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We should note that the 5102 is actually an older model and it has since been replaced by the 5103, which uses the same basic chassis and design but switches to DDR3 enabled Atom CPUs.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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  • nukunukoo - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Never liked the Atom, with its performance and memory limitations especially in the face of AMD's upcoming offerings. I don't really mind a six-hour battery life instead of 8-9 hours if I get much more performance.

    And who is the moron who keep insisting 1024 x 600 is 'enough' for 'most' jobs? 10.1 and 11.6 inch displays have been available at 1336 x 768 resolution since the start of the year. Sure some are now in used (Sony uses the 10.1) but why do the bigger names still insists on this limitation? Sales erosion for their better models?
    Reply
  • Taft12 - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Fully agreed on 1024x600. I know netbooks aren't supposed to be "primary" computers, but any and all usability is out the window with a vertical resolution that low.

    768 minimum please, 800 even better.
    Reply
  • martyrant - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    The Acer AO*21 series is a pretty amazing package in a netbook. It's a pretty beefy processor compared to the atom, has a integrated gpu the 721 has a 720p screen, and neither are all that expensive. It's DDR3, but I had a bunch of 2GB DDR3 laptop modules sitting around so that's an easy upgrade, as is putting in an intel x25 g2 80gb ssd. beastly machine, has HDMI out (a HUGE selling point, especially at this price point) and while the battery life isn't great, if you are just surfing doing nothing but netbook-type stuff, you can get 5 hours out of it, but if you are gaming (WoW runs on it OK, nothing you would want to make your gaming machine, torchlight ran great) or watching bluray rips (handles 720 and 1080p bluray rips) it's more like 3-4

    you get about half the battery life, but getting 3-5 hours out of a machine that does a good deal more than the competition at a good price point is hard to beat :P
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    I've got the Acer TimelineX 1830T with the Core i3-330UM crammed in an 11.6" chassis. It's quite the little pocket-rocket... even though it doesn't quite fit in my pocket. I got mine for just over $500, it can do basic gaming (L4D, WoW), handles all HD video, and the battery usually lasts about 7 hours. I'm surprised AT hasn't reviewed one yet... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    Can't get them to send me one (yet?). :-\ Reply
  • koekkoe - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    What about fan/hard disk noise, fan control logic and heat? This subject is far too often forgotten in reviews. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    At full load, the fan noise gets to 36dB at 12". This is Atom we're talking about, so in general noise and heat aren't serious concerns. The Crystal HD was far hotter than anything else in the netbook. Reply
  • fabarati - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    What settings did you use in MPC HC?
    Did you use an external filter like the ffdshow tryouts, windows 7's built in one, the ffmpeg based one in MPC or the DXVA one in MPC?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    As stated, I used CoreAVC to handle the decoding on the CPU -- it's the only codec I've found that can handle 720p H.264 with single-core Atom. For the CrystalHD, I switched to the Broadcom codec. Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - link

    .. If I had one, would be this:

    Grab a Crucial 64Gb SSD from ebay
    create a nice little vLite windows 7 install dvd (Would test via VMWARE)

    Done. Fast, free of some clutter, more space, fantastic road ninja.

    Of, if you don't want to go into technical struff, just the SSD
    Reply

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