Meet the HP Mini 5103

Netbooks are all so similar in terms of performance that it’s difficult to get excited about reviewing “yet another netbook”. Aesthetics and build quality may change, but outside of features like NG-ION or the use of an SSD, there’s not much new under the sun. However, one Atom variant that we haven’t had a chance to actually test in house is the dual-core Atom N550. With support for DDR3 memory and a second Hyper-Threaded core, can this “high-end” Atom change our feelings? If you read our ASUS 1215N review, you probably already know the answer, but it’s always good to get concrete numbers.

Besides being our first look at a dual-core Atom N550 netbook, HP’s Mini 5103 packs in just about every other extra you can imagine. The test unit includes a multi-touch 1366x768 display, 2GB DDR3, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, and a Broadcom Crystal HD decoder—just in case you want to watch a 1080p H.264 movie on your 10.1” LCD. As with the Mini 5102, the 5103 is also one of the best looking and well-built netbooks to hit our labs. Unfortunately, the pricing puts it into the realm of much faster ultraportables, but if you want the combination of features HP provides—and your company is willing to foot the bill—it’s a decent little machine.

HP Mini 5103 Specifications
Processor Intel Atom N550
(2x1.50GHz + SMT, 45nm, 2x512KB L2, 667FSB, 8.5W)
Chipset Intel NM10
Memory 1x2048MB DDR3-1333 @ DDR3-667 5-5-5-15 Timings
Graphics Integrated Intel GMA 3150
Display 10.1" Multi-touch LED Matte 16:9 768p (1366x768)
Hard Drive 2.5" 160GB 7200RPM 16MB
(Western Digital WD1600BEKT-60V5T1)
Networking Marvel Yukon 88E8059 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Broadcom BCM4313 802.11b/g/n WiFi
Broadcom 2070 Bluetooth 2.1
WWAN (Optional)
Audio IDT 92HD75B2X5 2-Channel HD Audio
(2.0 Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks)
Battery 4-Cell, 14.8V, 1900mAh, 29Wh
Front Side None (Speaker Grille)
Left Side 2 x USB 2.0
Heat Exhaust
AC Power Connection
Right Side SD/MMC reader
Microphone/Headphone Jacks
Gigabit Ethernet
1 x USB 2.0
Kensington Lock
Back Side None
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
Dimensions 10.3" x 7.09" x 0.91" (WxDxH)
Weight 2.64 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras 2.0MP Webcam
82-key keyboard
Broadcom Crystal HD (Optional)
Office 2010 Starter
HP DayStarter
HP QuickSync HP QuickWeb
HP ProtectTools
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Price Starting at $399
As configured: around $688

Outside of the change to the CPU and memory, about the only other noteworthy update compared to the older 5102 is the move to an espresso (dark brown) finish. HP informs us that this was done in response to customer feedback, and the espresso color doesn’t show fingerprints quite as much as the old black. We do have to point out  a few items on our test system that we could no longer find on the HP site. First, our netbook shipped with Windows 7 Professional as opposed to Starter or Home Premium. Second, it has a 768p multi-touch LCD, while we could only find a 1024x600 multi-touch option online now.

With all the upgrades in place, the final price comes in just under $700. For that much money, you can find a wide variety of netbooks and laptops, but HP includes some other value added items you won’t find in most netbooks. As with the 5102, build quality and the keyboard are substantially better than any other netbook we’ve encountered, which adds to the cost. The basic model at $400 lets you get just the build quality and a typical Atom N455 + 1GB DDR3 setup. If you want more, you have to go to a configurable model and start choosing extras (with prices starting at $522). Unless you get a discount code or other special offer, the configurable models carry a hefty price premium; luckily, such codes are frequently available, and you can always try calling HP direct to see if they can make you a better offer.)

Breaking down the upgrades: $40 moves you up to Win7 Home Premium (and Professional would cost even more!), and you also need $25 for the 2GB RAM upgrade (not available with Win7 Starter); add $25 for a 768p LCD, and an additional $25 to go to 600p with capacitive multi-touch; the CrystalHD decoder is a big add-on at $45, and Bluetooth is another $18; finally, the N550 model costs $20 more than the N455 version. Put it all together and you basically get what you pay for—provided you think the starting price is acceptable. As a point of reference, the ASUS Eee 1015PEM-MU17 starts at around $340 online, with an Atom N550 and 1GB, but it lacks Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, and several other features on the HP. Barring any other discounts, you’re looking at a nearly $200 premium to move to the 5103.

As a parting shot on pricing, you can also find pre-configured HP Mini 5103 netbooks from a variety of resellers; the cheapest starts at $384, and it looks like Atom N550 would only bump the price up around $40. Unfortunately, no one appears to offer any pre-configured N550 models, so you have to go straight to the source. We’ve heard comments in the past that suggest you can get substantially better pricing on the configurable models if you call HP (one reader claimed a 28% discount on an EliteBook), so if you’re in the market for this type of netbook it can’t hurt to call; $500 would be far more impressive than the current $700 price tag.

HP Mini 5103 Subjective Evaluation
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  • seanleeforever - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    your logic is flawed.

    instead of spending money on laptop/desktop/netbook and what have you, and only uses 1/4 of your investment every time, you could simply buy a ultra portable, and use your investment 100% of time. (not to mention the hassle of migrate files, sync folder and what not).

    my x201 tablet weights about 3 lbs, 7 hr battery life, i7 core, ssd and IPS. small, light, portable (very portable because it is a tablet), and process 1080p flash and still have 60% of cpu power to do other stuff.

    sure it is costly on the paper (about 10 time more expensive than my HP Mini 210), but i use it 100% of time.
  • synaesthetic - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    I disagree with netbooks being portable. They're more portable, but when I had a netbook and a desktop compared to having just a full-size laptop, I used my netbook no more often than I use my laptop now. It was not any easier to quickly check something, because I still had to boot it... wait for the OS to start... be near a wifi connection... etc.

    My smartphone fills the portability niche.
  • LoneWolf15 - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    I just got a Dell Latitude E4200 from their Outlet for $690 after tax. That includes the following:

    SU9600 processor
    2GB RAM
    12.1" 1200x800 matte display with full-size keyboard
    64GB SSD and external eSATA DVD writer
    Six-cell battery

    The HP netbook is pretty cool if you want new, but I got a 3-year warranty with the Latitude, but when I can get a $1700 ultraportable as a certified-refurb for about the same as the HP, and it performs faster and has superior construction quality (not that the HP is bad, just the Latitude is killer), then the Latitude wins. I was also able to easily add a WWAN card after the fact.

    Still, HP is moving in the right direction with this. I hope more vendors will do so.
  • Guspaz - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    Atom has been on the market for almost three years now, and despite this fact, no significant advances have been made in power efficiency or performance.

    Compare the Atom 330, which came out in mid 2008 to the N550, reviewed today. Their power draw is about the same (8.5W versus 8W), and their performance and clockspeed is about the same (1.6GHz versus 1.5GHz).

    Atom was underpowered when it was released, but fast enough to be useful. Today, performance is about the same, but the demands placed on it are higher. The end result is that Atom just gets worse and worse.

    ULV products are a lot more interesting.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    The only problem with your post is that the Atom 330 didn't have SpeedStep, it didn't have an IGP, and it didn't have DDR3 support. We looked at the ASUS 1201N way back in the day with Atom 330 + ION, and because of the lack of SpeedStep the battery life was about half of what you can now do with the N550. But the rest of what you say is true, and I really hope the next Atom revision does more to improve the status of netbooks.
  • synaesthetic - Monday, December 20, 2010 - link

    I'm afraid it won't, because Intel has already spent a great deal of time badmouthing netbooks as primary computing devices. They don't want netbooks to compete with their more expensive mobile processor lines. Hell, this is why they killed the SU2300 in the first place; because Acer was selling Aspire 1410s with that chip for $400 and it was selling like hotcakes, scarcely slower than the more expensive CULV chips!
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, December 23, 2010 - link

    I'm not so sure about your "simple math", rarson. The 5103 has a 29Wh battery, not a 66Wh battery (that upgrade is available, but it's not what I tested).

    Based on the figures in my review, at idle the Mini 5103 uses just 6.8W total. In the Internet test it uses 9.0W, and in the x264 test (the "worst case" scenario) it hits 12.9W. Of course, those are all on battery power, and I'd assume there's some inefficiency in getting power out of the battery and into the system.

    As a secondary test, I just plugged the Mini 5103 into a Kill-A-Watt device to test power draw. Power adapter efficiency certainly comes into play in this test, and if it's 80% efficient (reasonable) the actual power draw is pretty close to the above calculations.
    Idle: 10W
    x264 playback: 13.5W
    Cinebench SMP: 15W

    So, again, TDP doesn't necessarily tell you a whole lot. Idle power requirements are much lower than TDP, and even heavy use will rarely hit TDP on everything, so you can't just add CPU, chipset, HDD, etc. TDPs to figure out how much power a system will actually use.

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