Netbooks can be so alluring. And that's something manufacturers play on. The HP Mini 5102, for example, comes in red, blue and black — the one I was sent was a lovely shade of blue, its brushed metal lid looking particularly stylish. That gives it appeal right off the bat.
But of course with netbooks, as with their larger cousins, final purchasing decisions ought to be made on the basis of usability, specifications and value for money.
Let's take money first. There are no fewer than six configurations currently listed at HP's web site, with a £256 (ex. VAT) starting price rising to £471 (ex. VAT) for the top-end configuration. So, the HP Mini 5102 is not an impulse purchase.
That entry-level model has a 4-cell battery, with the others offering 6-cell options. And the models listed don't include an upcoming touch-screen version that's due to be available soon — and will have an impact on price too.
On to usability, then. Our review sample had a 10.1in. 1,366-by-768 pixel display. The high resolution is welcome, and we were able — just about — to have two document windows opened at the same time. But those with poor eyesight may find it a challenge.
The isolated keyboard is smashing. A click is delivered when each key is pressed, and the feel, while a little lightweight is perfectly good enough for typing at a fair speed. Only the relatively (and unavoidably) cramped keyboard area is likely to slow you down.
The one downer on the usability front is the touchpad. It works well enough, but its shiny plastic attracts greasy fingermarks which means it quickly becomes unattractive.
Now for specifications. There are several operating system choices: Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Starter, Windows XP Home, SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, FreeDOS. Hard drive choices range from 160GB to 320GB. Wireless options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile broadband. The Atom N450 processor and 2GB of RAM in our review sample kept things moving along well enough.
Ports and connectors offer no great surprises. Three USB ports, Ethernet, microphone and headset, SD card slot and VGA out. All in all, it's a pretty standard set of specifications for a netbook.
So, on the basis of a first take, while we like this netbook in terms of both look-and-feel and usability, its general specifications, apart from the high-resolution screen and prospect of touch-screen support, have little allure. Money-wise you'd probably want to budget up from the base model.