HP Mini 5102: A Business Netbook

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We should note that the 5102 is actually an older model and it has since been replaced by the 5103, which uses the same basic chassis and design but switches to DDR3 enabled Atom CPUs.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)
Chipset Intel NM10
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
Heat Exhaust
VGA
AC Power Connection
Right Side SD/MMC reader
Microphone/Headphone Jacks
Gigabit Ethernet
1 x USB 2.0
Kensington Lock
Back Side None
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
82-key keyboard
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.

HP Mini 5102 Impressions
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  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    The machine itself looks nice. Very enterprise class looking (event if not performing). And its nice to see a good keyboard and build quality in a netbook.

    But the Atom is just so bleh. I am really looking forward to Bobcat, in hopes that it leapfrogs the Atom (which should not be too difficult).
    Reply
  • marvdmartian - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Seems a bit outlandishly priced for what is, essentially, the same hardware you'd find in a $300 netbook. For sure, slapping the HP brand on it doesn't add $100 of value to it, any more than slapping a fruit on it would give it a $200+ rise in value.

    Hey, netbook manufacturers, here's a clue! If you want to charge $400+ for a 10" netbook, it had better come with a dual core atom AND 2GB of memory. Otherwise, there are far too many alternatives out there that will attract my attention first.
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Gigabit ethernet and 7200RPM hard drive are notable upgrades over almost all netbooks.

    2GB of memory would be awfully nice though.
    Reply
  • CK804 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    I bought one of these for my girlfriend for her birthday and I'm glad I did. I would have gladly paid more for it. The build quality and keyboard alone are worth the $100 extra. The keyboard is not only very well laid out, but it's spill resistant. The chassis is constructed of metal instead of plastic like on every other netbook. HP also bundles its ProtectTools security suite software which, I think, is a first for a netbook. Combined with a 7200 RPM hard drive and gigabit ethernet, this netbook has all the features I would expect from an HP ProBook but with netbook performance. Reply
  • Chris Peredun - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Jarred, does this little guy have a hardware TPM module for use with BitLocker?

    With the increasing number of data-security regulations hitting all facets of business, I'd really like to see a netbook sporting this feature, but I've yet to unearth one. Something cheaper than the typical $1500 "executive class" 12" ultraportable would be nice.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    No TPM Module, no. Sorry. As CK804 pointed out, it does have HP's ProtectTools, but that's not the same. Reply
  • lgpOnTheMove - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    "...what would be awesome to see is something with the Mini 5102/5103 chassis (make it 12.1” if you have to), only put in NG-ION and a 66Wh battery and ship it with 2GB RAM and Windows Home Premium. If they can make that and keep the price of the laptop around $500, we’d have an awesome little multimedia device."

    Jarred, I think that "awesome little multimedia device" already exists:

    http://lgponthemove.blogspot.com/2010/09/first-imp...

    Beats the N550 for performance, barely bigger/heavier than a 10" netbook and priced around $525. Definitely worth a look IMO.
    Reply
  • treyTM - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    I own a 5102 (a red one with the 768p screen) and while I like it very much, I agree with most of the points in this review. I also want to chip in my experiences:

    The glossy plastics. The review points out it shows fingerprints and smudges, but I found that it also picks up scratches and marks very easily. My 6 month old machine already has marks on the bezel from the keyboard. Both sides of the keyboard deck (where it joins with the alloy base) also picked up a small vertical crack near the enter/caps lock keys - a common problem I later learned.

    The soft touch coating. On my 5102, the coating around the edges are coming off - not from any abuse, just from taking it in and out of a case. I guess it's less obvious on a black machine though.

    Fan noise. Actually if you are in a quiet room, the fan can get very annoying if you start playing HD video. It spins up even for regular web surfing on battery power (it could be the N470 vs the N450, but I doubt it). There doesn't seem to be quite enough vents on the base.

    Hit and miss Flash acceleration. It seems to work when it feels like it, or when driver and Flash versions are in alignment, or whatever. Adobe suggests turning on Aero, which I do (Win 7 Pro), but it still doesn't seem to work any better.

    Overall I find the little netbook a good mobile counterpart to my i7 desktop (the 768p screen really helps, as does 2GB of RAM), though if I were buying a 10" netbook now, it would be hard to turn down the cheaper yet similarly specced Asus 1005PR.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, September 23, 2010 - link

    Hi Jarred,

    Thanks for the great review on this somewhat outdated netbook. I was shocked to see the performance virtually unchanged between the resolutions on the internet video sites. Is there some ram bottleneck that Flash 10.1 is imposing that isn't seen with normal video playback? With only 1 gig on a Win7 OS I could see a HDD caching issue that would cripple the performance like you see and this could also account for the near identical performance between the difference resolutions (as the limitation is the HDD and not the crappy Atom).

    I would be extremely interested to see if the numbers change with a simple swap out to 2 gigs of ram. My buddy just upgraded from 1 to 2gig and has said the user experience is vastly better when any type of even simple multitasking is performed (older Atom Eee PC running XP).

    One other test I'd like to see (the main reason my buddy upgraded to 2 gigs of ram) was Skype performance. He's Canadian and keeps in touch by Skype but told me it was all but useless on the Netbook due to horrid performance. Something simple (and cheap) like the Crystal HD decoder would be a huge upgrade if it made Skype usable.

    Thanks again for the great review!
    Reply
  • shanne - Tuesday, October 05, 2010 - link


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