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Mini 5101 a sturdy refresh for business users

HP supplied the premium local configuration of its recently-released netbook, the Mini 5101, to review.

The 5101 range isn’t the cheapest among netbooks, starting at $1007 and ranging up to $1569 for the top model, but it does offer bang for your buck.

The added cost for the more highly specified unit gets you an 80GB solid state drive and HP’s optional un2400 EV-DO/ high speed packet access mobile broadband module for worldwide connection to CDMA and UMTS networks. This model, the VQ053PA, also has the highest amount of RAM at 2GB, with integrated Intel graphics.

These features build on 802.11a/b/g and draft-n wi-fi (included in the less expensive 5101 models), along with Bluetooth 2.1, for connectivity.

With many netbooks now tipping the scales at less than a kilo, this isn’t the lightest netbook at 1.3kg with the six-cell battery in. Its dimensions are 23 x 262 x 180mm.

However, the materials used give the Mini 5101 a chic appearance that will help set it apart from competitors.

The lid is constructed from brushed black metal and is complemented by a black, rubberised base and battery casing, and a glossy black bezel around the ten-inch display. The entire unit feels solidly built and the blue LED lights that highlight the on/off, email and internet shortcut buttons provide stylish accents.

In addition, HP offers 3D Driveguard, whereby the built-in accelerometer will signal the hard drive to shut down if the notebook is dropped or sharply banged.

The build, and the price tag, reflect the fact this unit is pitched at business users who want a premium portable.

The decent battery life is also something that will appeal to business people on the road – lasting almost six hours with movies playing back to back. The webcam is also better than average at 2MP, assisting those who want to participate in a web conference or talk to family at home while travelling.

The keyboard will help users who need to type for long periods – there is generous space between the keys, it spans the width of the chassis and is comfortable to use. The rubberised casing also extends to the wrist rest, making it as comfortable as the keyboard.

The Windows Vista Business OS runs fine on the Intel Atom N280 (1.66GHz) processor. On the software side, there’s Corel Home Office, PDF Complete and trial versions of Office and McAfee Total Protection, among other programs.

In addition to the VGA port, there’s an SD/MMC card reader, three USB ports, Ethernet port and headphone/microphone jacks. The matte screen provides a wide viewing angle.

A docking station, external optical drive and USB-powered speakers are optional extras for the Mini 5101.