We've seen several HP netbooks in the past, and although they've always offered excellent usability and quality, there has often been something missing. The HP Mini 5101 is the latest, and sitting at the top end of the netbook market it has to be good if it's to have any chance of success.
The 10.1-inch screen is impressive. It's a matt TFT panel, which will appeal to business users as it suppresses reflections very well, and on our test model it also featured a high 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. There are quite a few different SKUs available where you'll be able to drive down the price, but most also drop the screen resolution to 1024 x 600 pixels. With the cheapest model still coming in at a hefty £400, and also losing features such as 3G/HSDPA, these look like even poorer value, however.
As with the other HP netbooks we've seen, the keyboard is excellent. Using an isolated style, there's plenty of space between each of the keys, and there's a firmness to the typing action that's more in-keeping with a regular laptop than its netbook rivals. The keys are also responsive, and it's comfortable enough for long periods of use. The touchpad is small, but it's very usable.
The quality of this machine is very good. There's a sturdy brushed aluminium lid, and the inside of the machine offers an attractive soft-touch finish to the palm rests. With most of the machine also featuring a matt finish, it doesn't attract scuffs and fingerprints like most products currently on the market.
Despite the high price, there's nothing unusual about the specification. You'll find the same 1.66GHz Intel Atom N280 processor that's featured in most recent netbooks, along with 1GB of memory. Depending on the SKU you choose, you'll be able to pick from Windows XP, Windows 7 and Linux - although our test machine had Windows XP Home.
It provides reasonable performance, although as with all netbooks there's a lot of lag if you try to carry out multi-tasking. Stick to single applications and it's not too bad. We found battery life quite poor, however, at just over 3 hours - so look elsewhere if mobility is a key factor.
Wireless networking features are all high-end, and include 3G/HSDPA - with the SIM reader hidden behind the battery - and 802.11n Wi-Fi. You'll also find Bluetooth built-in. On the left-hand side of the chassis, there's a VGA port and two USB ports. There's a third port on the right side, with a memory card reader rounding off the specs. Unlike many of its rivals, there's no HDMI port.
First off, the HP Mini 5101 is expensive - very expensive in the specification we tested. While the impressive build quality and conservative design will help it to appeal more to corporate buyers, there's no getting away from the fact that it's pricier than some of the CULV laptops that are currently appearing on the market - with Acer's excellent Aspire 1810T a prime example. Offering similar portability, a better battery life and much better performance, it's difficult to understand why you'd pick the HP over it. Although this is a nice little product, it simply doesn't do enough to justify the price