Dell Adamo: A laptop for the discerning gentleman

Dell finally unveiled its Adamo welterweight laptop this morning, and it's a beauty -- arguably the most beautiful PC to date. But does it matter?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Dell finally unveiled its Adamo feather welterweight laptop this morning, and it's a beauty -- arguably the most beautiful PC to date.

But does it matter?

Basking in dramatic lighting and beautiful photography, the Adamo is as impressive as a woman who can strut down the sidewalk in a pair of 5.5-inch Christian Louboutin stilettos. Why? Besides the subtle pattern that recalls a high-end handbag and the clean lines that reference Sweden's best design firms -- after all, if Apple's Macbook Air has the gentle sloping lines of Pininfarina, the 13.4-in. Adamo has the hard lines of RB Arkitektur -- it's not a bad piece of hardware.

Notice I didn't say, "for the price."

Adamo details


First, the specs:

  • 0.65-in. thin profile (Macbook Air: 0.16 to 0.76 in. thick)
  • 13.4-in. 16:9 HD widescreen display with edge-to-edge glass
  • Aluminum body
  • Backlit, scalloped, full-size keyboard (Ynqwie Malmsteen, eat your heart out.)
  • 128GB SSD
  • 1.2/1.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor with Centrino tech
  • 2GB/4GB 800MHz DDR3 dual channel memory
  • Wireless N, Bluetooth 2.1, one RJ45 port, optional mobile broadband
  • 5 hours of battery life
  • Compact power adapter
  • Peripherals that match, like the Air
  • 4.0 lbs., versus Macbook Air's 3.0 lbs.

...so while it's no Alienware machine, it's formidable for the form factor.

Furthermore, there are no "Intel Inside" or any such geeky proclamation of power, according to CNET's Rafe Needleman. The Adamo's profile is frictionless.

Simply, the Adamo is a laptop for the discerning lady or gentleman. Yes Larry, that means GQ or Men's Vogue or Elle or Glamour or even the fellows who wear Church's on their feet and ride the Amtrak Acela to work.

However -- and a big however here -- it is not for the cost-minded. The form factor commands a hefty premium, to the tune of $1,999 or $2,699. Consumer laptops haven't been sold at such prices in years.

(Save for the Air itself, which retails for $1,799 for a 1.6 GHz CPU and 120GB HDD and $2,499 for a 1.86 GHz CPU and 128GB SSD. To compare in-house, a Dell XPS M1330 laptop equipped with a 2.0 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 3GB RAM, Wireless N, Bluetooth and 128GB SSD will run you about $1,044.)

But is the Adamo a consumer laptop? Sure, if you pay $6 for your coffee. But if you didn't understand half the references in the third paragraph of this post, it's probably not for you, either.

Why Adamo matters

With the world ensconced in a global recession, how exactly is the Adamo relevant? Isn't the age of the yuppie over?

Perhaps. But Adamo is a major blow to Apple, king of premium branding perception. Until now, Apple has pretty much cornered the premium laptop market -- the one not intended for gamers, but professionals. If you wanted to have a reasonably good-looking machine, inside and out, you paid Apple for that service. Short of uber-geek supermachines, Apple's line of Macbooks claimed most mobile superlatives. And Microsoft and its cadre of PC manufacturers -- Dell, HP/Compaq, Sony, etc. -- haven't really turned out a notebook worthy of a glass house.

Until now. Finally, the PC user has something for an Apple buyer to be envious of. Finally, the Windows user has hardware that doesn't scream, "I'm a PC, and my refrigerator is still eggshell." We have graduated from the regrettable visual combination of glossy white and silver paint that has plagued many a PC since Apple introduced the first Macbook Pro in Jan. 2006.

It's all about perception

For Microsoft, there finally exists hardware that brings Windows in line as more than just a computer for the pocket protector set (even if most people actually use Windows). Microsoft's banking on Windows 7 to usher in a new era of the company's branding and perception -- hip, cool, unobtrusive -- and Adamo finally fits the "return to hip" message in the way that so many XPS, Pavilion, Vaio (save for the recent, diminutive P-Series) and netbook machines have failed.

Impractical as it is, Adamo screams "Geek no more!" It represents the culmination of the PC craze that has introduced a computer into 51 percent of homes in 2000 -- now nine long years ago.

The computer is no longer a novelty -- it's now an accessory, something to be taken for granted. Once there are computers everywhere, how do you distinguish yourself? With looks. The Adamo represents all of this.

Don't like it? Don't buy it

Does Dell care if you buy Adamo? Well, if you were disgusted by the price and the marketing, the company wasn't counting on you to buy it anyway. (But you probably got the hint after seeing the Jet-Setter and Entrepreneur packages, didn't you?) But for those who saw the full-page advertisement in Harper's Bazaar, it's the solution for someone who cares about fashion but hasn't had a Windows option.

Remember: The "world's thinnest notebook" was introduced just over a year ago at $1,799, and one analyst said it represented 16 percent of Apple's sales in 2008. Since its introduction, it has done wonders for Apple's image. It draws stares -- even jealousy.

That's the point of Adamo. To make you notice.

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