HP Mini 311 Ion-Based Netbook Review

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HP's Mini range of netbooks has always struck us as being high quality. The build materials always feel top notch, and the form and fit is also stellar. We're pleased to say that the Mini 311 we have on hand continues this tradition, as it's easily one of the best built netbooks we've had the pleasure of testing. From top to bottom, this machine feels like more than just a netbook in terms of quality; granted, it's also much more expensive than most netbooks, so we guess that's to be expected.


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Still, we have to credit HP for not cutting corners when it comes to design and build quality. On a netbook, it's easy to get away with "cheaping out" on the actual enclosure, but that's absolutely not the case on this one. We can't help but point out that the keyboard is the most solid keyboard we've seen to date on a netbook. Hands down. There is absolutely no flex whatsoever present, making it one of the most solid typing experiences on any machine, and definitely the most solid on a netbook.


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We also love the minimalism here. HP relies on a subtle spiral design on the top lid along with a basic silver/black motif on the inside. It's quiet, it's classy, and we like it. It's the perfect balance of "all business" and "hip," and it can easily be carried around by corporate users or culture-loving teens.

    
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We also like the placement of the speaker bar just under the front lip of the machine; this keeps the area around the keyboard cleaner and puts the drivers at a nice angle. The only knock we have here is the extra glossy LCD bezel, which loves to attract fingerprints.

    
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The silver keyboard reminds us a lot of the keyboard on Apple's MacBook Pro. If you enjoy that keyboard, you'll appreciate these solid keys as well. The trackpad is also well built, though we did take issue with the texture (which we'll touch more on later). At 3.3lbs., this one won't burden you down to badly, and we appreciate the third USB 2.0 port as well as the VGA and HDMI sockets. There's even an Ethernet port for those who prefer to go wired when tapping into a network.

    
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The LCD hinge was just about perfect. The flex and fold happened smoothly, and it stuck perfectly at whatever position we stopped it at. We also appreciate the removable battery; this enables road warriors to carry around extra cells for extra untethered life. Finally, the 11.6" display is great for two reasons. First, it allows for a better-than-average 1366x768 resolution, and second, it allows for a 92% full-size keyboard, which makes typing extremely comfortable even for long periods of time.


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