Sunday, July 19, 2009

HP Mini Note 2140

Recently I purchased a MSI Wind U115, this is a great little netbook with a very innovative hybrid hard drive that delivered incredibly fast boot times and very snappy performance in general. Unfortunately the keyboard was just to small for me to get use too, and I returned it.

After looking around at the various retailers I realized that the HP netbooks all had one thing in common, great keyboards. The large sized keys and 92% full sized keyboards make typing much easier so I looked around for the model I wanted and found I wasn’t able to find the model I wanted anywhere locally so I ordered it online from CDW a large technology reseller. The service from CDW was awesome, they as good as you will get from an online retailer, enough said.

The model I ordered was a HP Mini Note 2140 It has a 10 inch screen and the aforementioned keyboard and a great aluminum case that has a much nicer finished than many of the plastic netbooks  I looked at. The boot up times and performance aren’t bad at all, not quite as snappy as the U115 but quite acceptable. I am currently removing much of the trialware that comes with the computer and I expect performance to improve once I’ve replaced things like the McAfee’s security suite with an antivirus that will be lighter weight. Right now I’m pleased with the size and build quality, the keyboard is smaller than normal but for me useable, unlike the MSI Wind keyboard and its little tiny keys.

So for initial impressions I’m quite happy I already find the size has me bringing the 2140 places I wouldn’t have bothered with before and I find it useful having it around. Netbooks don’t replace full sized desktops or laptops but they fill a niche I have wanted for some time.

Free Cloning software Part 1: Easus Disk Copy

Upgrading your hard drive can be a rewarding and simple procedure for the everyday computer user. Cloning your hard drive or making a exact copy is the easiest way to get the new hard drive up and running quickly, It’s also a popular tool for many professional IT people to backup a computer setup to be instantly restored in case of a disaster.

There is a number of paid commercial programs that serve this purpose, Norton Ghost is very popular as is my favorite, Acronis True Image. Both do a great job and have a number of useful options besides the cloning function. They are great programs but they cost money, and money is tight right now so I thought I try out a few free cloning programs that do the job just as well, albeit without the options the paid programs include.

The first program I tried successfully was Easus Disk Copy.  Disk Copy allows a user to replicate their hard drive on to a external hard drive, the only option besides a full copy is to choose an individual partition a useful feature that I didn’t test.

Easus Disk Copy is simple to use, you download the program and burn the iso image to a CD. You then boot to the CD and follow a simple set of windows guiding you through the process. Once your target disks are selected you simply wait for the process to take place. This is where Easus falls short of the paid programs I’ve used. The entire operation took over 3 hours to clone a drive with about 140GBs of data to the new drive, not a big deal for most situations but if you’re in a hurry you’ll want a different program.

Another issue which was no big deal but could be for some people, was that out of the 3 drives I cloned 2 required me to repair the Windows Boot Loader using an install disk. No big deal for me but if you don’t have an install disk for the operating system you have or don’t feel comfortable doing this, it would be a real hassle.

Overall I think Easus Disk Copy did a fine job, it’s free and relatively simple. Since hard drives have become so inexpensive it seems silly to pay for software if you’re only using it on rare occasions. I give it a conditional “fully recommend” rating’ the condition being the user knows how to burn an ISO file and is able to repair the boot loader if needed.

Get Easus Disk Copy here

Monday, July 6, 2009

The MSI Wind U115

The MSI Wind U115 is in a class of its own in the world of netbooks. Unfortunately it’s destined to stay exclusives a few months after being released, MSI is discontinuing the U115 due to the nuances of Microsoft’s licensing policies. The Wind U115 features a bit of technology people have been asking for, for some time. The U115 has a combination of a solid state drive 8 gigabytes in size with a 160 gig spinning hard drive for data.

This hybrid technology delivers a fast booting extremely responsive  little computer that gets up to 12 hours battery life running several applications at a time, wireless on, with the screen brightness turned up all the way. Right now I’ve got 81% battery life left after almost 4 hours of use showing 9:35 remaining.

Like I mentioned this great little machine will not be available long, thanks to Microsoft. The guys from Redmond have decided that the standard netbook pricing for Windows won’t apply to models running the two drive hybrid configuration. Its a shame looking at the U115 no one would ever  aware of the quick launching of programs and the excellent battery life.

The U115 works very well, but its 8 GB SSD drive is almost full when you get the machine. So you start getting nag screens telling you that your C drive is almost full after installing just a few applications to the C drive. The 8GB C drive is the U115’s biggest weakness, to make this design work the SSD needs to be at least 16GB and preferably 32. 32 would allow you to install Windows 7 and a number of applications without running into the space issues. The other negative to the little MSI is the keyboard, its just way to small for my hands. The keyboard is better than the early Eee PC’s but much smaller than some netbooks, and it may be the  deal breaker for me. The touchpad isn’t bad many netbooks do strange things with their touchpads, like sat them to one side and put the  buttons in the front, MSI keeps it conventional clicking is a bit stiff and requires a deliberate push to click on something.

The finish quality of the Wind is quite good, it looks nice and has a solid feel to it. I really like the U115, but you have to be selective about the apps you install unless you want to put them on the D drive. If your going to install iTunes or the Zune software you have to put it on your D drive. I’ll continue to use the U115 but the time to return it for a refund is drawing near and I’ll have to seriously consider if I can live with the keyboard and C drive limitations.