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
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.
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
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
back of the model 01
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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).
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.
mAh 3.7v Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery
is user replaceable.
Processor and Memory:1
GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor with 256 megs DDR
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.
x 3.4 x .9 inches. Weight: 14 ounces.
internal speaker. Has internal
mic and 3.5 mm standard stereo headphone jack.
WiFi 802.11b and Bluetooth.
XP Home Edition.
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,