Dell – Latitude 2100 review

rugged netbook for the road or the classroom
Photo of Dell – Latitude 2100
£352 + VAT

The latest addition to Dell’s Latitude line of business notebooks is the diminutive 2100, but Dell’s latest netbook isn’t only aimed at business types: the company is also aiming it at the highly lucrative education segment. The Latitude 2100 is very much the Inspiron Mini 10‘s bigger, meatier brother, ready to protect its little sibling from all the other nasty netbooks in the playground.

It’s not the most stylish netbook on the market, with its simple wedge-like design, but the rubber-coated finish on the lid and base of the chassis make it look and feel like it’s ready to take on the everyday rough and tumble of life on the road or in the classroom; and the build quality is first rate.

The rubber finish is relieved by a slightly textured matt black finish to the chassis sides. Our review sample came in a corporate grey – or, as Dell calls it, Chalkboard Black – but if you want to brighten up your life it does come in other colours; Blue Ribbon, Ballfield Green, Schoolhouse Red or Schoolbus Gold. Choosing any these will add sixteen quid to the cost of your 2100.

Under the skin it’s standard netbook fare; Intel Atom N270 processor running at 1.60GHz, backed by 1GB of DDR2 memory and Intel’s 945GME chipset, so performance-wise it’s not going to set the world on fire but for your everyday light office, email and web surfing work it’s perfectly fine.

Two basic versions are offered as standard, one with an 80GB hard drive with Ubuntu Edition 8.10 OS installed (£259 + VAT) and the other option with a 160GB drive (£309 + VAT) with Windows XP Home SP3 (or Vista Home Basic, an additional £25 or Windows 7, an extra £66), which is the version Dell sent us for review.

The 10.1-inch screen with its 1,024 by 576-pixel resolution has a satin finish which cuts out the reflective glare from office lighting and also enables you to use it out of doors in fairly bright conditions. Built into the top edge of the screen is the ubiquitous webcam.

However, Dell offers an interesting alternative in the shape of a resistive touch-screen which is just £12 extra on its own or £20 if you want a webcam as well. Our review sample was fitted with one of these, and once it’s been calibrated using the bundled software (a must), its really nice to use and you can navigate your way around XP quickly and easily.

The left-hand side of the chassis is home to the VGA out port, a USB port and two audio ports, while the right-hand side houses two more USB ports and the LAN port for the wired Gigabit Ethernet connection. Built into the front of the chassis is an SD card reader. It also comes with 801.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth.

The keyboard wouldn’t look out of place on a Thinkpad, however looks are deceiving in this case as, while it may look like a Thinkpad keyboard, unfortunately it doesn’t feel like one.

But having said that it’s not all bad: the keybed runs to each side of the chassis allowing for large and easy-to-use keys to be fitted, while the keys themselves feel good to the touch and at least it allows for fairly rapid, accurate typing. The touchpad works well, as do the two rather small mouse buttons sitting in front of it.

You may ‘umm and aah’ about paying the extra £16 for an alternative colour scheme but the no-brainer when it comes to paying extra is getting the 56Whr six-cell battery option for the same money. The only downside of having the larger battery is that is adds weight to an already chunky netbook, raising it from 1.36kg to a significant 1.59kg and making it the heaviest netbook currently available.

But this is more than made up for by the impressive battery life. When tested with the WiFi turned on, screen brightness at 50 percent and a hefty workload it lasted for a reasonable four hours and twenty minutes: lighten the workload and it lasts for over six hours.

Company: Dell

Contact: 0844 444 5818

In many ways, the Latitude 2100 is Dell's best netbook to date, with some interesting options such as the touchscreen and choice of operating systems. Well built to withstand the knocks and bumps of life on the road or in the classroom, this does mean it's not the lightest netbook around by quite a distance, especially if you choose the large 6-cell battery. It also carries a pretty hefty price tag which may put many people off.