Product Type: Compaq Netbook
Newest Review: ... grey circles spread across the black, but hidden until you have a closer look. Apart from the horrible Compaq logo it looks rather fetch... more
A Colossal Tragedy - But So Cute?!
Compaq Mini 110c-1110SA
Member Name: davidbrentforPM
Compaq Mini 110c-1110SA
Date: 01/03/11, updated on 01/03/11 (156 review reads)
Advantages: By no means expensive, light-weight, fairly decent LED back-lit screen
Disadvantages: Far too small, poor keyboard, tiny touchpad, awful battery life, bad VGA connection
So, the question you're all dying to know the answer to; why on earth did I buy it? I didn't. I run song words/presentations/videos at my church, and was presented with this oversized pocket calculator, or as I have since been informed, Compaq Mini netbook, to perform such operations with. As it was given to me, I have no original purchase price for you, but I believe the figure was around the £200 mark, as it remains now. A smile spread across my face when I was given an actual laptop replacement a couple of weeks ago and could finally say farewell to the Mini, but before we went our separate ways I thought I better give it one last chance - and what better way to do so than a review?!
So, all important first impressions. Where is it? Oh, there it is! Even for a netbook, it really is tiny. The screen is a measly 10.1", which is horrendously small. It's an LED backlit TFT monitor, meaning you get a much crisper picture, but it's not LCD, and being so small it's difficult to appreciate. You won't get the screen resolution any higher than 1024x600 pixels, which means that even the generous page widths of the BBC website will only just fit on the screen (apart from, of course, if you zoom out to make it unreadable). This netbook does, however, fit* in my trouser** pocket, which I guess is a bonus for those who don't have any pencil cases, sorry, netbook cases to hand (*it sticks out rather precariously. **fleece joggers, not jeans - that would be impressive!). With small size comes small weight, and at just 1.17 kilograms, it really is a feather; very useful for portability, but not so useful when sat on your lap, as it almost becomes a balancing act to make it stay put at times.
First impressions appear to be, rather unavoidably, focussed on the size. However, it doesn't actually look too bad (though considering its size, there's not much to look at even if you don't like it). The exterior is a glossy plastic black, which actually works quite well, with very light grey circles spread across the black, but hidden until you have a closer look. Apart from the horrible Compaq logo it looks rather fetching! However, it's when you open it up that the reality hits; your phone screen probably is bigger than the one before you, and that keyboard is so crammed in that one of the keys will probably ping out and hit you in the eye at at any moment. The interior casing is horrid, a rough, unpleasant plastic which doesn't act nicely as a palm-rest at all. But hey, it's a netbook; all about good value and no frills net browsing - so let's turn it on...
I said, let's turn it on. It's odd, it really is. On the central horizontal side, you have two flick-switches, very similar to that of laptop old screen clips which you would have slide simultaneously whilst lifting to bring up the screen. To turn this netbook on, you have to flick the left switch (the right operates the wireless - you know, in case you want to turn it off. Yes, in case you want to turn off the wireless on your NETbook). It really is peculiar - no big round button, not even a small round button - a flick-switch. Ridiculous.
On, and a torch-like light beams out of the switch (which is very irritating at eye level), and the screen brings forth to you the very retro Windows XP. Old school, oh yes, though very much preference over the failure that was Windows Vista. Do note that the screen seems quite liable to attracting dirt, so be sure to make sure you give it a regular clean and try to avoid getting fingers on it.
Once you've established where the screen is, it's time to start browsing the web! It's the netbook's time to shine! Or...not. I know I've made quite a point about the size of the screen already but it really does make browsing difficult, and not just because of the width. In fact the main problem is the length. You constantly find yourself scrolling up and down, and this is something you tend not to appreciate with notebooks and desktops - it's a pain and it slows you down awfully.
Being such a small unit there were obviously space limitations when it came to fitting the touchpad, which is, as you've guessed, small. Small touchpad means more finger wagging to navigate through pages, which can only be resolved by jacking the scroll speed to full whack, which, unless mastered like a circus act, incidentally slows you down further as you try to slow the thing down again to click on that little link in the corner of the page to which you've just taken five minutes to scroll down to! Sigh.
Unfortunately, things don't get better with the keyboard either. On first glance, it looks like the guys at Compaq have done well to fit everything in rather comfortably. However, the keys are poor, and whilst none have fallen off, appear to be stuck on with some PVA glue and a spring, in that they are very wobbly and aligned poorly too. The keys are far too close together, and touch-typing is a nightmare. On the other hand, one point is awarded for a full size back space key.
Performance wise, I could just say it's a netbook, and you'd have your answer. The Mini boasts a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom Processor, which does OK, but it's by no means full steam ahead. Projecting videos was often a struggle, with HD or even relatively high quality videos a no-go. Programme performance was relatively good on the whole, but start-up from dead is, traditionally with Windows, slow. It has 1GB of RAM, which is about average, and 160GB of hard drive space, the suitability of which is really down to your needs. With no DVD drive, gaming and watching DVDs are out of the question anyway; however, should you oddly decide to invest in an external hard drive, then make sure it is just for the latter. I've not bothered testing any games, but really, it would be embarrassing if I did. It's a netbook. Simple as.
One of the real let downs for this netbook is battery life. These days you can make a netbook out of pastry and no-one will bat an eyelid as long as the battery life is decent - with the Mini though, it is particularly poor. Claiming to be give up to three hours battery life, it's more like two to two and a half. Charging is quite slow too, though I'm going to be generous and put that partially down to the fact that this is now ageing. Despite being quite an old model however, the battery life is inexcusable, and it's not a surprise that they fail to make much of a point of it. Unless you're planning to use this in the house as a notebook replacement/alternative with a socket readily available, then this ultimately could be the final blow that leads you to deciding to look elsewhere.
There is a positive in that the Mini seems to do quite well at keeping itself cool, although in all fairness, there's not a lot there to get hot over. One feature included that I haven't mentioned is the awful webcam, so there's the mention. There's a useful 5-in-1 card reader thrown in, and they do manage to provide three USB hubs, which is rather good. It's worth mentioning that the VGA connection is very poor indeed, with no screws (which in fairness is unsurprising), but for some reason far too much close casing. What I mean by this is that instead of cutting it back slightly around the VGA connection to allow for input, the connection is ridiculously enclosed, making the cable very liable to fall out (many, many times). It's a terrible flaw. The speakers on the other hand are quite good for a netbook, or even for a notebook, though they're nothing to behold as such, and as with any such device, I suggest you just invest in some decent headphones or external speakers.
Overall, it's just not something I can recommend, and that's not because I don't like netbooks. If you want something that can be used portably, and particularly for browsing the web and managing documents, then by all means, a netbook may be for you - but it's when a netbook can't even set out to meet those criteria that I really get annoyed. The screen, despite being LED backlit, is far too small, whilst the tiny touchpad and awful keys make navigating tiresome and slow, not to mention trying to type up documents. The poor VGA connection and silly little front flick-switches do nothing for the design of the thing, and though it's a feather, the horrendous battery life means that even portability is limited. It's a netbook, that for me, can't even serve as one, which is I why I just cannot recommend it to anyone. Good riddance to it.
I don't want to leave things on a sour note though, so I shall recall a quote from my girlfriend, from when she first saw the Mini; "Aw, it's so cute!", she said. To which I replied, "What is, where? I still don't see anything..."
Summary: It's not useless, but the alternatives that there are out there make it just about pointless
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