Travels with the HP Mini 5101

The next few weeks contain quite a bit of travel for me. In general, IHP Mini 5101don’t “get” NetBooks. While these may appear as two disjointed statements, I’ve decided to reconcile the latter through the former. So as I packed for a series of trips that include Washington DC, Miami, and Paris, I tossed an HP Mini 5101 into my briefcase, along side my trusty Motion J3400.

We purchased the HP Mini to determine if it would be a useful tool for the occasional travelling professional who needs nothing more than e-mail, web browsing, and occasional document editing. First, a few observations of the device itself.

Front View of HP Mini 5101The overall form factor is surprisingly good. Weighing just over 2 ½ pounds, it feels solidin the hand, and slips easily into a briefcase. The screen, a 10.1 inch 1024×600 pixel backlit LCD, is good; very clear and bright. However, I believe the optional LED backlit HD display would be an excellent upgrade. Performance, at least in the above context, is perfectly acceptable. This unit has 2G RAM, and the 160G hard drive. I’d recommend the 120G SSD upgrade to improve performance, heat, and battery life. Finally, I’d recommend the extended six cell battery, as in the real world the three cell only lasts 2 – 3 hours.

The keyboard is well spaced and easy to type, especially considering it’s 95% “normal” size. The downfall here is there are many dual use keys, that require holding the FN key to activate. The worst offendersare page up, page down, home, and end which have been tacked onto the arrow keys. The built in Web Cam, speakers, and microphone array all work as expected.

So how does this, or any Net Book, fit into our mobile lives? It certainly doesn’t replace the conventional laptop, or in my case tablet. Start to render a YouTube video, and it becomes a uni-tasker with the processor pegged at nearly 100%. I was trying to figure out how it fits when I sat down at the airport bar this afternoon to pass time before boarding. My Blackberry buzzed with an e-mail; could I take a look at a document before getting on the plane. That’s not going to happen on the Storm, so I pulled out the HP. It boots pretty quickly, and connects via bluetooth tether. A few minutes later, I’ve made comments and changes, and returned the document. In a crowded restaurant, the Net Book fit well on the counter. Easier to manage than a laptop, or even my slate.

So chalk one up for the Net Books. They still appear as an awkward in-between device, used to fill the gap when a full laptop or tablet isn’t necessary, and the rudimentary abilities of a smart phone isn’t enough. There’s a place for them, whether it be casual surfing from the couch, quick mobile computing, or, as someone I know does, tossing in the glove box for those on the move crisis. I’m starting to understand them better. Next up, experiments with instant messaging, Skype, and unified messaging. Stay tuned!

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