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Summary:

I’ve used a lot of different netbooks. That’s one of the good things about the work that I do — I get to try a lot of different gear. Notably, I’ve tried netbooks of all different sizes, and have been able to compare the difference that […]

hp-mini-5101-frontI’ve used a lot of different netbooks. That’s one of the good things about the work that I do — I get to try a lot of different gear. Notably, I’ve tried netbooks of all different sizes, and have been able to compare the difference that higher-capacity batteries can make. Which has led me to conclude that they all perform pretty much the same. That is, until I got hold of the HP Mini 5101 netbook. It is easily the best-performing netbook I’ve tried to date, and after a lot of thought, I believe I know why.

Netbooks all have some flavor of the Atom processor; most have 1 GB of memory, either a solid-state disk (SSD) or a standard hard drive (HDD) inside and run Windows XP. They’re decent performers for most tasks, which makes sense given that they’re all configured basically the same.

But the more I use the HP Mini 5101, the more impressed I am with its performance. It seems faster than other netbooks. It consistently plows through everyday work with little lag. At first I thought it might be the N280 Atom processor, which is a little bit faster than the N270 in most netbooks. I started paying close attention to determine how the Mini 5101 burned through tasks and came to the realization that it’s the hard drive that’s responsible.

mini-5101HP made an interesting choice in choosing a 7,200 rpm HDD for the 5101. I don’t see any other drive option available for this model, so it’s a conscious decision on HP’s part to go with the fastest HDD available. I believe this was a good decision, as I find the performance boost gained by the faster drive to be noticeable during regular use.

So the Mini 5101 spends less time chugging away with the HDD than other netbooks, and this makes things happen faster. It impresses me the more I use it; I find it to have a real advantage over other netbooks. The 5101 may be a little more expensive, but the faster HDD is worth it to me. And it’s not that much more expensive — the model I’m testing is $425 as configured, which includes the fast HDD and a 6-cell battery.

  1. hey are you going to be doing a video review on the hp?

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    1. Yes, I intend to do one soon.

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  2. So…I’m confused. Simply because this has a 7200 RPM drive it’s faster? I mean, that’s common knowledge…faster components = faster computer. But wouldn’t an SSD make it even faster yet? I’m confused as to why this netbook without and SSD would “feel” faster than others with an SSD.

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    1. I have read that WinXP is not optimized when it comes to SSD, and this matches my own experience. This HDD is faster than several netbooks I have used with SSD.

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    2. And all SSDs are not created equal. Most netbooks that ships with flash storage are using dirt cheap SSDs that are pretty much the equivalent of running the operating system from a cheap SD card or USB flash drive. You’d probably notice better performance if you upgraded to a faster SSD, like the ones HP is offering for the Mini 5101 as $400 upgrades.

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    3. Or just take the 7,200 rpm HDD as shipping. Cheaper and fast. :)

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  3. Does the faster drive produce any more heat or noise than other models? Say, the Mini 1000?

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    1. Not any of note.

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  4. Would you take this over the new Dell 11z or Acer 1410/1810T?

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    1. I haven’t tried either one of those but I am happy enough with the 5101 that were I looking to buy today this is the one I’d choose.

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    2. Interesting. Atom over CULV…I dunno, I guess until something in the netbook sector gets seriously shaken up, they’re pretty much dead to me.

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  5. what kind of battery life are you getting on the HP?

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  6. How does the 7200 hard drive affect the battery. I was thinking of dropping a 7200 rpm drive in my 2140 but still haven’t shelled out for the bigger battery, partly because I like the weight and feel of it now.
    Thanks great info.

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  7. I am getting over 5 hours with the 6-cell. I believe I can squeeze 6 hours if I were to get aggressive with power management (screen dimming, etc.).

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  8. So what is better the mini 5101 or the toshiba nb205???
    Thank u.

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    1. It’s not a matter of which one is better. They are different in that the Toshiba gets better battery life according to Kevin. The 5101 is a good performer, but I haven’t tried the Toshiba so I can’t compare them.

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  9. Have you compared this to a Gateway LT3103U netbook? I just bought it and I like it a lot, especially for the price. The HP Mini 5101 caught my fancy as well but the price was higher. Seeing that it comes with a faster hard drive and Bluetooth, its peaking my interest again; since those 2 options are not available for the LT3103u aside from adding them (changing out hard drive and using a USB Bluetooth “nub”). Any comparison between the 2 will either make me happy with my new Gateway or pave the way to the HP.

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    1. I’m typing this right now on a Gateway LT3103u. However, I just dropped in an OCZ Vertex 120GB SSD, ditched Vista for XP and man does this thing scream! James said XP isn’t optimized for SSD and there may be truth to that, but this set up is far faster on XP than on Vista.

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  10. Real quick James, how is the fan volume on this unit. I’ve seriously considering purchasing one, but am a little reluctant.
    I had a 2133 and while there was a constant whoosh it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
    Thanks in advance.

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    1. I don’t notice it at all.

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