Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z [Toybox Shootout]

Dell Adamo is just the latest in the luxury thin-and-light laptop segment. But where's the value proposition? Just how much Adamo can you get versus Air, or Envy, or Vaio Z? I find out.

The announcement of the Dell Adamo luxury thin-and-light laptop (above) reminded consumers that yes, there exists a market in between the white-hot Netbook segment and the ever-larger desktop replacement segment. Indeed, fully-featured thin-and-light laptops are still here for those of us who need portability and horsepower under the hood (and hey, a little style, too).

But where's the value proposition? Just how much Adamo can you get versus Air, or Envy, or Vaio Z?

Here's a statistical head-to-head comparison to figure that out. I took similar configurations -- within $260 of each other, from $1,729 to $1,999 -- of the Dell Adamo, Voodoo Envy 133, Apple Macbook Air and Sony Vaio Z, with Apple's standard Macbook, Dell's XPS M1330, HP's Pavilion dv3z and Lenovo's X301 thrown in for comparison.

Here's a look at just how much laptop these machines offer for the price, from dimensions to components to looks.

Price

Here are the suspects. For the purpose of this comparison, I tried to choose configurations as close as possible to each other. Here are the price tags on each, with additional information on the range in parentheses.

Dell Adamo: $1,999 ($2,699 also available)

  • The Adamo is Dell's new premium thin-and-light laptop.

Voodoo Envy 133: $1,899 (to $2,999)

  • The Envy is a premium laptop by VoodooPC, a "craft" division of HP.

Apple Macbook Air: $1,799 (or $2,499)

  • The Air is Apple's thinnest, lightest laptop.

Sony Vaio Z: $1,739 (or $1,599)

  • The Z is Sony's thin-and-light offering for executives.

Apple Macbook: $1,774 (or $1,299)

  • The Macbook is Apple's entry-level laptop.

Dell XPS M1330: $1,749 (from $699)

  • The XPS M1330 is Dell's lightest 13-inch laptop.

HP Pavilion dv3z: $1,972 (from $679)

  • The Pavilion dv3z is HP's thinnest and lightest full-featured notebook with an integrated optical drive.

Lenovo X301: $1,999

  • The X301 is Lenovo's premier ultraportable laptop.

When it comes to flexibility, the non-luxury laptops rule. Most of the laptops positioned as "premium" products drastically limit your pricing options -- the Adamo, Macbook Air and Sony Vaio Z come in only two configurations, the Envy 133 comes in four (including the most expensive unit of the bunch), and the X301 comes in three if you include its cousins, which carry different model numbers. On the other hand, the XPS M1330 and Pavilion dv3z offer myriad configurations, giving you more freedom to pinch pennies on certain parts (such as RAM) and spend on others (such as CPU). But they don't look as sleek and are a bit chunkier (more on that next).

For the purposes of comparing as fairly as possible, I'm using the first figures, which range from $1,739 to $1,999. Let's take a look.

Next page: How thin is thin; light is light? »

Toybox Shootout: Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z

Dimensions

Width x depth x height, in inches, as if resting on a table:

Dell Adamo: 13.03 x 9.5 x 0.65

Voodoo Envy 133: 12.65 x 9.04 x 0.70

Apple Macbook Air: 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.16-0.76

Sony Vaio Z: 12.4 x 8.3 x 1.0-1.3

Apple Macbook: 12.78 x 8.94 x 0.95

Dell XPS M1330: 12.5 x 9.4 x 0.87-1.33

HP Pavilion dv3z: 12.2 x 9.05 x 1.01

Lenovo X301: 12.5 x 9.1 x 0.73-0.92

Clearly, the Macbook Air's svelte curves win in the absolute-thinness category, but the Adamo trumps the crowd (including the Envy) with the thinnest maximum height (mathematicians out there may contest that the Air probably rates lower in volume, but let's not split hairs).

But that's only partially the picture. Despite coming in at the bottom of the height/"thinness" category, the Adamo comes in last in both the width and depth categories -- faring worse than even the non-luxury laptops such as the Dell M1330, HP Pavilion dv3z and standard Macbook (which, to be fair, are considerably thicker). So while it's great to ooh and aah over Adamo, keep in mind that its footprint in your bag is bigger than you'd think, particularly thanks to its "bump" in the back.

That's also a testament to the ultra-shallow Sony Vaio Z and the Macbook Air, the only two units to come in under 9 inches deep, at an incredible 8.3 and 8.94 inches, respectively. When it comes to putting your laptop in a briefcase, tote bag or purse, the extra inches matter.

Apple Macbook Air

Weight

Dell Adamo: 4.0 lbs.

Voodoo Envy 133: 3.373 lbs.

Apple Macbook Air: 3.0 lbs.

Sony Vaio Z: 3.4 lbs.

Apple Macbook: 4.5 lbs.

Dell XPS M1330: 3.97 lbs. (as configured)

HP Pavilion dv3z: 4.35 lbs.

Lenovo X301: 2.93 lbs. (as configured)

Here is the telltale figure. A laptop can be as thin as paper, but if it's as dense as lead, it doesn't matter to your shoulder, does it? The king -- no surprise here -- is Lenovo's trailblazing X301 ultraportable, but Apple's Macbook Air tips the scales at almost the same (feather)weight. It's also no surprise that the non-premium laptops are on the heavy side of the lightweights. But again, Dell's Adamo deceives, and despite its thin profile actually weighs as much -- in one case, more -- than much thicker computers that cost much less and (as you'll see later) offer many more features.

Next page: Display, CPU »

Toybox Shootout: Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z

Display

Dell Adamo: 13.4-inch 16:9 (High Definition; 720p [1366x768]) WLED display

Voodoo Envy 133: 13.3-inch WXGA HD widescreen LED backlit (1280x800) with ambient light sensor

Apple Macbook Air: 13.3-inch LED backlit widescreen (1280x800) with ambient light sensor

Sony Vaio Z: 13.1-inch (1366x768 or 1600x900), LED backlit

Apple Macbook: 13.3-inch backlit LED widescreen (1280x800)

Dell XPS M1330: 13.3-inch WXGA (1280x800) (LED backlit optional)

HP Pavilion dv3z: 13.3-inch WXGA HD LED backlit (1280x800)

Lenovo X301: 13.3-inch WXGA+ LED backlit (1440x900)

All of the screens are nearly identical in diagonal measurement, with the Adamo adding 0.1-in. to achieve true 16:9 and the Vaio Z shedding 0.2-in. for the same reason. The devil's in the details: all offer backlit LED screens at their respective price points used for this comparison, and the Envy and Air's ambient light sensor are a nice touch. But some can be pushed much, much higher in resolution: the Adamo fares well, and the Vaio Z and X301 run away with the high-res honors.

Voodoo Envy 133

CPU

For the aforementioned prices, here's what kind of processor you can get (other options, either higher or lower in price, in parentheses):

Dell Adamo: 1.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor (1.4GHz also offered)

Voodoo Envy 133: 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor (1.8GHz also offered)

Apple Macbook Air: 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (1.8GHz also offered)

Sony Vaio Z: 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (2.26GHz also offered)

Apple Macbook: 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (2.0GHz also offered)

Dell XPS M1330: 2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (2.5GHz also offered)

HP Pavilion dv3z: 2.4GHz AMD Turion X2 dual-core (2.0-2.3GHz also offered)

Lenovo X301: 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

Here's where the meat and potatoes part of this comparison begins. It's no surprise that you get less CPU for the money as you get thinner and lighter -- the X301 CPU clocks the lowest speed, while the XPS M1330 clocks the highest -- but the real winners are those that balance CPU horsepower with form factor: the Vaio Z and the XPS M1330 offer the most bang-per-pound and inch. (Also interesting to note is the Pavilion dv3z, the only unit boasting AMD under the hood.)

Next page: RAM, hard drives »

Toybox Shootout: Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z

RAM

Dell Adamo: 2GB 800MHz DDR3

Voodoo Envy 133: 2GB 667MHz DDR2 RAM

Apple Macbook Air: 2GB DDR3 1066MHz SDRAM

Sony Vaio Z: 4GB DDR3 SDRAM (less also offered)

Apple Macbook: 4GB DDR3 1066MHz SDRAM (less also offered)

Dell XPS M1330: 4GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz

HP Pavilion dv3z: 8GB DDR2 RAM

Lenovo X301: 4GB DDR3 1066MHz

A telltale sign of what manufacturers cut which components for the price: the premium machines pack 2GB of DDR3 memory, but the Macbooks trump everyone in access speed at 1066 MHz. As older, less premium machines, the Pavilion dv3z and XPS M1330 slump in with only DDR2 memory (though the HP has 8GB!), but surprisingly, so does the Envy 133, the second-most expensive configuration on the list (and machine that maxes out with the highest price tag).

Apple Macbook

Hard Drive

Dell Adamo: 128GB SSD

Voodoo Envy 133: 64GB SSD

Apple Macbook Air: 120GB HDD

Sony Vaio Z: 320GB HDD

Apple Macbook: 320GB HDD (128GB SSD pushes total price to $2,074 )

Dell XPS M1330: 256GB SSD

HP Pavilion dv3z: 80GB SSD

Lenovo X301: 64GB SSD

Another telltale component at the $1,600-$2,000 price point: some manufacturers hopped on the solid-state drive train without justifying the extra price, whereas some stuck with traditional hard disks. On the low end is the Lenovo X301 and Voodoo Envy 133, which clearly harbor pricey SSDs inside regardless of the competition's offerings (and justify their price tags on other features). On the high end of traditional HDDs is the standard Macbook, and the Dell XPS offers the most SSD bang for your buck.

Next page: Graphics, battery life »

Toybox Shootout: Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z

Graphics

Dell Adamo: Intel GS45 Integrated Graphics with 256MB Memory

Voodoo Envy 133: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 (shared)

Apple Macbook Air: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M

Sony Vaio Z: NVIDIA GeForce 9300M GS (Intel 4500MHD also available for less)

Apple Macbook: NVIDIA GeForce 9400M

Dell XPS M1330: NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS

HP Pavilion dv3z: ATI Radeon HD 3200

Lenovo X301: Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD

The selection of GPUs in this group reflect the machines' individual intentions: Graphically-minded Apple offers the most NVIDIA power, with the multimedia-minded Vaio Z and XPS M1330 following its lead. The Pavilion dv3z goes the AMD/ATI route for similar effect. As the notebooks become more thin-minded, however, the graphics scale back: Adamo, Envy 133 and X301 -- all the thinnest overall laptops -- carry integrated graphics. When it comes to "premium," this is where the laptops separate -- premium for Vaio Z and Apple mean multimedia power, while premium for Adamo, Envy 133 and X301 means a tradeoff for form factor.

Sony Vaio Z

Battery

Dell Adamo: 5+ hours

Voodoo Envy 133: 3 hours, 10 minutes

Apple Macbook Air: 4.5 hours

Sony Vaio Z: 9 hours as configured (6 hours for less)

Apple Macbook: 5 hours

Dell XPS M1330: 4.75 hours as configured (less for less)

HP Pavilion dv3z: 6 hours as configured (less for less)

Lenovo X301: 3.45 hours (6.1 hours for an extra $50)

It's incredible that this group of 13-in. thin-and-light laptops can vary so much in battery life, but here are the figures. Much like the graphics comparison, this clearly shows which machines are built for multimedia and which are built for form factor. The Envy 133 and X301 clock in at the most dismal of battery life figures, but only the X301 justifies it (with almost 1 lb. less in weight). Worse, while Adamo and Macbook Air come in at the middle of the pack, their batteries are not user-replaceable -- meaning forget power sessions of work that last through a long flight.

Next page: Keyboard, camera »

Toybox Shootout: Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z

Keyboard

Dell Adamo: Full-size, with back-lighting and scalloped, metallic key cap design

Voodoo Envy 133: LED backlit keyboard with proximity sensor for touchpad disable

Apple Macbook Air: Full-size back-lit, ambient-sensing chiclet keyboard

Sony Vaio Z: Standard chiclet keyboard

Apple Macbook: Full-size illuminated chiclet keyboard

Dell XPS M1330: Full-size keyboard

HP Pavilion dv3z: Full-size backlit keyboard

Lenovo X301: Full-size keyboard with Trackpoint

Minor differences here, with most of the "premium" machines giving more attention to the details: Adamo's scalloped keys are shaped for your fingertips, while Envy 133's proximity sensor can help avoid input errors from its massive touchpad. Note that the Sony meets Apple head-on in the chiclet style department.

Dell XPS M1330

Camera

Dell Adamo: 1.3 megapixel integrated

Voodoo Envy 133: Integrated

Apple Macbook Air: iSight camera

Sony Vaio Z: 0.3 megapixel integrated

Apple Macbook: iSight camera

Dell XPS M1330: 2.0 megapixel integrated

HP Pavilion dv3z: Integrated

Lenovo X301: Integrated

It's a minor issue, but some manufacturers didn't overtly reveal just how many megapixels their integrated cameras had. No matter -- all came with one, though quality varies widely.

Next page: Ports, communication, extras »

Toybox Shootout: Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z

Ports

Dell Adamo: DisplayPort, USBx3 (1 eSATA combination), Audio Out and integrated RJ-45 port

Voodoo Envy 133: HDMI, Audio out, 1 USB 2.0, 1 e-SATA/USB 2.0 combo, RJ45/802.11b/g WAP on power adapter

Apple Macbook Air: Mini DisplayPort, 1 USB, audio out

Sony Vaio Z: Memory Stick Duo slot, ExpressCard slot, SD, modem jack, HDMI, 2 USB, VGA, line in and out

Apple Macbook: Ethernet, 2 USB 2.0, Mini DisplayPort, line in and out, RJ45

Dell XPS M1330: 2 USB 2.0, RJ45, VGA, HDMI, ExpressCard, 8-in-1 card reader, line in and out

HP Pavilion dv3z: 5-in-1 reader, 3 USB 2.0, VGA, RJ45, HDMI, line out, ExpressCard

Lenovo X301: 3 USB, VGA, DisplayPort, line out, line in, RJ45

If you're looking for ports, stay away from the Air -- it still has just one USB port (same with the Envy 133). Other than those two, Adamo and X301 match the dv3z at the top with 3 USB ports, with the rest coming in between. The latest trend is HDMI, which is carried by the Envy 133, XPS M1330, Pavilion dv3z and Vaio Z -- two "premium" laptops and two fully-featured laptops. A few DisplayPorts are scattered about, and the Pavilion dv3z and XPS M1330 also have card readers. Most notably, the Envy 133 carries its WAP on its power adapter instead of on the laptop itself (more on that next).

HP Pavilion dv3z

Communication

Dell Adamo: Gigabit LOM, Bluetooth 2.1, 802.11n (3x3)

Voodoo Envy 133: Integrated Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN, Bluetooth, RJ45/802.11b/g WAP on power adapter

Apple Macbook Air: Airport Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1

Sony Vaio Z: RJ45, Intel WiFi Link 5100AGN (802.11a/b/g/n), Wireless Sprint WAN, Bluetooth

Apple Macbook: Airport Extreme (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1

Dell XPS M1330: Dell Wireless-N, Bluetooth 2.0

HP Pavilion dv3z: Wireless N+ Bluetooth

Lenovo X301: Ethernet, WWAN with GPS, Intel WiFi Link 5100/5300/WiMax, Ultra Wideband, Bluetooth 2.0

A few machines carried mobile broadband support, but that locks you into a specific carrier, which you may not want. Other than that, this is what you get for the price as configured at the beginning of this post -- generally the same across the board, though some have upgraded Bluetooth already.

Extras

Dell Adamo: Sleek design

Voodoo Envy 133: Sleek design, instant-on Linux OS for basic functions (e-mail, IM, web, Skype), carbon fiber skin, comes with external dual format DVD+RW

Apple Macbook Air: Sleek design, multitouch trackpad with gestures

Sony Vaio Z: Carbon fiber skin, biometric fingerprint sensor, DVD+RW or Blu-ray RW

Apple Macbook: 8x slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

Dell XPS M1330: CD/DVD Burner

HP Pavilion dv3z: Biometric fingerprint reader, DVD+RW

Lenovo X301: Biometric fingerprint reader

Just a smattering of extras here, most notably the Envy 133's instant-on OS, which helps work efficiency and its poor battery life. I've also noted which laptops have the kind of looks that draw stares -- while you can't put a specific price tag on this, it's worth considering with regard to the final price.

Next page: Bottom Line, Poll »

Toybox Shootout: Dell Adamo vs. Voodoo Envy 133 vs. Apple Macbook Air vs. Sony Vaio Z

Lenovo X301

The Bottom Line

So which thin-and-light premium laptop should you get? Clearly in this segment it's all about tradeoff: whether you value design, or CPU power, or storage, or weight, or dimensions, or ports, more.

When it comes to thinness and components, the Macbook Air still wins overall. It's simply the most thin for the money if you care about looks. (If you don't, and weight is paramount, the X301 continues to rule this roost.)

If you can't stand Mac OS X and need the lithe profile, Adamo beats the more innovative Envy 133 with better, more up-to-date components and better battery life.

If you're a power user looking for a premium laptop that has flexibility, go with the Sony Vaio Z. It beats out Adamo, Air and Envy on most fronts and has serious muscle for only a little bit more thickness (but less depth). It's also got a chiclet keyboard -- for that premium look -- and the wide, high-res screen is great for in-flight video.

Which laptop would you choose?

[poll id="12"]

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All