Saturday, October 9, 2010

HP Mini 5102 review: Spending a month with HP's businessnetbook.(Product/service evaluation). USA, LLC

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HP's recently announced Mini 5102 netbook is a solidly built device that travels well and comes with multiple features

that will simplify the life of a mobile professional.

Unlike the cheesy, plastic netbooks you find at Best Buy and other outlets, this machine is targeted at business users and

has a durable metal case that should stand up to the rigors of the road. The bottom is a magnesium alloy shell and the screen

is wrapped in anodized aluminum.

Obviously with these devices it is all about size and weight. The 5102 is 10 by 7 by 1 inch and weighs in at 2.64 pounds.

It is about as compact as you can get before you start to limit the functionality of the keyboard and the screen. The 5102's

keyboard is 95%-full and has a nice, responsive, positive feel, and the 10-inch LED backlit WSVGQ screen is bright and clear

(1024x600 resolution).

HP markets the Mini 5102 as a companion PC, a device that is meant to complement your existing office machine, not replace

it. And it comes with some interesting features that make that feasible. But first more about the basics.

The 5102 is similar to the earlier generation 5101, but this one features the newer Intel Atom N450 Processor (Pine Trail

architecture, 1.66GHz, 667MHz front side bus, 52KB L2 cache). It also now has an optional multi-touch display (my review machined

did not) that allows you to zoom in/out, rotate, etc. Matt McAndrew, product marketing manager of HP Business Notebooks, says

they added the touch control because it is becoming increasingly common on personal devices and software developers are beginning

to expect it.

Unlike the earlier model, the 5102 is available in black, red and blue -- apparently in deference to the education market

where HP sees the 5102 making some inroads -- and can be purchased with a metal handle that swings out from the base.

My machine came with 1GB of RAM (some models can support 2GB) and a 160GB 7200 RPM hard drive. Optionally you can get an 80GB

or 128GB Solid State Drive, which would make the machine lighter, cooler and able to boot faster. Like other netbooks, the

5102 does not have a CD/DVD drive.

Other key hardware facts:

* Standard four-cell battery that lasts 4.5 hours, or an optional ($25) six-cell battery that is said to last 10 hours.

* Integrated Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n.

* Bluetooh 2.1.

* 2M pixel Webcam.

* Optional integrated Gobi mobile broadband on some models.

* 10/100/1000 Ethernet NIC, 3 USB 2.0 ports (one powered), VGA, stereo headphone/line out jack.My review unit came with Windows

7 Starter but you can get the box with Windows 7 Professional or even downgrade to XP Professional (all the changes push up

the base price from $399).

It also came with Corel Home Office installed but I loaded OpenOffice 3.2 because I personally find that to be more user friendly.

There is a lot to like about the Mini 5102 from the minute you pick it up and start to handle it. The build quality is evident

to the touch. And I found the size to be just about perfect for a travel box. I have large hands but the keyboard was fully

adequate (and most all of the keys were where you would expect them).

The track pad is some kind of shiny plastic and works well for the most part, but if your hands are at all damp it gets sticky.

But I like the fact that the track buttons are below the pad whereas some netbooks forgo buttons altogether or put them on

either side of the pad, a configuration that isn't immediately intuitive to my finger memory.

The screen is of course small, but that didn't bother me when editing documents, doing e-mail, working on spreadsheets or

even surfing the Web. When editing, for example, I was getting 30 lines of text using Arial 10, but it was easier if you increased

the document to page width and that reduced it to about 25 lines of text, which was more than adequate.

Performance-wise, editing and spreadsheet work didn't strain the machine at all, of course, but the 5102 didn't even hiccup

when watching YouTube videos and doing Skype video calls. For your average, run-of-the-mill tasks, this little box was up

to every task I threw at it.

To live up to its role as a companion PC, HP outfitted the Mini 5102 with HP QuickSync, a tool that synchronizes the contents

on the netbook with your desktop over a wired or wireless link.

The 5102 comes with the tool embedded, and when you start it up it instructs you on how to download the code to a USB stick

and load it on your target machine. Once there, you configure it to synchronize documents, pictures, music, videos and/or

bookmarks. Then every time you want to synch you start up the password-protected program on both machines and they go about

figuring out what has to be updated where. Pretty slick, and a real boon to anyone who has tried to move between machines

by coping files to USB drives.

Two other interesting tools on the the Mini 5102 are accessible from dedicated buttons above the keyboard: QuickWeb and QuickLook.

QuickWeb launches an HP browser without starting up the operating system. I was surfing in 16 seconds, compared to about 40

seconds for a full Windows 7 boot. This is great if you're on the run and have just a few minutes between stops.

Similarly, QuickLook lets you access three months of Outlook calendar items, contact info and stored e-mail (up to 1,000 cached

messages) without booting the computer. The new version on this box, QuickLook 3, even lets you edit entries that will then

be synched once you reconnect. QuickLook is great if you just have to check on your next appointment or reference an address

or telephone number, and it makes it easy to get some work done offline.

The Mini 5102 also comes with some interesting security tools, including a face recognition program you can use as your password,

but I didn't have a chance to play with them.

Altogether I was highly impressed by the Mini 5102. It is certainly easier on my shoulder than traveling with than my large

Dell laptop, and it didn't leave me wanting when it came down to getting work done. The device is well thought out, well built

and performs great.

I'm not convinced, however, that companies will embrace the idea of companion devices. In a world where we're trying to reduce

device count and limit complexity, doubling up on machines is a move in the wrong direction. For those users who aare clamoring

for small travel companions, you are probably better off going for an ultra portable, which is slightly bigger, heavier and

much more expensive, but will enable double office machines.

But if employees seem determined to go the netbook route even if the company isn't supplying, point them to something like

the 5102 and away from the plastic boxes that are floating around out there. They won't be disappointed.

Source Citation
Dix, John. "HP Mini 5102 review: Spending a month with HP's business netbook." Network World (2010). General OneFile. Web. 9 Oct. 2010.
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