OQO Model 01 handheld PC
Review There's no denying that the OQO Model 01 is one of the coolest devices that I've ever got my paws on. It is an amazingly compact yet fully featured PC, in a very similar vein to the Sony Vaio U series. However, there are some obvious advantages that the Model 01 has over the U70P. Top of that list has to be size: the Sony was pretty close to pocket size, but the Model 01 really is. I've been carrying the Model 01 around with me for the past couple of weeks and it fits snugly into my back pocket, writes Riyad Emeran.
The second major advantage that the Model 01 has over the U70P is input method. Whereas the Sony machine relies on handwriting recognition or a virtual keyboard, the model 01 has a full QWERTY keyboard complete with numeric keypad. The great thing about this is that the screen completely hides it when it's not in use, so you can use the Model 01 pretty much like a tablet PC if you prefer. The downside is that the keys are tiny, so you need to have very small and dexterous fingers to make the most of it.
Nestling between the keyboard and numeric pad is a trackpoint which works remarkably well. The two selector buttons to the left of the keyboard also fall nicely under your thumb for easy access. Pointer movement reminds me of the old Toshiba Libretto - a device that the Japanese giant has recently resurrected. But you don't have to use the trackpoint for navigation as the Model 01 also has a stylus hidden in the top edge. This is the type of stylus that you get with a tablet PC so you can move the pointer around the screen without actually touching the display - tapping the screen acts like a left mouse-button click, while a small button on the shaft of the stylus simulates a right click. There's no doubt that OQO has thought long and hard about the user experience and has tried to offer as much flexibility as possible.
I doubt that too many people would want to write a long document on the Model 01 using the internal input devices, but it's good to know that it's possible. If you're using the Model 01 at home or in your office you can simply plug in a USB keyboard, mouse and monitor, and it will function just like any other PC. Even when you're on the move you can use a portable USB keyboard or even a Bluetooth device.
Design-wise the Model 01 is stunning, but not in the stylised mould of a Sony or an Apple product. Instead, it has a very minimalist, almost industrial look about it, giving it the kind of understated style associated with IBM ThinkPads. The Model 01 also has a tactile finish to it that makes it pleasant to hold, despite the fact that it can get quite warm during prolonged use.
The screen can be a little stiff when you're sliding it up and down, but when you look at the back you can see that OQO has implemented a rack and pinion system, adding even more weight to the industrial engineering feel of the Model 01. It's touches like this that make me love this device - I can truly believe that its construction was a labour of love, and that design and manufacture compromises just weren't options.
Looking around the chassis, the top edge houses the stylus, while on the right is the battery release button and headphone socket. On the bottom there's a full-size USB 1.1 port and a thumb wheel. You'll also find the power socket along with two connectors for the expansion cable. Finally, on the left-hand side there's a four-pin Firewire port. Flanking the chassis are two wireless antennae for the integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adaptors.
The rear is taken up by the lithium polymer battery. This is good for over three hours of use, and you can press a button to get an indication of charge state without having to turn the device on. Because the battery is slim and light it would be quite easy to carry a spare with you for long-haul flights, but at £115 it doesn't come cheap.
OQO bundles a solid metal cradle with the Model 01, but there's no connectivity. Instead you have to employ the expansion cable that also comes in the box. The far end of the expansion cable sports a D-SUB port for connection to an external monitor, along with a four-pin FireWire port, a USB port, the power socket and a headphone socket.
While the cradle and expansion cable work admirably, it's not the most elegant of solutions and I would prefer a proper docking station. Thankfully, one may be coming to the market soon.
Driving the Model 01 is a 1GHz Transmeta Crusoe CPU, ideal for a device like the model 01. There's 256MB of memory which can't be augmented and although I initially thought that this would be the Model 01's Achilles heel, my fear proved unfounded. Although I'd never advise anyone to buy a notebook with less that 512MB of memory, the RAM complement isn't such an issue in the model 01 since you're unlikely to be doing plenty of multi-tasking or running heavy duty apps on a device this size. That said, if you are going to use the Model 01 as your only PC, the modest amount of memory could become an issue.
There's a 20GB 1.8in hard disk, which isn't massive by notebook standards, but it does offer active protection. The Model 01 can tell when it has been dropped and automatically park the drive heads before impact to avoid data loss.
The Silicon Motion Lynx 3DM+ graphics chipset has 8MB of video memory, but don't let the name fool you - you're not going to be playing top-of-the-line games on the Model 01. Strangely, despite the dedicated video memory, 24MB of system memory has also been appropriated.
The 5in transflective screen produces a clear image whether indoors or outside. The 800 x 400 resolution is pretty low compared to a laptop, but is far higher than an PDA. Writing word documents is no problem on this screen, and even web browsing isn't too much of a chore - although the limited width does result in some sideways scrolling on most sites. There's an ambient light sensor which adjusts the brightness of the backlight depending on the environmental conditions.
With dimensions of 12.5 x 8.8 x 2.3cm, the Model 01 is chunkier than most PDAs, but it will fit in your pocket - depending on how tight your trousers are. Weighing in at around 400g, the Model 01 is also heavier than a PDA, but still less than half the weight of the svelte Sony X505 notebook.
The Model 01 ships in two flavours, one with Microsoft Office installed and one without - the former will set you back £1695, with the latter costing £1485. Personally, I'd probably go for the version without Office, but then I'd be using the Model 01 in conjunction with a full-size PC.
I found OQO's baby to be a genuinely useful mobile tool. While I've been evaluating the Model 01 I've stopped carrying around a notebook. OK, I wouldn't want to spend all day typing on the integrated keyboard, but as I've proved with this review, you can type a fairly hefty document if you need to.
The OQO model 01 isn't cheap, but if you're caught in that middle ground where a PDA isn't powerful enough, but you don't want something as big as a notebook, it's definitely worth considering.
The Model 01 is a beautifully designed, and well thought out mobile computing system. Although I had initial reservations about its real world usefulness, the more I used this pocket sized PC, the more reliant on it I became. Anyone who looks at the model 01 and just sees it as a cool gadget is missing the point, this is a fully featured PC that's small and light enough to be with you all day, every day. I can't wait to see what OQO comes up with next.
|OQO Model 01|
|More info||The OQO site|