It was only a matter of time before the major laptop manufacturers jumped on the Asus Eee PC's low-price, diminutive bandwagon. We've already seen quite a few
rip offs alternatives, but the most interesting to date is the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC. Like the Eee PC, it's small, portable and affordable, but it also has the bonus of being easy to use.
The Windows Vista version is available to buy for around £415, while the Linux version is available for around £360.
The 2133 is undoubtedly the most attractive of all the laptops in its class and has the look and feel of a far more expensive device. The brushed aluminium lid and curvy magnesium alloy chassis make a welcome change from the toy-like Eee PC and its various rivals. Don't be surprised if your colleagues, fellow commuters and potential muggers can't take their eyes -- and fingers -- off it.
It's not all peaches and gravy, though. The 2133 measures 165 by 33 by 255mm, making it slightly wider than an Eee PC. It's also approximately 300g heavier at 1.3kg. While it's far from cumbersome, it's definitely eaten a few more pies than its Asus rival.
By making the 2133 bigger, HP has been able to incorporate a relatively large, spill-proof keyboard. This stretches all the way to the left and right edges of the chassis, allowing the keys to be significantly larger than those on the Eee PC. HP says the keyboard is 92 per cent of the size of a 'standard' laptop keyboard, but we'd say many of the keys are actually larger, and more comfortable than what you get on some bigger laptops.
Although HP gets it right with the keyboard, it doesn't follow suit with the mouse. The trackpad is extremely shallow, which means you'll need more vertical finger strokes than you would on a standard trackpad. The selector buttons are also a pain -- and they're in the wrong place. Instead of sitting below it, they're located on the left and right of the trackpad. This arrangement takes some time getting used to and we can't help but thinking HP should have also provided a nipple-style mouse as seen on many IBM laptops.
The 2133's display measures 8.9 inches diagonally, so it's the same size as the Eee PC 900. Still, it takes the upper hand by running at a native resolution of 1,280x768 pixels. Unfortunately, the bezel, which houses the integrated speakers, is quite large, meaning the 2133's screen appears smaller than it is. In fact, the smallness of the screen and the largeness of the keyboard make the whole thing look out of proportion -- like it's made up of two halves of different laptops.
Connectivity is adequate. On the left, there's a D-Sub VGA port, a USB port and mic and headphone jacks. The right side is home to Ethernet, a second USB port and ExpressCard and SD card readers. At the front, you'll find sliding switches for the power and wireless adaptors. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are standard equipment.