When Dell unveiled the Adamo in January 2009, it was to the sound of genuine applause. Its 13.4in screen sits in a finely grained aluminium skin and the whole is barely the depth of two digestive biscuits.

Everything is near perfect about it: the dark scalloped keys look like they're made of slate, and not even the glossy plastic strip on the lid – part of an unfortunate design phase Dell started with the Studio XPS 13 – alters the fact that this machine looks like nothing else out there at the moment.

Dapper design

The Samsung X360 may be specced similarly to the entry level Adamo and even lighter, for example, but next to Dell's superlative design, it looks like its been designed by a child.

And that's not all: the multitouch mousepad on the Adamo is smooth and responsive, the screen bright and clear. All the ports are neatly stowed at the rear of the screen. On the face of it, this is how all laptops should be made.

Unibody, of sorts

To preserve the 'unibody' look of a certain fruity rival, the bottom plate of the Adamo is clipped rather than screwed into place, although you wouldn't notice unless you're looking for it. The important thing is that there are no screws, and it feels like one block of metal.

The similarities between the Adamo and the MacBook Air also extend, however, to the fact that the battery is fixed. It's an issue on the Air, which only turns in four hours of use from a full charge. It's even more of a problem with the Adamo that is, on average, about an hour short of that target.

There's no apparent reason for this: in terms of drain on the battery the Adamo's low voltage CPU runs at half the speed of the Air's. The Samsung X360, which shares nearly all of its innards with the classier Dell, keeps going past the eight-hour mark.


The keyboard isn't as comfortable to use as it looks, either, those solid concave keys don't quite make up for the inherent problem of hitting a neighbouring button that such a tight formation is prone to. You can get used to it, but to us it never felt completely natural.

After the price reduction, it is a bit tougher to say is whereabouts the Adamo now stands in terms of value. Just not a lot tougher, that's all.

The 1.4GHz model isn't worth £1900 of anyone's money, even if it has got a 3G modem. There's no doubting the Adamo is a looker, but if you have that much to spend and want a 13in ultralight, Sony's Vaio Z31 is unbeatable.

On the other hand, the cheaper 'Admire' model is available for £1,350, and it's good looking enough that you wouldn't have to be on a banker's bonus to be tempted to shell out for it over the cheaper Samsung.

If the Adamo was a direct assault on the MacBook Air, though, even the fiscal reinforcement isn't going to help it. For the same money you can get a much more powerful Air with a faster CPU and a graphics card that's more comfortable around HD video – just as much style, but a lot more substance.



Stuff says... 

Dell Adamo review

A luxury laptop that looks amazing, but doesn't deliver the battery life and performance we'd expect