My HP 311 came in the mail today!

Written 2009-12-24

Tags:Nvidia Ion Hewlett-Packard CUDA Wi-Fi Bluetooth 

First Impressions:

First power-on: Expect to spend about half an hour with the machine rebooting and installing software. It's a shame HP didn't think of doing this somewhere else. Maybe they could've done it in the factory, or maybe they could've done it as an OS image. About a minute after finally booting into Windows, the machine went into suspend. After it woke up, it died. Now it seems to be working fine.

Screen: Screen seems pretty bright and quite clear. Resolution is 1366x768, which isn't bad for a screen that size. For comparison, my macbook is a 13.3 inch 1280x800 screen. Slightly more pixels in a smaller screen is a good thing. Also, since the screen is LED backlit, there shouldn't be any inverter problems like the macbook was plagued with ( 5 inverters have tried and failed, Apple keeps feeding the machine new ones ). I haven't had a chance to take the 311 outside in direct sunlight yet, but I have high hopes.

Keyboard: The keys are nicely sized, but there's little border between the keys themselves. This leads to often losing where your fingers are located. Also, the blind-person nubs are real short and easy to miss.

Trackpad: I like the trackpad. The trackpad is large for this size of laptop, it is smooth, and the built-in gesture support is great. However, it would be nicer if the trackpad weren't at the same height as the buttons. This often leads me to graze the trackpad when clicking, making the cursor fly off to the corner of the screen, although I'm sure I will get used to it.

Bloat-ware: Expect a few columns of icons on the desktop, about 7 or so in the tray. HP was even so nice as to include another Internet Explorer Toolbar!!! Can you guess what it does? It does an MSN/BING search, just like the built-in search bar.

Networking: There are three wireless options available for this machine: Wifi, Bluetooth, and 3G. I went with Wifi and Bluetooth, planning on tethering through my phone while away. I went with the upgraded A/B/G/N Wifi card. It's a Broadcom, but seems to work fine. However, HP installed a generic wireless card manager ( It handles Bluetooth, Wifi, and presumably 3G ), and so Wndows fights with this thing constantly. Once you kill off one of them the Wifi works great. Bluetooth tethering was painless. I did notice that HP opted to cut the ethernet port down to 10/100 instead of 10/100/1000 like the ION chipset supports.

Video Card: I bought this machine specifically because it has built-in NVIDIA ION graphics. I wanted to play with CUDA, and I was tired of my Intel 945 software-emulated GPU. It appears that this laptop does not come with NVIDIA ION, it comes with NVIDIA ION LE. I appears to use 128 Megs DDR3 ( other real ION systems use 256 ), and may have some other limitations. I am not amused and will be calling HP about this.

Thoughts: Pretty sweet. Time to set up some games.