Little Laptops Lacking Luster
Oh cruel computer industry, must you tease me so?
For the third time this year, I've tested a laptop that I thought might be the perfect reporter's companion for that next trek to CES -- and for the third time, I've found it flawed in too many, seemingly easily, avoidable ways. I'm getting tired of coming to the same conclusion so often.
The latest offender, or perhaps victim, is HP's 2133 Mini-Note, a $499-and-up subcompact model.
The frustrating thing is, when you combine the Mini-Note with the Asus Eee PC I reviewed at the start of January, you'd have a pretty darn good ultralight/ultracheap/ultrasmall laptop. Take the Mini-Note's keyboard, and add the Eee's touchpad. Keep the Mini-Note's screen, but go with the Eee's quiet, cool performance. And so on.
Going by its specifications, Asus's new Eee PC 900 satisfies some of this wish list, but I don't know if its software is any better than the too-simplistic implementation of Linux on the first Eee model.
Oh, yeah: software. That. I would really like to know what on Earth HP was thinking when it picked Novell's woeful SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop for the Mini-Note. This is one of the worst distributions of this open-source operating system that I've seen in years -- it had me repeatedly spluttering in exasperation yesterday about its cryptic dialogs, ill-chosen defaults and apparently infinite array of control panels. As I say in today's podcast (MP3), when you see "Enterprise" in a product's name, you're usually safe to assume it means "Need an IT department to run this."
Why couldn't HP have thrown a copy of Ubuntu on the Mini-Note instead? It's made for use by normal human beings and lives up to that ideal far better than SUSE (see my review from 2006; I plan on covering the new 8.04 release here soon). If I have time, I'll try to throw a copy on the Mini-Note myself before I have to ship it back to HP.
With HP's other alternatives being Windows Vista -- far too much operating system for such a low-powered machine -- and the obsolete Windows XP, it's a lose-lose situation all around.
Or am I being too picky here? Have you picked up a Mini-Note? Which operating system did you go with, and how is that working out for you?
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