HP Mini 311 review – Netbook with basic gaming capabilities!

Sum and Substance:
Thumbs Up:

HD Ready display, well priced, capable of taking basic games.

Thumbs Down:

Touch pad is annoying, Nvidia Ion graphics doesn’t support Flash video, you have to pay $20 more if you opt for a white lid.

The Whiz Kid Speaks:

HP Mini 311 is 11.4 inches wide, 8 inches deep, 1.2 inches high, and weighs 3.3 lbs. The processor is Intel Atom N270 / 1.60 GHz and chipset NVidia nForce MCP79. The installed memory is 1 GB DDR3 SD RAM at 1066 MHz. The installed hard disk is 160 GB at 5400 rpm. Graphics processor is Nvidia Ion. Preinstalled OS is Microsoft Windows XP

Razzle Dazzle:

HP Mini 311’s chassis is mostly all dull. The exteriors are made of gray, generic plastic with either a white or black lid along with a swirl subtle pattern. The white model costs about $20 (we don’t know why) but on the bright side, the systems feels sturdy and there is no flex on the lid when it is pulled open and shut.

Inside Dope:

It seemed like things would be all smooth in the Netbook market but the war has just began with manufacturers bringing in faster low voltage processors and larger HD displays. All this is done to push the price beyond the standard $299-$399 range. We have had Sony’s HD Netbooks at $599 price range and we were looking forward to checking out the Mini 311 to see if it had anything different to offer. The Netbook features a bigger than standard 11.6 inch screen with Intel Atom N270 processor along with Windows XP and a gig of RAM. All this is typical for a Netbook that starts at $399. The model which we got in our labs for review had faster Intel Atom N280 processor, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi, option for white design on the lid and the cost of this computer is $494.

The real highlight on this Netbook is the presence of Nvidia Ion which is not a discrete GPU per se but it is still enough for playing HD videos and for some basic gaming. You won’t get anything other than that for the graphics card. For instance, GPUs don’t talk with Flash video services like Hulu yet, there is research going on for that. The Netbook is priced a bit high but it is justified by the high resolution and the better graphics technology.

HP Mini 311’s keyboard has keys that have a scalloped shape which we are used to seeing on HP Netbooks. We haven’t had an issue with these keys in the past but here the keys felt wiggly and loose while typing. Touch pad was not that impressive either. It is made of the same material as the wrist rest and our fingers didn’t feel that comfortable on it. Most touchpad have a sleek and distinct surface and there is a reason for that. We also cranked the pointed speed up in the control panel. Maybe the pointer speed was kept with the default Netbook resolution of 1,024×600 pixels in the mind. There are two separate mouse buttons beneath the touch pad unlike standard Netbooks but they felt insubstantial and cheap.

The screen is 11.6 inches big and has a resolution of 1,366×768 pixels. This is not the first Netbook to come with an HD resolution; we have seen this on computers like Asus Eee PC 1101 and Sony Vaio W. The extra real estate is really handy as you have to scroll less in applications like Web browser and Word. Once you use a Netbook with HD resolution, you will be reluctant to go back to the standard one. Our only complaint about the screen was that it was quite glossy and hence attracted a lot of reflections.

Assortments of ports and connections on the HP Mini 311 are standard for a $399 Netbook. There is Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi, but you will have to pay extra for it. You cannot customize this Netbook like Dell but you do get options for mobile broadband, networking and CPU. When we played non-graphic intensive applications, the performance of the Intel Atom N280 processor lived up to our expectations and it was close to what you’d get on other Netbooks. We don’t recommend Atom power Netbooks for tasks other than Web surfing, e-mails and basic office tasks. Keep your expectations realistic and you won’t be disappointed with the performance.

We loaded full fledged PC games on to HP Mini 311 and as expected, it quickly came down o n its heels. Despite the presence of the Nvidia Ion chip, this Netbook cannot take high end games. Call of Duty 4 was playable at 800×600 pixel resolution but there was a lot of stutter. But you can still get through a few rounds while waiting at a local airport. We would advise you to drive all the advanced settings down if you want playable frame rates on this Netbook.

When tested for battery life, the HP Mini 311 lived for about five hours and 20 minutes which is good for a Netbook. With such a big battery life, we would recommend this device for long trips or for watching videos.

Nitty Gritty:

HP Mini 311 has a big display and with HD resolution. We will recommend this because it is a bit better than standard Netbooks but also costs more. It can also take basic gaming.

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