Dell Adamo XPS review

22 Dec 2009

Gorgeous, refined and instantly iconic, the amazing design masks the few flaws and a high price

Price when reviewed 
1,750

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.

Dell Adamo XPS

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.

Dell Adamo XPS

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,522
Price inc VAT £1,750
Overall rating N/A
Features & Design N/A
Value for Money N/A
Performance N/A

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 340 x 272 x 10mm (WDH)
Weight 1.440kg
Travelling weight 1.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400
Motherboard chipset Intel GS45
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel GMA X4500MHD
Graphics card RAM 128MB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 128GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Samsung SSD PB22-JS3 TM
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Battery capacity 1,800mAh

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader no
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Base
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 2.0mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use N/A
Overall application benchmark score N/A
Office application benchmark score N/A
2D graphics application benchmark score N/A
Encoding application benchmark score N/A
Multitasking application benchmark score N/A
3D performance (crysis) low settings N/A
3D performance setting N/A

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7