HP adds touchscreen to Mini netbook

The Mini 5102 will support two-finger touch input

Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday revamped its line of Mini netbooks, also introducing its first model with a touchscreen that supports multitouch finger input.

The Mini 5102 netbook comes with a 10.1-inch screen that supports input through two fingers. The touchscreen can be used as an alternative to mice to zoom into maps, scroll through documents or manipulate images.

Priced at US$399, the device is targeted at mobile professionals and students. The device is designed to let users surf the Web and run basic applications like word processing.

The netbook is expected to be displayed at the International Consumer Electronics Show to be held in Las Vegas between Jan. 7 and 10. The show is turning into a launchpad for touchscreen netbooks. HP rival Lenovo on Tuesday announced the S10-3T netbook with a touchscreen, which will also be on display at the show.

HP already ships a range of touch-enabled desktops and laptops, but the capability is new to the company's netbooks. Use of touch in the 5102 may vary depending on the user, said Kyle Thornton, business notebook manager at HP.

"If I hand this to a businessperson, maybe they would say 'Oh, this is a nice feature, but I don't need it.' If you hand it to a student, it's a different [mentality] where they have grown up on touch devices," Thornton said.

HP's touch-enabled TouchSmart PCs come with specific applications that enable touch applications. But HP doesn't have development revolving around touch applications for netbooks yet, Thornton said. The netbook will be based around the generic Windows interface.

The netbook however includes some interesting features like face recognition that automates tasks like user log-in and Web surfing. A built-in webcam automatically recognizes a user's face to log in to the PC. Software also allows users to sync multimedia from the netbook with other PCs in a home.

The Mini 5102 is 0.91 inches thin and weighs just 2.64 pounds (1.2 kilograms). The device uses Intel's latest Atom N450 processors, which should give the netbook more battery life than previous Atom chips, Thornton said.

Battery options include a four-cell battery, which offers a 4.5-hour battery life, and a six-cell battery with 10 hours of run time. The netbook supports solid-state drive storage and includes multiple wireless connectivity options including Wi-Fi and mobile 3G broadband.

The netbook will be available by the end of January with the Windows 7, Windows XP, Suse Linux or FreeDOS operating systems.

HP also introduced newly designed Mini 210 and 2102 netbooks for consumers based on the latest Atom processor. The netbooks come with 10.1-inch screens and offer longer battery life than their predecessors, according to the company.

The new Atom processor, launched in December, includes integrated graphics capabilities that will be able to play back 720p video.

For those who want full 1080p high-definition video on netbooks, HP is offering Broadcom's video accelerator as an option. The Mini 210 is priced starting at $299.99, while the Mini 2102 is priced starting at $329. Both laptops will be available starting Jan. 7.

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