Netbooks are an interesting category of mobile device; some people love them and others loathe them. We definitely wouldn’t want to be stuck with a netbook as our primary computing device, and probably not even our primary laptop. HP actually understands this quite well with the 5102 and markets it as a companion device for business users, with some interesting features to back up that claim. This is a “mini executive” laptop that would pair up very nicely with a ProBook or EliteBook if you’re part of the HP ecosystem.
We should note that the 5102 is actually an older model and it has since been replaced by the 5103, which uses the same basic chassis and design but switches to DDR3 enabled Atom CPUs. So why are we reviewing this older laptop? For one, it’s still on sale, and prices have dropped quite a bit since its introduction making it a more interesting option. The other reason is pretty typical: HP offered to send us a unit for review, and we figured, “why not?” We know what to expect from Atom N450 in terms of performance, but having looked at the ProBook and EliteBook we were interested to see HP’s “Business Mini” in person. Most of what we have to say about the 5102 applies to the 5103 as well, except we’d expect better battery life and slightly better performance from the newer model—though the N550 CPU might cut battery life in pursuit of performance. So with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s see what the Mini 5102 has to offer.
The basic feature set for the 5102 is the same as what you’ll find with many Atom netbooks, but HP has some extra features in the way of software to make it more useful. One set of software is HP QuickSync, which keeps your Mini synced up with your desktop’s email, documents, images, etc. This makes it very easy to pick up the Mini and head out for meetings, without having to worry about manually transferring your data. HP also includes Corel Home Office, which allows users to view and edit MS Office files without the need to spend a bunch of money on a fully licensed version of MS Office. The remaining features aren’t particularly noteworthy, but let’s give a rundown of the specifications of the Mini 5102.
|HP Mini 5102 Specifications|
|Processor|| Intel Atom N450 |
(1.66GHz + SMT, 45nm, 512KB L2, 533FSB, 5.5W)
|Memory||1x1024MB DDR2-800 @ DDR2-667 5-5-5-15 Timings|
|Graphics||Integrated Intel GMA 3150|
|Display|| 10.1" LED Matte 16:9 WSVGA (1024x600) |
(LG Philips LP101WSA-TLB2)
|Hard Drive|| 2.5" 160GB 7200RPM 8MB |
(Western Digital WD1600BEKT-60V5T1)
|Networking|| Marvel Yukon 88E8059 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet |
Broadcom BCM43224 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi
Bluetooth 2.1 (Optional)
|Audio|| IDT 92HD75B2X5 2-Channel HD Audio |
(2.0 Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks)
|Battery|| 4-Cell, 14.8V, 1900mAh, 29Wh |
6-Cell, 11.25V, 5700mAh, 66Wh
|Front Side||None (Speaker Grille)|
|Left Side|| 2 x USB 2.0 |
AC Power Connection
|Right Side|| SD/MMC reader |
1 x USB 2.0
|Operating System||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions||10.3" x 7.09" x 0.91" (WxDxH)|
|Weight||2.64 lbs (with 6-cell battery)|
|Extras|| 2.0MP Webcam |
Broadcom Crystal HD (Optional)
|Warranty||1-year standard warranty|
|Price||Online starting at $388|
Besides the regular items, the interesting additions include a matte LCD panel, 7200RPM hard drive, and—shock and awe!—a Gigabit Ethernet controller. The latter is particularly useful if you plan on using the QuickSync feature with larger files, though the estimated 14+ hours to do the initial sync with my desktop (and around 30GB of data) shows that QuickSync isn’t necessarily the fastest way to do things. The wireless network controller is also a higher end option than what most netbooks get, with 802.11a/b/g/n support (11a is used in businesses on occasion, though I’ve yet to see anyone using it at home).
Depending on where you pick up your Mini, you can custom configure the system. HP’s site has the Mini 5103, which is the same only it offers newer CPUs—including the new dual-core N550—and DDR3 memory. HP offers a Broadcom Crystal HD decoder upgrade for $45, and I’ve been wanting to test one of those for a while. I didn’t get one with the 5102, but Anand sent me his BCM70012 mini-PCIe card and I managed to install it (see page three for details). The 5103 starts out at $400 from HP, or the configurable options start at $450 (with the current 12% off coupon). The Mini 5102 can be purchased online from Newegg and others for around $400 as well. What that means is you’re paying about $100 extra for the build quality, software, and any other extras.
Skipping back to the 5103, the configurator allows quite a few potentially interesting upgrades. There’s the aforementioned Crystal HD card, or you can get Mobile Broadband. LCD alternatives are also present: besides the standard WSVGA model, you can get a touchscreen WSVGA or go for a 1366x768 panel. The problem is that all of the interesting upgrades add to the price of an already expensive netbook. If you want 2GB RAM, 128GB SSD, the 768p LCD, Crystal HD, and the 6-cell battery, you can get the price up to $1000. For a netbook! Drop the SSD and you’re still approaching $700, though, which is frankly obscene for anything with an Atom CPU beating in the chassis.
Our test system is the basic $400 model available at MWave and other vendors, but HP shipped us the 6-cell battery for testing as well, and we added our own Crystal HD card. Those two upgrades bring the price to around $500 if you go that route, but let’s see what the HP 5102 can deliver before we decide if the upgrades are worth having.