Dell Inspiron 1100 Review

by NotebookReview Staff Reads (95,933)

The Dell Inspiron 1100 is Dell’s entry into the ring for the budget notebook class.  A Celeron based notebook, this system provides for some of the fastest performances and greatest battery life among the competitors in the budget class.  The price of the Inspiron 1100 can be had as low as $700, an amazing price for a decent notebook.  Of course though, you can’t expect it all from a notebook of this price range.  Its a bulky machine with poor sound, no integrated wireless and few to none standards bells and whistles.

In The Box

Here’s what comes in the box with your newly bought Inspiron 1100

The Inspiron 1100 we received fresh out of the box

Our Inspiron 1100 had the following configuration specs:

  • 14.1 XGA Screen
  • Celeron 2.3GHz Processor
  • 256MB, 2DIMM RAM
  • 30GB Ultra ATA Hard Drive
  • 24X CD-RW/DVD Combo,Inspiron 1100
  • No Floppy Drive
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
  • Dell TrueMobile1300 WLAN (802.11b/g) PC Card

Included in the box you will get

  • Dell Resource CD with Application Backup,W/Tool for Abacus 1100/5100
  • Inspiron Tools CD
  • Integrated NIC for Inspiron 1100
  • Intervideo Software DVD Solution for Inspiron Systems
  • 65 WHr Lithium Ion Primary Battery for Inspiron 1100
  • AC Power Adapter and cord
  • Dell True-Mobile Wi-Fi card (if selected as an option)

Configuration Options

The most basic configuration for a Dell Inspiron 1100 will give you everything you need for basic work and play.  The base configuration includes a 2GHz Celeron processor, 256MB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM, a 14.1-inch screen (XGA 1,024×768 resolution), a CD drive and 20GB 4,200rpm hard drive.  You can of course configure the Dell Inspiron 1100 to your hearts desire using the Dell.com online shopping site.  For instance, you could include a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 CPU, 1GB of RAM, DVD/CD-RW combo drive, 40GB hard drive with 5400rm and up to a 15-inch XGA display.  In other words, you can turn a budget laptop into a not so budget laptop!

One disappointment is that you can’t include integrated internal Wi-Fi in the Inspiron 1100.  You can select an option to include a Dell True Mobile Wi-Fi card but that’s simply a card that will slot into your machines Type II PCMCIA slot and is not hidden away inside.  Most other Inspiron machines offer internal Wi-Fi.  I found that the wireless card for the 1100 was not nearly as strong as the strength I get from my Dell Inspiron 8200, probably due to the fact the PC card style Wi-Fi receiver has a single antenna setup.

Design

One thing I really like about the Inspiron 1100 is its venice blue and silver coloring, it makes for a fairly sporty look.  This is the same casing that’s being used in most of the new Inspiron series releases such as the 600m, 8600 and 5100.  One thing I don’t like about the Inspiron 1100 is its large size though.  With a 14.1 inch screen it is certainly not one of your 17″ desktop replacement monsters, but with its dimensions of 12.9 by 10.8 by 1.7 inches and a weight of 7.4 pounds it’s no lightweight.  Given the fact there are ultraportables that can outmatch the Inspiron 1100 in every aspect of performance and specs you’ll realize that Dell didn’t spend a whole lot of time or money trying to widdle down weight on this notebook, but that’s what makes it a budget notebook of course.  Slightly inferior quality and heavier parts are the tradeoff for a cheaper machine.  I definitely don’t recommend this notebook to anyone that travels a lot, it’s way too big and heavy, especially if you get the 15″ screen.  However, if you go on occasional trips and don’t need to use this notebook on a plane or for business on the road then it’s fine.

Many notebooks with large cases will contain two internal secondary storage devices, a floppy and CD-RW for instance.  But not with the Inspiron 1100.  You can only get one fixed (not swappable) when configuring the Inspiron 1100.  You have to choose from CD, DVD, CD-RW or DVD/CD-RW drives when ordering.  The DVD/CD-RW combo is the way to go if you can spend $50 – $100 extra.  If you really want a floppy Dell offers an external USB floppy drive for $49.

One positive point about the Inspiron 1100′s large case is that it provides room for a spacious and firm keyboard.  There’s plenty of room for ports and slots too, but this being a budget notebook you kind of get the minimum necessary as far as expansion ports go.  A 56K model port sits on the right side while an Ethernet, VGA, S-Video out and two USB 2.0 ports run along the back edge.  The left-side has headphone and microphone ports and one Type II PC Card slot.  The front edge has two speakers, the sound from those is tinny and of low quality.

Back of the Inspiron 1100 with USB 2.0, VGA out, Ethernet, S-Video and power ports

Left side of the Inspiron 1100 with headphone, microphone and DVD/CD-RW drive

Front view of the Dell Inspiron 1100

Bottom-side of the Dell Inspiron 1100

A view from above of the Dell Inspiron generous sized keyboard and touch-pad

Processor

Celeron processors aren’t the fastest on the block when it comes to speed in processing computer instructions, but for the casual PC user it will likely be fast enough for everyday uses such as email, web-surfing, word processing and what have you.  In the Celeron class of notebooks the Inspiron 1100 actually stacks up well performance wise.  The HP Pavilion ze420 and Gateway 400E are direct competitors that the Inspiron 1100 outperforms in speed tests.  The fact that Dell uses an independent graphics chip in the 1100 while HP and Gateway use chips that borrow video RAM from main memory might explain this speed difference.  In using a mobile application performance rating program named BAPCo MobileMark 2002 the Dell Inspiron 1100 scored a 103 rating while the HP Pavilion ze4200 scored 102 and the Gateway 400E a miserable 89.  In using the 1100 I was pleasantly surprised by its snappiness in using basic programs.  Opening multiple programs did not bog the system down and the opening of applications was instantaneous — no hard drive spinning or indication of a struggle to open such applications was displayed by the 1100.  I’m used to using higher-end notebook machines and was pleasantly surprised the the 1100 didn’t force me to have a magazine at the wait to deal with slow loading of applications!  One downside to the Celeron processor used is that it tended to run hot, the fan used to cool the processor is pretty loud so be prepared for a sometimes annoying fan.

With a budget system you can’t expect too much in the way of built-in software.  The Inspiron 1100 gives you the choice of two operating systems, either Windows XP Home or Windows XP Professional.  If you’re a regular user and don’t do such things as using a computer to do programming you’re probably just as well of with the Win XP Home, it’ll save you some money going with that option too.  Included with the system is WordPerfect Productivity Pack and Quicken 2003 New User Edition.  You can upgrade to Microsoft Works or Microsoft Office XP if you want to pay the extra for those of course.  Also included with the Inspiron 1100 is Dell’s Jukebox, MovieStudio and PictureStudio applications for editing multimedia files.

Battery

Battery life is of course always an feature users weigh heavily in deciding upon a notebook to buy.  The good news is that the Inspiron 1100 performs quite well in this arena.  The Inspiron comes with a powerful 14.8V, 6450mAh battery.  While the Celeron processor is certainly not as power efficient as a Pentium Mobile (Pentium M) class chip from Intel, we were able to achieve 4-hours of battery life from the Inspiron 1100.  This can certainly be attributed to the generously large battery.  Heck, 4 hours is better than some Pentium M class systems I know of.  Although the battery is big, bulky and further adds to the weight of the Inspiron 1100, you can at least work without having to keep one eye on the battery meter and the other on whatever you’re doing on the machine at the time. Once again too, Dell outpaces HP and Gateway in battery life performance when compared to their budget class machines.  In fact, the Inspiron 1100 got almost twice as much life as the Gateway 400E after both were full charged and then run down.  On the BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life score the Inspiron 1100 scored at exacty 240 minutes, the HP Pavilion ze4200 at 165 minutes and the Gateway 400E at a paltry 148 minutes.

The Inspiron 1100 6450mAh removable battery is large, but powerful

Warranty
The warranty for the Inspiron 1100 is a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty.  This includes a mail-in service and free 24/7 phone support.  I’ve always had decent support service from Dell when I’ve had issues with products bought from them in the past, but some will tell you differently.  Overall I think Dell’s customer service can be called pretty good, but not great.  You can increase support through purchase options on the notebook.  If you want to spend up to $458 you can get four years of onsite service and accidental damage protection.  I don’t recommend this however, if you buy a notebook for this cheap why would you want to pay half its cost in support fees?  After all, it would be wiser to go cheap on the service configuration and then just buy a new notebook in a couple of years.  I know I’m guilty of always wanting something later and greater after two years of having any piece of technology equipment, so if you know you’re the same it’s best just to go with the one or two year support option.
Conclusion
Let’s be honest, the Inspiron 1100 isn’t the sleekest, or the fastest or the coolest notebook on the market, but it’s not supposed to be, it’s supposed to be one of the most affordable.  Dell has achieved providing a respectable notebook that can do every day tasks without any problem for a low price.  I recommend this notebook to anyone on a budget or just doesn’t want to spend too much for an extra computer in the house.  Maybe your kids want a computer in their room, a $700 (and sometimes less depending on what deals Dell is offering) notebook might fit the bill perfectly for that.  Maybe you’re not sure how much you’d use a notebook so you’d rather spend a little rather than a lot right off the bat.  Whatever the case, the Dell Inspiron 1100 is a good buy if what your looking for is a basic notebook that can provide portability to a degree and the ability to perform basic to intermediate computer related tasks.
Pricing and Availability
The Inspiron 1100 can only be purchased from Dell directly, view the latest pricing and configuration available via our pricing engine.
 


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