I haven’t bought a new netbook since I picked up the original Asus EEE PC a few years ago when it was introduced. It was a fantastic little machine that went with me everywhere except my living room. What do I mean by that? Well, despite my netbook being powerful enough for all of my needs in my business life, the one thing it didn’t ever do so well with was watching videos. In an age where HD video is almost the standard way to upload content to the web, it seemed strange to me that not only did my netbook not have the capabilities to watch HD video with a more powerful graphics card, it also didn’t have an HDMI out that would allow me to plug my netbook into my TV or projector to watch movies at home.
With more and more folks turning to cheaper netbooks as their main computer in their house, it makes sense to find one that has all of the functionality of an actual computer. Below are some of the basics of HDMI and why you want it on your netbook as opposed to a standard video output connection, as well as some netbooks you can look into to take advantage of the ever growing library of HD content that’s uploaded to the web each day.
HDMI, short for High Definition Multimedia Interface, is a universal standard that allows for higher quality digital video and audio to be transferred through the same cable to a high definition receiving source. Standard definition television (think basic cable) comes in at a resolution of 480P, meaning that there were 480 horizontal lines making up any given picture. For years that was fine as most televisions didn’t have the capability of displaying more than that, nor did computers have higher resolution monitors to display anything super detailed. The technology worked fine.
Nowadays, that 480 number has jumped up to 1080, meaning more than twice the resolution on your TV and computer monitors for more detail than was ever dreamed of over a decade ago. All of this talk of higher quality video though raises a question. Can computers, like netbooks, keep up with the demand of having video outputs for their users to be able to stream HD content from a miniature device or are we forever doomed with having higher end laptops having to be the workhorses for multimedia watching?
Luckily, the answer to the above questions is “no.” There are a few netbooks on the market that not only meet the needs of high definition media enthusiasts, but exceed them by being able to stream HD content to external monitors like televisions and projectors, not just for home enjoyment, but also for business projects that require the higher resolution detail that high definition provides.
HP Mini 311
This little guy seems to come up a lot when discussing quality netbooks that have the capabilities for higher end computing without having to spend a fortune on upgrading or deluxe models that are usually required for more intense computing tasks. It sports the standard netbook processor, an Intel N270 Atom that runs at 1.6GHz, and comes with a widescreen display (1366x 768). While that in itself isn’t true HD, it’s damn good for an 11.6” screen that isn’t typically standard on netbooks. And as requested, there’s an HDMI port on this little guy that will blow you away. Some users have reported problems out of the box with getting the HDMI to work, but in most cases it was just an issue with a driver that was installed incorrectly or the television it was being connected to not responding properly. A few simple Google results are guaranteed to fix the issue.
- 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 Processor (512 KB L2 Cache, 533 MHz FSB)
- 1 GB DDR2 RAM (1 Dimm), Max supported 2 GB
- 160GB (5400RPM) SATA Hard Drive
- 11.6” Diagonal HD LED BrightView Widescreen Display (1366 x 768) NVIDIA ION LE for Windows XP with up to 319MB total graphics memory
- Genuine Windows XP Home (SP3), *Up to 6.25 Hours of Battery Life
Acer Aspire AS1410
While I have never been a big fan of the bright red coloring that comes standard on this netbook, I must say I’m impressed. Very similar to the HP Mini listed above, it differs with an Intel Core2 Solo processor as opposed to the standard Intel Atom that comes with almost every netbook on the market these days. The screen resolution is the same on an identical sized screen, and the HD graphics are powered by the same Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics card. What would have us gearing for this one instead of the Mini (definitely not the “attractive” red coloring on the exterior) would be the fact that it weighs a little less than the Mini at 3.1 pounds.
- 1.4GHz Intel Core2 Solo ULV SU3500 Processor
- 2048MB DDR2 667MHz Memory, 250GB SATA Hard Drive
- Acer Crystal Eye Webcam, Intel WiFi Link 5100 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N, 1 HDMI port
- Windows Vista Home Premium (SP 1), 6-cell Li-ion Battery (4400 mAh)
- 11.6″ HD WXGA Acer CrystalBrite LED-backlit Display, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
This last option I just had to include, but for a different reason than the others. I’ll get it out at the beginning of the description that this netbook doesn’t have an HDMI output on it. “Why did you include it then?” I included this gem of a netbook because it’s absolutely stunning for the price. It has a 720P capable display onboard and with Intel’s newest dual core Atom processor, it is much snappier than other netbooks on the market. If you’re just looking for an all around powerful computer that has HD capabilities without necessarily having an HDMI output to stream to your TV or projector, this is definitely a contender. If I didn’t already have a netbook that suited my needs, I’d jump on this one in a heartbeat.
Although the screen is smaller on this one than others, it’s still beautiful to look at. The extra inch available in other machines doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of watching HD content.
1. The ultra compact NF310 features an all-new Intel® Atom N550 Dual-Core processor providing up to 50 percent faster performance than in previous netbook models.
2. 10.1-Inch HD (1366×768) LED-Backlit Display produces the sharpest images and boldest colors imaginable
3. Whether at home or away, the NF310 makes portable entertainment an eye-pleasing experience. It also boasts battery performance of more than 9 hours, making it perfect for work or play on-the-go
4. Samsung’s Fast Start feature, which easily allows the user to put the NF310 in an advanced state of sleep, enhances user satisfaction by reducing power consumption while the device is not in use.
5. A smooth, contoured clamshell exterior highlight the NF310’s sleek appearance, while a roomy island style spill-resistant keyboard and large touchpad with gesture support make the NF310 conducive to comfortable computing on-the-go
If you’re in the market for a netbook with HDMI capabilities, you’re probably finding it to be difficult to find one. While a lot of netbooks these days are finally introducing the ability to watch HD content on the computer itself, many of them are failing to let you do anything with it. It’s all well and good if you’re by yourself and OK with watching movies on your computer, but for those looking to utilize the television they spent so much money for, a computer with an HDMI out is a must.
I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before companies latch onto HDMI out being a standard component of netbook computers, but for the time being you’re either going to have to settle for one of the two models listed above, or fork over the extra cash and buy a more expensive fully fledged laptop instead.