The Gadgets Page

October 7, 2008

Review: HP 2133 “Mini” Laptop

Filed under: Computers and Peripherals — Christy Strebe @ 5:00 am

HP 2133-KX870AT 8.9-inch Mini-Note PC at Amazon.comMini-laptops are finally coming into their own, as small hardware has finally become powerful enough to run typical business applications. The Macbook Air, the Sony TZ series, and the new HP Mini typify mini notebooks. The Air and the TZ are diminutive, to be sure, but they’re no less expensive than a full-sized laptop. That seems a bit unfair, considering that you actually get less.

The HP Mini, on the other hand, only costs $600—you can get three of them for the price of a Macbook Air.

The best thing about the Mini, beyond the fact that it deftly runs Microsoft Office, is the full pitch keyboard. While it’s not a full sized keyboard, the keys are the same size as a normal desktop, making the computer a true “note book”—you can actually type at full speed, despite the diminutive size. Comparable Ultramobile PCs such as the Samsung Q1 are useless for typing.


The “Out Of the Box Experience” for Vista computers absolutely sucks, but the Mini is better than most in that it isn’t bloated with crapware—in fact, there is no trial-ware or unnecessary software installed at all except for a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office and the AOL toolbar for Internet Explorer. I have to give HP props for putting user experience over bloatware revenue. Expect the computer to take about two hours from the time you start it up until it’s ready to use.

The HP Mini ships with Windows Vista Home Basic, the least expensive version of Vista which is no better or worse than XP Home in my opinion. Vista Home Basic lacks the 3D “Aero” 3D desktop enhancements, Windows Media Center, backup and recovery tools, and Remote Desktop. All of those things are either pointless or pretty easy to rectify with free software such as iTunes and VNC.


The computer comes with 2GB of RAM—a saving grace for a computer with a relatively slow processor. Coupled with a fast hard disk, the computer is quite snappy and more than sufficient for typical applications. The Windows Experience index comes in at 1.7 because of the processor, but the computer doesn’t feel slow at all—it’s quite a bit better performing than my Sony UX-390, which has a faster processor but half the RAM. I installed Vista Ultimate on the machine to see whether it could handle Aero, and it does so quite handily, with no performance related artifacts (other than that the task manager reports that the CPU is usually quite busy). I installed Alcohol 52% and used an ISO image of Vista Ultimate on an Express Card Flash drive to perform the Vista upgrade, which worked just fine. Also unique in the small notebook range is the gigabit network adapter, which makes the computer ideal for dedicated use as a network sniffer, the purpose to which mine will be put. This is the least expensive laptop with a gigabit network adapter on the market at the time of this writing. I don’t expect that it will be able to capture at full gigabit speed (under Windows), but it should be considerably better than a 100Mb/sec adapter.

The screen’s native resolution is 1024 x 600, a widescreen format. Its about as small as a screen could be for Office applications without being annoying.

The laptop shell is aluminum, which helps dissipate heat (and the laptop does get hot under a full load). The computer does not come with a CD or DVD-ROM drive—you’ll have to use an external USB DVD-ROM drive. The computer comes with a full set of ports: ExpressCard 54, SD flash, VGA, gigabit Ethernet, Wifi b/g, a webcam, and headphone and microphone jacks. The only significant missing interface is Bluetooth.


In all, it’s the best $600 I’ve ever spent for a computer, and I highly recommend it to anyone for whom portability is important and an internal CD/DVD drive is not necessary.


  1. Matthew, great post. I just picked up my Mini about a week ago, have put my corporate office ’07, Cisco VPN and Softphone, Bluetooth to GPS, Hands-free headset and mouse. Fits great in the console of my truck. Just picked up today Vista Ultimate and tried twice over 6 hours to do the upgrade. Did MS updates and patches first,.. but the install eventually failed and went to roll-back both times. Did I miss something? Do I need to build my recovery disks, wipe with a fresh install, then go get my drivers and software? Your post said you did an upgrade. Oh,.. I’m installing from a USB dvd drive. I could use a fresh thought here. Thanks,.. Scott Kinslow

    Comment by Scott Kinslow — October 30, 2008 @ 12:56 am

  2. Hi Scott,

    I’m afraid I just didn’t have any trouble with it at all using the method I described (Virtual CD from Alcohol 52% and the Vista Ultimate ISO file stored on a USB connected flash drive. I started the upgrade from within Vista Basic rather than booting the DVD–perhaps that’s the difference? Drivers would all be retained using an upgrade methodology.

    Comment by Matthew — October 31, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  3. Matthew and Scott, you guys are having better luck than me. I get a failure trying to load Cisco vpn on my HP Mini. It’s a day old and imperative that the vpn IPSEC at least works. I’ve tried ver 4.6 ver 5.0 and attempted with IE 7 to load the active x for sslvpn. All failed.

    Any ideas??

    Comment by Rick — March 7, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

  4. Rick–I’ve never met an IPSEec VPN client that didn’t suck. I doubt the problems you’re having really have anything to do with the hardware. It sounds like you need to make a call to Cisco tech support or your IT folks at work. Is the Cisco VPN client certified to work with Vista Home Basic? I know it shouldn’t matter, but it often does.

    Comment by matthew — March 7, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  5. Good Point on certified for vista home basic. I’ll corner the IT folks next week and see what the deal is is seems to go along fine until it attempts to load the Network Deterministic Enhancer, the errors out with “add plugin failed”. They will have seen that before, thanks for the help.. Rick

    Comment by Rick — March 8, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  6. I have a very basic question: Which is better for a 12-year-old boy — a laptop, or a mini? My husband and I would like to buy one or the other for our son for Christmas. We’re hoping to spend around $500 or less, if possible. Any advice you can offer will be much appreciated. Thanks!

    Comment by Susan — October 30, 2009 @ 6:58 am

  7. Hi Susan–where mini’s really lack is in the graphics coprocessor. They universally use very low-end chips that don’t do 3D very well. If your son has any interest in video games, you should pay special attention to the video processor. Also, most games require the CD rom to be in the drive, and mini’s don’t have an optical drive. I guess I’d recommend a full laptop for those reasons.

    Comment by Matthew — October 30, 2009 @ 10:48 am

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