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OQO Model 01 review: OQO Model 01

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The Good Very versatile; runs full Windows XP OS; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are included; good docking solution; attractive design.

The Bad Weak performance; short battery life; runs hot; too big for a pocket; expensive.

The Bottom Line A full Windows XP PC that's barely bigger than a PDA, the OQO Model 01 is incredibly cool but makes too many compromises.

6.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 4
  • Support 6

OQO model 01

Bigger than a PDA but smaller than an ultralight notebook, the OQO Model 01 is an ultrasmall Windows XP computer that will appeal primarily to businesspeople who need applications with them when they're out of the office. At nearly $2,000, OQO will require these businesspeople to pay an arm and a leg for the very cool palmtop form factor.

Unlike the competing Sony VAIO VGN-U50, the OQO Model 01 has a built-in keyboard and a TrakStik--a small, rubbery joystick that controls the cursor--neatly hidden under a slide-up screen. Though the keys are quite small, the OQO's keyboard is easy to use. You won't be able to type with both hands, as you would with a normal-size keyboard, but thumb typing on it isn't too hard, and there's even a numeric keypad, something you don't see on most tiny keyboards. The TrakStik is placed to the right of the keyboard, and buttons for left- and right-click are on the left; switching between typing and mousing is easy. There's also a handy wheel on the bottom of the unit to scroll through Web pages or to switch applications. When the screen is slid down, you can still use the machine by navigating the screen with the included stylus.

The device is based on a 1GHz Transmeta processor and has a 20GB hard disk. While this setup offers enough power for most business apps, it's at the very low end of the general computing performance scale and will likely frustrate people expecting desktop-level responsiveness and storage capacity. The built-in 5-inch transflective screen has an 800x480 native resolution--again, impressive in a device this size but insufficient for most serious computing tasks (and slightly lower than the Sony VAIO U50's 800x600 native resolution). If you're using the OQO Model 01 at your desk, you'd be better off using the included dock with an external keyboard, monitor, and speakers (the machine has no external speaker, just a headphone jack). The docking solution uses an unusual cable with a handful of ports (Ethernet, FireWire, video, USB, audio, and AC power input) spaced out along it.

The OQO Model 01 weighs 14 ounces, slightly less than the Sony VAIO U50 but more than any PDA and rather too much to carry in a pocket. You'd need big pockets, besides, as the device measures 4.9 inches wide, 3.4 inches high, and 0.9 inch thick. Its size and weight feel good in your hands, but it runs hot, which makes it uncomfortable to hold after a few minutes.

When you close the OQO, its keyboard recesses behind its screen. You can still use the included small stylus on the screen, but because it's capacitive--not touch-sensitive--you can't use your finger or another pointing device on it. In our early production model, we could not get the stylus to calibrate accurately. In some areas of the screen, the pen simply wouldn't correctly register where we were pointing. We expect that OQO will fix this issue in production models, but we suspect that the distracting water-drop effect you get from touching the pen to the screen will not go away.

Although the OQO Model 01 is a stylus-based machine, the included operating system is the original edition of Windows XP Professional, not the Tablet edition. This is unfortunate, because the XP Tablet has both impressive handwriting recognition capabilities and support for Portrait-mode operation; with the OQO Model 01, there's no way to rotate the interface.

The OQO Model 01 has full wireless capabilities, both Wi-Fi (802.11b) and Bluetooth. There's one FireWire and one USB port on the unit (sadly, it's USB 1.1 only, not the faster USB 2.0) and another of each on the docking cable. There's no video-out on the unit itself, though, again, there is on the docking cable, so it's not a good portable PowerPoint machine. There's also no speaker on the device, although there is a jack for headphones. If you're thinking about using the OQO as a media player, be advised that the battery might not last through a single movie; in our tests it ran for only 135 minutes before shutting down.

OQO backs the Model 01 with a one-year warranty--a little short for a new product from an unproven vendor. Telephone support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT, excluding major holidays. We were unable to test the quality or the availability of OQO's tech support at the time of this review. The included documentation was adequate for getting started, but it offered very little help beyond that.

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