Dell Adamo XPS Review: New Dell Adamo XPS Laptop Wows at Just 9.99mm Thin

Dell Adamo XPS 9.99

I’ve been playing with the Dell 9.99 for about a week now, and this product defines amazing. If you thought the MacBook Air was thin, this is about half the thickness of the Air. Dell pulled this off by increasing the length of the notebook, but this also raises the screen in use to a much more acceptable height for most notebooks. Because this thing is so different than the run-of-the-mill notebook product, both inside and out, words and pictures don’t really do it justice. You really need to see it in person.

Dell Adamo XPS 9.99

I’ll start with the specs and then roll into impressions, but let’s be clear: The last notebook that was this revolutionary was likely the HP Sojourn, which was so far ahead of the market it drew crowds. Unlike the Sojourn, which cost $7K in today’s dollars a decade ago, and was pretty much unusable, you could live very easily with the 9.99.

Specifications: Compared Against the MacBook Air

I’ll give you the core specifications at a glance and then move to the cool tech.


Dell Adamo 9.99

MacBook Air

Display

13.4” 1366 x 768 Panoramic LED

13.3” 1280 x 800 Wide Angle LED

Processor

Intel Core 2 Duo ULV 1.4GHz 800 FSB

Intel Core 2 Duo 1.86 (2.1 opt) GHz 1066

Graphics

Intel GS 45 Integrated w/ 256MB Shared

NVIDIA 9400M (Ion) 256MB Shared

Memory

4GB 800 MHz DDR3

2GB 1066MHz DDR3

Drive

128GB SSD

120GB Magnetic (128GB SSD optional)

Ports

DisplayPort, 2USB, 10/100, Audio

DisplayPort, 1 USB, Audio

Battery

20WHr – Hotswap (40WHr Optional) Li/Ion

40 WHr Integrated  Lithium Polymer

Wireless

802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1

802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1

Now, where it gets interesting is in the dimensions. Remember how thin the Air was?

Thickness

.41 inches

.76 inches

Width

13.38”

12.8”

Depth

10.78”

8.94”

Weight

3.2 lb Standard Battery

3.0 lb

Cool Features and Hidden Surprises

This thing has a ton of cool tech in it, and one of the first things you’ll notice is that it doesn’t open like any other laptop; It has a capacitive memory wire latch. To open the laptop, you swipe your finger over a sensor, the memory wire heats, and the keyboard unlocks and drops out of its nest in the display. Once open, the keyboard cantilevers out from the display, both angling the keyboard and allowing the display to sit up several inches higher and provide a better screen angle for your eyes. This also helps the laptop run cool (the MacBook Air tends to gate its processor significantly because of heat buildup, which means you typically are only getting 800 MHz, regardless of the speed of processor you buy).

Dell Adamo XPS 9.99

There is a small secondary battery which allows you to suspend the laptop and swap the battery in a few seconds while continuing to work. The batteries are light, so you could carry a number of spares for nearly unlimited battery life if you wanted.

Built-in location awareness allows the laptop to triangulate your location based on network information, and can provide you with information (like the number of Starbucks in your area).

The Secret to Thin

The multi-piece motherboard with integrated fan may be simply interesting for geeks, but it’s also the secret to how Dell got the 9.99 so thin. Engineers basically moved the components around the case, placing most in the display and some in the power supply. Instead of putting the fan on top, they actually had to integrate it into the board to get the height down.

Dell Adamo XPS 9.99

Finally, the 9.99 has a power factor correction (PFC) power supply, which is rare in a laptop (or any PC). It reduces reactive power, which is energy that you pay for from the utility that isn’t actually used for anything. It doesn’t lower your power use; it lowers your power bill.

First Impressions from Everyday Usage

This thing is just plain cool. You walk into a meeting, casually swipe your finger, and the keyboard drops down. Folks immediately see that the laptop doesn’t look like anything else they have ever seen and want to come over and check it out. The keys, which have metal caps, feel very rich, and this is easily the nicest thin-form-factor keyboard I’ve ever used (typically, keys either don’t have enough travel, or feel spongy).

Dell Adamo XPS 9.99

Accessories Needed

The Adamo 9.99 needs a couple of accessories, like a multiple battery charger, so you can make sure the several batteries you might want to carry to use this all day off power are charged. Another natural accessory is a lap desk, because while this notebook is great on a desk, it isn’t as comfortable as I’d like on my lap. (However, it is vastly better than most which have a tendency to fry my, well, junk.) In short, I like this better than the typical iron-in-the-lap experience I get with most ultra-thin laptops.

Dell Adamo XPS 9.99

Conclusion: The Best Windows 7 Laptop?

Price is $1,799, which isn’t bad for something this exclusive, and is similar to the premium MacBook Air with the SSD drive. This is the laptop equivalent of a show car, something you’d never expect to see someone actually build, because it would be so difficult to mass produce. But, unlike a show car, this is actually a really nice laptop to use, which is more than I can say for the Air (most of my friends that had one have swapped them out for MacBook Pros). You really could live on this machine, which is saying a lot given how incredibly thin it is.

I still consider the Adamo 9.99 the hottest of the Windows 7 launch laptops, and it comes with Windows 7 Premium. It isn’t for everyone, but you have to admit it is really cool, and I’m going to hate to have to send it back.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.