For a brand known for mainstream, middle-of-the-road laptops (and now inexpensive netbooks), Dell has put a surprising amount of effort into creating high-end products. The company acquired gaming PC leader Alienware, launched the XPS and Studio lines, and created the Adamo, its ultra high-end laptop.
The original Adamo was a thin MacBook Air competitor, but the revamped version (which has long been discussed, but only sporadically available to the public) is even more extreme, with a unique design and 9.99mm body.
Like the HP Envy and the Sony Vaio Z116, we sometimes call these £1,500 (or more) systems 'CEO laptops', as they seem most likely to be used as high-end showpieces by those who don't mind paying premium prices for essentially the same components as lower-cost laptops. The Adamo XPS is currently exclusively available in the UK through John Lewis, where it will set you back £1,750.
As a work of technological art, the Adamo XPS is a real conversation-starter. It works fine as an everyday laptop as well, as long as you don't need a DVD drive or lots of ports and connections. Our main complaint was the weak battery life -- something so clearly designed for portability should last longer than a typical rush-hour cab ride to the airport.
The system is ridiculously thin, especially for a 13-inch laptop, but at the same time the Adamo feels slightly heavier than it looks, even with a solid-state hard drive. Even so, the Adamo XPS also has a larger-than-expected footprint. Viewed when closed, it looks like a 14- or 15-inch laptop, and when open, its 13-inch display feels slightly dwarfed by the wide lid.
Lifting the lid
The Adamo opens in an unusual way, with the lid shut tight until you swipe a finger on a heat-sensitive strip centred on the front edge. Then the lid lifts up, tilting the screen back and lifting the keyboard on its unusual inset hinge. We worried that the lack of a flat bottom surface would make it impossible for this laptop to actually sit on your lap. It doesn't feel as comfortable or as stable as a traditional laptop design when resting on our legs, but it isn't unworkable in that situation, either.
When fully opened, the keyboard sits at about a 20-degree angle. It's an unusual setup, but one that provides a better raised typing experience than the average flat laptop keyboard, although you may dislike it. We also liked the solid-feeling metal keys and the reasonably large touch pad. The right Shift key is smaller than the left one, but not horribly so, but the row of Function keys is both small and set flush to the keyboard tray surface, making them hard to hit. Still, the overall typing experience is good, and we quickly adapted to the layout and its flat, widely spaced keys.
The 13.4-inch wide-screen LED display offers a 1,366x768-pixel native resolution, which is standard for an upscale 13-inch system. Screen images were bight and clear, although the overly glossy screen coating picked up plenty of glare. The stereo speakers, mounted on the bottom surface (which would be raised off the ground when the laptop lid is open) are tinny and underpowered -- we suggest headphones for almost all audio use.
Behind the screen
The system's components seem to be located behind the screen, as the ports (two USB, a headphone jack, power connection, and DisplayPort) are on the side edges of the lid. Two dongles are included. One that turns the DisplayPort connection into a DVI port, and one that connects a USB port to an Ethernet jack. Say what you will about the sparse connections on the Adamo XPS, it's still got twice as many USB ports as the MacBook Air. At the same time, the lack of an SD card slot is unconscionable.