HP Mini 5102 Impressions

Something you don’t immediately glean from the spec sheet is the build quality of the 5102. It’s not going to reach ThinkPad levels, but its far more solid feeling than any other netbook I’ve used. Initial impressions are that HP took their ProBook 5310m and used a shrink ray to create the Mini 5102 (and they also drastically shrank performance, naturally).

Gallery: HP Mini 5102

There’s an aluminum backing on the LCD cover, and soft-touch plastic on the palm rest. Build quality feels great, with a nice, rigid chassis that shows no flex. That comes courtesy of a magnesium alloy frame, complete with spill-resistant keyboard with a Mylar film underneath to protect from minor spills. HP also includes their 3D DriveGuard to protect the hard drive from damage caused by movement. The “3D” comes from the presence of multiple accelerometers to detect movement in all three axes.

Along with the positive aspects of the build quality, there are a few areas where we’d prefer something else. There’s glossy plastic spacing between the keyboard keys, and a glossy coating on the touchpad and bezel. The palm rest is also prone to showing oily marks from your hands, even after just a few minutes of use (in my experience). So, you really do get a very similar look to the ProBook, including the good and bad aspects.

The keyboard is one of the best parts of the 5102. Unlike so many other netbooks, this is a usable 10.1” keyboard. There’s a decent amount of space between the keys, and the keyboard uses all of the available area, going from the left to right edges of the chassis. Key travel is also good, and there’s absolutely no flex at all in the chassis. HP also touts the Durakey coating that helps keep the keys from becoming shiny (and keeps the letters from fading) over time. While fatigue from long bouts of typing can be a problem for me, and it’s particularly an issue with smaller keyboards, at least the Mini 5102 doesn’t leave me wanting to hurl the system against a wall after a few minutes.

Based purely on the feel of the system and keyboard, this is my favorite Atom netbook to date, but there are areas where it falls short. For one, the LCD is standard “junk”. ASUS had an awesome matte LCD in the 1001P (and the same goes for the glossy LCD in the 1005HA). The LG panel in the 5102 is bright but low contrast, similar to the panel in the 5310m (and worse than the panel in the Samsung N210). Going along with the LCD, I wish the touchpad and keyboard backing weren’t glossy; the touchpad in particular looked horribly greasy/smudged after just a few minutes of use. The touchpad is also of the non-multi-touch variety, which is another indication of the age of this particular design.

Battery life is slightly sub-par for a Pine Trail netbook, and the base 4-cell 29Wh battery is positively puny. HP claims up to 4.5 hours of battery life on the 4-cell battery, but in our best-case idle battery life test we just barely made it past four hours. If you’re using it “as intended” for shorter meetings and lunch trips, the 4-cell battery is fine, but if you want more there’s a 6-cell upgrade available. With the 6-cell 66Wh battery you can get around eight hours of moderate (i.e. Internet) use, and just shy of 10 hours light (idle) use, but ASUS managed nearly 11 hours with a smaller 58Wh battery in the 1001P. The 7200RPM hard drive might be partly to blame, and realistically most business users will be fine with eight hours, but it’s still odd that the 5102 can’t do better.

If you pick up the standard model for $400, the Mini 5102 is a nice netbook, but the paltry 29Wh battery is a real sore spot. Spending an extra $100 for better build quality and features is at least viable, but we would like all other areas to remain equal—and “equal” in this case means keeping up with the ASUS Eee PC and similar netbooks in battery capacity. If you don’t care too much about battery life and you’re looking for a classy sort of netbook as opposed to the cheap plastic options that are so readily available, the Mini 5102 is a good choice. Once you factor in the larger battery and a few other upgrades, though, it becomes clear that the “executive” part of the Mini also applies to the pricing structure.

HP Mini 5102: A Business Netbook Say Hello to the Broadcom Crystal HD
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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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