Dell and HP are the top two manufacturers of PCs. In the U.S., Dell is number one, while HP fills up the second spot. Worldwide, HP leads, while Dell trades for the second slot. Together, the pair dominates much of computer sales, with the exception of the netbook market. Their decisions play a large role in steering the course of the entire PC manufacturing industry.
At the Consumer Electronics Show 2009, amid the bad economy, both HP and Dell launched new luxury models.
Dell led the way with the release of a new brand, Adamo. Dell took the name of the brand from a Latin word, which means "to fall in love with". The first model in the Adamo brand, an ultra-thin notebook, was showcased at CES. While no technical details were announced, Dell did confirm that it would be released and shipping units within the first half of 2009.
The near-production Adamo concept's case design was remarkably similar visually to the HP Voodoo Envy 133. It will likely compete with the Envy and MacBook Air in the ultrathin sector. Dell's management hinted to reporters at CES that more models in the Adamo brand would be coming and that an XPS Adamo could even be in the works.
Speaking of XPS, another big announcement from Dell was the release of its new XPS 625 desktop. This gaming rig is among the first designs to showcase the Dragon platform, which features AMD's new Phenom II processors. It is currently available from Dell.
The rigs will start at under $999, which will buy you a pair of ATI Radeon 4670 cards in Crossfire, and an AMD Athlon X2 5600+ Black Edition (2.9GHz) processor. The top end model, priced at $1,749, is where things really heat up, though, as it brings AMD's new Dragon platform onboard. It will offer a 55 nm, quad-core AMD Phenom II X4 940 "Black Edition" processor, clocked at 3.00 GHz. Dell adds 8 GB of memory and two ATI Radeon 4850 cards in Crossfire to the mix. A 10,000 RPM hard drive and an install of Windows Vista top off the package. The computer will use AMD's 7 series chipsets. Two other models fall somewhere in between the low end and high end rigs, but neither feature the Phenom II.
Squaring off against Dell's luxury offerings is a new luxury model from HP, the Firebird. The Firebird is HP's take on a small form factor performance desktop. While the form factor is still pretty big, it is smaller than competitors like Dell's XPS machines. The cost is that the 350 W power supply is taken external.
The rig features two NVIDIA 9800S, NVIDIA's new small form factor GPUs in SLI mode. It offers 4 GB of DDR2 memory. The machine runs on Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit edition. The base model is priced at $1,799. It comes with a Intel Core 2 Quad 9400 Processor (2.66GHz) and two 250 GB 2.5" hard drives.
A $2,099 priced high-end model bumps the processor to a Intel Core 2 Quad 9550 (2.83GHz) and the storage to a pair of 320 GB 2.5" hard drives (5400 RPM), for total storage of 640 GB. It also adds Blu-Ray capabilities to the slot-loaded drive, integrated Bluetooth and 802.11b/g/n wireless LAN, and a Creative Labs X-Fi mini-PCI audio card.
The models, available immediately, feature a liquid cooling system for the GPU, CPU, and chipset.
The launch of new luxury models (with the XPS 625 the lowest priced), by HP and Dell, surprised many given the economic climate. One reporter challenged Alex Gruzen, a senior vice president in Dell's consumer product group, during the Adamo announcement, asking him if the recession was the right time to debut a new luxury line.
Mr. Gruzen pointed out, "It's not the only product we're launching. It's the right time, with the technologies and materials for us to satisfy a very important Dell customer segment."
He raises a good point -- while Dell and HP's releases at CES evidence a continued battle for the luxury market, they are not the companies' sole focus. Nonetheless, the companies new luxuries models are certainly plenty to make enthusiasts and gamers excited about the new year.