HP Mini 311-1037NR Netbook Review

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Introduction and Hardware
Introduction:

Earlier this year Verizon Wireless introduced their first netbook, the HP Mini 1151NR, which was then followed by the Gateway LT2016u and HP Mini 110-1046NR. All of which used the outdated, but reliable, Windows XP SP3 Home Edition. The new HP Mini 311-1037NR steps things up a notch, as it features Windows 7 Home Premium Edition, a larger hard drive, more RAM, and Nvidia ION graphics. Naturally, the HP Mini 311 still comes with an internal Mobile Broadband data card that operates on Verizon’s EVDO Rev A network while in the US, as well as quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and tri-band UMTS/HSPA while roaming. There is also a CAT 5 Ethernet port and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g for people who have access to a WLAN.

Included in the retail box is the HP Mini 311-1037NR netbook, 6-cell battery, wall charger and user guides.

Hardware:

The HP Mini 311 is by far the largest netbook sold by Verizon Wireless to date, as it measures 11.4”W x 8.03” D and with a height ranging from 0.78”-1.29” (since the device is angled front-to-back). The 3.22 pound weight is also noticeably heavier than other Verizon netbooks, such as the more compact 2.5 pound HP Mini 1151NR. However, when placing the HP Mini 311 next to the Gateway LT2016u, there really isn’t a dramatic difference in size and weight, and it actually looks better overall. We also like that the HP Mini 311 continues the “scroll design” on the top cover from the Mini 1151NR, but even more so the internal black keyboard and surrounding bezel has been replaced with a modern silver-pearl color, which complements the overall design of the Mini 311 nicely.



The LED backlit display on the HP Mini 311 measures 11.6” diagonal and has a resolution of 1366x768, which makes it the largest and highest-resolution display out of all current Verizon netbooks. The difference is quite noticeable when compared next to the other models, as you have a 1.5” larger screen and with greater detail. The display on the HP Mini 311 is also missing the protective glass covering that we saw on the Mini 1151NR, but we do not miss it, as it caused too much sun to be reflected when used outside. Above the display is a mic, LED light and webcam capable of recording video up to 640x480 resolution at 15FPS.


Located on the sides are three USB 2.0 ports, wired ethernet jack, 15-pin VGA monitor output, HDMI output, combination headphone/ microphone jack, and media card reader for SD/MMC/RS-MMC/xD/MS/MS-PRI. Naturally it does not come with an internal CD/DVD drive, but an optional external unit is available that connects via USB.



As with all other Verizon netbooks, the HP Mini 311 comes equipped with an Intel Atom N270 processor, operating at 1.6 GHz, though we would have rather seen the newer 1.66GHz N280 processor used instead, since the Mini 311 is a higher-end unit. Thankfully, the RAM had been increased to reasonable 2GB, but is expandable to 3GB, which we would recommend for power-users. The hard drive is a useable 160GB, but the user can replace it with a larger drive (up to 320GB) or even an SSD for faster performance with greater battery life. It would be nice if these options were available to be built into the Mini 311 when ordered from Verizon, instead of having to purchase and install them separately. The Nvidia ION graphic chipset also makes a great difference when playing games or using graphically intense programs. You can now play more advanced 3D games, watch full HD video without a hitch and even edit HD video (with the proper tools) if you’re keen on uploading YouTube clips. We hope to see it made available on more netbooks.

The keyboard on the HP Mini 311 was by far the most comfortable and easiest to use, when compared to the HP Mini 1151NR and Gateway LT2016u. Often times when using smaller keyboards, your hands will start feeling cramped after a period of use, but this was not the case on the Mini 311, as we were able to use the keyboard for several hours at a time while remaining comfortable. This is also due to the large wrist-support under the keyboard, which houses the large touchpad and two mouse buttons. We are also glad to see the accuracy problems we encountered with the touchpad on the HP Mini 1151NR have been resolved on the Mini 311.




Software and Performance:

One of the main functions of any Verizon netbook is to get you on-line, and that is done by using the preinstalled VZAccess Manager program. When it is launched, it lists all the available connections and their signal strength, which includes Verizon Wireless (EV and 1X) and any local Wi-Fi signals. We began by selecting “Verizon Wireless” on the list, as it showed 3 out of 4 bars of EVDO Rev A, and we were on-line within five seconds. Web browsing using both Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox (which we installed) worked well, and complex sites, such as PhoneArena.com, only took 10 seconds to completely load. If you want to connect to a Wi-Fi network, you can simply use the Windows Connection Manager, thus bypassing the Verizon program all together.




We also ran a series of speed tests using two scenarios:
1)    The internal HP un2400 Mobile Broadband card using Verizon’s EVDO Rev A network.
2)    Wi-Fi connected to our home WLAN using Comcast’s 20Mbps cable modem service.

The first test we downloaded a 133MB file from the Nvidia web site. When using the internal Mobile Broadband card, the file downloaded in 18 minutes and 30 seconds, and had an average download rate of 122KB/sec. Then when using our Wi-Fi connection with our home network, the same file downloaded in 2 minutes and 26 seconds, with a rate of 938KB/sec.


For the second test we measured the download and upload speed from speedtest.net and used the Miami FL server location. The internal Mobile Broadband card achieved 1.53Mbps download and 0.42Mbps upload, while the home Wi-Fi connection speed was 17.20Mbps download and 3.47Mbps upload. We should also point out that the ping test while using the Mobile Broadband was card was 323ms, but was only 26ms when using the home Wi-Fi connection.



Connection

Internal Mobile Broadband EVDO Rev A
Home Wi-Fi with Comcast
133MBdownload from Nvidia

18 min 30 sec
122KB/s
2 min 26sec
938KB/sec
Speedtest.net

1.53Mbps down
0.42Mbps up
323ms Ping
17.2Mbps down
3.47Mbpsup
26ms Ping

As we previously saw with the other netbooks, using a Wi-Fi WLAN broadband connection will have the fastest download and upload speeds. However, this is not always possible, and that is when the internal Mobile Broadband card and Verizon data service come into play. For average web browsing and email, EVDO Rev A is fast enough, including the occasional file download, watching streaming videos from YouTube and Hulu, or using the webcam. However, if you are going to download a lot of files, then Wi-Fi would be best, as it’s faster and does not deduct usage from your Verizon data plan.

As we mentioned earlier, the HP Mini 311 is the first Verizon netbook to come with Windows 7 Home Premium Edition installed, which is an improvement over the aging Windows XP. This also allows for greater integration to your other Win 7 PCs, thanks to the HomeGroup feature. Additional programs that come included on the Mini 311 are Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash Player, Norton Internet Security (trial), Microsoft Works, Microsoft Office 2007 (60-day trial), ArcSoft WebCam Companion 3, plus a variety of games.

The included 6-cell battery is rated to provide up to 6.25 hours of use. During our testing we were able to get up to 6 hours of continuous use while using the Netbook with Verizon’s EVDO Rev A internet connection. This is 3.5 hours longer than we got when using the HP Mini 1151NR and 30 minutes longer than with the Gateway LT2016u.

Conclusion:

As of now, the HP Mini 311-1037NR is the best looking and most feature-rich netbook that is available from Verizon Wireless. Windows 7 works without any problems on it, and is faster in most tasks than using Windows XP. We like that the Mini 311 comes with 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive, plus the Nvidia ION graphic chipset makes the HP Mini 311 almost as good as some laptops, without the extra bulk and weight. If you are considering a laptop, but want a slightly more compact device with plenty of features, then you should consider the HP Mini 311-1037NR.


Pros

  • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
  • 11.6” display with 1366x768 resolution
  • 2GB RAM and 160GB hard drive
  • 6 hours of battery use
  • Attractive styling

Cons

  • Larger and heavier than most other netbooks

PhoneArena Rating:

9.5

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