Hands-On: Dell Latitude 2100 Netbook
Dell would like to capture the market of schools with the Dell Latitude 2100, and designed a robust netbook with standard entrails (Atom N270, GMA 950), and an optional touch screen for this. The following review will tell you if the low-cost netbook could convince in the hands-on.
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We could take a closer look at the Dell Latitude 2100 netbook at the Dell Technology Campus. The 10.1" netbook is designed for the harsh deployment in schools, and scores with its salient exterior rubber-surface. The Latidude comes with some special features for the market of education. There is for instance a status-light informing about WLAN-activity on the back of the display lid. The teacher can quickly recognize if the students are surfing the internet or listening to the explanations through this - at least in theory. Dell also offers the netbook with a special, anti-bacterially coated keyboard in the U.S., a feature which is especially interesting for schools.
Case and Design
Dell wrapped up the Latitude 2100 in a thick rubber hull in order to meet the requirements of the harsh deployment in schools. In addition to the thick plastic case, this is supposed to clearly improve the netbook's shock-resistance. The rubber surface offers a high-class feel, but it was already a little dirty on our hands-on model. However, some detergent should be able to get rid of it.
In accordance to the designated deployment in schools, Dell offers the Latitude 2100 in five fittingly named colors: School Bus Gold (yellow), Chalkboard Black, Ball Field Green, Blue Ribbon, and School House Red.
The case's stability is quite alright. The base unit only somewhat yielded to pressure, and the hinges made a good impression.
The school netbook by Dell offers the usual equipment for netbooks. Besides a VGA-output, LAN, headphone and microphone jacks, one also finds an SD-card slot. Dell gives the student delight with 3 of the important USB ports. The two Kensington Lock openings at the left and right side of the case are remarkable. One can also attach a shoulder strap as accessory here in order to be able to comfortably carry the netbook alone.
The single ports are aligned on the left and right side of the mini-notebook. Unfortunately, most of them are found towards the front area, where they could be disturbing when using the mouse.
The Latitude weighs from 1.36 kg (3-cell battery) up to 1.54 kg (6-cell battery) + 0.365 kg for the power adapter, which is the usual weight for netbooks.
We liked the Latitude 2100's keyboard in the test (for a netbook). The keyboard unit does sag a bit under pressure, but no rattling was perceivable. The keys' size is somewhat smaller then on a full-size notebook, but typing fluently was instantly possible in the test. The keyboard's layout (english in the test) was also alright.
The touch pad offers good sliding properties, but it comes off a little small for using it permanently.
The dedicated buttons for regulating the volume above the keyboard were also striking.
The 10.1" background-lit LED panel offers a resolution of 1024x768, which is not a lot of space on the display. Our test device came with a touch screen, and the display's surface was a mixture of a reflecting and matt finish. The display's brightness was sufficient for interior rooms. The colleagues from Notebookjournal measured 180 cd / m² on their test device (possibly without a touch screen).
The small panel's viewing angles can be described as average.
The touch screen itself is a nice feature of the Latitude 2100. The pre-installed Windows XP is unfortunately not optimally operable per finger, due to the small display of icons etc. Windows 7, which our test device came with, offers a clearly better support for this. However, our test sample could not be calibrated cleanly. We therefore cannot rate this feature more detailed.
Since the Dell Latitude 2100 offers the usual equipment for a netbook (with Intel Atom N270, 1.6 GHz, and an integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics adapter), the performance is not much of a surprise. The performance values stay within the usual frame for netbooks, whereat PCMark 05 had even slightly better results than on other netbooks with this equipment.
The performance is thus sufficient for office and surfing the internet, but it quickly reaches its limits at HD video and more demanding applications.
The surfaces' temperature development was not particularly critical during the test, and by all means feasible for usage by children. The temperatures measured were between 30-40 °C. A strong heating of the case should not occur, thanks to the built-in fan (compared to the Mini 10).
The fan's volume could not really be evaluated in our hands-on in a relatively noisy environment, since it was barely present acoustically. However, Notebookreview state in their test that the fan was "surprisingly loud". While this should not be noticeable in a disturbing way in a school class, the volume exceeded that of other netbooks.
The two small stereo loudspeakers are located next to the 10.1" display, they offer a sufficiently loud sound pattern, albeit with missing bass.
We could unfortunately not evaluate the battery life due to the short time spent with the device. The Latidude comes with a 3-cell Lithium-Ion battery per default, a 6-cell battery is available optionally. This one lasted more than 4 hours and 45 minutes during the WLAN surfing test at laptopmag.com. The 3-cell battery should thus last only about 2.5 hours.
The optionally available "Mobile Computing Station" by Dell is also interesting. It holds up to 24 Latitude 2100 (connected to it via LAN) and also allows for bringing in updates, and other maintenance tasks. It is however all but a bargain at $3.899.
The Latitude is not really a bargain at a starting price of 436 Euros, plus shipping. The small netbook's case is convincing especially due to the colorful and resistant rubber surface and should also prove itself in the harsh deployment in schools.
The performance is clearly limited by the netbook genes, but surely sufficient for simple applications.
While the temperature development of temperature is alright by all means, the fan is supposed to be clearly audible in quiet surroundings.
The battery life is alright with the somewhat protruding 6-cell battery, but other netbooks have longer battery lifes with a 6-cell battery.
Thanks to the good keyboard and the specific features, the Latitude seems to be well fit for the intended field of deployment. It could be an acquisition worth recommending for notebook classes.