The HP Mini 311 is Hewlett-Packards’ latest and largest iteration of the Atom-powered netbook. At the same time, this is the only netbook in the local market today that sports an NVidia ION LE chipset. See our full review below.
The HP Mini 311 went out with a design that crosses between the HP Mini 2140 and the Mini 110 — a glossy, black swirl lid and matte silver keyboard finish. It has a thicker base though that tapers into a bit thinner at the front end giving an impression that it’s slimmer than its predecessor.
In most respects, the Mini 311 has almost the same internal specs as the other previous mini-notes with the single exception of a souped up platform — an NVidia Ion LE, which includes the nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics with 512 dedicated memory. That, plus the DDR3 memory (the default 1GB is embedded and an extra DIMM slot can take an additional 1GB or 2GB stick).
The rest are pretty standard — an Intel Atom N280 1.66GHz, 160GB HDD, 1.3MP webcam, Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi b/g, card reader, USB ports with an added HDMI port for HD output. There’s a dedicated physical button for WiFi on the upper right side of the keyboard.
The system is pre-installed with Windows XP SP3 and while it’s very responsive and snappy, I have yet to check the system running Windows 7 (nVidia ION LE is made to be only compatible with XP but a hack is possible to make it run Windows 7 smoothly).
If there’s one thing I appreciate the most, it’s the screen real estate of the HP Mini 311 — the glossy screen is bright and crisp with a pretty nice resolution of 1366×768 pixels. You don’t have that nagging feeling you always get with most netbooks — small, cramp screen with incessant scrolling. The only drawback is that the glossy finish is prone to glaze in the outdoors.
With size comes comfort and the bigger form factor of the Mini 311 allows for a much more comfortable keyboard layout. It’s the same as the one in the Mini 2140 but you get a more spacious palm rest and a much bigger (like 50% more area than the Mini 2140) trackpad with separated left and right clickers. The trackpad’s got multi-touch features too.
The unit has a built-in 6-cell battery that’s fitted into the body so you don’t see any protrusion of any kind at the back which is nice. A single full charge gives me an average of 5 hours of normal use with WiFi on.
The Altec Lansing speakers are situated at the bottom part up front and span the entire width of the unit. The speakers have enough volume even for open movie playback. The black paint tends to get chipped off easily though. The 1.3MP webcam is decent and comes with a small pin light.
From experience with normal usage, I feel that the graphics outperforms the CPU so some of the noticeable lags could be attributed to the Atom rather than the GeForce 9400M (This is from experience with playing Flash games and running YouTube HD on a number of netbooks of varying configurations). Will do a separate entry on graphics benchmark, gaming and over-all system performance at the PCLabs.
For a suggested retail price of Php28,990, the HP Mini 311 seemed a bit on the expensive side but considering you also get an external DVD+RW out of the box (worth Php3-4k), I think it’s a worthy buy.