Dell Inspiron 8100
At a Glance
Like its predecessor, the Inspiron 8000, the 8100 offers an unusual flip-flopped drive bay configuration that increases the notebook's flexibility. Ordinarily, the floppy drive is fixed and the optical drive is removable, but on the Inspiron 8100 the DVD-ROM drive is fixed, and the floppy drive is removable. This arrangement makes it possible to carry two optical drives at once, for instance, or two batteries so you can watch back-to-back DVD movies on your next cross-country flight.
The thick, dark-gray 8100 is a multimedia machine deluxe, thanks to its fast IEEE 1394 port and its S-Video port for using a TV as a monitor. An included cable adapts the latter for use either as a composite video port or as an S/PDIF audio connection. The hard drive is a snap to remove, which is helpful if you need to keep important data under lock and key.
Bored with the same old look? You can pop out the 8100's dark-gray palm rests and swap in any of four other colors, including bright yellow; the set costs only $10 extra. The plentiful but mostly electronic documentation tends to be a bit confusing, with multiple shortcuts on the desktop to the same manuals. Our test unit included Microsoft Office XP Small Business Edition.