Articles‎ > ‎

HP Mini 1000 Netbook

How to Solve the HP Mini's Problems

My goal has always been to bring as little technology as possible with me on my tours, but on an extended trip like this one, a small laptop is almost essential. We'll be taking a lot of pictures, and we'll need a good way to back them up along the way. We'll also need an easy way to stay in touch with family and friends. After shopping around, I found the HP Mini 1000 Netbook. This laptop is light (just over two pounds), runs Windows XP, and has a nearly full size keyboard (unlike other small laptops). It can also come with a solid state hard drive (SSD). These have less capacity than other hard drives for the same price, but they are much more resistant to the bumps and jarring they will be subjected to during a tour. I recommend at least a 16GB SSD, as the 8GB drive is too small to be useful.

As close as this laptop comes to being an ideal touring laptop, it does have some drawbacks:
  • The built-in webcam is too dark
  • The sound quality is significantly impaired
  • The optional CD/DVD drive comes with a relatively large power supply
  • The display resolution is lower than one might like
  • The glossy display makes it very difficult to see what's on the screen
  • You must carry a thick 6' power cable to plug the laptop in
Fortunately there are easy fixes for all of these.

There is a physical filter in front of the webcam that HP claims was installed so the webcam can be used outdoors. Unfortunately, this makes the webcam useless indoors. One solution posted on several websites is to physically remove the filter, but I wasn't comfortable doing this as doing so would prevent the webcam from ever working outdoors. The better solution is to download a small program from HP that will compensate for this problem by making the webcam more sensitive to light. Get it here.

The sound quality is very poor by default. HP says that this is to protect the small speakers in the laptop. Unfortunately, the poor sound quality exists when using external speakers too. I'd rather have good quality sound and be careful about having the volume too high. A work-around for this is to install the Windows Vista audio drivers on Windows XP. Get them here.

A lot of people who buy the CD/DVD drive with the HP Mini are surprised that it's not USB powered and it needs it's own power supply. This is just a hassle and it adds unnecessary weight to your load. I found a cable that connects to a spare USB port and the DC input of the drive, and it only costs $4. The part number is USBAC8, and I puchased it from Centrix International.

The Mini's resolution is 1024x576 out of the box. 1024 is wide enough, but 576 wasn't a high enough vertical resolution for me. I used AsTray to set the resolution to 1024x768, which allows much more to fit on the screen. AsTray or the newer NRC can be downloaded here.

Lexerd makes a glare filter for the HP 1000. At the time of this writing I haven't used one, and Amazon only has one in stock. The price is $30 but it might be worth the cost. Find it on Amazon here.

For $4 you can buy an adapter that lets you plug the power supply "brick" directly into the wall. This lets you leave the included 6' power cable at home. I have not tried this yet, but the Dell adapter should work, and the part number is 08J508. Update: I wasn't able to get my hands on a Dell adapter. Instead, I found a similar one at Stayonline.com for $5.