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Last night I spent a few hours with my bosses nieces Netbook, as I’d been asked if I could cure it of a virus.

It was an HP Mini 210 in “Sonoma Red”. The dark red paintwork is not only on the lid, but extends to underneath as well – and very nice it looks too.

It runs Windows 7 Starter (which I hadn’t tried before – indeed, I’ve not tried Windows 7 on a Netbook at all) and has an N450 Atom processor (1.67Ghz) with 1GB memory and a 250GB hard drive.

The keyboard is a “scrabble tile” style, again something I’ve not tried before and, because of the width of the HP, is a good size. It was nice to use, unlike the touchpad which many other reviews have commented on. Rather than have separate buttons, the HP trackpad has it so that you click down the pad itself in the corners. It doesn’t work very well, particularly when I was trying to right click. Maybe playing with the trackpad settings would have helped, but I didn’t get an opportunity to try.

It’s a pretty standard 10.1″ 1024×600 resolution screen, but thanks to the “LED HP BrightView” it is extremely bright – even on mains I had the brightness turned down.

Windows 7 Starter worked really well and moved along at a good speed – and none of the performance-sapping features had been turned off (such as menu animations, etc). It’s a shame that this isn’t available after-market – if I wanted to upgrade my own Netbook to Windows 7 I’d have to buy Windows 7 Home Premium, as even Home Basic isn’t available retail. Yet, I’d not use (or turn off) the extra features that Home Premium would give me. £70+ Windows upgrade for a Netbook that cost me £200 a number of years ago? The maths doesn’t make sense.

Back to the HP, it has all the standard connectors, including VGA, 3 USB ports and a card reader. However, it had a side mounted power switch on which the power light was mounted – this makes it awkward at first glance to see the power state of the HP when the screen is blank. Similarly, they’ve out the HD activity light on the other side – again difficult to glance at. There’s a VGA webcam and, unlike many netbooks, Bluetooth is present as standard (although I couldn’t see any switches or lights related to it). There are also no “hatches” underneath for upgrading the miserly 1GB memory BUT, unlike other manufacturers, HP have made it easy to do just that. Behind the battery are buttons which release the whole of the coloured underside and allow direct access to the underside of the components, including the hard drive and single memory slot. This means that the memory can be upgraded to 2GB and without even taking out a screw.

Speaking of the battery – this is a 6 cell which light tests have shown to give over 8 hours of life. It sticks out the bottom quite a way and, in the model I was looking at, seemed a little loose. None-the-less, the size doesn’t get in the way and the battery life is excellent.

Additional software I didn’t get a chance to try out, but it appears to come with the usual manufacturer software plus some additional branded software – Microsoft Works, Cyberlink DVD suite and Arcsoft webcam, for instance. It also comes with a fair share of trials and crapware that you’ll just end up uninstalling anyway.

The specific model I tried no longer appears to be available, but others are. For instance, the Mini 210 WR430EA is £280 at play.com.

[review]The price puts the HP Mini 210 in the higher price band for Netbooks and you can see why – a long battery life and excellent build quality make this an easy to use and speedy Netbook. If I was in the market to buy another, I’d look seriously at the HP.[/review]

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