Review: HP 5102, durable and well-made business netbook

HP Mini 5102: Matte 10.1" display is bright, easy to read
In Review

HP Mini 5102 10.1" Netbook

4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars - 'Smashing'
StarkIn
+
Matte display virtually eliminates glare. Spacious keyboard with full-size shift keys. First class build quality. Fast 7200rpm hard drive.
StarkOut
Some fan noise. Lacks dedicated page up/down keys.
4
OUT OF 5
VERDICT:
"Smashing"
A netbook in a Tux. The 5102 is superbly built with a comfortable keyboard, long battery life. Tad pricey compared to competition.
Review by
HP Mini 5102: Matte 10.1" display is bright, easy to read

With the new Mini 5102, HP manages to stand our from the otherwise generic netbook crowd. Although the insides are essentially the same as everyone else including the energy efficient Intel Pine Trail processor, it’s the exterior build quality that especially impresses. Brushed metals, sans gloss, are used extensively and give the 10.1″ portable a solid and bespoke demeanor.

Although targeted at the business segment, at $399 (the same price as the Toshiba NB305 we recently reviewed) there’s no reason why it wouldn’t make a top choice for anybody looking for a durable sidekick.

Our unit shipped with both a 4-cell and 6-cell battery. With the smaller battery the HP weighed in just over 2.8lbs which puts it on par with the NB305 (but with 6-cell) and heavier then the new S10-3 from Lenovo which weighs about 2.6lbs. Still the HP, built with resilient materials, felt light and would be no problem tossing into a brief case or even carrying in a leather portfolio.

There are several things that I like about the 5102. Unlike most netbooks, the 10.1″ screen is not glossy, which means it is much easier to see outdoors or under bright office lights. The matte finish helps reduce, and almost eliminate, most glare. The trade off is that movies, and photographs look slightly less vibrant. But I could only really notice this when comparing the 5102 directly next to a glossy netbook such as the Lenovo S10-3.

The keyboard is also a plus.

The well-spaced, chiclet-style keys are comfortable and the layout decent, although not perfect. There are no dedicated page-up or page-down keys. Instead they sit on top of the arrow keys and require an extra function key (on left side) to activate. For me, it’s a big deal, for others probably not so much.

While not best-in-class, the trackpad is good, albeit small (especially compared to the luxurious trackpad on the Toshiba NB305). Scrolling was generally responsive, and the two buttons located at the bottom provide gentle tactile response without requiring too much pressure (like the S10-3). Those who gag at the sight of smudge marks and fingerprints will not appreciate that the trackpad is oddly finished in a gloss that reveals every inkling of grease previously unnoticed to the naked eye.

Performance-wise, the 5102 performs about the same as every other Pine Trail netbook out there. The Window Experience Index came in on par at 2.3. The hard drive, with a faster 7200 rpm speed, resulted in better access times. It was also quiet, and Windows 7 Starter ran without a hitch.

Battery life is another strong suit. Even the 4-cell, which sits flush in the body, provided at least 4-5 hours of run-time. The 6-cell, which protrudes slightly on the bottom, could easily come in around 6-7 hours running wi-fi, perhaps more depending on brightness.

When testing the 5102 I did notice fan noise from the left side of the chassis. An exhaust port is constantly ejecting warm air, and it can be distracting depending on how quiet your work area is, and your level of tolerance for fan noise. Not excessive by any means, but something to keep in mind. Note that it was definitely louder than the NB305 (the quietest we’ve tested) and S10-3.

Overall, the HP 5102 is a very good netbook with exceptional build quality. For the same price ($399) you could buy the Toshiba NB305 which includes a 6-cell battery, and will run a few hours longer. But the HP offers a premium experience that will appeal to a lot of businesses, and consumers to boot.

Clint says:

I agree that this is a good netbook. But not great. There are too many competitors out there that either offer longer battery (Toshiba NB305), less cost (Asus), or an even better keyboard (Lenovo S10-3). For me the fan noise is a deal-breaker. It’s just too annoying, although granted I’m possibly over-sensitive to these things. Plus it causes the unit to vibrate ever so slightly when on a desk. The NB305 on the other hand is almost totally silent, just a whisper of fan. I do like the matte display. I used it for a week in meetings and on-the-go and found the build superior and the keyboard comfortable (although the squared corners sometimes would catch my fingers).

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  • Phang

    Is the fan noise a norm for this HP 5102?

  • Phang

    Is the fan noise a norm for this HP 5102?

  • Mike Carrall

    The fan noise on the 5102 is not bad, but it’s definitely running most of the time. It was louder than the Toshiba NB305 which was near silent in testing.

  • Mike Carrall

    The fan noise on the 5102 is not bad, but it’s definitely running most of the time. It was louder than the Toshiba NB305 which was near silent in testing.