HP certainly never built up the level of media buzz and industry hype for the Mini 5102 netbook as Apple did leading up to the unveiling of the iPad tablet PC, but ounce for ounce and dollar for dollar there are a number of similarities and some key differences to consider which may make the HP a better value.
- Size: the iPad is much thinner–only about half of the HP Mini 5102’s 0.9 inches
- Weight: the iPad is much lighter–weighing about half of the HP Mini 5102’s 2.8 lbs
- Display: Both have 10-inch capacitive multi-touch displays, so if you prefer to let your fingers do the walking you can do that on the HP as well as on the iPad. The iPad has slightly better resolution and includes IPS technology that gives the display a wider viewing angle. Both support 720p high definition video, and the HP has an option that will allow it to display 1080p resolutions.
- eReader: the iPad comes with access to iBooks and native ePub format abilities, plus there is an app for reading Kindle. The HP Mini 5102 can read ePub formats using tools like Stanza, or the ePubReader add-on for Firefox, and Amazon provides free software to read Kindle on Windows as well.
- Durability: the HP Mini 5102 is enclosed in an aluminum case so it is protected when closed in transit, and it has a special coating on the keys so its designed to take some abuse. The iPad screen is exposed to scratches and impacts unless you purchase an accessory like the iPad case which protects the iPad and adds some versatility for using it, but also adds to the thickness which levels the playing field on size.
- Networking. both come with wireless networking capabilities by default. Apple will also offer a 3G-capable version of the iPad, but it will cost $130 more than the Wi-Fi version and is only truly compatible with AT&T. You can use the USB ports on the HP Mini 5102 to install a 3G USB dongle and add 3G connectivity to whichever wireless provider you choose.
- Camera. One of the glaring omissions on the iPad is the camera. It doesn’t have one. The HP Mini 5102 has a 2-megapixel webcam which includes the ability to protect the PC and log in using facial recognition technology.
- Battery Life. Both devices claim approximately 10-hours of functional battery life.
- Storage.the iPad comes in 16Gb, 32Gb, and 64Gb models. The 64Gb model is $200 more than the entry-level 16Gb model. The HP Mini 5102 has a 160Gb hard drive, plus the ability to expand memory limitlessly using USB thumb drives and external USB hard drives.
- Software. the iPad runs apps rather than full-blown software applications. That means iPad users can run any of the 150,000 or so apps found in the iTunes App Store, and that the apps are typically cheaper and take up less space. The HP Mini 5102 can run any of the millions (haven’t verified that number, but seems plausible) of applications available for Windows, including the ability to run the ubuiqitous Microsoft Office products like Word, Excel, and Outlook.
- Flexibility. the iPad is the iPad. Unless you use some sort of remote desktop solution to connect it to a Windows desktop, it will just be an iPad. The HP Mini 5102 is available with Windows 7, Windows XP (which I highly discourage), Suse Linux, or FreeDOS. You can configure it how you choose and install virtually anything.
- Price. the iPad starts at $499 for the entry-level, Wi-Fi only 16Gb model. The 64Gb 3G-enabled iPad tops out at $830. The HP Mini 5102 starts at $399, with room for additional costs if you choose the optional 1080p high definition capabilities, or if you add a 3G USB dongle from a wireless provider.
Ounce for ounce and dollar for dollar, the HP Mini 5102 netbook compares quite favorably against the iPad. It has many of the same features that make the iPad desirable, many of the features that users wish the iPad had, more flexibility, and a lower price.
All its missing is the Teflon reputation of Apple, and the legions of rabid followers who won’t read this because they aren’t interested in how it compares with other products. If the logo on the case is the right shape, that is all the comparison-shopping they need.