Last year, we reviewed the HP Mini 5101 – what I then considered to be one of the best netbook options on the market. Earlier this year, HP refreshed their lineup, and the 5101 became the 5102. Not that much has changed on the new version, but it is enough of an upgrade to warrant a fresh look.
First the basics – thankfully, the outside is the same, as is the the keyboard – which is just as well, because the “near full size” keyboard of the 5101 was quite simply the best on any netbook. As you can see in the photo above, the keys reach the entire width of the machine, making them a real pleasure to type on.
The majority of changes are on the inside – the first major change is a new processor lineup. You can now order the Mini 5102 with a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 or a beefier 1.83GHz Atom N470. New operating system options have also been added, and you can order the 5102 with Windows 7 starter (in addition to the previous options of Windows XP, SUSE Linux and FreeDOS).
I have to say that Windows 7 really does feel at home on the 5102 – the faster processor obviously makes a slight difference, but the entire experience just feels faster.
The list of available options on the 5102 has increased considerably – the most notable being a touch panel display. This multi touch display supports a variety of gestures, including pinch and rotate. The touch option is an additional $51.
Other options include a GOBI enabled broadband adapter with GPS (additional $125), the Broadcom Crystal HD decoder ($45) and a really cool carrying handle ($30). I played with this carrying handle at the HP booth at CES earlier this year, and found it to be one of the coolest innovations I’ve seen on a computer in ages. The handle is primarily designed for the educational market, but travelers will really love it.
Sadly, the broadband adapter and HD decoder can’t both be added together – there is only one slot for add-on cards.
And finally – the Mini 5102 is now also available in red and blue, in addition to black (additional $28).
Same high end protection
When it comes to “never changing a winning team”, HP did well here. On the new Mini 5102, you still get the HP DriveGuard 3D hard drive protection system, spill resistant keyboard with DuraKey coating, which prevents the letters from rubbing off the keys after prolonged use.
Included software suite
The Mini 5102 comes with an impressive array of free software – including Corel Home Office, PDF Complete, Skype, HP QuickSync (for netbook to desktop data syncing), HP QuickLook 3 and QuickWeb (for instant data access without booting) as well as several trial versions of popular software packages (McAfeeTotal Protection and Microsoft Office Professional 2007).
On Windows 7, you also get the newest version of the HP Support Assistant, which helps with driver and OS updates as well as basic computer health checks. HP also added an array of security features, making the Mini 5102 a great choice for business users.
With the basic 4 cell battery, the Mini 5102 will stay powered for up to 4 hours and 30 minutes – an upgrade to the 6 cell pack brings that up to ten hours, though it will add a little bulk. With the 4 cell pack, HP’s Fast Charge system can recharge the battery to 90% in just 90 minutes – perfect for those short layovers at the airport.
A good computer does not come cheap, but with a starting price of $415, you do get a lot of computer for your money. The price does go up quickly once you start adding options, and a fully spec’d HP Mini 5102 can easily climb to $770 – but for that money, you essentially get a broadband enabled touch-screen computer – and the final price is still lower than the top of the line iPad…
The HP Mini 5102 for travelers
For travel, the advantages of the Mini 5102 over other netbooks are easy to spot:
- A near full size keyboard
- Spill protection on the keyboard
- Optional worldwide compatible mobile broadband
- Optional carrying handle (making it very easy to lift the machine out of a bag at the checkpoint)
- Good battery life
- Excellent array of pre-loaded software
- Drop protection on the hard drive
- The Mini 5102 uses the same charger found on almost every HP – making it easy to shop for a replacement or spare charger
The bottom line…
With its all metal frame, drive and keyboard protection and extensive options, this is not a budget computer. But if you travel, and need a computer that won’t let you down, the extra investment won’t disappoint you.
Personally, I find the extra options to add a little too much to the price, especially once you start adding Bluetooth, the touch screen and HD video decoder – I would have preferred to see some of those features included in the base price.
But you can’t argue with the quality – I have several netbooks here, and the HP is by far the best built, and most sturdy. There are no squeaks or creaks, and the keyboard doesn’t have the “flex” you’ll often find on cheaper machines.
Justifying the investment is as simple as answering a question – how inconvenient will it be if your computer breaks in the middle of a trip?
You’ll find the lineup of ready-to-ship HP Mini 5102 models here, where you can also start customizing your own machine.