HP Mini 5103 Review: Dual-Core Atom & Touch

Full frontal

The HP Mini 5103 is the next generation of netbook with the Atom dual-core processor and touch screen. It’s aimed at the enterprise, with metal construction for durability, but consumers may find it a good fit for their needs, too. The 10.1-inch screen helps the 5103 maintain a small footprint, yet it has a nearly full-sized keyboard.

The Mini 5103 wasn’t changed significantly from the 5102, which we reviewed earlier this year, and which has been a successful product for HP. The primary upgrade in the 5103 will appeal to those feeling the Atom processor lacks performance, as HP is including the Atom N455 dual-core processor as standard equipment. There’s a definite improvement in performance of the new processor, but it’s still an Atom-based netbook and won’t set any speed records.

The outstanding keyboard is still the stellar attraction on the 5103. HP smartly has the keyboard taking up the entire width of the small netbook, which yields a keyboard size that’s 95 percent of a full-sized model. The typing experience is outstanding, as the chiclet keys have good tactile feedback and allow fast input.


The trackpad on the 5103 could use improvement; there are three things I don’t like about the implementation. It’s very small, which isn’t surprising given the small size of the netbook. It lacks multitouch, which has become the norm for notebooks, and the lack of two-finger scrolling is inconvenient. There’s a scroll area on the right of the trackpad, but it’s no substitute for multitouch. The surface of the trackpad is a glossy material that actually provides mild resistance to finger sliding on the surface, making it harder to use as a result.

The optional high-resolution 10.1-inch display (1366×768) is pushing the limit for what can comfortably be viewed on such a small screen. It’s better than the standard resolution option (1024×600), so manually increasing the size of displayed objects is a small price to pay for the added functionality. The two-finger multitouch option works as expected, but I don’t find it adds much value to a netbook. I occasionally use it to close a window or hit the login icon, but that’s about all; it’s not very comfortable to reach out to a laptop screen to touch things.

HP claims a battery life of 10 hours with the 6-cell battery, but my real-world testing yields closer to 7.5 hours. That’s a decent battery life given the small size of the 6-cell, which adds very little bulk to the small package. There’s a standard 4-cell battery that HP also supplied for the evaluation, and while it adds no bulk at all, the reduced battery life would push me to the larger 6-cell. The batteries have an LED indicator that indicates the charge level at the touch of a button.

The performance of the Mini 5103 has been good for an Atom-based netbook, no doubt due to the dual-core processor. While not as fast as other notebooks with a “real” processor, I have no complaints with the performance of this model. The combination of a highly portable form, long battery life and decent performance make this a winning solution for the mobile professional.

The Mini 5103 handles video playback better than any Atom-based netbook I’ve tried. Full-screen and HD video played fine on both YouTube and Hulu. The full-screen video looked outstanding on the 10-inch screen, and this would come in handy on business trips for watching movies.

The 5103 has all of the standard ports for using peripherals, including 3 USB 2.0 (one is eSATA compatible), VGA out, audio in, audio out, RJ-45 and a Kensington lock slot. There’s a wireless switch for turning Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth (2.1) on and off easily, and two buttons between the keyboard and screen that will fire up HP’s QuickWeb and QuickLook utilities: Linux-based programs to start the 5103 into a web-only or an Outlook-only environment without booting full Windows.

It takes too long to boot up Windows, so HP has produced a new DayStarter utility that allows users to check calendar events and device battery status while the boot is in progress. If you can’t speed up the process, at least make the time spent more useful.

The HP Mini 5103 isn’t the cheapest netbook, with a starting price of $399, but it’s one of the best I’ve tried. It will give most mobile professionals good bang for the buck, and the dual-core Atom processor breathes new life into the tired netbook genre.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Report: The Future of Netbooks

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