As the sequel to one of our favorite all-around Netbooks, the HP Mini 5102 has some pretty big shoes to fill. It wasn't HP's choice in components that we liked about its business line 10-inch system--after all, most 2009 Netbooks shared a very uniform set of parts--it was the overall design and build quality of the Netbook we liked
With a body made of aluminum and magnesium alloy, the 5101 felt significantly more rugged than many of the plastic Netbooks it was competing with, and its excellent keyboard layout made typing a breeze. The new version, the 5102, offers only minor cosmetic tweaks, but also more configuration options, including a touch screen.
That means you can create a fairly compelling Netbook using HP's online configurator, but it'll also be an expensive one, as anything above the baseline adds significant cost. At a time when HD displays are becoming the norm, our $424 review unit has only a standard 1,024x600-pixel resolution 10-inch display, along with a single-core Intel Atom N450 processor, Windows 7 Starter Edition, and 1GB of RAM.
With the competition (including HP's own Mini 311 line) regularly offering HD displays and Nvidia Ion graphics for very reasonable prices, we would have liked to see the Mini 5102 make some bolder steps with its new version. As it is, this sequel to our favorite 2009 Netbook feels like just that--a 2009 Netbook.
|Price as reviewed||$424|
|Processor||1.66GHz Intel Atom N450|
|Memory||1GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||160GB 7,200rpm|
|Chipset||Mobile Intel NM10|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 3150 (integrated)|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.3x7.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.5/3.3 pounds|
Looking very similar to last year's Mini 5101 model, the 5102 has a black brushed-metal lid and matte black keyboard and keyboard tray, offset by a glossy touch pad. The overall look of the Netbook is definitely on the business side of the equation, but it's also sleek enough to hold its own at a hipster coffee shop. Though it's not the thinnest or lightest Netbook ever, it feels solid and durable, without being a brick.
We were concerned when HP ditched its previous wide, flat keys for a redesigned pebble-style keyboard in the 5101. The 5102 keeps this new design, and time has shown it to be a good one (although we still have a soft spot for the older design). Important keys, like Shift, are nice and large, and the top row of function keys are reversed--which means the actually useful tasks of controlling volume and screen brightness, and so on, are the primary functions of those keys, while the somewhat more obscure F-key functions require you to hold down the Fn key. It's a swap we've seen on a few laptops recently, and seems like a generally good idea.
The Mini 5101's touch pad is a traditional type, with the mouse buttons located under it--rather than the side mouse buttons and elongated touch pad found on older HP Netbooks. We prefer this style, but at the same time, the touch pad itself is small and its slick surface attracts fingerprints like literally nothing we've ever seen before--therefore it often looks dingy.
The 10.1-inch wide-screen display has a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, which is the norm for low-end Netbooks. However, as a premium system with a premium price, we'd expect to see an HD 1,366x768-pixel screen as a default (it will be available as an optional upgrade). HP's own Mini 311 includes the HD display for $399.
|HP Mini 5102||Average for category|
|Audio||Headphone/microphone jacks||Headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Our very base model configuration of the Mini 5102 omits Bluetooth, but otherwise offers a standard set of ports and connections for a Netbook. While HP's configuration options are not live yet, the system will offer built-in 3G connections, likely from Sprint, Verzion, or AT&T. More interesting, potentially, is the option for a touch screen. This may be of limited practical application for most users, but it shows the increasing prevalence of touch technology in the laptop industry.
HP includes the Corel Home Office software instead of the usual Microsoft Office trial version, but we're not sure why it would be preferable to the free Open Office suite as a Microsoft Office alternative (the HP employees we asked didn't have any particularly compelling reasons to offer). HP also includes a fairly standard feature from full-size business laptops, a hard drive accelerometer called, in this case, HP 3D DriveGuard.
Intel's new single-core 1.66GHz Atom N450 CPU is the new standard for Netbooks, and while it doesn't really offer any performance gain over the previous generation N270 and N280 Atom processers, it offers greater power efficiency. Our standard Netbook admonitions apply--they're great, as long as one keeps expectations modest, and sticks mostly to Web surfing, e-mail, and working on office documents.