HP Mini 5103 review – the versatile business netbook we’d all love having

Andrei Girbea May 19, 2012 Reviews No Comments

I’ve been dying to see the HP Mini 5103 in action for months.

However, it was not available in my country and only last week I managed to grab it and give it a spin. In this post I’m going to review the HP 5103 after playing with it for the last days.

From starters, I must say this is one of the most solid built 10 inchers on the market and has a lot of strong points, especially the ability to easily customize it to your own taste (if you’re living in the States). However, it ain’t perfect and it is quite pricey for this class of laptops, that are supposed to be affordable.

First, let’s take a look at the pros and cons for this device, followed by the list of specs for the particular version I tested.

HP Mini 5103 business netbook: solid, reliable and classy

HP Mini 5103 business netbook: solid, reliable and classy

What I liked:

  • nice design and solid construction quality
  • lots of configuration options
  • comfortable and ergonomic keyboard
  • matte display with good viewing angles
  • good speakers
  • good battery life

What I didn’t like:

  • cramped trackpad with no support for multi-touch gestures
  • top versions can get quite pricey
  • overall noisy even when in Idle and gets pretty hot on the bottom left side after a couple of hours of use

The specs:

  • 10.1 inch 1024 x 600 px LED backlit matte display
  • N450 Atom processor clocked at 1.66 GHz
  • 1 GB of memory
  • 250 GB HDD, 7200 rpm
  • Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth 2.1, 3 xUSB 2.0 ports, VGA, webcam, card-reader, etc
  • Windows 7 Starter OS
  • 6 Cell 66 Wh 5700 mAh battery

So pretty much the basic version of the Mini 5103, but like I said, you can easily equip it with more memory, bigger storage space (or faster SSDs), an advanced Windows version or a HD/touch display .

Now that we know what to expect from the little HP, let’s see how it managed to actually perform.

Design and build quality

I must say that this is one of the most solid built 10 inchers I’ve seen so far (and I’ve seen pretty much all of them). The lid is covered in dark brown aluminum, while the bottom is made from a soft rubbery plastic that allows perfect grip and seems quite reliable and scratch resistant.

Dark brown aluminum lid cover

Dark brown aluminum lid cover

The same rubbery finish is used for palm rest and the area above the keyboard, but the space between keys and around the display is glossy, and while it gives the device a nice looking aspect, it is something I personally dislike.

More details are available in the clip below.

You probably noticed that this 10 incher is pretty thick, especially when compared with others in its class (the so cold business netbooks). The bulkiness and the weight makes it a tad less portable than its competitors, but does help with the sturdiness, as they do come hand in hand.

Also, see ports layout in the pictures below.

Front with Status LED and Wi-Fi Switch

Front with Status LED, Wi-Fi Switch and speakers

Back with the big battery

Left side with PSU, VGA, Cooling fan and 2 USB ports

Left side with PSU, VGA, Cooling fan and 2 USB ports

Right with card-reader, headphone, mic, USb ports and Kensington Lock

Right with card-reader, headphone, mic, USb port, LAN and Kensington Lock

Keyboard and trackpad

The keyboard is particulary nice on this device, keys coming with a soft rubbery feel as well and feeling quite nice when touched. There’s almost no flex and the keys are quiet, except for SPACE which is a bit louder. I also like the layout with big Shift keys, although the CTRL and ALT and in fact all keys on the lowest row are oversized in height, but narrow.

What’s also displeasing is how HP chooses to utilize the F keys. On most laptop, those work as F keys by default and you’ll have to press FN + one of them in order to use the extra hardware commands (adjust screen brightness, sound volume,etc etc). Well, on this HP (and others I’ve seen in the last years), its the other way around: by default those keys are assigned with the extra functions and in order to get the F keys working you’ll have to use the FN key.

Comfortable keyboard with a rubbery feeling

Comfortable keyboard with a rubbery feeling

Trackpad ain’t bad, but it is glossy and cramped. In fact, it is one of the smallest I’ve seen on netbooks lately, so space for maneuvering is limited and don’t even dream about multitouch gestures (they are not even supported). However, it’s nice that you get independent buttons for right/left click, as they feel very nice and are easy and comfortable to press.

All in all, I can say I like the keyboard on the HP a lot, at least till I have to use the F keys. However, trackpad is a disappointment, and while able to do his job, will be a particular pain especially for those of you with bigger fingers.

Trackpad is pretty cramped

Trackpad is pretty cramped

Display

Like you saw in the specs, there’s a 10 inch 1024 x 600 LED backlit screen on this laptop. The good part is that it’s matte, so can be used outside, plus it is quite bright and with good viewing angles, so I can say this screen is one of the best found on a 10 incher. Too bad for that shinny bezel around it.

Also, the fact that it can only lean back to around 130 degrees tops max makes it uncomfortable to use while in bed or lying on the sofa.

Like I said, you can also equip the Mini 5103 with a HD 1366 x 768 px or a 1024 x 600 px capacitive touchscreen.

Matte display that doesn not bend too much on the back

Matte display that doesn not bend too much on the back

Performance

Not much to say about performances. This version I tested came with pretty much standard hardware, so performs like every standard netbook does: can handle everyday apps and movies/music, can even handle 720p clips. Windows 7 Rating is displayed in the picture below.

Windows 7 Rating

Windows 7 Rating

Having the 7200 rpm HDD really helps and is quite noticeable in everyday performance and of course, the 5103 can be equipped with faster processors (including the dual-core Atom N550), 2 GB of memory, SSDs and 3D accelerator from Broadcom, thus becoming quite a capable little beast. All these will cost you though.

Software

There are a bunch of different apps preinstalled on this HP and like with all netbooks, it is recommended to get rid of most of them in order to make the system a little bit snappier. There are quite a few HP proprietary programs, but luckily not that many trials, except for the antivirus software.

Battery life

The Mini 5103 comes with a couple of different batteries options. The version tested here has the 6 Cell 5700 mAh 66Wh heart, which is enough for at least decent performances in terms of battery life. In fact, during everyday tasks, this HP managed to score around 6-7 hours of life on a single charge, which might not be as good as others devices can offer, but it’s definitely enough in my books.

Still, you can get even more if using the device only for light text editing with Wi-Fi OFF and in Power Saver mode. On the other hand, using it for continuously playing a movie or Youtube clip will get autonomy to around 5-6 hours, but that’s still not bad.

Others

The HP Mini 5103 comes with good connectivity, including fast LAN, Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 2.1 . And you can also configure it with integrated 3G module in the States.

The speakers are quite good and placed towards the front part of the device, providing decent volume and overall good sound quality.

Solid build but overall pretty bulky

Solid build but overall pretty bulky

The 2 MPx webcam placed on top of the screen is nice also and works well for chatting programs even in low light conditions.

There’s also the heat/noise matter to consider. The HP gets warm on its back so might be pretty uncomfortable to use in some situations (especially while on your lap). Plus it ain’t quiet, as CPU’s fan is continuously running. Not sure if HP has any utility to tweak this aspect, but I found it a little bit bothering when using it in a quiet room during the night.

Price and availability

Like I said above, the HP Mini 5103 starts from $399 in the States. However, for the version tested here you would have to pay around $430 (comes with a bigger battery that the standard option), while the top configurations, with extra memory, better CPU, HD display, etc, can easily get you to 600 bucks or more.

Now, this ain’t for sure cheap, especially for a 10 incher. However, the Mini 5103 is not your everyday 10 incher, is a mini laptop meant for business, a domain where money should not really be a problem.

Conclusions

Now, the HP Mini 5103 is definitely one of the most impressive 10 inch netbooks on the market. In terms of build quality and style manages to score high marks, as well as in terms of versatility, being perhaps the most configurable 10 incher available out there.

HP Mini 5103 - overall a laptop I'd love having, if budget was not a concern

HP Mini 5103 – overall a laptop I’d love having, if budget was not a concern

I can see myself getting one if money where not a problem, but in a segment dominated by cheap devices, it’s pretty obvious this will not become a best seller. As it is expensive and has its flaws.

Still, if you’re on the market for a 10 incher , looking for the best you can get, the HP Mini 5103 can be you best pick, as long as you can cope with the bulky shape and other minor inconveniences.

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About The Author

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

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