Can a laptop released in 2003 still be relevant today? Read this Dell Inspiron 15 5100 review to find out why there is still a lot of interest in this 18-year old laptop!
Itechguides' Take on Dell Inspiron 15 5100
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is a decent laptop for its age. If you need a laptop for basic computing tasks like light web surfing and sending emails, it should work for you. However, I recommend upgrading the BIOS to the latest version the laptop can take. Then, upgrade the RAM to 2GB. Additionally, you can upgrade the HDD to 100GB.
- A decent selection of ports
- Very Affordable
- Has a CD/DVD (Not in modern day laptops!)
- Reasonable performance for its specs
- Relatively Heavy
- Upgrade to 2GB RAM is possible but requires BIOS upgrade
- Small storage (40GB max) can upgrade HDD up to 100GB
In this article, I will dive deep into this 18-year old laptop’s design, its CPU and RAM specifications, and performance. You will also get to learn about the specs and performance of the laptop’s storage options, GPU, and battery.
Normally, our laptop reviews include performance benchmark tests – we also compare the laptop we review with competing laptops. However, it was impossible to find benchmark tests for Dell Inspiron 15 5100 – understandably for an 18-year old laptop!
Having said that, I have provided as much relevant information as possible. At the end of this review, you will have enough information to determine whether a laptop released in 2003 can still be of any use to you today!
My Initial Thoughts
As I already hinted in the introduction, Dell released Inspiron 15 5100 in 2003. When you look at this laptop today, it is obviously nowhere near as stylish as the Dell Inspiron laptops released today.
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However, when Dell launched Inspiron 15 5100 18 years ago, it was stylish, classic, and a must-have laptop. As of then, you could get the laptop with Windows 8.
Moreover, some people got it with Windows XP! Today, Windows XP and Windows 8 look like Operating systems from 2,000 years ago!
Even though Dell Inspiron 15 5100 and Windows XP sound like aliens to us today, the laptop was on top of its game when it was released.
The big question for this review is whether you will still find this 18-year old laptop relevant today? Let’s find out, shall we?
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 Design, Dimension and Weight Review
The design of Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is relevant for its time. It will be unfair to expect such an old laptop to come with the kind of high-tech specs found in laptops released 18 years later.
Having set your expectation, let’s start with the the design of Dell Inspiron 15 5100.
With the laptop closed, you will find the Dell logo positioned at the center of the laptop cover. The logo (in white text), fits well with the light gray and dark cover finish.
However, to display the “Dell” text without turning it upside down, you have to turn the laptop the other way – that is, not the position you will place it to open the lid.
Apart from the light gray and dark cover finish, there is a dark silver bezel-like finish around the edges of the laptop. This adds to the beauty of the laptop.
Moving on to the interior, when you open the laptop’s lid, you are greeted with a brilliant 15” screen. Moreover, the screen is surrounded by fairly thick bezels.
Like most laptops built 18 years ago, you would not expect the bezels anywhere near the thin nature of our laptops today!
At the bottom of the screen, you will find the Dell logo – again written with white text. Furthermore, just beneath the Dell logo (before the keyboard deck), on the top left, you will find the power button.
When you finally get to the keyboard deck, you will be impressed by the well-spaced keyboard. The keyboard comes with a Dell AccessDirec Button.
You can use the Dell AccessDirec Button to launch frequently used programs. Interestingly, this key is also reprogrammable.
Beneath the keyboard, you have a sensitive and customizable touchpad.
Moving on to the dimensions and weight, Dell Inspiron 15 5100 weighs 3583 g. The laptop measures 274 x 328 x 46.5 mm.
By today’s standards, you will consider the laptop heavy. However, considering that it is an 18-year old laptop, I will say its weight is fair.
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 comes with a fair selection of ports. At the far end of the left side of the laptop, you have the power connector.
Still on the left side of the laptop, next to the power connector, you have an HDMI port – impressive for an 18-year old laptop! Then, next to the HDMI port, you have an Ethernet port, 3 USB 3.0 ports, and a headphone/speakers connector.
Some models of the laptop may also come with Wi-Fi.
Furthermore, the right side of the laptop houses just a single USB port and a CD/DVD player. If you get one with a CD player, you should be able to upgrade it to a DVD player.
According to one Amazon reviewer, she was able to upgrade the laptop to a DVD drive.
Finally, based on the design, and its decent selection of ports, I will rate Dell Inspiron 15 5100 a six.
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 Processor (CPU) Performance Review
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 ships with a 1-core Intel Pentium 4 processor. Yes, Intel Pentium 4 – and I hear you shout, “what?”.
Intel Pentium 4 processor has a base frequency of 2.80 GHz – it does not support any boost frequency. Additionally, the processor has a 512 KB L2 Cache.
I know some of these specs will be a bit surprising. However, bear in mind when the laptop was produced.
In my quest to find out about the performance of this laptop, I found a performance test by zdnet.com. Their test confirms that Dell Inspiron 15 5100 performed better than “Compaq’s workstation-class 2.2GHz Evo 800w by a clear margin“.
According to the zdnet.com test, Dell Inspiron 5100 scored 59.5 in the application-based Business Winstone 2001 test. The laptop also scored 42.4 in the Business Winstone 2001 and Content Creation Winstone 2002 test.
As I mentioned earlier, to give you perspective, the performance of Dell Inspiron 15 5100 was far better than the performance Compaq workstation in the same test.
Overall, if you need a laptop for basic school research work, or for basic web surfing and sending emails, Dell Inspiron 15 5100 should work for you.
However, if your laptop need requires intensive computing tasks, this 18-year old laptop is not for you.
Finally, based on its multitasking capabilities – which is at par with its age – I am happy to rate Dell Inspiron 15 5100 a seven for its processor performance.
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 Memory (RAM) Performance Review
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 comes with a standard 128 MB 2133 266 MHz DDR SDRAM. The laptop has 2 RAM slots.
Based on the original BIOS, the laptop can take a maximum of 1GB of memory. That is, 2 x 512MB SDRAM memory sticks on each RAM slot.
However, according to this Amazon reviewer, she was able to get the laptop to recognize 1GB RAM on each slot – giving it a total of 2GB.
However, the upgrade to 2GB of RAM requires a two-step BIOS upgrade. This is not surprising because the BIOS is used to communicate with the computer’s hardware – so a BIOS upgrade should improve the laptop’s ability to take higher spec hardware.
With 2GB RAM, the Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is able to perform basic tasks. So, I strongly recommend that you upgrade the BIOS to the maxim version it can take.
Then, upgrade the RAM to 2GB – 1GB 266 MHz DDR SDRAM in each RAM slot. You can also follow the steps performed by this Amazon reviewer – to upgrade some of the specs of the laptop.
Finally, based on the fact that the RAM requires serious upgrade to be able to deliver a decent RAM performance, I will rate the laptop a five for its RAM performance.
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 Storage Options and Performance Review
The basic storage configuration of Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is up to 40 GB 5400 RPM HDD. With a 40GB hard drive storage, you will not have a lot of space left to save files.
However, if you upgrade the laptop’s BIOS, you can upgrade the hard drive to 100GB. Upgrading the hard drive is particularly important because the Operating System takes up portions of the 40GB default maximum hard drive the laptop supports.
Another important storage feature of this laptop is its CD/DVD drive. Considering that most laptops today do not feature a DVD, this is a big plus.
If you still have DVDs and CDs, you will find this feature particularly useful.
In terms of storage performance, as I mentioned at the introduction of this article, because of the age of this laptop, it is difficult to find performance benchmark information for the laptop.
However, based on its 5400 RPM HDD, you should be able to get an average 100 MB/s read and writes speed. Based on this speed, a 1GB file should be copied in about 10 seconds.
This is not a bad storage speed performance for an 18-year (as of 2021) old laptop.
Finally, based on the fact that you need to upgrade the laptop’s storage to get a decent 100GB, I would have rated the laptop’s storage a five. However, considering its storage file copy performance, I will rate it a six.
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 Graphics Card Performance Review
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 comes with ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 GPU. Surprisingly, this GPU has a 32 MB dedicated VRAM.
Additionally, the GPU has a base speed of 280 MHz. However, as expected for a GPU its age, it does not have a boost speed.
Obviously, it will be unrealistic to expect to play any modern games on an 18-year old laptop. However, you should be able to play older games like Quake 3 Arena at 100+ fps with a resolution of 1024×768.
For basic multimedia activities like streaming movies online, or playing a video via its DVD drive, you will get a decent GPU performance.
Overall, based on available performance data for this laptop’s GPU, I will rate it a six.
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 Battery Life and Performance Review
Dell ships Inspiron 15 5100 with a 12-cell 94 Whr Lithium-ion battery. To be honest, if you compare this battery with the batteries that ship with some modern Dell Inspiron, it is a bigger battery.
For example, Dell Inspiron 14 7400 comes with a 4-cell 52 Wh or a 6-cell 78 Wh Lithium-ion battery. This battery is far lower in size than the battery that ships with Dell Inspiron 15 5100.
Also, comparing the battery that comes with Dell Inspiron 15 5100 with that of Dell Inspiron 15 7501 (released in 2021) – Inspiron 15 5100 offers a stronger battery.
But does the bigger battery in Dell Inspiron 15 5100 translate to more battery life? Great question.
According to battery test information available on PCMag.com, Dell Inspiron 15 5100’s battery lasted 3 hours 41 minutes on a Business Winstone BatteryMark 2002 test. Moreover, according to this test, competing laptops managed to hit the 2 hours 30 minutes mark on the same test.
There is also a similar battery test performed by zdnet.com. Zdnet.com performed a BatteryMark 4.01 test.
In this test, Dell Inspiron 15 5100’s battery lasted 2 hours 38 minutes. In another test – MobileMark 2002 battery test – the laptop lasted 2 hours 42 minutes.
From these battery tests, on average, the battery on this laptop should last about 3 hours. This is not bad for such an old laptop.
Therefore, I will rate the Dell Inspiron 15 5100 a seven for excellent battery life.
Frequently Asked Questions
Dell Inspiron 15 5000 was released in 2003. As at the time of publishing this article (May 2021), the laptop is 18 years old!
Considering its age, Dell Inspiron 15 5100 delivers a decent performance. If you need a laptop to perform basic computing tasks like browsing the internet or sending emails, Inspiron 15 5100 should work okay. However, for improved performance we recommend that you upgrade the RAM to 2GB – this requires BIOS upgrade as well.
On average the battery on Dell Inspiron 15 5100 should last about 3 hours.
Yes. It is perfectly okay to use your laptop while charging it. However, it is recommended to discharge the battery from time to time. To ensure that your battery discharges, unplug it from power while you use it. When the battery drops to about 10% of charge, you can plug the charger back to power.
No, it is not okay to plug your laptop to power all the time. As I mentioned in my answer to question 4 above, you should allow your laptop’s battery to discharge from time to time.
My Final Thoughts
Dell Inspiron 15 5100 is an excellent laptop for its age and price. If you need a laptop for basic computing tasks like web surfing and playing music, Dell Inspiron 15 5100 should be okay for the job.
However, if you get this laptop, you should spend about an additional $100 to $150 to upgrade some of its hardware. For example, you can upgrade the RAM up to 2GB.
Moreover, you can also upgrade the hard disk up to 100 GB. However, these upgrades require BIOS updates to the latest version the laptop can accommodate.
Overall, if the hardware is upgraded as specified above, you should get some basic computing power off Dell Inspiron 15 5100.
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