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HP Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam Edition Review

We’ve been ogling the HP Vivienne Tam Edition Series from the moment it was announced. Compact design + Truly Fashionable looks? That’s just our speed. But we’re not totally superficial, and when it comes to ultraportables we want them to have substance too. Now that the HP Vivienne Tam Edition has arrived on our doorstep, we’ve finally gotten the opportunity to see if this netbook is all it’s cracked up to be.

First off, here is a little background about my personal experience with the netbooks phenomena. Previously I owned a HP Mini 2133, which was one of the first netbooks on the market after the Eee PC arrived. I liked the HP 2133 a lot but it’s Via processor combined with the Vista OS resulted in an often wonky experience, particularly in tasks like video playback. On a side note, I’ve also never been very taken with the quality of the Eee PC’s build. I’ve studied (eyed and drooled at store kiosks) other popular netbooks like the popular Acer Aspire One but I haven’t been especially impressed with their build quality. They are great little machines at their price point, but before having gotten the opportunity to review the VT edition, I always thought that the HP Mini Note 1000 was the best netbook on the block as far as build quality and pure slick factor. The VT edition is essentially a premium version of the HP Mini Note with a 10″ display. Now, on to the VT itself.

We’re really taken by the Vivienne Tam. The VT edition is truly a beautiful “gadget” and is even more impressive in person than in the pictures. The combination of its hot pink / fuschia coloring plus the
lovely peony design on the VT lid make it stand out. We’re so grateful that they didn’t make it a baby pink or a violet. Instead, this coloring is feminine, yet not overly so. The design screams chic, but not in a cheap, blingy or distasteful way which is often the result when companies try to feminize a gadget. Like the HP Mini 1000 series, the VT edition is made very well. Weighing just below 2.5lbs it’s also of-course a pleasure to carry around. Sometimes when I carry it I kind of feel like I’m carrying a toy just because it’s so small and light.

Keyboard / Mouse:
The keyboard on the VT is very comfortable, with good tactile feedback. We wouldn’t be surprised if it has the best keyboard on a netbook so far. The enter key is sporting an extra special enter key that bears the Chinese symbol for double happiness.

While the keyboard is pretty exceptional for a netbook, the trackpad situation on the HP isn’t so great. To be fare though, the trackpads on all netbooks are small. But what is particularly unusual about all of HP’s netbooks is that, the left and right mouse buttons are located on either side of the trackpad, which makes them uncomfortable to click. You’ll really want to use a mouse with the VT when you can. We received a VT branded HP wireless optical mouse which compliments the VT edition to a tee. So if you’re gonna go all the way, we’d recommend getting the mouse too. The mouse connects to the VT edition via an included USB receiver and it runs on two batteries. Unfortunately the mouse isn’t ergonomic – but it’s sooo lovely! As usual, you’re body will pay the price for fashion 🙂

The 10.2″ LED BrightView Infinity Widescreen display on the VT is also very, very good just like HP’s other glossy displays. However, not everyone is a fan of glossy displays, and we did experience some, yet minimal glare with this display. I myself always have preferred glossy displays. Also, there is a little bit of very slight silver graininess overlayed on the display, that shows up especially on light and white backgrounds. That said 98% of users probably wouldn’t notice it. I’m just very scrutinizing when it comes to displays. The 1024 x 576 resolution is pretty good as well, and it lets you view most web pages comfortably.

I’ve been very pleased with the performance of the VT so far. My config is running Windows XP Home Edition with Service Pack 3 on a 1.6GHZ Atom processor with 1GB of ram, and a 60GB 4,200 RPM hard drive. I immediately installed Norton Internet Security 2009, (which we BTW highly recommend) and even with Norton running in the background the VT edition has been performing great on tasks. I’ve been surfing the
internet with several tabs and windows of Internet Explorer open, while also having a Microsoft Works doc open and I have not yet experienced any lag for this mild multitasking.

Video playback on the VT edition has also been very good. I watched an hour long DIVX file on the VT using VLC player and didn’t experience any stutters. The speakers on the VT are also moderately powerful and are surprisingly not that tiny for such a small laptop. You can easily watch a movie on the VT or listen to music. As long as you’re not in a noisy environment, you wont be straining your ears. The VT edition garnered a score of 89 in 3DMark06. I’m also very impressed at how cool it runs. Unlike so many other laptops I’ve used, the VT is very cool. This is a far cry from the HP Mini 2133 that was a scorcher. Overall, so far, so good – the VT is everything a netbook should be as far as good performance with basic computing tasks.

Unfortunately one of the most disappointing aspects of the VT for me so far has been it’s webcam. The webcam produces very dark, practically unusable video. So much so that I’m wondering if it’s just
that there is something wrong with my webcam in particular, or are all the web cams in the HP Mini series under performing as a whole? That said, the webcam isn’t quite a deal breaker for me for an otherwise well rounded netbook.

The VT also sports Wi-Fi, optional bluetooth, an ethernet port, an SD card slot, and two USB ports. There are other netbooks out there with more than two USB ports, but personally as long as two are included that is enough for me. Being that this is designed as a portable device, I don’t have the need to plug in that many peripherals in to it. However i’m sure that some people might gripe about the lack of a third USB port.

The VT series can come configured with a choice of a 16GB SSD hard drive or a 60GB 4200RPM hard drive. The 60GB HD is kind of on the small size since many netbooks are now shipping with 120GB and even
160GB hard drives. That said, 60GB is enough for me to be comfortable. Likewise, I think that most people would use the VT as a compliment to their main computer and not a replacement so 60GB should be sufficient for most users.

What’s in the box / accessories:
The VT edition comes with a matching solid fushia carrying case, or rather a slip cover. The slip cover is made of a soft silky material and it has the VT logo embossed on it. The case is designed to slip and fold over the VT edition. As a result, you can carry it almost like a clutch. The case is very pretty and compliments the VT well. It would do fine slipping in to a bigger purse or bag. However we wouldn’t rely on it for rigorous travel like jet-setting because the the VT can possibly slip out of it being that the case has an opening, and lacks a zipper or clasp. So if you’re going to do heavy duty traveling, it’s best to be safe and store the VT in a neoprene case or something of the equivalent. A microfiber cloth is also included in the box. And you’ll need to use that little cloth pretty often, because the VT is prone to fingerprints and smudges.

Included software:
The VT arrived with minimal bloatware. Microsoft Works also comes pre-installed which provides basic wordprocessor and spreadsheet capabilities. A windows XP Home CD with Service Pack 3 is included should you have to reinstall the OS. The computer also comes with a matching VT themed desktop wallpaper, which is a nice touch as well.

Overall, we are quite taken with the HP VT edition. It’s a beauty to behold and luckily, its looks aren’t superficial since it also performs well. Granted the VT is no desktop replacement notebook by far, but
the good performance on the VT combined with its quality hardware make it a serious competitor in the Netbook marketplace. That said we do have a few minors gripes. Most notably is its underperforming webcam.

The VT Edition with a 60GB hard drive retails for $699 and includes 1 year accidental coverage as well as a 1 year warranty. Overall, the most challenging aspect ofthe VT is its $699 price tag, which makes it a highend, high cost netbook. Unfortunately, the same rule that applies in the fashion world, applies here – you’re gonna pay more for something that looks good – and hopefully makes you feel good too. Is it worth the $699 price tag? Any higher then that, and we’d say they were really pushing it. But if you can afford it, and looks are just important to you as substance, then the price tag wont bother you that much. Especially when you get oohs and ahhs from your friends while you sashes along with the VT edition under your arm. We’ll be taking the VT edition with us use to blog with at CES to and we look forward to spending more time with it, particularly to see how well the battery holds up. We’re sure well have even more to say after taking it to Vegas with us.

The Good: Excellent build quality, beautiful and truly stylish aesthetics, great keyboard and display, good performance

The Bad: Web cam is way too dark, pricier than your average netbook, trackpad layout is uncomfortable

Update 01/15/09: Check out our update to this review after spending two weeks with the VT edition.