HP Mini 5101 cleans up nice, shows the serious side of netbooks

Just when you thought you were safe from the netbook horde, along comes HP's new Mini 5101 to tempt you with the same basic specs once again, but this time with a slick aluminum and magnesium chassis to appeal to the "mobile professional" or anyone else with a bit of class. In a crazy twist, HP has finally moved the mouse buttons below the trackpad (because only professionals like clicking), and has included other perks like a 7200 RPM hard drive, Bluetooth 2.0, 2 megapixel webcam, and options of either a WSVGA (1024 x 600) or "HD" (1366 x 768) 10.1-inch LED screen. There are also options for 80GB or 128GB SSD drives, four-cell or six-cell batteries, with the latter rated at an improbable eight hours of runtime, and of course WWAN. There's a start price of $449, but with some of these options we could see that shooting up pretty fast -- especially if you pick the optional USB-powered external disc drive, external speakers or port replicator. It's not cheap being cheap. The Mini 5101 goes on sale in July.

We got a quick hands-on with the netbook, and were fairly impressed. The square chiclet keys are much easier to hunt down than Mini 1000-series flush keys, and the proper trackpad configuration is naturally a huge bonus. We'd much prefer multitouch scrolling to the side-scrolling action, of course, but at least it's an improvement. The overall build quality is near the top of any laptop or netbook we've played with in this price range -- it's not perfect, and there's some of that telltale keyboard flex, but it's a big improvement over its largely plastic competitors and predecessor.