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


View All Comments

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:


    Beats the N550 for performance, barely bigger/heavier than a 10" netbook and priced around $525. Definitely worth a look IMO.
  • 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.
  • 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!
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