Few mobile devices in recent memory have stormed the market the way netbooks have. They can be found in every corner of IT, and their growth continues at a surprising rate, with no end in sight. The trouble — from a mobile professional’s point of view — is that almost all netbooks lack the durability and longevity that a productive user demands. This is where the HP Mini 5101  stands apart from the crowd and raises the bar to a much higher level, offering unparalleled durability, excellent battery life and a design unlike any netbook released thus far.
The internal components of the HP Mini 5101 are fairly standard (Intel Atom N280 1.66-gigahertz chip with 2 gigabytes of RAM), but this is where the similarities end. While all netbooks come with a 5,400 revolutions-per-minute hard drive of various size, the HP Mini 5101 packs a 7,200 RPM drive at either 160GB or 320GB. This creates an incredible speed bump that will allow Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 7, to resume from hibernation in 7 seconds and from standby in 1 second.
There also are two display options available: a standard LCD (1024x600); and a high-definition display (1366x768) that provides an extremely crisp image and a vast amount of screen real estate for looking over spreadsheets and reports.
Durability is very important for such mobile devices, and the HP 5101 has it. For starters, the keys have a protective finish called HP DuraKey, which keeps the characters from rubbing off after months of use. Also, the 7,200 RPM hard drive is equipped with a system called HP 3D DriveGuard, which relies on an accelerometer placed inside the hard drive. If it detects a sudden change in the netbook’s position (if it’s dropped, for example), DriveGuard will park the head of the drive to protect your data.
Any IT environment will benefit from a device that can withstand the rigors of daily use while delivering needed features. The HP Mini 5101 offers a solid eight hours of battery life when running Windows 7, and with an embedded 3G cellular modem and 802.11n support, it can serve as either a powerful road companion or a handy spare unit to swap out during repairs. It’s also small, fast and a complete pleasure to use.
Another benefit is that the HP 5101 runs well under Windows 7. Boot time is swift and application speeds are excellent. The netbook I evaluated had absolutely no trouble running multiple spreadsheets, iTunes, Internet Explorer and Windows Live Messenger concurrently, and still provided several hours of battery life.
No device is perfect, and the HP 5101 is no exception. While the 7,200 RPM drive is exceptionally fast, it sacrifices battery life for speed. This can be circumvented by changing power management features so the hard drive shuts off after a short time, but there is still a large power drain when the drive spins up. Another minor issue: The standard four-cell battery offers only about three hours of battery life, so the optional six-cell battery is highly recommended.