Dell Latitude 2100 review

29 Jul 2009

Expensive, but a robust chassis and touchscreen option make it a good choice for classroom use

Price when reviewed 
378
4

Dell has been on board the netbook express for a while now, but its products have had mixed success. We liked its first - the Mini 9 - with its dinky dimensions and curvy profile, but were less keen on the Mini 10 and its horror of a touchpad. The Mini 12 we found sluggish to use. Dell has now added to the line-up with the business and education-focused Latitude 2100, which takes about as different a tack as it's possible for a netbook to take.

This isn't a product designed with the consumer in mind. It's large for a 10in netbook, measuring 43mm thick, and weighs a little more than we'd like at 1.32kg. Yet despite all this it isn't an unattractive device. The lid features an embossed rubberised finish (available in a number of bright colours at a £16 exc VAT premium) and is capped with a subtle white light, set into the front edge.

Open up the 2100, and though the matte-black plastic finish is far from luxurious it does exude a certain appropriateness. We can imagine it being used in a classroom and still looking good after a couple of terms. And that robust feel extends to the rest of the chassis.

Try to twist and poke the screen and you'll find remarkably little give, thanks to the resilient plastic backing and a thick, 2.5mm coating of solid rubber (not simply soft-touch plastic). Together they feel well up to the job of protecting the E2100's 10.1in 1,024 x 576 resolution panel. The base is covered with rubber as well, the hinges feel like they'll last, and the 2100's solidity extends to the keyboard, which has a very firm feel to it. For classroom use we'd like to have seen further rugged features added - such as drop protection for the hard disk and a spill-resistant keyboard - but the Latitude 2100 is more robust than most netbooks we've come across, including the education-specific Classmate PC.

The keyboard is where things begin to go wrong, though. The keys feel too small, and the key action is a little too light for comfortable typing at speed. And we're none too keen on the proximity of the touchpad to the keyboard. We found ourselves constantly brushing it while typing, and frustratingly there's no way of switching it off.

There is an alternative to using the touchpad - the screen, which on our review model was touch-enabled. It's fine for manipulating large buttons and icons, and we're sure kids will take to it straight away. However, with no stylus, selecting, clicking and navigating through Windows Vista Basic's menus and options screens can be a little fiddly.

The touch overlay inevitably dulls the vibrancy of the LED backlit screen, with the result that the 2100's colours look knocked-back and wan, and whites a little greyish and grainy, compared to the best netbooks on the market. The touchscreen is an option, fortunately, although cutting it out doesn't represent a huge saving at £12 exc VAT.

Details

Price ex VAT £329
Price inc VAT £378
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 3
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 1yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 265 x 187 x 43mm (WDH)
Weight 1.320kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Atom N270
Motherboard chipset Intel i945GSE
RAM capacity 1.00GB
Memory type DDR2
SODIMM sockets free 1
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,024
Resolution screen vertical 576
Resolution 1024 x 576
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 950
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 160GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support no
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader yes
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Speaker location Screen, sides
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 2hr 4min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 40min
Overall application benchmark score 0.32
Office application benchmark score 0.33
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.32
Encoding application benchmark score 0.29
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.33
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Home Basic
OS family Windows Vista
Recovery method Recovery disc