A smart option for road warriors and students, the HP Mini 5102 (starting at $399; $424 as configured) is more durable and secure than the typical netbook, and won’t need to see an outlet until the end of your work or school day. Like its predecessor, this 2.8-pound sequel sports an all-metal case and a comfortable keyboard, but HP has added new color options, facial recognition, and an optional capacitive multitouch display. But the most important addition is Intel’s ultra-efficient Atom N450 processor, which enables the 5102 to last more than 10 hours on a charge. You’ll pay a bit more for the Mini 5102’s sturdy design, and it doesn’t really outperform competitors, but overall it deserves our Editor’s Choice Award.
Like the Mini 5101, the 5102 very much looks and feels like a shrunken HP ProBook, which is a compliment. With little additional cost over a regular netbook, you get a case with anodized aluminum on top and magnesium alloy on the bottom. Add in a soft-touch treatment on the deck and a clear HP DuraKeys coating for the keyboard, and you have a netbook that can stand up to a fair amount of abuse. Not that the 5102 doesn’t have style. The lid on our unit was a slick black, but you can also choose red or blue, a color treatment that carries over to the deck.
Weighing 2.8 pounds (with the six-cell battery) and measuring 0.9 inches thin, the Mini 5102 can easily slip into a backpack or briefcase. The six-cell battery itself protrudes a bit from the bottom of the system, but it’s hardly noticeable. To make the 5102 more attractive to students, a carrying handle is available as an option; it screws on and replaces the rear feet.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to enlarge
Click to enlargeThe island-style keyboard on the Mini 5102 remains one of the best in the netbook category. At 95 percent full-size, we had no problem typing this review at a fast clip using the included copy of Corel Home Office. We especially like the relatively large right Shift key and Enter key. Some may find the feedback a little mushy, but we found it to be snappy enough. Above the keyboard you’ll find a row of keys—such as brightness and volume controls—that don’t require the Function key to activate.
The touchpad on the Mini 5102 is a bit small at 2.5 x 1.4 inches (compared to 3.1 x 1.6 inches for the Toshiba mini NB205). We’re also not fans of the glossy black surface; the resulting friction made it somewhat difficult to move the cursor. Still, the dedicated left and right mouse buttons, which received a soft rubberized treatment, responded well.
The Mini 5102 kept its cool during our standard heat test and everyday use. After playing Hulu for 15 minutes, we measured the temperature on the touchpad (92 degrees Fahrenheit), on the keyboard between the G and H keys (89 degrees), and on the underside of the system in the middle (94 degrees). All of these temperatures are relatively low, and the netbook only reached 100 degrees near the vent. Our one nitpick is that the fan is a bit noisy; we could hear it humming even with Family Guy playing on a TV in the background.
Display and Audio
The standard 10.1-inch LED-backlit panel on the Mini 5102 is plenty bright and offers 1024 x 600 pixels of resolution. Viewing angles from the sides were wide enough for two people to watch an online TV show. If you want to go high-def you can upgrade to a 1366 x 768 panel, but we typically prefer that higher resolution for larger 11- and 12-inch netbooks. On a screen this size you’ll be able to see more of Web pages, but it will result in smaller icons and text.
For a netbook, the 5102 has booming sound. The front-firing speakers easily filled a small room when we cranked Fall Out Boy’s “I Don’t Care” on Pandora. The audio also wasn’t nearly as tinny as other netbooks we’ve heard, such as the Toshiba mini NB205. An episode of Fringe streamed on Hulu came through loud and clear.
Ports and Webcam
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
The Mini 5102 has a pretty standard array of ports. On the left side you’ll find the power jack, VGA port, and two USB 2.0 ports. The right side of the netbook houses an Ethernet port, third USB 2.0 port, headphone and mic jacks, a SD/MMC Card slot, and a Kensington lock slot.
When we conducted a video call over Skype, the other caller said that the picture was clear, but it was difficult to hear us. The audio improved when we tried again. Overall, the 2.0-megapixel webcam performed well, especially in low light.
Performance and Graphics Click to enlarge
Running Windows 7 Starter Edition, the Mini 5102 is equipped with a 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450 processor and 1GB of RAM, which combined to provide decent performance. This netbook scored 1,408 in PCMark05, which is 90 points below the netbook category average and more than 200 points behind the Mini 5101 we tested, which ran Windows XP. In Geekbench, the 5102 notched 896, which is more than 60 points above average (833).
Unlike most netbooks, the Mini 5102 comes with a 7,200-rpm, 160GB hard drive, which was able to duplicate a 4.97GB folder of multimedia files at a rate of 25.7 MBps. That score is not only 10.3 MBps above the category average, but it bests the 5101’s mark of 23.1 MBps. On the other hand, the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P (Seashell) offers a 250GB hard drive for less money.
The hard drive probably deserves some of the credit for the 5102’s speedy boot time of 49 seconds, which is well below the 57-second average.
As we expected, the Mini 5102’s integrated Intel GMA 3150 graphics turned in average performance with a score of 155 in 3DMark06, although this is higher than the 127 the 5101 turned in. It took the machine 5 minutes and 48 seconds to transcode a 114MB file from MPEG-4 to AVI using Oxelon Media Converter, which is a bit slower than the dual-core Eee PC 1201N (5:14), but faster than the MSI Wind U135 (6:06).
While Hulu videos played smoothly within the browser window, the stream stuttered when we went to full screen. For better video performance, you’ll want to equip the 5102 with the optional Broadcom video accelerator.
Wi-Fi and Battery Life
The 5102’s 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi radio delivered satisfactory data rates from 15 and 50 feet, notching 20.3 Mbps and 18.7 Mbps, respectively (netbook averages are 20.8 and 17.1 Mbps). HP also includes Bluetooth 2.1, and you can opt for integrated Gobi mobile broadband.
The most impressive thing about the 5102 (other than its build quality) is its endurance. On the LAPTOP Battery Test, the six-cell battery lasted a whopping 10 hours and 8 minutes. This runtime is far superior to the 5101’s 7:52, but about half an hour behind the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE. Nevertheless, you’ll have no problem spending most of the day away from an outlet, making this netbook a good choice for frequent fliers. The four-cell battery lasted 4 hours and 32 minutes, so the six-cell option is definitely worth the $25 upgrade when you’re configuring your system online.
Green TestingClick to enlarge
It took the Mini 5102’s six-cell battery 1 hour and 53 minutes to charge up to 80 percent capacity, and another hour to reach 100 percent. During this time the netbook consumed 6712.4 watts, for an average of 38.8 per minute. When you divide this number into the total time, you get our Battery Efficiency Rating of 11.0. That’s better than the category average of 16.8.
Software and Security
HP bundles the 5102 with plenty of tools designed to make using this netbook more convenient, including HP QuickSync (for syncing files wirelessly with a primary PC), QuickWeb (a Splashtop-powered instant-on browser), and QuickLook 3 (for previewing Outlook info like contacts and your calendar, provided you have Outlook installed). You also get Corel Home Office, which includes Write (Word alternative), Calculate (Excel), and Show (PowerPoint). We used Write to compose this review, and it offers the functionality most users need, despite taking more than 8 seconds to start up.
On the security front, HP includes its ProtectTools Security Manager, which we used to set up passwords and facial recognition. The latter feature was a bit slow, but it worked well with the webcam (even in low light). Other features include Drive Encryption and HP Disk Sanitizer.
HP offers a wealth of configure-to-order options online, including a high-def display, touchscreen, and solid state drives. The version we tested was $424, which is the $399 preconfigured model plus a six-cell battery. You would pay $649 to get the same model with 2GB of RAM, a six-cell battery, Gobi broadband, and Windows 7 Professional.
Support and WarrantyClick to enlarge
The Mini 5102 comes with a one-year limited warranty with 24/7 toll-free phone support. HP also includes its Support Assistant, which helps users do everything from update software and automate tune-ups to troubleshoot and get remote assistance. To see how HP fared in our Tech Support Showdown, click here.
Yes, the HP Mini 5102 is marketed towards the business and education crowd, but because netbooks are designed to be taken anywhere, we think it’s worth the $20 to $45 premium to get the Mini 5102’s durable all-metal design versus a plastic competitor. HP also delivers a comfortable keyboard, more than 10 hours of battery life, and the security tools you need to protect your data. After all, the files you keep on your secondary PC are just as important as the ones stored on your primary notebook. Some may prefer a machine with a larger screen and more powerful Nvidia Ion graphics, such as the ASUS Eee PC 1201N or HP Mini 311, but the Mini 5102 is easily one of the best 10-inch netbooks yet.