HP Minis have thus far come in a single, admittedly very stylish, design. They've been at the forefront of comfort and ergonomics, and have set the standard in usability.
The Mini 5101 is no exception: its slender black lines give a very attractive finish - and it's highly tactile, too, with a slightly rubberised feel to wrist rest, base and keys that give a reassuring sense of stbility. Build quality is excellent; this little machine is resilient as well as good-looking.
The scrabble-tile keys - the first since the Sony VAIO P to take that approach, are slightly less comfortable than we'd hope and have a flat feel, but their precision is excellent, and the size is fantastic. The enter, shift and backspace buttons are fullsize, and nothing feels cramped.
Connections are standard - 3 USB, a card reader and D-sub - but the Mini is unusual among netbooks in having an email and web access button above the keyboard.
In fact, it's such an exemplar in form among netbooks that we were waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Sadly, that shoe is its battery life, which ranges from a so-so 2hrs and 3mins on heavy use to a disappointing 3hrs 28mins on light use. One bright note is that finally the Mini 5101, unlike the other minis in the range, has scope for a larger 6-cell battery to be swapped in.
If looking good is your primary aim, then people could well mistake your Mini 5101 for a slightly cheaper ultraportable, and it's the closest to a true laptop look and feel we've seen in this price range. But the battery life makes it mostly useful for occasional use, rather than the little