HP introduces new Mini 5101 business netbook

Seeking to cement its lead in the business-oriented netbook space, Hewlett-Packard Co. today announced an updated Mini netbook.

Starting at $449, the Mini 5101 will come with a brighter backlit-LED screen, a larger, spill-resistant keyboard and a better-resolution 2-megapixel Webcam.

The Mini 5101 will also have a slightly faster Intel Atom processor, a new security feature and a higher-quality metal case than the current Mini 2140, according to Carol Hess-Nickels, director of marketing for business netbooks at HP. The Mini 5101 will use Intel's Atom N280, which runs at 1.66 GHz, instead of the 1.6 GHz N270 in the Mini 2140, released less than six months ago.

The 5101 will retain the Mini 2140's spiffy anodized aluminum case, but add a magnesium metal bottom, said Hess-Nickels.

The flat, open key layout will have a MacBook-like look-and-feel, and will be slightly larger, at 95% of full-laptop-keyboard-size, than the 2140's 92% size.

Generally considered the third-leading netbook vendor behind Acer Inc. and Asus Inc., HP is among a few vendors to explicitly target business buyers with its netbooks.

The Mini 5101 will be HP's fourth business netbook in less than a year and a half. It released the Mini 2133 in early 2008, and followed that up with the much-improved Mini 2140.

HP announced a lower-end business Mini netbook in May, the Mini 1101.

The Mini 5101 will retain many of the same features as the 2140 when it arrives in late July: 2.6-pound weight, a choice of Windows Vista, XP Home or Professional, Suse Linux Enterprise 11 or FreeDOS operating systems (for users to install whatever flavor of Linux they choose); hard-disk or solid-state disk drives with 3D DriveGuard, HP's technology to protect data in case of drops; a 10.1 inch screen coming in either 1024x600 or 1366x768 resolutions; and a choice of fast-charging 4- or 6-cell Lithium-Ion batteries, the latter offering up to 8 hours of battery life, according to HP.

It won't come with the Broadcom "Crystal" HD video decoder that enables 720p or 1080p HD video that is available in the just-released $329 Mini 1101.

But if HP sees customer interest in HD video, it could use Nvidia Inc.'s Ion technology, as Lenovo Group Ltd. is doing.

"We have looked at Ion, and we continue to look at it every time we come out with a new product," Hess-Nickels said. "Right now, it didn't seem to be the right offering for our customers."

Asked about the popularity of Linux, Hess-Nickels said the overall percentage of customers choosing Linux on HP netbooks, including business and consumer models, was "probably less than 10%," though probably "higher, in the mid-teens" for business Mini models such as the 2133 or 2140.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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