The Dell Inspiron 15 5100 review: A blast from the past

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On this article we are going to travel a little back in time to reveal some of the most notable features of the Dell Inspiron 15 5100. This is a laptop that was very popular near to its release date in 2003 and still is widely used even now. The benefits of this device are still current up to this date and on par with some basic system requirements. The convenience of obtaining parts at really affordable prices, and the wide spectrum of hardware components that we can update make this device a very good option to restore, with the purpose of performing computational tasks that are not so demanding at the processing level, such as browsing the internet or using with any text editor.

The first thing that pops to our attention when we are in front of the Dell Inspiron 15 is how thick its profile is and its strange proportions. In reality, there are very few laptop models which dimensions describe almost a perfect square. This feature makes it a more portable option, although its weight makes us give up on that idea a bit.

Dell Inspiron 15 5100 physical aspect and design

It’s hard to look at this laptop 18 years later and not intuitively make a naive comparison with the new standards at a design level. In reality the laptops from that time were nothing like the ones we can find today, even in a medium price range. That being said, it is shocking to see how over the years the manufacturers of laptops are less interested in making scalable products, which can be updated with new components and therefore prevail a little longer.

The design of the Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is quite stylish, with a rigid conformation and an optimal distribution of its components in the physical space. The 15-inch screen is well supported by a fairly thick bezel and sturdy hinges, guaranteeing its durability over time. The color is variable, with aluminum grey being its flagship presentation. On the lid, there is an interchangeable colored metal plate. Here, the cyan blue color was the most common presentation.

The dimensions of this laptop are 10.8 x 13 x 1.8 inches. As we mentioned, it is unusual for modern laptops to have square proportions on the screen. Although in relation to the aspect ratio of the display panel, nowadays it is an irrelevant issue, due to the great proliferation and variety of screens now present in the computer and mobile markets. Likewise, this laptop has a weight of 7.8 pounds, which makes it extremely heavy for a laptop, although understanding the context, components allowing a lower weight have not yet been developed by that time (not to mention the development in battery technology).

Technical specs and features

The Dell Inspiron 15 5100 was at the forefront of its game, with excellent performance for its time. This computer had a great influence on the production standards of the time and marked the trend of how the computer of the future should be. This was the first laptop to get rid of the floppy disc once and for all. Also, they decided not to include the famous “pointing-stick” as an auxiliary mouse control. This re-defined the market and was the prelude of the laptops as we know them today.

Dell Inspiron 15 5100

Powered by an Intel Pentium 4 uni-core processor clocked at 2.40 to 2.80 Ghz and 512 KB of L2 cache, the Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is even capable of performing basic computational functions under current system requirements. It was initially equipped with 128 MB of RAM (266 Mhz DDR SDRAM), and an ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 video card, with 16 / 32 MB of video memory.

In terms of storage, this notebook comes with a 40 GB 5,400 RPM hard drive. Additionally, it has two USB 1.1 ports, which we can use as temporary storage, and that way, we save a little space on the hard disk.

As far as connectivity is concerned, on the right side of the laptop we have an Ethernet LAN connector. In some models we can find features to connect a wireless internet network through Wi-Fi 802.11b. Later, this feature was improved to support 802.11g.

Although the unit does not have a system of interchangeable trays for the optical reading (CDs or DVDs), at the time of the purchase you had the option to select a re-writable CD drive, a single DVD player, or a re-writeable DVD + CD.

The original display of the Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is a15 inches screen with a resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels. There is the possibility of connecting the notebook with other display devices. We can do this through its VGA, FireWire or S-Video out ports.

We originally had the option to choose the version of the Windows operating system that came with the laptop. We could choose between Windows XP Home Edition, or Windows XP Professional Office Edition. The latter additionally included the Microsoft Office bundle (Business or Professional), and CD or DVD burning software tools.

The battery

Incredibly, unlike what we see conventionally in current laptops, the battery of this laptop rests in some sort of a drawer that can be taken out, removed or replaced. Perhaps with the idea of making it easier for the user when we have to replace it with another.

The Lithiun-Ion battery is a 12-cell brick, weighing from 0.9 to 1.4 pounds (depending on the version that we got). The average capacity of this battery is 6,450mAh.

The life of the battery can last (fully charged to 100%) 3 hours. If subjected to heavy use, the charge can last much less, ranging from 2 hours 38 minutes to 2 hours 48 minutes, according to this performance test.

Replacing or upgrading parts

Nowadays it is almost impossible to find laptop options where the manufacturer includes “easy-access gates” to install new components in the unit. Ultimately, this was a trend that was less based on consumerism. When we look at the case of the Dell Inspiron 15 5100 we are in front of a product that the manufacturer genuinely wanted it to remain over time.

Dell Inspiron 15 5100

For instance, the battery, mini-PCI port, RAM and hard drive are all accessible from the bottom panel of the laptop. This makes the installation process even easier and gives the user the power to do it, without the need to pay significant sums to a specialist. Not to mention also that the information on how to do each process is also documented and available to users.

Among the elements that we can update is the RAM memory, which can be extended to 2GB (2 slots of 1 GB). Likewise, the hard disk can also be upgraded to a capacity of 100GB. As a wild card, we also have the option of including a Modem or any other Mini PCI component by simply removing a cover from the bottom of the laptop’s body.

The keyboard and touch pad

Although this computer does not have a dedicated Numpad on the keyboard, it does have a key that emulates the function of the keyboard, just like the “fn” key on modern computers. The well-spaced and convenient key layout is impressive. Moreover, in these terms, at the level of ergonomics and comfort this model has extra points.

The keyboard has an additional key called the “Dell AccessDirect” button, represented by an exclamation sign key, just to the left of the status indicator lights. Through it you could have access to the programs and applications most frequently used on the computer, technical support and other functions. The functionality of this key could also be customized for convenience.

In the same way that Dell promoted the installation of upgrades and replacement components, it was also concerned with making replaceable each and every one of the elements that could suffer wear and tear due to constant use. This is specifically the case for the keyboard and touch pad. In the device manual we have a whole section that teaches us how to replace the keyboard if we want to clean, fix or replace it.

The Inspiron 15 5100 completely eliminates the tendency to include a second mouse pad in the form of a joystick or pointing-stick inside the keyboard. This is perhaps the model that definitely marked the end of this peculiar element of control.

As far as the touch pad is concerned, it does not have a very wide motion reading area, but it is granted with the ability to read subtle taps and translating to left clicks. It is also capable of recording double-clicks and dragging functionality. As a caveat, the Dell Inspiron 15 5100 touchpad does not register actions using more than 1 finger.

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