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The HP Mini 5101 is a business class netbook with premium features. While that might sound silly, there’s no better way to describe the HP Mini 5101, which has a number of characteristics that set it apart from the crowd. Sure, it has a 10 inch screen and Intel Atom processor just like virtually every other netbook on the market. But it also has a 7200rpm hard drive, a 2MP webcam, a magnesium alloy chassis, and an accelerometer that shuts off the hard drive to prevent damage in the event of a fall.

But while the HP Mini 5101 has a premium set of features, it doesn’t cost much more than a typical netbook. Prices start at about $399.

The unit featured in this review has a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive and 6 cell, 55WHr battery. It features a 10.1 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display, 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth, and runs Windows XP Home Edition. Other configuration options include a 1366 x 768 pixel display, a 4 cell, 29Whr battery, and SUSE Linux.

Design and Display

The thinking behind the HP Mini 5101 wasn’t to give a cheap netbook premium features. Rather, HP basically started with a ProBook style notebook and made it smaller and lighter. Along the way, the company did cram a low resolution display and Intel Atom processor in the netbook. But it really does look like a professional machine thanks to the magnesium alloy case, the large keyboard, and overall no-nonsense style.

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On the front of the laptop you’ll find a wireless switch, and around the sides there are 3 USB ports, an Ethernet jack, mic and headphone jacks, and a VGA port. There’s also an SD card slot.

side 1

Above the keyboard is the power button which glows a light blue color when the computer is powered up. It flashes when the PC is in sleep mode. There are also two quick-launch buttons, one fo a web browser and the other for your default email application.

bottom

On the bottom you’ll find the battery and a single access panel which you can remove to upgrade the RAM. What’s interesting just how easy it is to open the RAM access panel. No screw driver is required. All you have to do is squeeze the two switches that hold the battery in place to remove the battery. With the battery out of the way, squeeze them again and the RAM access panel door will pop open.

There’s a single memory slot and the computer can support up to 2GB of RAM, which means you’ll need to remove the 1GB stick that comes with the HP Mini 5101 and replace it with a higher capacity stick.

I asked the folks at HP what the thinking was behind this new easy-access approach, and I was told that the company received a fair number of complaints that it was too difficult to upgrade the memory on earlier models that required you to remove the keyboard to access the computer memory. So HP did a 180 with this model and made it incredibly easy to upgrade the memory. While you probably won’t actually need to open the RAM access panel very often, it’s a welcome improvement, and it should come in handy for corporate or education oriented clients that purchase dozens of these netbooks and want to upgrade them all to 2GB of RAM.

The  lid does show fingerprints, but it’s not nearly as glossy as most of the plastic-covered netbooks I’ve used to date.The bezel around the display, on the other hand, is a fingerprint magnet.

front open

The HP Mini 5101 features a matte, non-reflect display, which is a rarity on netbooks these days. It’s not exactly easy to read outdoors, but it doesn’t turn into a mirror the second you bring the laptop into contact with sunlight.

The laptop also has an accelerometer which shuts down the hard drive when it detects that the computer is falling. This can help prevent data loss and other damage to the hard drive. If you’d rather not use this feature (which could become problematic, say, if you’re using the computer while on a bumpy bus trip), you can disable it using the HP Drive Guard utility.

driveguard

Overall I’m quite impressed with the build quality of the HP Mini 5101. My only complaint is that the netbook’s fan is relatively loud and the fan seems to be powered up more often than not in my experience. If you don’t expect to use the laptop in quiet places, that might not be a problem. But the HP Mini 501 does appear to be a bit noisier than some other mini-laptops I’ve used.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The HP Mini 5101 keyboard has HP’s DuraKey finish, which helps prevent the keys from wear and tear. The labels on some keyboards start to wear away after coming in contact with your fingers after a few years. HP says its DuraKey solution provides 50 times the protection.

keyboard

The keyboard has an island-style layout, which is to say that the keys are flat and have a little space between one another. I find it comfortable to type on, and I appreciate the full sized shift keys on both the left and right sides. There’s no room for dedicated Home, End, or PgUp, PgDn keys, but you can trigger these actions by holding the Fn key while hitting the arrow keys.

touchpad

The touchpad is one of the best I’ve ever used on any laptop. It has a glassy texture which I thought would get old quickly, but it’s actually quite comfortable to use. There are two distinct buttons below the touchpad to register left and right clicks. I think part of the reason so many PC makers choose to use a single button with a rocker dial instead of two buttons is because it’s harder to make the two-button solution look attractive. But HP pulls it off with the Mini 5101.

Performance

While the HP Mini 5101 has the same 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 CPU found in a number of other netbooks, it does have one feature that clearly helps boost performance: A speedy 7200rpm hard drive. Most netbooks have cheaper 5400rpm hard drives, and some have sluggish 4200rpm disks.

In practical terms, the HP Mini 5101 performs admirably at everyday computing tasks including surfing the web with multiple tabs open, watching 720p or lower resolution videos, and editing documents. The computer boots Windows XP in just 38 seconds, although it takes another few seconds to connect to my wireless network. Still, this is one of the fastest boot times I’ve seen on a Windows XP netbook.

I ran a few CPU-intensive tasks, and while the HP Mini 5101 isn’t going to compete with a high end laptop with a dual core processor, it’s certainly one of the fastest netbooks I’ve used.

For instance, it took 2 minutes and 34 seconds to convert a 30 minute WAV audio file to MP3 using WinLAME. The same task took 3 minutes and 5 seconds on an Asus Eee PC 1000H with a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 5400rpm hard drive.

I also used VirtualDub to transcode a 2 minute AVI file I shot with my digital camera to XViD. The HP Mini 5101 finished the task in 4 minutes and 2 seconds. It took 6 minutes and 8 seconds on the Eee PC 100H.

I pulled out a Toshiba NB205-330 with a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 processor and 5400rpm hard drive for the next set of tests, where I copied an 832MB folder with 3100 files to a new directory. The HP Mini 5101 finished the task in 54 seconds, while it took a whopping 3 minutes, 31 seconds on the Toshiba netbook.

The HP Mini 5101 was able to use 7-Zip to create a ZIP file containing the contents of that folder in 4 minutes, 11 seconds, while it took the Toshiba NB205 6 minutes and 7 seconds.

Battery

The unit featured in this review has a 6 cell, 55WHr battery. I was able to get about 5.5 hours of run time with WiFi on and the display brightness set to about 40%. While there are a number of netbooks that get better battery life than this, 5 and a half hours isn’t bad.

HP also offers a 4 cell, 29WHr battery. If you don’t care about battery life, you can save about $25 by picking up a model with the lower capacity battery. But for most users, I’d say it’s well worth spending the money on the 55WHr battery.

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Another nice feature that you won’t find on most netbooks is a built-in battery gauge. You can press a button on the battery itself to see how much juice is left on LED built into the battery. This works even when the battery isn’t plugged into the laptop.

Software

HP doesn’t load the Mini 5101 with too much bloatware. There are utilities for managing your wireless connection, programming the quick launch buttons, and enabling or disabling the DriveGuard utility.

quick launch buttons

The computer also comes with a handful of applications that you can choose to use or uninstall, including a 60 day free trial version of Microsoft Office. But if you don’t want to use Office, you can also use the full version of Corel Home Office that comes free with the computer. Corel Home Office includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation applications. It can also open Office documents.

corel home office

There’s also a PDF application called PDF complete. And for some reason HP also decided to include a Roxio Businss DVD creator even though the computer doesn’t include an optical disc drive.

roxio

HP does sell an optional USB disc drive as a peripheral, so I guess there’s that.

Verdict

Simply put, the HP Mini 5101 is one of the best netbooks I’ve used in nearly 2 years of covering mini-laptops. There are faster machines out there, but none with a 10 inch display and Intel Atom processor. And you could create your own PC with a speedier storage system buy replacing your netbook hard drive with a solid state disk. But that takes more money and technical know-how than purchasing an HP Mini 5101 with a 7200rpm hard drive for $400 to $425.

Speaking of price, here’s the one down side to the HP Mini 5101: It’s a business class machine, and that means HP is marketing it at enterprise customers. As such, you have only a few options when ordering the laptop from HP.com. You can choose a $400 model with a 4 cell battery, a $425 model with a 6 cell battery, or configure your own laptop. But once you choose to configure your own laptop, the starting price jumps to over $500, even if you select the model that ships with SUSE Linux rather than Windows XP.

And if you want the optional high resolution, 1366 x 768 pixel display you’ll have to choose to configure your own netbook, which means that even though the HD display is listed as a $25 upgrade, you’ll have to spend closer to $125 to get it.

all the way open

But that’s only if you order through HP.com. If you are an enterprise customer and you want some of the higher end options like the HD display you can contact your HP representative for enterprise pricing options.

Overall, if you’re willing to spend $425 on a netbook at a time when you can get a cheaper Intel Atom powered 10 inch laptop for closer to $300, HP does give you a number of reasons to upgrade including an excellent chassis, keyboard, and touchpad, a fast hard drive, high quality webcam, and little extras such as easy RAM upgrades and a battery gauge built into the battery.

You can read more about the HP Mini 5101 and discuss this netbook in the Liliputing Product Database.



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18 replies on “HP Mini 5101 review”

  1. I’ve had my 5101 for 2 months now. Only annoyances are:

    1. Power plug is VERY large and not ergonomic at all (used to my new Macbook pro slim magsafe connector)

    2. I wish the keys were backlit…the dura key finish makes it even harder to find the keys (function keys mostly) at night

    3. I can’t run Mac OS X…yet

    I travel for a living and have a hard time picking between lugging my 15 inch Macbook Pro or my HP 5101. It really goes 50/50. When I’m traveling all I need it Internet Access…..no gaming…no photoshop. Just access. The 5101 means 3 less pounds to carry.

    1. Wow. Yeah. I wish my $400 dollar computer had the same features as a $1000+ computer too.

      1. … or my $25 cellphone.

        There is no reason backlit keys should not be standard on every laptop. I have this same problem with my 5101 — very hard to see the keys in even moderate light and the power supply is like carrying a brick and three-pronged to boot.

  2. The battery gauge is something new. Within the new few months we may see that all the other Netbook Manufactures will adopt to this feature……

    Let wait and see on my prediction!!

  3. Pingback: HP Mini 5101 Netbook | netbooklists.com
  4. Finally, the netbook I’ve been waiting for! Non-glossy HD screen, fastest atom processor, able to order with Linux and 2GB of memory, and various HD sizes.

    I placed my order today, and I should have it in about 3 weeks. I went with the standard 160GB, since I’m getting an Intel SSD to replace the hard drive). I plan to dual-boot Linux and Windows 7 Ultimate.

    Thanks HP for making the machine to my specs!

    1. I received my new 5101 last week, and it’s exactly what I wanted:
      1. 10.2 inch 1366×768 screen with LED backlighting
      2. Linux (to free up extra ordering options)
      3. 160GB HDD (cheapest, because I immediately replaced it with an 80GB Intel SSD)
      4. Intel wifi card with wireless N. Good connections!
      5. 2GB memory (because I didn’t order with XP)
      6. Both the 4cell and 6cell batteries, for extra running time
      7. Bluetooth

      Currently I have it set up for dual-boot with Windows 7 Ultimate and Ubuntu 9.10. It works excellently in both OSs. Overall, I must say I am extremely pleased with it’s performance. The combination of 2GB of memory and the Intel SSD make it very fast and responsive.

      It does stutter when trying to play videos. I ordered the Broadcom HD decoder card, but I’m still waiting for it to arrive in the mail. Silly me, I ordered from a vendor in China rather than a US based vendor. I think it must be on the slow boat from China.

      The power connector is quite long, and sticks out excessively from the case, and I’ll be looking for one with a right-angled plug that isn’t so obtrusive. It doesn’t bother me particularly, but it does look pretty odd. It looks similar to the connector for my Lenovo T400, so I expect I’ll be able to find a power supply with a right angled power connector without too much trouble.

      The build quality is excellent (except for one key that’s slightly crooked and sits below the rest of the keys… I might ask HP for a replacement keyboard if it starts sticking). The soft-feel paint on the case reminds me of the old Lenovo Thinkpads, with the same sort of velvety feeling paint on the magnesium case. It’s very nice feeling, and I’ve gotten several comments on the silky feel.

      The only thing that’s cheep looking is the glossy surround around the screen. It should be matte black like the rest of the unit. Not a big deal, just a personal preference. It attracts too many fingerprints.

      The display is amazing… the combination of the small screen and high resolution make for really nice and sharp characters. Looking at pictures on the screen is similar to looking at a backlit photograph. Almost no pixellation at all, due to the small dot-size and pitch. It’s not really usable outside, but the non-glossy screen helps immensely. I definitely prefer a matte finish screen instead of a glossy screen.

      I’m using a Microsoft Bluetooth 5000 mouse, and it syncs fine in Windows 7 (there’s no way to make it automatically sync with both Ubuntu and Windows, so I just chose to use it with Windows).

      Overall, I’d rate the 5101 a 9.5 on a 10 scale. The final 0.5 would have been if it had the Ion chipset, so that it could play HD video without stuttering. The broadcom HD decoder will fix the stutter, so it’ll be perfect.

  5. The HP mini 311, with the NVIDIA Ion, is the way to go on the nettops. Without a real GPU to take care of the graphics and other tasks, the nettop is just a word processing box, and it is unusable to run most other softwares.

    My daughter installed her Sims video game, and it was faster than her older Toshiba laptop. Without a real GPU on your machine you are wasting your time and money. The HD screen resolution was great, too..

  6. this laptop is not very good but is ok with the 2gb ram or the 2.5ghz intel atom

  7. Hi
    I also bought HP Mini 5101 only 4 days after it was launched. All the features you mentioned are there in it and it is simply a great note book. But at the same time following drawbacks must also be mentioned without prejudice:

    1. The keyboard should have had some kind of light/illumination which could make it visible in dark.
    2. The Broadcom wireless device is pathetic. I have been struggling with it ever since I bought it. The device connects to some access poionts and to some it does not. The drop rate is quite high. It does not discover the favourite networks often even if you are standing an inch away from the access point.
    3. The battery does not fit properly and moves a little bit while handling. I checked 4 units in the shop but they were all like this.

    Besides the above I think everything else is brilliant !!

  8. I can’t believe it’s not available on the HP small business website anymore. A truly remarkable netbook with great potential and it’s gone!! Why?

    1. Hi
      The product is still available everywhere. Click following link:

      http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/uk/en/sm/WF06b/321957-321957-64295-3955550-3955550-3973865-4020640.html?jumpid=reg_R1002_UKEN

      I strongly recommend not to buy this notebook if it is with BROADCOM wireless adapter. I would suggest that anyone who buys this should opt for INTEL wireless adapter. BROADCOM is totally shit and I am suffering because of this. Very weak receiver and drops like hell. If you try to use any remote connection software, be sure its almost going to hang. So guys I want that someone at HP or BROADCOM reads this comment and releases a solution to this problem.

  9. I ordered a couple of the Mini’s back in November. I put windows 7
    professional on both units. I found the Mini’s to be very responsive.
    They run traditional MS-Office apps fine.

    For the road warrior or home user this is a excellent Netbook. Well
    worth the investment.

  10. Pingback: HP Mini 5101

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