The sides of the Mini 5101 offer up your typical netbook fare: two USB ports, a VGA connector and power jack on the left, another USB port, Ethernet jack, dedicated headphone and audio-in jacks, and SD card reader on the right. The front also has a dedicated switch for disabling Wi-Fi, which can be handy for extending battery life without meddling with software settings.
Keyboard and Trackpad
HP claims the Chiclet-style keys on the Mini 5101 span 95 percent of a real, full-size keyboard, but since typical netbooks usually advertise 92 percent, we’ll forgive ourselves for being unable to tell the difference. While the model laid into the Mini 5101 chassis performs well, it faces the same physical space limitations as every other netbook, and can’t entirely overcome them with an extra fraction of an inch. That said, it’s easily as good as or better than almost all netbook competitors, and besides frequently tripping over the shortened number 1 key over and over, we seldom had any issues with it.
Like most netbooks, the Mini 5101 also sports a rather tiny touchpad, which has been made more precarious by a slick gloss black finish. With dry fingers, it performs admirably, but try it with clammy hands and the effort needed to swipe across the screen doubles as your finger screeches across the surface like a dirty windshield wiper blade. HP could learn something from Apple or even Sony in this department, both of which have figured out the benefits of a silky matte finish.
Windows XP lives on as the operating system of choice for netbooks, and as far as we’re concerned, that’s just fine. The Mini 5101 reaches the desktop in just 30 seconds, then opens that first browser window in another 15. No need to go grab a cup of coffee – this thing is ready to work when you are. That’s snappy performance well above even many much heartier Windows 7 machines.
The Mini 5101 performs right in line with most other Intel-Atom-equipped netbook, which puts just about every office-related business tool within reach. As usual, standard-def YouTube and Hulu videos clip along just fine, but pushing to any higher video quality will push the feeble Intel GMA 950 graphics card into water too deep.
We appreciate the lack of gloss on HP’s 10.1-inch LED backlit screen, which helped fend off glare. Sound from the forward-firing speakers was typical netbook quality: adequate, but that’s about it.
HP sells the Mini 5101 in both four-cell and six-cell configurations, with our particular configuration sporting the larger. Not surprisingly, it performed extremely well, pounding out an honest six hours of use with Wi-Fi and full brightness before petering out. It’s no Asus 1000HE or MSI Wind U123, but those models put battery life first and foremost, and this business machine has other priorities.
Professionals, rejoice: We have a netbook you can bring to your next board meeting without looking like you just learned that Windsor knot in your tie. At $399, it holds barely any premium over similarly-equipped models from companies like Asus and MSI, and we think the superior build of this particular machine easily justifies it for the right type of user. Any number of slimmer, sexier or longer-lasting netbooks might step up if you’re less concerned with durability, but for road warriors, the Mini 5101 is just what the CEO ordered.
- Durable and attractive matte black finish
- Sturdy magnesium chassis
- Drop protection and other business add-ons
- Respectable performance
- Superior battery life (with optional six-cell battery)
- Reasonably priced
- Clammy fingers stick on glossy trackpad
- Average keyboard