If you're looking for a netbook with great battery life and good durability then the new HP Mini 5102 might be exactly what you need. You can even configure this netbook with a touchscreen for a tablet-like experience. Keep reading to find out if this business-class netbook is worth the price.
Our HP Mini 5102 features the following specifications:
Our configuration of the HP Mini 5102 is not available for sale at the time of this writing. The closest configuration to our review unit currently available is the HP Mini 5102 model WH236UA ($899.00) which features a total of 2GB of system memory and HP Mobile Broadband (powered by Gobi) with GPS.
The HP Mini 5102 looks like a minor update to last year's Mini 5101 ... essentially a netbook version of HP's "ProBook" line of laptops designed for small and medium businesses. In fact, the Mini 5102 looks like what we would expect to see if someone shrunk down the HP ProBook 4510s to something small enough to fit inside a purse. The Mini 5102 is roughly one inch thick and weighs less than 3 pounds despite a very durable chassis that feels like it can handle years of abuse in your briefcase or backpack. The nearly full-size keyboard makes typing quick emails or editing documents a breeze ... even if you have to work on the tray table in coach class during a business flight. The traditional clamshell-like design gives the Mini 5102 a very clean look and the all-metal chassis means serious business. The brushed metal lid features a durable black finish and only suffers from a slight amount of flex under heavy pressure.
When open, the rubberized metal chassis and glossy black surfaces highlight the keyboard and 10-inch display. The thick bezel surrounding the matte screen offers additional protection and a place to keep your fingers off the screen when opening the netbook. The bezel is also needed in order to provide enough space for the larger keyboard. That said, I can't shake the feeling that the Mini 5102 would look better with either a larger screen or a smaller screen bezel. The screen hinges are made of metal and offer the perfect amount of resistance. You can pick up the Mini 5102 by the edge of the screen without feeling like something is going to break. While we're on the topic of carrying the netbook around, you can order the 5102 with an optional handle that is built-in to the chassis next to the battery for easy transport ... essentially turning the netbook into a tiny briefcase PC. The Mini 5102 is also available in red and blue just in case black isn't your color of choice.
HP engineers also added a few nice little features to the design of the Mini 5102 that I really appreciated. First, the battery features a button and LED meter so that you can quickly see how much charge is left in the battery. Four blue lights mean you've got a full charge and three blue LEDs and one blinking LED means you have somewhere between 75% and 100% remaining. Sure, the on-screen battery meter is more accurate but this little feature let's you know if you need to bring your AC adapter without powering on your netbook.
Another nice feature is the quick release switch for the RAM cover. Simply release the battery and then slide the right-side battery release switch all the way to the left and you can instantly pop off the cover for the RAM module. This makes upgrading the RAM nice and easy. I actually wish more netbooks made upgrading the RAM as easy as this.
Screen and Speakers
The 10.1-inch screen on the Mini 5102 is a nice LED-backlit display panel with a 1024x600 native resolution. The matte screen surface is a welcome change compared to the glossy screens we usually see in netbooks. The matte surface helps to prevent glare and reflection on the surface of the screen under bright indoor lights and helps improve sunlight readability. Despite the nice matte screen surface, we really wish the 5102 used an 11.6-inch screen and 1366x768 resolution seen on many modern netbooks. A resolution of 1024x600 is okay in a pinch, but many websites just don't look right without a minimum vertical resolution of 768 pixels. On that note, HP includes at least some software optimized for lower-resolution screens. Corel Home Office (compatible with Microsoft Office) comes pre-loaded with this netbook and the Corel software looks much better than using Microsoft Word or PowerPoint on the tiny screen.
Vertical viewing angles are average with some color distortion when viewing from below and some over-exposed colors when viewed from above. Horizontal viewing angles are better with colors remaining unchanged at extremely wide viewing angles; you won't have trouble sharing a YouTube video with friends using this display.
The built-in speaker performance on the Mini 5102 is good for a 10-inch netbook but it's obviously weaker than a typical 14-inch or 15-inch notebook PC. I'm not a fan of the location of the built-in speakers since they're located on the bottom front edge of the netbook, but the audio quality doesn't suffer from any distortion issues until you get to maximum volume levels. The speakers lack much bass, but the range of highs and midtones are perfectly enjoyable. Again, the only major problem I had with the speakers is that they sound muffled if you use the netbook on your lap.
Granted, most audiophiles will want to use external speakers or headphones for a better listening experience ... but the built-in speakers work well in a pinch. The audio output from the headphone jack produced some high frequency background noise/distortion with one of the headphones we used during testing, but other headphones worked fine with no distortion.
As previously mentioned, the HP Mini 5102 features a large, spill-resistant keyboard that is 95% of full size. Most of the primary keys are the same size as the keys you'll find on a typical notebook and the spacing is likewise normal, but the space bar and some of the keys that are used less frequently are smaller than normal. If you prefer the shape and feel of traditional keys then you may not like this keyboard. That said, I personally prefer the "Chiclet" style keyboard used on this netbook since there is more space between the keys to prevent me from accidentally hitting the wrong key when working in tight quarters. The keys offer just the right amount of feedback and modest amount of "click and clack" noise while typing. I didn't notice any flex in the keyboard even when I applied significant typing pressure. In short, I found the Mini 5102 was a joy to use when typing.
Input and Output Ports
In terms of port selection the HP Mini 5102 offers the average bells and whistles we've come to expect on netbooks. You get three USB 2.0 ports, a 4-in-1 media card reader, dedicated headphone and microphone jacks, Ethernet port, a VGA output and a dedicated wireless on/off switch.
Here is a quick tour around the HP Mini 5102:
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