Pegged as a netbook "designed for education" (despite also being available for businesses), we've been waiting to get our hands on Dell's Latitude 2100 for quite some time - not because we want to go back to school, but because in the relatively boring world of netbooks, the 2100 offers a breath of fresh air.
Okay, maybe it's more like a whiff than a breath, as inside its chassis you'll find the same Atom N270 1.6GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and 160GB hard drive as 90 per cent of other netbooks currently available. But this is definitely more than 'just another netbook'.
To achieve "student-rugged" status, Dell has coated its educational machine in a hardwearing rubber finish top and bottom, leaving the sides in textured matte black plastic. This not only feels great, but provides a solid grip and also cushions the machine against bumps, scrapes and impacts. Even the battery, which is released with a huge soft-touch switch, has its own coat of rubber.
Just because it's aimed at the educational and business market doesn't mean it's too boring either, as in addition to the default Chalkboard Black the 2100 can be had in a range of colours including Blue Ribbon, Ballfield Green, Schoolhouse Red and Schoolbus Gold for £16 extra (keep in mind though that since this is an educational/business product all upgrade prices are exclusive of VAT).
If opting for the six-cell rather than three-cell battery - and at only £16 extra you'd be nuts not to, unless you're buying in large quantities - the Latitude 2100 is also easily the fattest netbook we've encountered. At 35mm the machine itself isn't exactly slim, but the six-cell battery lifts it up another 20mm at the back, angling the keyboard.
Because of the larger battery's unusual shape you're going to have a hard time fitting this into many bags' standard laptop/netbook compartments. However, to either side of the hinge are two slots for another of the Latitude 2100's unique education-targeted features: they allow you to attach a shoulder carrying strap, so a bag may not be necessary. Unfortunately this strap wasn't included with our review sample, so we can't comment on its comfort or usability.