Tactical Advice

Review: HP Mini 5103 Netbook

The Mini 5103 netbook from HP delivers many of the benefits of a full-size notebook in a smaller form factor.
This story appears in the March 2011 issue of BizTech Magazine.

The HP Mini 5103 netbook has been crafted to be a companion to your main computer — a satellite to use as you move around the office or go on a sales call. It’s durable, reliable and ready in a flash, and proves that big things do come in small packages.

End-User Advantages

Have you ever wanted to check your e-mail, view an online video or edit a contact’s information without waiting for your computer to boot up? Sure, you could use a smartphone, but the screen is small and the keyboard is lacking. Enter HP’s instant-on tools: QuickWeb and QuickLook, all available at the push of a button without waiting for Windows to load.

QuickWeb is a full-featured Mozilla-based browser housed within a small ­Linux partition. Simply press the globe button above the keyboard, and in about 10 seconds you’re reading the latest news or watching freshly uploaded videos. QuickLook lets you view your e-mail, contacts, calendar and tasks (synchronized with Outlook 2003–2010). In Version 3, you can even edit information; the next time you fully boot the computer, QuickLook automatically synchronizes it with Outlook.

When you boot up the machine, who wants to look at the boring Windows screen? HP doesn’t, so they’ve provided HP Day Starter, which offers a quick look at the day’s calendar and the current battery life so you can review where you’re going next. As for batteries, the HP Mini 5103 offers two options: a six-cell, 10-hour 0.77-pound battery; or a four-cell, 4.5-hour 0.44-pound version. I would choose the six-cell battery because the way it’s built provides a gentle slope to the keyboard and a more ergonomic angle.

Speaking of keyboards, the big advantage of netbooks over smartphones is keyboard real estate, and the HP Mini 5103 delivers with a 95 percent full-size keyboard. I honestly can’t tell the difference between this keyboard and one on a small notebook.

Why It Works for IT

This netbook offers many features for end users to enjoy, but its designers were especially conscious of what mobile business users require. The Mini 5103 is durable, and the aluminum casing resists scratches. The keyboard has a Mylar spill-resistant underlayer and a protective coating on the keys so that the letters won’t fade away with use.

On the security front, HP ProtectTools offers three fantastic features: ­Credential Manager, whole-disk encryption and ­Computrace asset tracking. Credential ­Manager manages passwords to websites and other accounts, and ties them to both your Windows authentication and facial recognition software to make sure you’re really who you say you are.

If the netbook is lost or stolen, the whole-disk encryption feature makes sure your data is safe. The ­Computrace BIOS-based asset-tracking agent will wipe the data and then phone home, letting you or the authorities know where the device is so that you can recover not just the data, but the asset as well.

Disadvantages

There are a lot of positives with this unit, but I do have a few caveats. HP’s QuickSync feature, which allows you to sync documents with your main computer, can present a challenge. Both the netbook and the main computer must be on the same subnet for this to function. The netbook can be connected over ­Wi-Fi, for example, and it will still work; but for QuickSync to work in most large corporate environments, you may need to connect the mini via a wired connection immediately adjacent to your main computer.

Also, QuickLook 3 synchronizes with Outlook, but Outlook isn’t included. HP chose to install Corel Office instead to keep the price of the netbook down, which makes sense.

As with most netbooks, the HP Mini 5103 does not come with an optical drive. However, you could run one through one of Mini’s three USB 2.0 ports. These days, though, most software deployments are made through the company network or over the web.

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About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Sheen

Dr. Jeffrey Sheen

Jeff is tasked with separating the “gee whiz” factor from the truly useful when it comes to the latest tech gadgets, and oh, he holds a Ph.D. in physics. He currently works as the supervisor of enterprise architecture services for Grange Mutual Casualty Group of Columbus, Ohio. His biggest challenge is being an avid Wolverine fan while living in the midst of Buckeye country.

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