Dell on Tuesday is finally expected to launch the mysterious Adamo, a 'luxury' laptop that could be the PC maker's response to ultra-thin laptops including Apple's stylish MacBook Air.

Adamo has a light and ultra-slim design that makes it easy to hold with a few fingers. It measures 16.39mm (0.65 inches) at its thinnest point, and weighs around 1.8kg (4 pounds), with a 13.4-inch screen.

With prices starting at around US$2,000 (£1,400) in the US, it isn't targeted at normal buyers, said John New, senior product marketing manager at Dell.

"It's for an affluent crowd, and somebody who's fashion forward, style conscious who wants to project an image of success and style. They probably have a fine watch, and nice, name-brand accessories, and we want this to be one of them," he said.

The laptop uses new technologies that could make it a speedy machine -- it runs on an ultra-low power Intel processor, supports DDR3 memory and includes SSD storage. A battery built inside the laptop provides about four to five hours of run time per charge.

Speculation around Adamo heated up late last year when observers suggested Dell was building a laptop as a response to Apple's MacBook Air. The rumor was confirmed when the laptop was shown to the press at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Dell did not reveal its specifications at the time, saying Adamo was being shown to squash impending rumors about its existence.

Adamo is heavier and may be bigger than the MacBook Air, but it provides Dell an entrance into the ultraportable market to compete with offerings that include Hewlett-Packard's Voodoo Envy. Dell could particularly face an uphill battle against Apple, which has a leg up with impressive designs and a loyal customer base that allows it to charge a premium for products.

Taking a veiled jab at Apple, Dell's New said that Adamo sacrificed size to bring more practical functionality -- like the inclusion of an Ethernet port -- rather than skimp on finer details. Apple has been criticized for not including an Ethernet port in the MacBook Air.

"You could do this exercise to make something super thin," New said. "We want to make sure we deliver performance and value and it's not just a fluffy purchase."

Dell has a history of fairly boring designs, but the PC maker has been aggressive about changing that, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at market research firm The NPD Group.

"While not everything has been a success, I think their colors and patterns on notebooks have resonated well and they have been steadily improving the design appeal of their products," Baker said.

But as consumers cut back on spending during the recession, will anyone pay a premium for the laptop?

Adamo could do fairly well with affluent buyers who continue to spend on hardware and technology products, but it has to be positioned and marketed correctly, Baker said.

"People will spend [on Adamo]. This is not intended to be a high-volume, high-velocity item but more of a statement [product]," he said.

Prices for the laptop start at $1,999 with a 128GB SSD and an Intel Core 2 Duo SU9300 ultra-low-voltage processor running at 1.2GHz with 2GB of DDR3 memory. The high-end version of Adamo is priced $2,699, with an Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 ultra-low voltage processor running at 1.4GHz with 4GB of DDR3 memory.

The laptops include 128GB SSDs for data storage and run on 64-bit Windows Vista OS. Networking options include an Ethernet port and wireless 802.11n networking. Dell does not include an optical drive in the Adamo, but is offering external DVD-RW, Blu-ray drives and external hard drives with storage capacities of 250GB and 500GB.

Internal batteries are replaced by sending the laptop to a depot, New said. He couldn't predict how many days a user would have to wait to get the laptop back after a battery replacement.

The laptop is available worldwide starting Tuesday from the Adamo Web site.