HP Mini 311 — Design

Moving on to our pictorial overview, here's our gallery of the HP Mini 311 along with the included accessories.

Gallery: HP Mini 311

The HP Mini 311 is available in either a black or white swirl pattern. We received the black version, and the white casing is an extra $20. If we were purchasing this for ourselves, we'd be inclined to go with the white model, simply because it's not as likely to show fingerprints as the black casing — and the black model definitely picks up fingerprints, with the typical glossy plastic finish found on many laptops these days. Thankfully, the palm rest and keyboard are silver instead of black and they don't have a glossy finish, so they don't show smudges very much at all by comparison. The LCD is also glossy (reflective), but we really didn't expect anything else considering the last time we saw a matte LCD in a laptop was several years back. (Yes, I know, a few companies like Apple still offer it as an option on higher end notebooks.) The LCD also has a low contrast ratio, similar to most other budget laptops/netbooks.

While the overall appearance is good, the design and construction warrant a few criticisms. For one, the placement of the touchpad with the buttons on the edge of the chassis is not something we like. Others may disagree, but the button placement in particular just wasn't something that we got used to during the course of testing. It's not a horrible touchpad by any means, but we've seen better. The touchpad also lacks gestures/multi-touch support, though it does include a vertical scrollbar along the right.

Like the touchpad, we also had concerns with the keyboard. The feel of the keys just isn't very good, with several wobbly keys on our test unit. (And this is actually the second test unit; the first one had a space bar that didn't work properly to the point where I asked NVIDIA to send a different unit!) The buttons on the keyboard and touchpad just don't have a precise fit in the casing. Over time, we expect that the keys would become even looser. I ran through some typing tests and definitely couldn't reach my normal ~60 WPM on the Mini 311; I managed 53 WPM and accuracy dropped from nearly 100% to around 95%. That's not a huge decrease, but comfort also comes into play; simply put, if you care about keyboard quality you should definitely think twice before purchasing the HP Mini 311 — or at least try it out in person.

Our overall impression of the HP Mini 311 is that it has a very good set of features, but the design and construction are lacking. If it were priced lower, we would be more forgiving, but the base model is priced about $100 higher than competing netbooks that don't use the NVIDIA ION chipset. The improved performance in certain tasks is good, but for this price we would like to see a better LCD (higher contrast ratio if nothing else), and the keyboard definitely needs some reworking. With a few minor upgrades, the price is very close to laptops like the Acer Timeline series with CULV processors and GMA 4500MHD graphics. Unlike the GMA 950 in most netbooks, the 4500MHD has video decoding support and the CPUs are generally more than twice as fast as the Atom offerings.

HP Mini 311 — Specifications Test Setup
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  • takbal - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - link

    I turned the net upside down to find some comparisons in gaming with Acer AS1410 vs ION. None found, although there are plenty of videos on youtube about the ION-powered Samsung N510, showing games which look perfectly playable, while there are barely any for the 1410 or the 1810.

    And then came the surprise: the only comparable benchmarks I found were for Doom 3, where the N510 is said to have around 28 FPS while the 1810 had about 12 FPS, although it was with the SU3500 CPU. N510 costs £380 here while the Acer 1810TZ costs £430. Twice the performance is pretty good for less the price, isn't?

    So whatever the specs on paper, probably the reality is that GPU-limited games are perfectly playable on ION, and having a CPU 2x-2.5x stronger usually counts less than having a stronger GPU. It would be nice to see clear and I hope you will do a fair heads-on comparison on games in that upcoming article.

    And exactly what does the 2x more powerful CPU helps? Video encoding is something I never do on the move. If I really-really need to, I can just simply remote into my quad i7, and I do it quicker than anything here. Actually, the review at http://www.rgbfilter.com/?p=1923">http://www.rgbfilter.com/?p=1923 says about the 1410:

    "When officially benchmarked, the Core Solo SU3500 is about 20 percent faster than an Atom N270 at 1.6GHz, but ‘real world’ it felt about the same."

    If I add to this that N510 has bluetooth, matte screen and a much better keyboard imho, until somebody shows strong arguments against, my vote is currently for the ION.
  • takbal - Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - link

    Some more found with 3DMark03. Sources:

    Acer 1410 SU3500: 1529
    Acer 1810T SU7300: 1543

    and the dual-cores seem to perform worse as they are lower clocked.

    Compare it the N510's result which is 3470, more than 2x better.

    You may hate Atom, but looks like that for gaming ION wins hands-down over current CULV platforms. For other purposes, I am fine until Atom can play all videos, run a text editor, office apps and remote desktop, which it does. Oh, and add decent Linux support, too.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 3, 2009 - link

    3DMark is NOT a game. At all. Sorry. I include is mostly because the earlier versions in particular are great "theoretical gaming" benchmarks -- they show what the GPU can do when CPU performance isn't much of a factor.

    The reality is that many games do a lot of work on the CPU. There are games that don't run acceptably on a 1.3GHz dual-core CPU (Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, Call of Duty World at War...) and that CPU is still more than twice as fast as Atom. As you can imagine, that makes Atom very questionable on all but the least demanding games, even when paired with ION.
  • CZroe - Friday, November 27, 2009 - link

    "The HP Mini 311 is one of the first netbooks to ship with NVIDIA's ION platform. The question everyone's... "


    "The question everone's [asking]" is, where is the question? ;)

    This is gettting ridiculous. Anandtech has had truncated opening statements for as long as I can remember with no continuation inside the article. If you can't fix it, stop typing up opening statements that don't fit!
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 27, 2009 - link

    You'd need to look at the "Mobile" tab to get the full abstract. Here it is:

    The HP Mini 311 is one of the first netbooks to ship with NVIDIA's ION platform. The question everyone's asking is: does ION improve the netbook experience? The answer is yes, but there are other questions we still need to address.
  • rwrentf - Friday, November 27, 2009 - link

    I don't know why the review sites seem to be ignoring this (I can't find a decent review anywhere), but what about the HP Pavilion dm3z? The specs I've been able to find specify a 4-5 hour battery life, 13.3" display, Radeon 4330 graphics (on the high end, but low end is still Radeon HD 3200), 7200rpm hard drive options, and a dual core AMD Athlon X2 Neo processor. There's a sweet system for $650 AR at the egg (just search for dm3 - 4GB, 320GB 7200rpm, and Radeon 3200 graphics). If you're already talking about close to $500 for this HP netbook, it's not a lot more, and it sounds like it would be enough for me to retire my real notebook. Please review it if possible.
  • rwrentf - Friday, November 27, 2009 - link

    If you go to Amazon you can get just about the same machine (with Windows 7 home) for $550
  • noquarter - Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - link

    I'm curious to how well these Ion netbooks handle popular MMO's, specifically World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online, any chance to test those and maybe Eve?
  • zxc367 - Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - link

    i want gigabit ethernet too! 100bit fails!
  • Roy2001 - Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - link

    And what's the point to watch HD movies on a netbook? 18fps with 800x600 and lowest quaility for game, that's a joke. 18fps == 0fps.

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