Inside the chassis, the usual Intel Atom N270 will happily cope with most everyday tasks, but starts to throw tantrums if you try intensive multitasking or most HD video, which the Intel GMA950 graphics certainly can't cope with.
The 1GB of memory (upgradeable to two) is the default for the standard Business configuration, though on the Education model you can also select 512MB - just about enough to satisfy XP and run Ubuntu without a problem.
Hard drive options also vary somewhat between models, as the Business Latitude 2100 comes with a 5,400rpm 160GB hard drive as standard, while the Education model lets you pick an 80GB HDD for £8 less, or 'upgrade' to a 16GB solid state drive for an extra £4. It's a shame the solid state option is not available on the business machine, as there are plenty of business users who would value a shock-proof data configuration over the extra space.
On the education-version of the 2100 neither Bluetooth nor Draft-N Wi-Fi come as standard, but on the business machine we get Bluetooth by default with Draft-N a £7 upgrade over the b/g card installed. We do wish Dell had included a physical wireless switch though, especially considering this machine's target audience.
Another area where Dell's Latitude 2100 impresses, is in battery life. With the six-cell 56Whr (11.1V) battery, running a standard definition video at 50 per cent screen brightness and with wireless turned on, this netbook put in a not inconsiderable five hours and forty minutes and with less intensive usage comfortably exceeds the six hour mark.
However, this rugged machine's features come at a price, both in terms of money and weight. Starting at 1.36kg for the lightest 2100, our six-cell sample came in at a staggering 1.59kg, making it the heaviest 10.1in netbook we've reviewed. It's also anything but cheap, with a machine configured as our review model demanding £368 excluding VAT or delivery for businesses and £419 for school-goers (though doubtlessly Dell offers bulk discounts for educational institutions).
This means that as a consumer, you'll need to part with at least £430 to get your hands on this heavy netbook, and only you can decide whether the ruggedness and unique features like a touch-screen are worth it, especially since Dell's own (admittedly non-rugged) Mini 10 can be had with a 1,366 x 768 10.1in screen for under £400 and Toshiba's excellent NB200 can be found for as little as £320.
A rugged netbook with a few unique options like a touch-screen, Dell's Latitude 2100 is certainly appealing to its target market of students and road-warriors, but since you pay quite a bit for the privilege most consumers will probably be better off looking elsewhere.