HP offers an optional touchscreen display for the HP Mini 5102. This premium netbook is targeted at business and education customers, so it’s likely that most of the folks that get their hands on this particular model will get it through school or work. But if you feel like foregoing the relatively inexpensive “Smart Buy” configurations on the HP Small Business web site and opting for the more expensive, customizable model, you can also grab a Mini 5102 with a touchscreen display.

Here’s why you might want to:

  • This netbook has one of the most responsive touchscreens I’ve ever used on a netbook.
  • Windows 7  lets you simulate a right-click by tapping and holding on the screen — and you even get a visual cue letting you know when the right-click has been registered. (This feature is not available if you get Windows 7 Starter Edition)
  • The capacitive display recognizes up to two simultaneous inputs, allowing you to draw two items on a screen or pinch to zoom or rotate in some applications.
  • If you’re using Internet Explorer (or a plugin for another browser), you can tap and drag on web pages instead of the scrollbar to navigate.

On the other hand, here are a few issues I have with the touchscreen on the demo unit HP sent me to review:

  • The display is a little thicker than a normal screen, adding a little bulk to the laptop.
  • The colors look a little washed out, and while the display is technically matte, it’s a bit more reflective than most non-glossy displays I’ve used.
  • It’s hard to tap on a precise point on the display with a fingertip, despite HP’s software that’s designed to make it easy.
  • The screen doesn’t fold back for use in tablet mode, which means you have to reach your hand up from the keyboard to tap the screen — it’s much easier just to move your hand down and use the touchpad most of the time (although reaching up is moderately more comfortable when the netbook is on your lap rather than on a desk).
  • There’s no palm rejection technology, so if you place your hand on the screen to write, your palm may make more marks than your finger — although the point is kind of moot because the netbook doesn’t operate in slate mode.

The biggest problem though, is that Windows simply isn’t designed for use with this type of a touchscreen display. Not even Windows 7 Professional, which is the version I’m using. It’s designed for use with a mouse and keyboard — or a stylus and resistive touchscreen or active digitizer. For instance, in order to scroll through a web page you have to move your finger over to a scrollbar — which may be too thin to easily tap on the first try. If you want to do the same thing on an iPhone, you just tap and drag.

There are third party applications that can certainly help. For instance, if your only concern is how you’re going to navigate through web pages, you can install a Firefox add-on called Grab and Drag. But it’s not just the scrolling. It’s the fact that icons, hyperlinks, text, and pretty much every other element of the operating system is designed for an input method that’s more precise than the tip of your finger.

That’s one of the reasons why the iPad is poised to do well. Sure, there are a million things you can do with a touchscreen PC that you can’t do with a tablet that’s designed to run smartphone-style apps. But all of the apps you’ll run on the iPad are designed to work with the capacitive, multitouch display. Almost none of the applications you’ll run on the HP Mini 5102 are.

You can check out my hands-on video with the HP Mini 5102 touchscreen display after the break.

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7 replies on “HP Mini 5102 touchscreen display: A mixed bag (Video)”

  1. “HP’s software lets you simulate a right-click by tapping and holding on the screen — and you even get a visual cue letting you know when the right-click has been registered.” – is’t this a windows 7/vista tablet feature?

    1. You’re right. It turns out I’ve spent so much time working with Windows 7
      Starter and Windows XP that I didn’t even notice this was the default
      Windows 7 behavior if you have Win 7 Pro, Home Premium, or Ultimate.

      I’ve updated the post to reflect this.

  2. It uses the same UI as the HP Touchsmart PCs–would be worse if it didn’t have the HP UI adjustments.

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