HP has entered the affordable mini-notebook category with its eye-catching HP 2133.

While an earlier contestant – the Eee PC from Asus – is a great entry-point for the One-Laptop-Per-Child crowd, that mini-laptop's slight keys and featherweight heft makes it feel more like "My First Computer," than something for the One-Laptop-Per-Adult set.
HP is betting that, for a few dollars more, you'll want to invest in its slightly more mature approach.

Configurations
The HP 2133 offers several different options than the Eee. Depending upon which pre-configured model you pick, the 2133 ranges anywhere from a US$499 (approx. £250) system running Linux to a $749 (approx. £375) model using Microsoft's Windows Vista Business operating system. The low-end Linux version, which sports a 1GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM – is probably the closest matchup for the Eee. The Vista machine we review here today sits at the top-end with a 1.6GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM.

Right off the bat, the 2133's a looker. The aluminum casing makes the little laptop feel more substantial that its Asus competitor – and it is. Weighing two pounds, 13 ounces, the 2133 just feels way more capable of taking a beating than the plastic Eee (which weighs about two pounds).

A little larger than the Eee, the 2133 measures 10.04 inches in length by 6.5 inches in width by 1.05 inches in depth, and every inch counts. This allows for a crisp 8.9-inch display capable of a 1280 by 768-pixel resolution and a comfortable, large keyboard. In fact, considering the device's form factor, this is a perfectly proportioned layout for dainty digits and thick fingers alike.

This laptop also happens to be a feature-heavy mini-notebook offering everything the Eee does (this includes three USB slots, an ethernet adapter, an SD card reader, VGA out, a Webcam, a microphone, and integrated Wi-Fi), then tops it with a PC Express card slot. Surprisingly, the speakers also do a fairly impressive job making music sound like it's coming from something larger than a pint-sized PC. In short, the 2133 offers plenty of flexibility.

Performance Anxiety
What it doesn't deliver is peak performance. Now, I understand that Vista is the Microsoft's newest OS, and HP is likely obligated to offer it on these new notebooks. But, if you ask me, using it in this small laptop is a big mistake. The system we received came installed with Vista Business and while hardly dog-slow, it was no speed demon, either.

Blame the 1.6GHz C7-M ULV processor wedged inside. Frankly, this class of low-speed laptop isn't built for the rigors of Vista. And even though there are 2GB of RAM muscling through the test applications in our unit, this VIA processor has no business running Vista Business.

While it worked decently enough in basic tasks, the 2133 is a little pokey. It takes about 35 seconds to copy "Guns 'N Roses Greatest Hits" (a 73MB folder) over a USB 2.0 connection. And, in our initial WorldBench tests, the HP laptop scored poorly, but bear in mind that this is the same gauntlet of tests we throw at every laptop, whether it's a sub-$1,000 PC or a monstrous desktop replacement.

I do like HP's Total Care Advisor Applet (at right, click image to see larger version) that came pre-installed with our Vista notebook. Obviously geared toward basic use, it is a handy graphical breakdown of what's going on with your PC. Whether it's the status of updates and security, battery power left, or shortcuts to data backup tools, the important actions most users will need are all right here.

This small laptop is certainly a great option for the classroom or boardroom, but personally, I'm waiting to see if we'll ever get a model sporting an Intel processor. No word on that yet from HP spokespeople.

Until then, users should consider installing XP on their 2133, instead. Even though it isn't offered as a pre-configured option, HP spokespeople say that, at the HP Web site, you can sub Microsoft's older OS for Vista for the same $749.