The mini laptops that were student based were the ones that formed the base for netbooks in the year 2007. It turned out to be the dream come true machine for the consumers who were longing for a budget priced and durable machines for kids in the United Kingdom. Now that this market is not dead and a never dying one, HP has acted quite smart and designed its latest offerings that embodies the above mentioned factors. This 100e netbook portable is designed for Kindergarten through grade 6. The subsidised price tag will not be available for the normal consumers, this offer is open only for school systems, but for those lucky students who get to place their hand on these PCs get a decent performance and a really long battery life for a very good value. Now, let us find out if it is a better choice than the other student based offerings available in the market or even the other budget mass-consumer models.
At the very first look, you might think that it might be an offering from Apple, we are sure HP has got some inspiration from the macbooks. This no nonsense design of the HP Mini 100e will also call to mind the similarly rugged Intel Classmate PC. HP has employed some rounded curves in the design, with gives the netbook an excellent aesthetic edge. Having dimensions at (H x W x D) 10.9 x 9.9 x 1.6” and weighing about 3.4 pounds, the unit is thicker and heavier than an average netbook. But there is nothing to worry about, as a slim and sleek casing is not necessarily a virtue in a student based netbook stage. Its chalky white clamshell body contrasts pleasantly with the ashen keyboard. The plastic covering is lightly textured, giving the machine a no-slip feel. Being a netbook aimed at kids, it is mandatory that it is durable and, it has achieved it with a matte plastic chassis.
The lid is a simple plain one with just a small and tasteful HP logo with a small LED light near the top, which is activated when the system is connected to the internet. This feature allows teachers to monitor network usage (students will hate this). The blank lid allows schools to add their own adhesive logos or designs. Though the HP Mini 100e netbook computer is quite thick, it actually does not feel bulky at all or look clunky for that matter. Overall, we would say that HP has managed to achieve an attractive, elegant and simple aura. Everything about this system is aimed to please school administrators, from being simple to repair to being easy to store at the end of the day when school’s let out.
The wide-screen LCD is surrounded by wide bezels. The 10.1 inch matte display of Mini 100e has a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels has an extremely wide horizontal and vertical viewing angles. This means, a small group of students will be able to share a screen with encountering any sorts of distortion or obfuscation. This netbook was able to handle a 720p trailer without dropping frames. The colours are quite nice and deep and the netbook managed to handle languid motion and transitions from light to dark too. Users looking to type long documents or view some newer webpages might be in for additional horizontal scrolling, but nothing that you wouldn’t find on other similar netbooks.
As we had just mentioned, the most important factor to look for in a student’s netbook is durability and how capable is it to withstand the rigorous use and abuse by kids. We cannot blame them; perhaps they have not yet learned how to take care of expensive electronics. HP has well understood this as it has included some features to mitigate damage, such as a spill-resistant keyboard and a large gray rubber-grip carrying handle protruding from the screen hinge, which lowers the risk of dropping it. Some of the other options that support durability include a hard drive accelerometer, which parks in the needle if it happens to sense a sudden stumble. When the system is open no area around the keyboard exhibited any sort of flex. The palmrest was rock solid alone with the keyboard and trim near the screen hinges. The hinges themselves were very strong, completely without wobble, and held the screen firmly shut when the system was closed.
Even the keyboard keys seemed to be a step above what was found on standard notebooks, with an etched label for each symbol instead of just being printed on the surface of the keys. Though the HP 100e flourishes with features supporting durability and sturdiness, we steered towards the preference of the overall design of the extra-kids proof CTL 2go Convertible Classmate PC NL2. The CTL 2go has our preference in this area because of its rubberised coating on the outside, with reinforced edges, a scratch resistant display and even an anti-microbial coating on the keyboard and touchpad.
The unadorned deck was, without a doubt, designed for children. The HP Mini 100e Student Notebook has island-style keys that are of good size and is also very comfortable for both students and their parents too. HP has tried its best to keep the keyboard as ilk as possible to the traditional keyboards, including the placement of keys along the edges. Keys such as Shift, ALT, CTRL and Fn are all in their usual positions. Hence, kids who are learning to type will not have to make any strange adjustments when they move on to a full sized keyboard. The small LEDs that are embedded on Caps Lock, F11/Volume Mute and F12/WiFi keys that indicate when they are active are welcome additions. The key plunge is a little shallow, but the keys are virtually silent when struck. Most important, this keyboard feels sturdy enough to withstand rough treatment from a child. The only quibble that we had with the keyboard is that, sometimes they seemed to require more deliberate taps than the touch typists are used to. We found that, every now and then, a letter or two was dropped, which is while typing at a normal rate. However, we feel that this con will turn out to be an advantage for students learning to type as it will certainly encourage accuracy before speed.
The touchpad is quite spacious at 2.5” x 1.5” as it employs raised dots that are reminiscent of the Asus Eee PC Seashell models to aid with tracking. The surface on the 100e is software, which means, the effect is the same and the tactile sensation will not be as harsh as on the Eee PC. It responds well to finger taps and scrolling but does not accept other multi-gesture input. The touchpad control panel has areas for gestures, but all of those are grayed out indicating those features are disabled via hardware or software. We were left wishing that the two discrete mouse buttons along the bottom could be bigger, but they are actually about the right size for small fingers and they offered some snappy returns.
The HP Mini 100e 10.1″ Mini Laptop also sports an integrated VGA webcam that is capable of producing some decent images. However the quibble here is that, they tend to be quite dark in rooms with bright fluorescent lights overhead. It captures colours quite well when the backlight does not overwhelm. The blurriness comes in only when you move very quickly. We snapped a few photos using the Webcam and noted a grainy quality to them. Skin tones looked accurate, if a bit washed-out. We thought it would have been great if HP had employed a swivel for the webcam, similar to the one on the CTL 2go PC NL2, which allows students to have a wider range of shots available for them. On the plus side, the integrated microphone is sensitive and picks up voices from across a small room.
Ports and Slots:
As far as the connectivity and slots of the 100e is concerned, the Mini 100e offers a considerable selection, considering the age of the intended user. You will find VGA, Ethernet, Memory Card, Headphone and Mic, with two notable differences. Firstly, there are only a couple of USB2.0 ports, while most systems ship with at least three of them. Another thing to note here is that, it have left some room for what many would consider to be an anachronistic addition; a modem port probably. HP might have included this port for students who may not have internet or high speed broadband access at home. Hence, in this way, the students will still be able to connect through a dial-up ISP, or dial in to the school’s servers in order to download assignments. The 100e even includes a lock slot, so that these machines can be kept secure in a classroom environment. Hence, the ports and slots list includes a power port, a Kensington lock slot, two USB ports, a VGA-out port, an Ethernet jack, microphone and headphone jacks, and a two-format (SD, Multi-Media Card) flash-card slot. There is even wireless (the 802.11b/g flavour), but the system lacks a Bluetooth radio.
Easy to Upgrade:
The HP Mini 100e is quite easy to upgrade, although we were surprised to not see any sort of child-deterrence mechanism to prevent tampering by students. With the battery removed, two screws are revealed that hold the back cover in place. Once the cover comes off you gain access to the wireless card, hard drive, and system memory. The hard drive has partial shock protection through small rubber grommets that isolate the drive from the chassis, intended no doubt for the eventual tumble during class. Overall we can easily say this netbook is one of, if not the easiest to upgrade model on the market.
In the heart of the HP 100e is the Intel Atom N455, clocked to 1.66 GHz and RAM of mere 1GB. The100e’s score on the PCMark05 was almost 100 marks below the netbook average, and was also below the much cheaper Toshiba Mini NB255 with the same processor. The big miss is that, it was also outscored by Asus Eee PC 1001P, which has an older N450 CPU. However, in the Geekbench tests, it fared much better, though still behind the Mini NB255, but ahead of the Asus Eee and comfortably leads its direct rival, the CTL 2go PC NL2. The hard drive is a 160GB 5400 rpm one, and it is no speed demon. It has a file transfer speed of 17.8 Mbps. This speed is on par with the Asus Eee PC 1001PC, but below the NL2 and Toshiba MB255 and the overall average of 18mbps. While students will not have to do much of video transcoding, they still can so more with their webcam videos as the 100e will be able to handle this task slightly better than most netbooks in the current market. To transcode a 5:05 MPEG-4 video clip which is about 114MB to AVI format using Oxelon Media Converter, the Mini 100e took 5 minutes and 57 seconds. Now, this rate is faster than its direct rivals.
HP has employed an Intel integrated Graphics Media Accelerator HD on board. With such a technology, we did not expect it to offer ion level power, but it performs as well as its competitors. It managed to play a Standard Definition 720p HD video smoothly via windows media player. However, when we played a video from Hulu, the result seems very slideshow like, this is even while not at full screen. Videos on the TNT.tv plays smoother and we found that there were far less dropped frames while watching videos on Netflix, which makes use of Microsoft Silverlight instead of Flash. Overall, this PC will suffice for basic classroom media-playback needs.
At about 15 feet from the router, the Realtek RT8191SE 802.11 b/g wireless radio managed to deliver a strong throughput of 32.8 Mbps, but when you move as far as 50 feet, the signal dropped to 17.9 Mbps. Though this is less powerful than its direct rival the CTL 2go up close, the HP 100e was a little stronger at a distance. It beats the Eee PC 1001P at 15 feet but not at 50 feet and the Toshiba model seems to be the winner at this field being an overall winner.
Software that HP has included is very typical to what you would find on a Windows 7 netbook with a few extras that are geared toward students. HP has preloaded Evernote, which is a note taking suite that syncs to the cloud and other notebooks; a PDF Complete Reader with an optional upgrader to editor and a Win-Zip. The unit also includes Microsoft Math which is a program that aids K-6 students solve equations with step by step guidance; very handy indeed. The Hewlett Packard Mini 100e netbook also includes a Microsoft Office 2010 Starter, which is a pared-down version of Word and Excel. They have just enough functionality for the young students and it also keeps cost down for the school systems, given the fact that the Starter is completely free and is not just a 60-day trial version. In addition to this, the students will also have access to Windows Live Suite of programs that include applications like Movie Maker, Writer, and Photo Gallery. The students are also given the ability to take snapshots and record video with ArcSoft’s Webcam Suite.
For the sake of security, HP has loaded the netbook with Microsoft’s Free Security Essentials and Computrace tracks and helps recover stolen laptops. This suite must be enough to protect you against any kind of viruses kids might pick up while surfing the web. Notably absent from the system are educational games and learning tools like those found on the Classmate PC. While the Mini 100e’s software load is by no means less, the CTL 2go offers a few more programs such as Art Range 2 which is more fun than Windows Paint and Blue Dolphin user interface, a kid-focussed overlay that makes interacting with Windows 7 much more entertaining. The schools systems have a small range of configuration options available for them, mostly when it comes to software. Apart from the Windows 7 Starter edition, HP will also provide you with Windows XP, which might offer a slightly faster performance or the SUSE Linux Enterprise on the 100e. HP will also make a few other education based software available to schools depending on their requirements, including stuff like classroom management tools.
The average audio quality does not come in as a surprise given the small speakers on the front edge of the system. While watching a video on TNT.tv, where the audio tends to be softer, we had to turn up the volume to 100 and still had a hard time hearing the softer voices, and this is at a perfect home environment with the air con running on low in the background. Peak volume levels were fine for listening to presentations or YouTube videos, but if you plan on enjoying music or a movie, connecting headphones is the preferred method.
Noise and Heat:
System noise was minimal with the power efficient Intel Atom processor and integrated graphics. One of the biggest advantages of the Atom processor inside the 100e is that, it helps a great deal in keeping the temperatures down. In order to test if this claim by HP is true, we played a YouTube clip in full screen for about fifteen minutes, and measured the temperature of the three key areas of the netbook. We were surprised to see that the touchpad reached just 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the space between G and H keys measured at 84 degrees F and the middle of the bottom of the 100e remained to be relatively cool at just 89 degrees F. These values are either at or much below the acceptable temperature zone. This means one less worry for parents about allowing their kids use the HP 100e netbook on their laps for long periods.
Being a student notebook, it will be great if it also teaches some environmental consciousness. The 100e is also fairly green, taking just a couple of hours to charge to 80 percent and another 58 minutes to get 58 minutes in order to get the full capacity. During the period of charging, the 100e uses an average of 25 watts for excellent battery efficiency. This makes the system very green, coming in under the netbook average. The only other netbook to beat it in this regard is the Eee PC.
The six cell battery of Mini 100e has lasted for 6 hours and 32 minutes, which is exactly same as that of average of a six cell netbook and is less than 10 minutes behind the NB255. The Eee PC 1001P still proves to be the champ of the low cost netbooks, however, six and half hours is likely more than most students will need as they will mostly use the 100e during class time. It is a good thing that the netbook will make it through most of the long car trips.
You get two options of battery sizes: 6-cell and 3-cell. If you feel that the netbooks are going to remain in one classroom for most times, the shorter battery life of the 3 cell option will not matter as much. However, if students are going to carry them from class to class, then the 6-cell battery will be the apt choice. You also get the hard drive accelerometer which will lessen the damage caused by accidental drops and bumps. The pricing of these upgrades and additions will vary depending on the school system and number of units too.
HP offers one year limited warranty for its Mini 100e netbook and battery. The optional HP Care Pack Services is available for extra.
The cost per system depends on the number of systems ordered, but HP has estimated that the Mini 100e will be extremely affordable. While the HP 100e might not offer as robust a package as that of its direct rival, the CTL 2go Convertible Classmate PC, it still costs much lesser which will be a pretty step delta for large, cash-strapped schools. Even though the consumer models such as the ASUS Eee PC 1001P and Toshiba Mini cost about the same, and in some areas perform better, they do not have the kid-proofing and durability that keeps you from having to replace the unit after a minor accident. The HP Mini 100e is excellent value for schools and students. It delivers strong performance and more importantly, it sells for a lot less, which will be the biggest selling point. Overall, the educators in the market for budget PCs optimised for the classroom should make a note of the HP Mini 100e.
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HP Mini 100e Netbook Laptop – Technical Specification Table
|Model Name||HP Mini 100e|
|Display||10.1 inch LED backlit WSVGA|
|Screen Size||10.1 inch|
|Display resolution||1024 x 600 pixels|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||10.9 x 9.9 x 1.6 inches|
|Hard drive Capacity||160GB|
|RAM capacity||Up to 2GB of DDR3 SDRAM with a single SODIMM slot|
|Memory slot||SD slot supports SD and MMC cards|
|Security||Microsoft’s Free Security Essentials
|Graphics hardware||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD|
|Optical slot||Optional External USB 2.0 CD/DVD-R/RW drive|
|Processor||Intel Atom N455|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel NM10 Express Chipset|
|Audio||Mono speaker, built-in microphone,
stereo microphone in-jack,
stereo headphone/line out jack
|Operating system||Choice of Windows 7 Starter, Windows XP Home,
or SUSE Linux Enterprise 11
|Wifi||802.11 b/g Wi-Fi|
|Battery||3 cell or 6 cell lithium-ion battery|
|Warranty||1 Year Limited Warranty, 1 Year Warranty for the Battery|