OQO Packs a Slick PC Into a Small Package

This ultra-cool Windows XP Model 01 Ultra Personal Computer could take the place of a PDA, laptop and desktop for all but the most demanding users, but its price and

April 13, 2005

5 Min Read
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The first thing I noticed about the Model 01 is its size--a little bit larger and thicker than a Pocket PC handheld (4.9 inches long, 3.4 inches wide, 0.9 inches thick and weighing 14 ounces), its 4.5-inch LCD screen looks absolutely huge compared with a typical PDA display and delivers 800-by-480 pixels of screen real estate. All the applications I ran on the Model 01 worked very well in the limited resolution, although I did have to pan and scroll quite a bit on Web sites and Excel spreadsheets.

The screen slides up, revealing one of the most well-designed handheld keyboards I've used--it's clearly been optimized for mobile operation. Keys that typically are held down, like Shift, Ctrl or Alt, are "sticky" on the Model 01. Pressing one of these keys enables that key until another key is combined with it. For example, I can hit the infamous Ctrl-Alt-Del combination using one finger. Green LEDs signal when a sticky key is enabled.

Between the main keyboard and number pad is the Trackstik, which, along with a digital pen, handles mouse movement. In testing, I typically used the Trackstik when the keyboard was exposed and reserved the stylus for those occasions when the unit was closed.

For connectivity, the Model 01 features both 802.11b and Bluetooth. Also built in to the sides of the unit are audio out, USB 1.1 and Firewire ports. The included docking cable is at once the best and worst feature of the Model 01. Looking somewhat like a charm bracelet, the five-foot cable connects the Model 01 to Ethernet, video, audio, USB, Firewire and power connections. To link the Model 01 to a full-size keyboard, mouse and monitor, I connected one plug and placed the device into its handy desktop stand. While this arrangement worked well when desk bound, it's a pain for the road warrior: To connect to a wired Internet connection or show a PowerPoint presentation, you will need to carry the bulky cable.

The Model 01's 1-GHz Transmeta processor scales back its speed when idle, and the device offers good power management, so battery life is acceptable; I clocked about three hours of steady run time. I did get a little concerned about how warm the device got during use, but it never affected operation.

But Can I Expense It?

At $1,999, this baby will have to prove itself at work, so I brought the Model 01 into my office, added it to the corporate domain and installed our standard application set, just like any other laptop. After a reboot, the device applied the computer security policies that I have in place in the domain, and I was greeted with a standard log-in window. Our corporate CRM and Microsoft Office packages installed without a hitch. The only real issue with these applications was screen resolution--my thumbs got a workout scrolling, but that's a small price to pay for having full-strength apps in a truly portable device. I was able to map network drives and copy files directly, instead of tethering to desktop sync software, and connecting directly to our Exchange server with Outlook went off without a hitch. I could get immediate updates and send mail using global address lists. Best of all, I did all this using my existing Active Directory policies and user permissions, making administration of the device a breeze.

Although it handled every application I threw at it, the Model 01 is limited to 256 MB of RAM and a 20-GB hard drive. Power users with large memory requirements will have to look elsewhere; there are no upgrades available for either memory or hard disks. This is one area that OQO should look into if it hopes to position the device as an enterprise-class laptop replacement.

Going Mobile

For the road, I configured a VPN connection through Windows XP and installed map software. The VPN link gave me secure access to all the resources back at the office whenever I had a Wi-Fi connection available. To get from Point A to Point B, I installed Microsoft's Streets and Trips 2005 and used the Model 01's Bluetooth connection to link to a GPS device and plot my course. The Model 01 performed very well in this role--its screen delivered a lot more map information than a typical PDA could.

Bottom line: Can the Model 01 replace a desktop, laptop and PDA? For a typical mobile user, the answer is yes. If you spring for a few peripherals, such as a full-size keyboard, mouse and possibly external drives, the Model 01 will serve as a passable desktop in the office. Power users might feel a bit crunched on memory and hard drive space, but IT staffers will enjoy having fewer platforms to administer.0

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