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OQO model 01 Computer

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Reviewed August 1, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Update Fall 2007: Read our review of the OQO model 02 that replaces the model 01.

Make no mistake, the OQO model 01 is one of the most impressive technological feats of the decade. OQO spent five years developing this handheld computer, and likely it took every day to fit a PC into a device the size of a large PDA. The model 01, currently the only OQO model, runs Windows XP Home Edition rather than a PDA operating system, yet it will fit easily in a purse, brief case or roomy pocket. At 4.9 x 3.4 x .9 inches, the device isn't much larger than large Pocket PC and Palm models such as the Palm LifeDrive and HP iPAQ hx4700, though it is heavier at 14 ounces. For those who must have full blown Windows on the go in a tiny package, the nearly $2,000 OQO might prove indispensable. Since Windows XP wasn't designed for use in such a small format, usability does suffer, and we'll talk more about that later.

OQO model 01

Yes, you can run your favorite Windows applications on the OQO. Don't expect much in the gaming department however from this 1 GHz Transmeta Crusoe powered machine with 256 megs of RAM and an 8 meg graphics card. Obviously there's no internal CD ROM drive in a device this size, but you can hook up an external USB or even FireWire CD or DVD drive to the OQO to install applications and watch movies. The device has one USB and one unpowered FireWire port along with a headphone jack. For a full set of ports, you'll use the included docking cable. The cable itself is an interesting concept: rather than cramming ports into a dock small enough to mate nicely with the model 01, OQO includes a long, rubbery 4.5 foot long docking cable that's peppered with ports.

OQO docking cable

Above: the OQO docking cable

In the Box

The OQO model 01 comes in an elegant and classy large black box which holds the computer, stylus, world charger (notebook style inline brick), a metal stand, slip case, docking cable and a software restore CD. There is no comprehensive printed or PDF manual, but you do get a basic guide.

Features at a Glance

As mentioned, the OQO model 01 has a 1 GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, 256 megs of RAM, a 5" 800 x 480 color display with digitizer, USB and FireWire on board but no internal speaker. It has both Bluetooth and WiFi, and via the docking cable, 10/100 Ethernet as well as Ethernet. This means you can dock the OQO at your desk to a monitor, keyboard, mouse and wired Ethernet, then unplug it for use on the road.

Design and Ergonomics

The model 01 looks elegant in its bronze colored metal casing and has a minimalist design. It's a basic rectangle with the 4" display taking up most of the front face. The OQO logo, power button and mic holes are the display's only companions on the front face. The docking connectors (3, all of which plug into the cable's end, and the far left port doubles as the charging connector) are on the bottom left edge, and the multifunction jog wheel and USB port are on the bottom right. The 4 pin unpowered FireWire port is on the left side and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack is on the right. The back of the computer is finished in matching bronze and has a battery charge indicator, as the entire back plate actually is the removable battery! The unit feels good in reasonably large hands, though it does run hot.

back of OQO

back of the model 01

side of OQO

Bottom edge: three ports that connect to the docking cable (left most is power connector when not using docking cable) and the jog wheel and USB port on the right end.


We are in the era of the slider: sliding feature phones, sliding smart phones and PDAs. Even the OQO has a slider: the display slides up to reveal a large QWERTY thumb keyboard. This membrane keyboard is surprisingly easy to use with good key spacing and an intelligent layout that didn't send us hunting for commonly used keys. There's even a separate number pad on the right, though the numbers are ordered in cell phone rather than PC keyboard fashion (1 at the top left, 9 at the bottom right). Toward the right side of the keyboard you'll find the ever-maligned eraser stick pointer, made famous or infamous by the IBM ThinkPad notebooks. I'm no fan of the erase stick in general, but I must say that it does work well on the OQO and reduces space requirements considerably (where would you fit a touch pad?). On the far left, you'll find a right click and left click mouse button which also work reasonably well.

Alas, we can't say as much of the stylus which failed to track closely, sometimes didn't respond to taps and generally slowed down navigation. A shame, as the stylus concept works so well for PDAs and would make life with the OQO so much better. The unit uses a Wacom digitizer, generally the best in the industry and is not a touch screen: you must use the included small electromagnetic pen. You also much hold the pen straight up at a 90 degree angle to the screen according to OQO, rather than holding it naturally at a slant as you would a pen to paper. This does improve accuracy, but the little bugger is still a bit off in calibration, especially near the display's edges and is sometimes lethargic when it comes to screen taps.

As you can see from our comparison photos below, the OQO isn't much bigger than today's large, power user PDAs such as the HP iPAQ hx4700 and the Palm LifeDrive. It is considerably smaller than its nearest competitor, the Sony Vaio U50. The OQO could pass for a PDA, the Vaio is much too large for that and lacks an internal keyboard of any sort. The fast disappearing Vaio U70 and US version U750 are more powerful, however.

size comparison

Palm LifeDrive, OQO and the HP iPAQ hx4700 Pocket PC.

Top to bottom: Palm LifeDrive, HP iPAQ hx4700 and the OQO.

Horsepower and Performance

A 1 GHz laptop is by today's standards, slow. But a 1 GHz laptop that fits in the palm of your hand is unique and invaluable to those who need Windows on the go but don't wish to lug around a full sized notebook. Though the 1 GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor won't raise your neck hairs with its dazzling speed, it is plenty fast enough for basic office apps and Internet access. Microsoft Office 2003 Small Business Edition (a $300 add-on) runs responsively on the OQO, as did web browsers and email clients. We even installed Macromedia Dreamweaver and Photoshop on the model 01, and both ran fine. Of course, you won't want to edit large images in Photoshop, but it's fine for working with web graphics. Given how warm the unit gets and the average 2.75 hour battery life with WiFi on, a faster processor would make the unit too hot to handle and too short lived for practical use. Thus, the CPU is a reasonable compromise, though we'd be interested to see what the future holds— perhaps we'll see one of the faster but cool running and power frugal Intel Centrino processors in a future OQO model. The one thing that was decidedly slow was boot times, which verged on two minutes with a variety of software loaded on the machine.

The unit docked easily with our desktop components (everything is plug and play, hot pluggable). In fact, we set up the OQO with the Think Outside Bluetooth Keyboard, USB mouse, 19" 1280 x 1024 display and wired Ethernet and forgot that we were actually using a tiny palmtop PC. It performed adequately and reliably in the desktop setting for the tasks described above. The OQO's only failing was games. Few current action games will install and run on the OQO since it has only a 8 meg graphics card. Of course you can play old action games, card and board games as long as they work well in the OQO's native 800 x 480 resolution. We tested Age of Empires II and it ran well, though the lowest resolution it supports is 800 x 600, so the in-game virtual display panning got old quickly. The unit also got very hot and the fan ran at a noisy full blast when playing AoE.

The OQO has a 20 gig 1.8" Toshiba MK2004GAL fixed hard drive and 256 megs of DDR RAM. The RAM isn't upgradable which is a shame as Windows XP runs more quickly on 512 megs of RAM and less paging to the hard disk for virtual memory would improve battery life. Should you need access to more storage, you can use the USB 1.1 port for flash drives, USB hard drives as well as CD/DVD ROM drives. The OQO's 4 pin unpowered FireWire port further expands storage options, though you must use low powered or externally powered FireWire devices because the tiny OQO doesn't have enough juice to power a full sized external disk drive on its own.

Graphics and Sound

The OQO's 800 x 480 display measures 5" diagonally and is surprisingly easy to read given the resolution to screen size ratio. Text is sharp and the display has very good contrast and reasonably good color saturation. The device has five brightness level settings and the screen is reasonably bright, though not as bright as recent PDA displays. An 8 meg Silicon Motion (SMI) Lynx3DM graphics processor handles all video tasks, and this somewhat dated GPU offers some 3D acceleration and has a 128 bit 2D and 3D engine. Video playback, even when watching DVDs was very good with perceptible dropped frames and no stutters or audio glitches. The Lynx is definitely up to the task of multimedia playback, light graphics editing and general office use.

The digitizer and driver are made by Wacom, and the software offers settings for screen calibration, right click or other click assignment using the single button on the pen's side, tip feel and double click distance. As we mentioned, pen response isn't as reliable or well calibrated as on PDA or even Tablet PCs. You must hold the pen straight up and down at a 90 degree angle to the display, and even then there is some parallax and noticeable mis-calibration near the display edges. The OQO also occasionally failed to notice a screen tap, so we had to give it a second prod. If you're buying the device to do digital painting and drawing, you'll be disappointed. But as a handy replacement for the eraser point, it works acceptably. Note that unlike PDAs but like Windows XP Tablets you must use the included EMR pen and your finger or any other pointy object won't work. While touch screens that respond to finger input are convenient, they are more delicate so the OQO's display is a bit more rugged.

The OQO has an ALi Audio Wave sound card which handles stereo sound output as well as mic input. Note that the OQO itself has no speaker, so you'll enjoy the sound of silence until you plug in a pair of stereo headphones or external speakers. Sound through the 3.5 mm headphone jack to headphones was excellent and amazingly loud. You'll certainly be able to hear music anywhere using headphones when using the OQO as your iPod. Sound quality through computer speakers was very good, though the volume is lower compared to desktop audio output. Given the model 01's limited power supply, we can understand that it won't drive stereo speakers at blaring volumes.

Networking: WiFi, Bluetooth and Ethernet

The OQO is a little wonder of networking. It has Bluetooth, WiFi and wired 10/100 Ethernet via the docking cable. The OQO has two internet wireless antennas, one on each side: Bluetooth is assigned to one (you can select which one in BIOS). When Bluetooth isn't active and WiFi is on, the OQO will switch between the two antennas, using the one that is currently receiving the strongest signal: cool! WiFi is the 802.11b flavor only and the OQO doesn't support the faster 802.11g standard.

Bluetooth uses the Microsoft software and drivers included with Windows XP service pack 2 and though spartan on user interface, it's quite functional and supports the commonly used profiles such as HID (human interface device, i.e. keyboards and mice), serial port, OBEX. That means you can use Bluetooth keyboards, GPS and mice, as well as transfer files to and from other Bluetooth enabled computers and PDAs. We tested the OQO with the Motorola HS820 and though it was listed as an audio device after pairing, the OQO said it was a serial device and setup ports for it. No audio piped through to the headset, so we're not sure if headsets are indeed supported. The radio itself is made by Cambridge Silicon Radio.

Using the included docking cable, you can hook the OQO up to a wired Ethernet 10/100 network. Very handy when at the hotel room or when docking the device in the office.

What's it like to use the OQO model 01?

Let's get the easy part out of the way: when docked to an external mouse, keyboard and monitor, the OQO feels just like a desktop. It can drive a reasonably large monitor and the speed is adequate for office tasks (you won't be rapping your fingers on the table waiting for an Excel spreadsheet to sort). But how does it feel to use the OQO model 01 as a palmtop computer? Both wonderful and a tad tedious. It's fantastic to have your essential Windows apps with you on the go, running on a unit that's not much bigger than a PDA. Its potential is thus much greater than a PDA, which is limited to applications designed for its particular OS. Yes, there's a PDA application for just about everything you need to do in terms of office, Internet and gaming, but those apps may not be as familiar, easy to use in terms of file compatibility and can lack all the power and features of a desktop app. For example, IE on the OQO is full blown Internet Explorer, and you can use all of the browser plugins available for Windows, while only a subset are available for PDAs. And of course, you can open multiple browser windows, have full support for pop-up windows, encryption and even use alternative browsers such as FireFox. Great stuff.

So why do I use the word tedious? Because Windows is not in the least bit optimized for tiny devices using alternative inputs such as a stylus. Yes, there is Windows XP Tablet Edition, but surprisingly, the OQO doesn't ship with that OS, but rather standard Windows XP Home Edition (Windows XP Pro is a $100 upgrade). The OQO's pen is hardly precise and screen taps occasionally go unnoticed. And you must hold the pen at a 90 degree angle to the screen, which isn't natural: PDAs and digitizer tablets have supported the natural leaning pen pose for years, why not the OQO? Though I love pen-based devices and use them daily, I found myself avoiding the stylus. So, back to the eraser stick and two mouse buttons... though well done, they aren't the most popular navigational gear in the history of mobile computing. The thumb keyboard itself is a necessary compromise given the size and design of the unit. We're accustomed to such compromises on PDAs and tend to use them more lightly for input. However, on a Windows XP box, no matter how small, it's a bit frustrating to enter text slowly when we've been typing away at 70 wpm for the last decade on PCs. You can use an external folding Bluetooth keyboard and perhaps a USB mouse, but then you've just doubled the size of your kit. Then there's the issue of heat. Today's notebooks get hot, that's no secret. So we place them on a table or laptop pad when they get too hot for our legs. The in-hand nature of the OQO means that your hands will get hot, very hot when using the device for 30 minutes or more.

If you need or want Windows XP in the palm of your hand and don't want to lug a notebook everywhere you go, the OQO is certainly worth it and there is nothing like it. If you need to work with MS Office docs, browse the Net, send off some emails, watch a few videos, and have no strong need for full desktop versions of apps for these tasks, then a PDA is likely a better choice. PDA operating systems are completely optimized for stylus and d-pad navigation and you'll get the job done much more quickly with one. If you need instant on capabilities, a PDA is the perfect choice, or keep the OQO in suspend mode rather than shutting it off and waiting about 2 minutes for it to boot up.


A marvel of technology and for now, unique. The Sony Vaio U750 is the only thing that came close and it's both larger and on its way out. Windows XP in the palm of your hand and in your pocket just can't be beat if you're a road warrior with serious computing needs. Anything you can do with a Windows notebook, you can do with the OQO, albeit more slowly when it comes to input, navigation and computing speed. It has enough ports to use common popular peripherals and can be docked using the included cable when at the office.

Pro: Real Windows XP in a package that's not much larger than a PDA! Good compliment of ports on-board and via the docking cable. Docking cable is included, as is a desktop stand. Has both WiFi and Bluetooth. Sharp screen that's surprisingly readable. Slider design allows for a very usable thumb keyboard on the go. Very attractive looking. Great sound through headphones and excellent video and DVD playback capabilities. Adequate performance for office and Internet applications. Hot pluggable which means you need not shut down or suspend the unit to plug in or unplug a monitor, USB device and so on.

Con: Expensive! Using the OQO without an external mouse and keyboard can prove tedious as Windows XP is designed for the mouse and keyboard, and the OQO's stylus, eraser stick pointer and small keyboard can't compete with standard notebook input methods. Device gets quite warm in hand. Not powerful enough to run games other than board, puzzle and several year old action games. Not powerful enough to run demanding apps such as CAD, 3D, serious Photoshop or development environments. Slow boot times.


List Price: $1,899 with Windows XP Home, $1,999 with Windows XP Professional (reduced to $1,199 to $1,399 in late 2006).

Web site:



Display: 5" color display with digitizer. 65,000 colors supported on 800 x 480 pixel resolution display. Can support up to 1280 x 1024 resolution external monitor. SMI Lynx3DM graphics card with 8 megs memory.

Battery: 4,000 mAh 3.7v Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.

Processor and Memory: 1 GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor with 256 megs DDR RAM (non-upgradeable).

Drives: 20 gig internal fixed hard drive (Toshiba 1.8"). No optical drive included. Can use external USB and FireWire mass storage devices including optical drives.

Size: 4.9 x 3.4 x .9 inches. Weight: 14 ounces.

Audio: No internal speaker. Has internal mic and 3.5 mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b and Bluetooth.

Software: Windows XP Home Edition.

Ports: On the OQO: One USB 1.1, one 4 pin unpowered FireWire port, 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. On docking cable: one USB 1.1, one 4 pin unpowered FireWire port, headphone jack, 10/100 Ethernet RJ45 jack, VGA out.


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