Handling, design and build
The Mini 210 is no showman. The matte black plastic on the hood and the grey around the keyboard and touchpad give it a sober aspect. The only glossy bit is around the panel and of course, no surprises here, this picks up the usual dust and finger marks. More unexpectedly, we also found the matte hood picked up plenty of marks, though of course less than the glossy part does.
The keyboard takes up almost the entire width of the casing and the keys are separated. They measure 13 mm across and are just large enough to give comfortable keying. The arrow keys are however too small, so that you end up hitting more than one at the same time.
The touchpad is 8 cm wide and takes up a little less than a third of the width of the casing. It's very nice to use and gives a smooth glide. You'll want to increase sensitivity in the OS driver so that you don't have to restart your glide several times over to get the cursor to run over the whole screen.
The webcam is super bad. It lacks fluidity and clarity. The contrast is also weak, as are the colours (lacking punch).
A large panel opens underneath the computer to give access to the hard drive, the RAM and the wi-fi card. Watch out you shouldn't play around inside unless you have at least some know-how!
The connectivity is pretty standard. On the left, there's the power socket, a VGA out, a USB port and a headphones socket. On the right there's an RJ45 port hidden behind a cover, 2 USB 2.0 connectors and a headphones out. No HDMI out however, which is disappointing.
The Mini 210-2040ef isn't what you'd call a quiet computer. The fan works away constantly. It only slows down when there's absolutely no processing going on and even then it isn't completely inaudible. This is a shame when you consider that netbooks really don't consume much energy. Much of the competition does much better on this score.
Hood (with light finger marks)
Power supply, VGA, USB 2.0 headphones socket
Processor power: office docs and Internet
Equipped with an Intel Atom N455, the Mini 210-2040ef is pretty much limited to Internet browsing and word-processing. We've already seen this type of CPU on the Asus Eee PC 1018P so we knew what to expect. When it comes to any sort of photo processing or video editing, you'll need to be extremely patient, indeed Zen master patient! The index on this model is 21, compared to 100 for our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400).
On start-up, you'll need to wait 45 seconds for the OS (Windows 7 Starter 32-bit) to get going, 16 to quit.
As far as HD video goes, you'll be limited to 720p max. The Intel GMA 3150 graphics chipset can't extend to 1080p encoding.
Gaming... or not
This chipset - the one which can't decode 1080p videos - can't handle any recent titles. You'll have to make do with older less demanding games.
Audio: a nice surprise
The audio quality is surprisingly good on this mini. The new IDT chipset does very well here and offers a nicely detailed out with no hiss at all. The same goes for the built-in speakers, though of course you won't get hi-fi quality! We would have liked a little more power through the headphones but the results are good for a netbook.
Mobility, battery life : a compact model that runs and runs
With a battery life of 6h07 (wi-fi deactivated, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²), the mini 210-2040ef is near the top of the pile. The Toshiba NB200 (6H10) and Wind U115 (from 7H to 9H52) do do better but no complaints here. You can watch up to three movies before it gives up the ghost, plenty for most long journeys, or use it for most of the day out at meetings or in the lecture hall.
With battery, the Mini 210 weighs in at 1.4 Kg. Although you can get lighter, this is pretty good. The machine is not exceptionally slim at from 19 to 30 mm, but it is nice to use with a thinner front allowing for comfortable typing. Its mini transformer is also easily tucked away. At 90 x 35 x 36 mm it won't take up too much space in the rucksack.
- Battery life: 6H07 video playback
- Wide touchpad
- Well cooled
- Excellent audio
- Glossy low contrast panel
- Arrow keys too small
- Poor webcam
- Fan too noisy
This netbook won't stand out because of its level of performance. It is nevertheless a compact well finished model with good battery life.