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Just below the screen is a silver bar with four buttons embedded in it. The Key Lock button locks the media playback controls located at the front of the chassis, while the Surround button toggles the virtual surround sound option. There are two buttons for increasing and decreasing the brightness of the screen, and finally the power button. At the front of the Mini Note you’ll find the aforementioned media playback buttons, comprising Stop, Play/Pause and Skip forward and backward.
On the right hand side of the chassis you’ll find a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive, a Type II PC Card slot, a four-pin FireWire port and the power socket. The left side is crammed full of connection options – there are two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot, an Ethernet port, a modem socket, a volume jog dial and a hardware switch for the integrated Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG 802.11b/g WiFi adapter. There’s also a pull down flap that hides a port for a docking bar – this will also accept a dongle that gives you a D-SUB port.
The rear is completely dominated by the clip-on battery, and if anything spoils the look of the Mini Note, it’s this. The battery doesn’t look terrible, but having a black plastic lump sticking out the back of a slim and sexy notebook does kind of spoil the effect. The advantage here is that the Mini Note can be even smaller if you want to use it connected to the mains, but the bread and butter work for an ultra-portable notebook is battery based. Unfortunately the Mini Note flatly refused to run Mobile Mark, so I wasn’t able to get a proper battery life test done – I’m not keen on quoting manufacturers’ approximate battery life, but I can say that I used the Mini Note on the move quite a lot and the battery life appeared to be pretty good.
There’s a port replicator supplied with the Mini Note, which makes using it as your main computer an easier prospect. The port replicator features D-SUB, optical S/PDIF out, Ethernet and four USB 2.0 ports. It will also supply power to the Mini Note, so if you leave the port replicator on your desk connected up to your monitor, network and the mains, all you have to do is put the Mini Note down, and plug in a single cable to get working.
As with any ultra-portable notebook, the Mini Note is not about raw power – something that’s borne out by the modest specs. This is a Centrino branded machine, so there’s obviously an Intel Pentium M CPU inside, and due to the size and target market of the Mini Note, JVC has chosen a 1GHz Ultra Low Voltage chip. That’s a fair choice for CPU, but I’m less accepting of the 256MB of memory that’s fitted as standard. I find it hard to work with a notebook that has less than 512MB of memory, since things start to get slow when you’ve got multiple applications open concurrently. It’s also worth remembering that the integrated graphics chipset will also grab some of the system memory, making matters worse.