probably the best netbook on the market. However, if you’re willing to wait for HP to offer a higher resolution screen later this year you will be even happier.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality (BEST in class)
  • Great keyboard (BEST in class)
  • ExpressCard slot offers fantastic expansion possibilities
  • Multiple configuration options

Cons

  • Base configuration has low-resolution screen
  • Strange location for touchpad buttons
  • Screen is too reflective due to second glossy protective layer


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