Dell's Adamo is positioned as a rival to Apple's MacBook Air, so here we see how the most desirable PC laptop we've seen so far measures up against the head-turning Mac. Neither company really positions its ultraslim ultraportable as a high-performance hot rod. Heck, both of them eschew optical drives to stay lean and mean. But they're both expensive -- very, very expensive.

The MacBook Air is the cagey vet. Since it first showed up on the scene, it has improved its game by providing better processors and an honest-to-goodness graphics card, nVidia's GeForce 9400M. That means it can actually play some games -- not many, but some.

The Air we last reviewed offered a 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and 2GB of RAM, and scored a 78 in WorldBench 6. In our battery-life tests, the Air survived for about 2.5 hours before sputtering out. It can accommodate a 120GB hard disk (our more-expensive model came with a 128GB solid-state drive). But then, of course, there's the dreaded 'Apple Tax' (but, really, that tax is up for debate): These machines range in price from £1,271/US$1,799 to £1,761/$2499.

The Dell Adamo, on the other hand, offers lesser parts and...charges...more? Really? Maybe we should rename it the 'Adamo Tax'. Let's go over this. Dell's high-style PCs cost between £1,649/$1999 and £2,249/$2699. The Adamo maxes out at a 1.4GHz CPU but compensates with 4GB of RAM to handle a 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium. Supposedly its battery will last 5 hours in tests, if we're to believe promotional materials. In our internal battery life tests, it lasted 4 hours. Still, that's way better than how the MacBook Air fared. But, not much of a surprise, the Adamo got slapped around by our PC WorldBench 6 suite: It scored a 64. As far as ultraportable performance goes, it's sad. Very sad. That's probably the biggest mark against the Adamo, up front. But other features in a laptop are worth consideration besides horsepower.

For starters, a nice display. You get a little bit of a glare from the glossy coating, but this screen is worth it. The Adamo offers edge-to-edge glass that's securely locked into place on the 13.4-inch screen. Its WLED display one-ups the Air's with a 1366-x-768-pixel resolution (translation: 720p-friendly). Initial tests show that the screen looks pretty sharp. But one thing I keep being drawn to is the obviously Mac-esque shortcut bar that sits on the desktop. It provides clean, quick links to all the main apps you'd use on the computer. And it's easily customizable.

One editor here refers to the little dip in the middle of the wide keys as 'finger buckets'. The fancy-pants Dell marketspeak for it is "scalloped keys." Whatever. The point is, the keys are flat-ish and wide, as I'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 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 is a little difficult.

The Adamo's touchpad borders on the average side. It's not bad by any stretch; the buttons are firmly in place and give the right amount of pressure. Like the Apple laptops, this Dell model provides some multitouch functionality as well.

And Dell gets it right with the number of I/O options on this machine. The Adamo has two USB ports, ethernet and headphone jacks, one eSATA connector, one DisplayPort, and a user-accessible SIM-card slot for WWAN service.

Of course, there's the design itself. As slim as the Adamo is, it's still a bit boxy. Hey, that's not a knock. After all, just about every laptop is a little on the square side (even Macs, until pretty recently). The dotted grillwork on the back pops, and the two-tone top makes the Adamo look more like a fashion accessory than most laptops on the scene do. And for that, I must give Dell some props. I see where they are going with the Adamo, and while I can't exactly recommend it for computing power, it makes up for it (a little) in sex appeal. However, I'm looking forward more to whatever Dell has in mind for the Adamo 2. Or the Eve. Or whatever they call it.