Dell initially revealed the existence of its upscale 13-inch Adamo laptop at CES 2009, and formally announced details and ordering availability two months later. We previously had a chance to get our hands on a pre-production version of the system, and have now been able to test the finished product.
The Adamo is a departure for Dell, a company built on selling mass quantities of mainstream laptops. A high-end, ultra-thin model, it starts at around £1,650 and shares a general design sensibility with Apple's MacBook Air and the HP Voodoo Envy 133.
Dell is pitching the Adamo as a 'luxury-brand notebook design for the luxury-conscious consumer' -- not the most timely of ideas, considering the current economic climate and the resultant growth in low-cost netbooks. But it's important to note that the ultra-low-voltage Intel Core 2 Duo processor used in the Adamo runs rings around those used in other recent slim laptops, such as the HP Pavilion dv2 with AMD's new Athlon Neo CPU.
Also, while you may be able to get faster components for less, the Adamo's real selling point is its design. There are no visible stickers or screws (even the usual Microsoft and Intel badges have been replaced -- the logos are etched into a panel on the underside of the system), and it includes high-end features such as a solid-state hard drive, an etched anodised aluminium chassis, and a backlit keyboard.
The end result is an enviable package that will definitely attract plenty of stares at the coffee shop or airport lounge, not just because of its sharp looks but also because, with a whopping starting price, you're unlikely to see many of them in the wild.
Built into an aluminium case with unibody construction, like the current MacBooks, the 17mm-thick Adamo is, according to Dell, the thinnest laptop in the world. It's certainly thin, but whether it's actually the thinnest depends on how you measure the Air. The tapered Air is thinner at its narrowest point, but slightly thicker at its widest point. We were surprised at how heavy the Adamo feels. At a hair under 1.8kg, it's certainly lightweight but, based on the size, we were expecting something closer to the 1.4kg Air.
The Adamo is available in both white and black versions. The back of the lid is split between etched metal and a glossy finish -- actually a 0.5mm glass inlay -- which is better for wireless reception than other materials. The white finish has a wavy pattern etched into it, while the black model has a more traditional brushed-metal look.
Opting for a subtle look on and around the keyboard tray, the Adamo has only a handful of small LED lights, for the power button, the touch-sensitive media controls and the caps lock button. The backlit keyboard itself is a big change from the typical Dell laptop keyboard, which has always had tall, tapered keys. The Adamo's keyboard borrows more from the Dell Inspiron Mini 9, with closely spaced keys, similar in style to what you might find on a MacBook or Sony Vaio, but slightly scalloped instead of flat.
Typing felt very comfortable, but the individual keys were slightly clacky and the space bar required a solid hit to register, which didn't fit with our dainty typing style. The metal touchpad worked well. Sometimes using non-traditional surfaces on a touchpad can cause uncomfortable friction and finger drag, but that's not the case here.
The 13.4-inch 16:9 LED display offers a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution and is behind a sheet of edge-to-edge glass. It's a sleek look, but the display's very susceptible to glare and reflections. The screen hinge is set back about an inch from the rear of the system, leaving what looks like a small handle when the display is open.