Dell Adamo XPS review
Gorgeous, refined and instantly iconic, the amazing design masks the few flaws and a high price
Review Date: 22 Dec 2009
Reviewed By: Sasha Muller
Price when reviewed: £1,522 (£1,750 inc VAT)
PREVIEW It’s not often that the mere sight of a laptop draws gasps, but the early tantalising glimpses of a 9.99mm-thin, MacBook Air rival from Dell a few months back had us salivating in sceptical expectation. Now, taking aim at the luxury ultraportable market so dominated by Apple and Sony, the Dell Adamo XPS slithers into the Labs for an exclusive preview.
The good news is that our hopes have most definitely not been dashed. It really is impossibly thin, and beautiful in that special way that can draw a crowd within seconds. Brushed aluminium reaches all around – every line and edge softening into a luxurious arc – and it’s light, too, weighing just 1.44kg.
Even the on switch will have you cooing with delight. Gently brush a finger over the 2in indent at the laptop’s edge and the white LED glows blue to signify that the latch has been activated. The keyboard pops free from the Adamo's underside, and folds down to reveal the 13.4in display and a sea of dark, aluminium-capped keys. But rather than placing the hinge on the edge of the chassis, the Adamo’s is indented by about 5cm, so the keyboard props up permanently at an angle.
It's certainly an off-the-wall design, but Dell has invested some serious time and effort into getting it just right. The keyboard, for one, is better than it has any right to be. The curious design initially leaves the Adamo looking a little top-heavy, and hence prone to tipping over. But in practice it just works: we tapped away while sat on a packed commuter train and not once did the Adamo feel unbalanced.
Those Scrabble-tile keys have a firm, crisp action, and feel both comfortable and responsive under the finger. The trackpad, meanwhile, works well: the two discrete buttons depress with a dull, muffled click, and there are both vertical and horizontal scroll zones. The only mild annoyance is the trackpad’s close proximity to the space bar – just occasionally our thumb stole the cursor and flung it back to a previous paragraph.
The 13.4in, 1,366 x 768 display is glorious. LED-backlighting gives it blinding brightness when the occasion demands it, while viewing angles are wide and colour reproduction is spot-on. Contrast could be a little better, with blacks in particular looking a little grey at times, but it’s still a fantastic screen.
And while you’d be forgiven for thinking a low-voltage processor spells disaster on the performance front, the Adamo feels rocket-powered compared to most CULV laptops. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit saunters along, booting quickly thanks to the 128GB SSD, and programs bound into life with surprising vigour. More-demanding applications reveal the Core 2 Duo SU9400’s limits, but that SSD helps the Adamo feel like the supercar its price tag suggests.
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