Dell's luxury notebook, the Dell Adamo, is plucky - we'll give it that. The up-and-comer packs on ports... and takes some not-so-subtle jabs at Apple's MacBook Air.

Neither company entirely positions their ultraslim ultraportable as a high-performance hot rod. And both of them sacrifice optical drives to stay lean and mean. And they're both expensive - in the case of the Dell, very expensive.

Unusually for the value-oriented brand, Dell is not promoting the Dell Adamo in the UK to regular notebook users. It seems to be aiming more towards affluent style merchants. No review samples were available, we were told, as Dell was looking beyond traditional marketing.

Instead, it's chosen to concentrate on ‘other areas of marketing' to get its message across for this luxury lifestyle product. So we turned to our colleagues in the US at PC World magazine, to hear of their experiences with a sample of the elusive Dell Adamo.

Imitation - sincere flattery?

Since it first showed up on the scene, Apple has updated the MacBook Air by providing even better processors and an honest-to-goodness graphics card, nVidia's GeForce 9400M. That means, and in stark contrast to your typical ultraportable, it can actually play some games.

The Air we last reviewed offered a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and 2GB of RAM, and scored a useful 78 in WorldBench 6. In the PCA battery-life tests using MobileMark 2007 productivity, the Air survived for about 3.5 hours off the mains. The entry-level version at £1271 includes a 120GB hard disk (our more-expensive model at £1761 came with a 128GB solid-state drive).

The Dell Adamo, on the other hand, offers lesser parts and charges.. more? Maybe we should call it ‘Adamo Tax'. Dell's high-style notebook costs between £1649 and £2249, depending on processor, storage and RAM. The Dell Adamo we tested was maxed out with a 1.4GHz CPU and included 4GB of RAM to help it make the most of the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium.

Supposedly the Dell Adamo's battery will last 5 hours, if we're to believe promotional materials. In the PC World battery life tests, it lasted 4 hours. Still, that's better than how the MacBook Air fared.

But - and not much of a surprise here perhaps - the Adamo got slapped around by our WorldBench 6 suite: it scored only a 64. As far as ultraportable performance goes, that's quite sad, but closer to the performance of the Samsung X360, which hit 68 WorldBench 6 points in its SSD guise.

So real-world performance is probably the biggest mark against the Dell Adamo, up front. But other features in a laptop are worth consideration besides horsepower.

For starters, the Dell Adamo uses a nice display. You get a little bit of a glare from the glossy coating, but this screen is worth perservering with. The Dell Adamo offers edge-to-edge glass that's securely locked into place on its 13.4-inch widescreen. Its white LED display one-ups the Air's slightly with a 1366x768-pixel resolution (translation: 720p-friendly). To our eyes that screen looks pretty sharp.

But one thing we keep being drawn to is Dell's all-too obviously Mac-esque dock that sits on the Windows desktop. It provides clean, quick links to all the main apps you'd use on the computer. And it's easily customizable.

Turning to the keyboard, one editor referred to the little dip in the middle of each of the wide keys as ‘finger buckets'. The fancy-pants Dell marketspeak for it is scalloped keys. The point is, the Dell Adamo keys are flat-ish and wide, as we've grown to love on a number of laptops (the HP Mini 1000 being among them), and they have a little lip for your fingers to rest in.

The Dell Adamo also finds room to accommodate a couple of multimedia shortcut keys next to the power button. The only drawback is that making out some of the keys without the ambient backlighting turned on can be difficult.

The Dell Adamo's touchpad is on the average side. It's not bad by any stretch; the buttons are firmly in place and requires a comfortable amount of pressure to use. Following Apple laptops, this Dell model tries to provide some multitouch functionality as well.

But Dell does get it right with the I/O options on this machine. The Dell Adamo has two USB ports, ethernet and a headphone jack, plus eSATA connector, DisplayPort, and a user-accessible SIM-card slot for 3G broadband service.

Of course, there's the design itself. As slim as the Dell Adamo may be (13 x 9.5 x 0.65in and weighing 4 pounds, in old money; or 331x242x16mm and 1.8kg), it's still a bit boxy. The dotted grillwork on the back grabs attention, and the two-tone top makes the Dell Adamo look more like a fashion accessory than most laptops on the scene do. And for that, we must give Dell some credit.