The PC industry may continue to be a tad uneasy with the popularity of netbooks, but there’s no question that the little guys are selling well–and not just to folks on tight budgets. Enter HP’s latest and most lavish netbook, the Mini 5101, which the company just announced. Aimed at business types, the 5101′s pricetag starts at $449 and goes up from there–which is striking in a category where most models max out at $400 or less.
But this Mini is available with features that are anything but bare-bones. You can get it with a 7200-rpm 320GB hard drive with HP’s DriveGuard safety feature or an 80GB solid-state drive; you can it with multiple-carrier mobile broadband based on Qualcomm’s Gobi technology; you can get its 10.1-inch screen either with typical netbook resolution of 1024 by 768 or the unusually high resolution of 1366 by 768.(I’d spring for the latter option in a heartbeat if I were buying this machine–the low resolution of most netbook displays is at least as significant an obstacle to running powerful apps such as Photoshop as lack of CPU and graphics horsepower.)
Many netbooks are kind of plasticky, but the 5101 isn’t–literally. It’s got an brushed aluminum top and magnesium-alloy bottom, and soft-touch paint on the palm-rest. The keyboard is of the MacBook-style design with keys that pop up through holes in the case; it’s 95% as wide as a standard laptop keyboard, and has a feature called HP DuraKeys designed to resist spills.
And this is–thank heavens–the first HP netbook with a touchpad whose buttons are in their normal location below the pad, rather than to the left or right. (Which means it’s the first one I’d consider buying myself.)
HP showed me a 5101 in person, where it looked nicer and more upscale than it does in this photo:
Yes, the core components tell you this is a netbook: It’s got a 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N280 CPU with integrated GMA graphics. If you get it with Windows XP, Microsoft won’t permit it to be sold with 2GB of RAM. (It’s also available with 2GB of RAM if you choose it with Vista, Suse Linux, or–here’s an entertaining option–FreeDOS. There are all sorts of things you won’t want to do on the 5101, and I believe HP when it says this will be a second PC for most users, not a primary machine. But as a netbook fan, I like the fact that this one’s design is so far from spartan and its range of options is so extensive. (HP says that a well-equipped configuration may cost more than $800.)
The Mini 5101 is set to ship in late July, and I’ll try to get my hands on one for a review.