HP's still making luxury netbooks, with the HP Mini 5103 being the latest, and possibly the ultimate. Not ultimate as in best, but rather, ultimate as in last.
With AMD and Intel looking to scupper the small form factor laptop by offering cheap, higher performance alternatives in more comfortable sizes, like 11.6-inch, the netbook's days may be numbered.
In the meantime though we have the 5103, a 10.1-inch, 1366x768 resolution netbook. We applaud the higher resolution screen as anything lower can cause issues with some applications; however, HP's screen isn't as sharp as it could be.
Still, this highlights a trend in HP providing above the norm in its netbooks, whether it be the dark umber-brushed aluminium lid, the comfortable and usable keyboard, the 2GB RAM, Windows 7 Professional, gigabit Ethernet and, amazingly, 802.11n that supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Usually you'd expect to see it made out of plastic, have a cramped keyboard, 1GB RAM, Windows 7 Starter, 100Mb Ethernet and if you're lucky a single channel 802.11n chip that only supports 2.4GHz.
Other specs are more standard — it runs off Intel's Atom N475, has a 320GB hard drive, Bluetooth, three USB ports, VGA out, headphone and microphone jacks and an SD card reader. If it had HDMI out HP would have hit the ball not only out of the park, but into the next park, knocking out the pitcher — alas it does not.
There are two shortcut buttons provided, one that loads the web browser, and the other which loads HP's "Software setup", providing a central area for drivers and software related to the 5103. Amazingly, it doesn't attempt to sell you more software as many vendors are trying these days, and HP should be complimented for its restraint.
Battery life was decent considering the hardware inside, lasting a good four hours and 43 minutes in our brutal battery test, where we turn off all power-saving features, set screen brightness and volume to maximum and play back an XviD file at full screen. Asus has almost doubled this in some of its Eee PC range, leaving the 5103 to be merely average by today's netbook battery life standards.
HP's Mini 5103 is a gorgeous, luxury item that makes a netbook desirable again. You'll still need to ask yourself if the small size is worth the cost, as full-sized laptops can be had for the same price and offer considerably greater power — however, for portability, battery life and features, the 5103 is on our wanted list.