Is the new Dell Latitude educational netbook worth the price?

While nothing seems to have made its way to the Dell K-12 store in terms of their new Latitude 2100 netbooks, there are plenty of details floating about online. A few new bits of information have emerged since I mentioned this education-oriented netbook a while back, but I'm afraid the most important is its starting price: $369.

While nothing seems to have made its way to the Dell K-12 store in terms of their new Latitude 2100 netbooks, there are plenty of details floating about online. A few new bits of information have emerged since I mentioned this education-oriented netbook a while back, but I'm afraid the most important is its starting price: $369.

Sure, the Latitude has some features that set it apart from the average netbook. It comes in cool colors (Dell has changed the "School Bus Orange" color to "School Bus Gold"; school buses will always be yellow to me.), the cases are rubberized and rugged, and the screens have a special light that comes on when students are online so teachers can know that they are surfing rather than listening. Being Latitudes, they also give schools access to Dell's custom drive imaging.

However, again, while options pricing isn't posted yet on Dell's website, anything more than half a gig of RAM and their base SSD hard drives will cost you. The slick touch screen? Also an added option. Want to upgrade from a 3-cell to a 6-cell battery? That's an option, too. Add their matching mobile cart and we can imagine what happens to the cost. $500 gets you a similarly rugged convertible Classmate tablet with Intel's full educational and retail software stacks, plus double the RAM and the 6-cell battery included.

I'll update pricing as soon as it becomes available on Dell.com (or as soon as I wake up in the morning, whichever comes first). However, I'm just not seeing the value here. Good netbooks with comparable (or better) internal specifications are available for a fraction of the price. At almost 3.5 pounds, the 2100 is really pushing on portability for younger students, as well.

For now, I think I'll pass on the 2100, no matter how cool its colors are; like the Latitudes it sells to enterprise customers, the new netbook struggles to compete on price in a market where price and value rule.