The keyboard is also an improvement. It's no bigger than the one on the 10 and 10v, but the keys themselves are physically deeper and have a more positive action. It also has page up and down buttons next to the cursor keys in place of the 10's blanking plates. The touchpad eschews the 10's single-piece design and click-bar combination in favour of a more traditional layout with two separate buttons below the 62 x 35mm pad.
A better keyboard than the ones on Dell's other netbooks
The touchpad may be small, but it's very well calibrated and has a surface that's pleasant to the touch. The buttons have a near perfect action. It also supports basic multi-touch, so a two-fingered pinch will zoom you in and out of your documents and web pages. Dragging your finger up or down the right-hand edge of the pad initiates a scrolling action.
The 2100 comes with a full suite of status lights, something that the 10 and 10v have both been criticised for lacking.
A long white LED sits on the outside of the lid. Apparently, this can be set to flash when the machine accesses the internet, the idea being that a teacher can thus see if one of her class of little monsters is looking at the net rather than paying attention. For those of us to whom school days are just a distant memory, the light is a handy reminder that your netbook is still on if you've slammed the lid shut while it was running.
We are happy to report that sanity has dawned a Dell: the SD card slot doesn't leave the card's backside hanging in the wind as the Mini 10 does but rather lets it slide in almost flush. That's handy if you want to specify your 2100s with a small SSD rather than HDD storage and plan on leaving an SD card in situ.
You have to remove the base to get to the spare Dimm slot
The optional matte touchscreen is another feature unique to the 2100. It was only when we got to play with a netbook with a touchscreen that we realized how useful it can be, especially for a little light web browsing. Once calibrated, the resistive panel proved remarkably easy to use with even the smallest web links registering at first touch. The sticky rubberised bottom of the 2100 pays dividends when the screen is being poked, preventing the machine from sliding away at each touch.
I like it
I bought one of these a couple of weeks ago to use for travelling and I have found it to be fantastic, especially the touchscreen - I now find myself using the touchscreen all the time when using Firefox, Openoffice and Outlook, something that I never thought I would do.
I give this netbook an A-, the only thing stopping it from being an A+ for me are:
- I had to dismantle the laptop to install the second 1GB RAM - why couldn't Dell have given me a 2GB pre-installed option on the website? I hate having to remove laptop keyboards, especially brand new ones.
- I find myself using a stylus from an old PDA but I'm sure I'm going to lose it because the Latitude 2100 touchscreen version doesn't come with a stylus slot. I know that might seem like an odd request for a netbook, but having used the touchscreen for a couple of weeks I really miss having a stylus always available in a little slide-out slot.
By the way, I think there is a tiny inaccuracy in the review - the activity light on the back is not configurable; you have no choice, it is always on.
Please include VAT & delivery charges in your reviews
Hateful Dell charge £20 for delivery, bumping up the ACTUAL price of the base model to £317.40. At that price things like its miserly 80 GB hard disk start to seem like poor value. They even have the audacity to charge £16 (less VAT, of course) if you would like one in blue, green, red or yellow as opposed to the default black!
"It's a unique netbook feature as far as we know and we have to ask why it hasn't been done before."
Not a netbook, but Apple's 1998/9 Powerbooks Wall Street and Pismo were rubber covered.
I rather like it
Just to be different. I like angular stuff, why does everything have to be curved these days? I like the rubberised coating, no creasy fingerprints all over a shiny surface. Yes, the spec is pretty mediocre, but if all you're going to use it for is surf the web and a bit of office now and again, who needs super-dooper processing power? If I had some spare cash (damn economy!) I'd snap one up tomorrow.
It's a real shame its not dockable, I would have been tempted to buy one otherwise. Presumably that's why its not called the E2100, as only the E-Series are dockable in the current range.
Maybe they were worried about cannibalizing potential sales of 'proper' Latitudes, although I can't believe that many enterprise sales would have been lost to an Atom-powered netbook like this.