Dell Inspiron 1100 review: Dell Inspiron 1100

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Battery life: 9.0
  • Service and support: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Long battery life; fast; smart case design; solid keyboard; low price.

The Bad No integrated wireless; loud fan.

The Bottom Line Dell's mainstream Inspiron 1100 notebook is ideal for those who need a fast and long-lasting laptop on the cheap.

CNET Editors' Choice Apr '03

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Dell's mainstream Inspiron 1100 is the cheapest notebook in the newly redesigned Inspiron family, but it's by no means the runt. In CNET Labs' tests, the system displayed the fastest performance and the longest battery life among its Celeron-based competitors. The sub-$800 price is also impressive. Of course, you can't expect everything from a laptop this cheap. The Inspiron 1100 lacks perks, such as integrated wireless. But all things considered, the Inspiron 1100 is one of the best mainstream notebooks on the market.


The secondary drive isn't swappable.

You can't mistake the Inspiron 1100's lineage: it sports the same "Venice blue and moonlight silver" case as all new Inspirons, including the 600m and the 8600. In fact, the Inspiron 1100 shares its case design with the more expensive Inspiron 5100, which carries more cutting-edge components than the 1100.

With a 14.1-inch screen, the Inspiron 1100's case measures 12.9 by 10.8 by 1.7 inches and weighs 7.4 pounds, average for a mainstream notebook. There's also an optional 15-inch display that jacks up size and weight slightly. You won't want to travel a lot with either one, but taking them on occasional jaunts won't do you in, either.

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The keyboard is wide and firm.
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The Inspiron 1100's touchpad and mouse buttons are big and smooth.
Large cases such as this often house two internal secondary storage drives, such as a floppy and a CD-RW. But the Inspiron 1100 offers just one fixed (that is, not swappable) secondary drive; you'll have to choose from CD, DVD, CD-RW, and DVD/CD-RW drives when you order. In the growing trend toward kissing floppies good-bye, Dell offers an external USB floppy drive only (for $49). The Inspiron 1100's extra pounds lie in its huge 14.8V, 6,450mAh battery. As CNET Labs' battery tests show, the cell keeps this system running for four hours, despite its power-draining, desktop Celeron processor. But we're not wild about the loud fan that's needed to cool down this hot processor.

The Inspiron 1100's ample case allows room for a wide and firm keyboard, a spacious touchpad, and two big mouse buttons. There's also plenty of space for ports and slots, although the budget-minded Inspiron 1100 includes just the bare minimum. A 56K modem port sits on the right edge, and Ethernet, VGA, S-Video-out, and two USB 2.0 ports are spread out across the back edge. The left edge offers headphone and microphone ports, plus one Type II PC Card slot. The front edge features two speakers that a produce more vibrant sound than that of most mainstream notebooks. The Inspiron 1100's base configuration gives average users just about everything they need for work or play, including a 2GHz desktop Celeron processor; 256MB of fast 266MHz DDR SDRAM; a 14.1-inch screen with a native 1,024x768 (XGA) resolution; a CD drive; and a 20GB, 4,200rpm hard drive. For various prices, you can choose higher-end specs such as a 2.4GHz desktop Pentium 4 CPU; up to 1GB of memory; a DVD, CD-RW, or DVD/CD-RW combo drive; a 40GB, 5,400rpm hard drive; and a 15-inch XGA display. All configurations come with the same graphics chip: a 64BM Intel 845G. Our evaluation system shipped with a 2GHz Celeron processor, 256MB of RAM, a 30GB hard drive, a DVD drive, and a 14.1-inch screen.

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The big battery is easy to unlatch and replace.
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The Inspiron 1100's new design is an eye-catcher.
While we applaud this overall spec selection, we can't overlook one conspicuous absence: internal wireless networking (Wi-Fi). Most of Dell's new Inspirons, such as the 5100, include two dual-band, 802.11a/b antennae and mini-PCI Wi-Fi cards. However, the Inspiron 1100 lacks both the antennae and the mini-PCI cards. The only way to get Wi-Fi is to add it via a Type II PC Card--and use up your only available card slot. This setup means one more removable part to worry about and gives you only half the signal strength from the PC Card's single antenna.

Bundled software is understandably limited in this value-conscious system. The Inspiron 1100 ships with one of two operating system choices: Windows XP Home or Windows XP Pro. The system comes standard with the WordPerfect Productivity Pack and Intuit's Quicken 2002 New User Edition, but you can order it with more full-featured office suites, such as Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office XP--for extra cash, of course. The software bundle includes Dell's Jukebox, MovieStudio, and PictureStudio apps for editing music, movies, and images. The Inspiron 1100 was the fastest system in our small test group, beating its nearest competitor, the HP Pavilion ze4200, by one point. The Dell also handily beat another Celeron-based notebook, the Gateway 400E. While the Inspiron 1100's first-place rank is impressive, and it will excel in most tasks you throw at it, we had hoped that it would show even more speed. The victory margin between the Dell and the HP might have been wider because the HP uses an ATI graphics chip that borrows video RAM from main memory. The Dell's graphics chip is independent.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
Dell Inspiron 1100
103 
HP Pavilion ze4200
102 
Gateway 400E
89 

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

Dell Inspiron 1100
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82845G Graphics Controller 64MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

Gateway 400E
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82852 Graphics Controller 64MB (8MB shared); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

HP Pavilion ze4200
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 224MB SDRAM 133MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 340M 32MB (shared); Fujitsu MHS2030AT 30GB 4,200rpm With its powerful 14.8V, 6,450mAh battery, the Inspiron 1100 had little trouble clobbering the competition in battery life. The Inspiron 1100's four-hour score is the longest battery life we've seen in a Celeron-based system, and it even bested a couple of Pentium M systems--the new battery-life champs. With the Dell Inspiron 1100, you'll be able to work unplugged without eyeing the power meter every 15 minutes.

Battery life  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 battery life (in minutes)  
Dell Inspiron 1100
240 
HP Pavilion ze4200
165 
Gateway 400E
148 

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

System configurations:

Dell Inspiron 1100
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82845G Graphics Controller 64MB; IBM Travelstar 30GN 30GB 4,200rpm

Gateway 400E
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 248MB SDRAM 133MHz; Intel 82852 Graphics Controller 64MB (8MB shared); IBM Travelstar 40GN 40GB 4,200rpm

HP Pavilion ze4200
Windows XP Home; 2GHz Intel Celeron; 224MB SDRAM 133MHz; ATI Radeon IGP 340M 32MB (shared); Fujitsu MHS2030AT 30GB 4,200rpm The Inspiron 1100 comes with a run-of-the-mill, one-year parts-and-labor warranty that includes mail-in service and toll-free, 24/7 phone support. You can increase the support through a variety of options, including up to four years of onsite service and accidental damage protection for up to $458. While we might recommend a big service-and-support increase for a more expensive system, you probably won't have a laptop this cheap for more than a few years, so one or two years of support should be plenty.

You can also always help yourself via Dell's stellar support software and Web site, which both provide helpful troubleshooting tips and FAQs. Also, the hard-copy setup manual is complete and easy to follow.

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Where to Buy

Dell Inspiron 1100 for Home (Celeron 2.4GHz, 256MB, 30GB)

Part Number: 1100RL Released: Mar. 3, 2003

This product is no longer available. Click here for Dell's latest offerings

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Mar. 3, 2003
  • Color Gray
  • Weight 7.8 lbs
  • Installed Size 256 MB