HP 311 Intel Atom Nvidia Ion 11" NetbookManufacturer:
as configured (varies by configuration)Introduction
The HP 311, released late last year, was one of the first netbooks featuring the new NVidia ION graphics card with the GeForce 9400M chipset. I had read numerous reviews of the card with surprising claims for an onboard GPU. I was in the market for something very portable to take on the road without sacrificing power, so I chose the most powerful configuration available to see just how robust this netbook could be. Click to find out if it lived up to its hype. First Impressions
The 311 is rounded and glossy, with a white spiral design that contrasts with the black lid. The entire computer is made of sturdy plastic and feels very solid. There's no noticeable give anywhere in the chassis. The keyboard is almost full size and is much more comfortable to type on than other netbooks I've used in the past.
My biggest gripe is the trackpad. It's the same color and texture as the rest of the frame. Because of this, it's tough to know if your wrist strays accidentally into its area and you may get some stray clicks as you're typing.
Flipping it over, the 311 has a large access panel where you can reach the RAM, the hard drive, wireless card and a slot for a WAN card (if you've got a spare one handy). This easy access is ideal for those who want a bit more control over their hardware, and in the world of netbooks, this is almost completely unheard of. Hardware
I ordered my 311 with the most power available. I upgraded the stock CPU to the Intel Atom Processor N280 1.66GHz (512KB L2, 533Mhz FSB). I also got 3GB RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and the Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit) upgrades. It features an 11.6" HD LED BrightView widescreen display (1366 x 768) to complement the NVidia ION LE. I also sprang for the external USB LightScribe Super Multi 8X DVD+/-RW DL drive. It comes standard with 3 USB ports, 1 ethernet port, 1 combination audio in/out port, 1 D-Sub and an HDMI port.Review
When you first turn on the computer, you are taken through a series of screens to set up your account and register the computer. After two reboots, you are launched into Windows 7. There was a bit of bloatware, but nothing that PC Decrapifier
couldn't take care of. Wireless set up went without a hitch and after downloading some of my favorite programs, I was off and running.
An interesting feature that I hadn't given much thought to is the HP Quick Start software that comes standard on many of HP's models. Basically, the 311 boots Quick Start (a Linux based OS) first before going on to load Windows. Quick Start loads within 8 seconds and gives you immediate access to an internet browser (Firefox), Skype, a media player and an image viewer. I found it surprisingly useful when you just want to find out scores online without starting up the whole computer. You easily turn the feature on and off from within Windows.
The 311 runs far better than other netbooks I've used. I can run Word, Excel, Firefox, iTunes, Thunderbird, Pidgin, and Calculator at the same time without any noticeable slowdown. Even more surprisingly, the battery lasts for a good four to five hours with this load. When there is some stalling, it's almost invariably the fault of the processor. My Windows Experience Index is at a sad 2.4, brought down completely by the paltry strength of the Atom 1.66GHz.
The 311 is not a gaming computer by any means and doesn't meet the minimum requirements for many of the newer games that have been recently released. I used one of my favorite games of the last couple years to test out its power. Orange Box runs well at the 311's native resolution of 1366 x 768 with noticeable lags only when there is a lot going on. More advanced video games, namely Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (which isn't all that new), performed poorly enough to be unplayable online. Some of this is due to the ION LE graphics, which only supports DirectX 9. To get DirectX 10 support, you have to have a full ION chipset, or for the braver among you, hack it
1080p video playback through VLC was laggy with unsynchronized audio even while nothing else is running, but 720p video runs absolutely fine. Adobe Flash doesn't support the ION chipset yet, so video at Hulu.com and other online streaming sites runs horribly.Conclusion
Overall, the 311 is the best netbook I've seen. It makes a great ultra-portable, something you can take on the road and finish that presentation before you hit the big meeting. And, since it can output HD content via its HDMI port, you'll be able to display it on any TV handy. The power to price ratio is a bit unbalanced, especially since we've seen Core i3 11" notebooks
for below $600 recently. Its poor video game performance means that you'll have to look elsewhere for a proper gaming experience. For that, why not try the Sony Vaio VPC-F1190XCTO