HP has produced some of the most user-friendly netbooks we've seen in our labs over the last 18 months, from the original mini 2130 and 1001TU to the more recent 5010. The NB210 follows much of the same formula as the original series. One welcome change is the new position for the battery.
It's now at the back of the chassis, as an almost barrel-like structure just under the lid. This means that you can, finally, add an extended battery to this form factor of HP mini notebooks. That addresses one of the long-standing weaknesses of HP's consumer netbook range.
Sadly, however, that excellent change is countered by a number of changes we're far less enthusiastic about. The keyboard, which we've lauded on previous models of mini for its usability, is now a semi-scrabble-tile arrangement.
Each key has a central raised portion that mimics the idea of an isolated keyboard, without actually being isolated. It's a nice idea, but it doesn't quite work in practice.
Having said that, the keyboard is sturdy enough, if a little hard under the fingers, without sufficient travel to make for an entirely comfortable experience for long stretches of typing.
The trackpad too, is a not-quite-there affair. HP has ditched buttons in favour of single clickable area, but the trackpad itself is imprecise, and the buttons not responsive enough.
Performancewise, the new N450 Atom processor doesn't have the chops of previous models, either. We recorded an overall score of just 0.31, balanced across all the areas of our benchmark. While that's not too far below the usual 0.37 for HP mini netbooks with the N270 Atom, we'd hoped for more, given that the new netbook runs Windows 7.
The battery life is a reasonable 2 hours 31mins for our intensive benchmark, and 4hrs 27mins on light use. The extended battery promises to double that battery life, but even so, it doesn't compare to the likes of the Samsung N110 or MSI Wind models.
The Windows 7 Starter edition has the fewest features of any Windows 7 version. It's bad enough that while you can join a homegroup you can't create one, but Windows 7 Starter won't even let you change your desktop wallpaper. See how long you can resist doing the Windows Anytime Upgrade to Windows Home Premium.
The standard netbook elements are all here, and the design is utilitiarian with some nice touches, but it's a shame that HP has given added battery life at the expense of nearly everything that made it so appealing in the first place.
In the end, it can't match the competition in usability or battery life, and the only thing the NB210 has to distinguish it from its competitors is the low price.