Aiming to bring small, low-cost laptops to schools, Dell has just announced the Latitude 2100, a Netbook specifically targeted to educational markets. We recently got a chance to take a brief hands-on look at the Latitude 2100--and we think its appeal will go far beyond the classroom.
The basic components are similar to what you'd find in almost any other Netbook--Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM, Windows XP--but the chassis of the Latitude 2100 is specifically designed with young users in mind. Somewhat thicker and heavier than typical consumer Netbooks, the system has a semi-rugged feel and a thick rubberized cover, along with an optional anti-microbial keyboard.
The entire package reminded us in some ways of the original, which were the first examples of Netbooks. One new feature that seems especially intriguing (but may tax the Intel Atom processor) is an optional touch screen.
To appeal specifically to educational buyers, the systems include a handful of unique features, including a small light on the back of the lid, called the Network Activity Light. It can interact with third-party software or simply turn on when students are surfing the Web (instead of working on classwork), which can help teachers keep track of the status of everyone in the classroom.
Another interesting feature is an optional rolling storage cart, called the Mobile Computing Station, which can sit in a classroom and hold 24 Latitude 2100 Netbooks. Students can slide their systems into what is essentially a giant docking station after class, where the Netbooks can be recharged and even remotely updated via LAN by the school's IT administrators.
By adding this kind of business-like remote management, we can see the Latitude 2100 crossing over into mainstream corporate environments, where the options for business-class Netbooks are very slim (although they include the excellent