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March 07, 2006

Review: OQO Model 01+

Personal Tech Pipeline

OQO released its first product, the Model 01, a little over a year ago. In that review, I noted a couple of items that could be improved to make the ultraportable viable as a desktop replacement. Recently, the Model 01+ has been released to replace the original, even coming in at the same price -- $1,999. This refresh is basically upgraded memory and faster USB ports crammed into the same svelte shell that has made the OQO a head turner.

When I opened the box, I was initially greeted with the same sight I had experienced with the original Model 01. All of the Model 01+’s changes are under the hood. (The design of the exterior really didn’t need changing, anyway). I was very pleased as I dug out the rest of the components to find an auto/air adapter included with the AC adapter. So out of the box, the OQO has the ability to be powered and charged from a wall socket, a twelve volt car accessory outlet, or from an airline seat. While this is usually a pricy or third party add-on for other laptops and handhelds, OQO’s inclusion of it makes me wonder why this doesn’t become a standard feature for mobile devices in the future.

It was only after starting up the OQO did the improvements become apparent. The Model 01+ ships with 512 megabytes of RAM, twice that of the anemic 256 megabytes that shipped with the original Model 01. The memory bump alone makes the preloaded Windows XP Professional load and run quite a bit smoother. OQO has also just made the Model 01+ available with the Tablet PC edition of the operating system, which takes full advantage of the touch screen and stylus included with the device.

OQO has also upgraded the USB ports on the Model 01+ to the 2.0 high speed standard. This is a welcome addition, considering the device’s reliance on external drives for installing applications or transferring data.

One aspect that surprisingly hasn’t changed is the Wi-Fi network adapter. The Model 01+ shares the 802.11b adapter of its predecessor. Given the nature of this OQO as a mobile device, the bandwidth of a 802.11g adapter would have made this an even nicer machine.

One of the biggest issues about the original Model 01 was the included docking cable. At that time, in order to do a presentation, for example, a OQO user had to drag along a three foot cable to connect the device to a projector. Apparently, I was not the first nor the last to complain about this issue, as the OQO has released a small accessory connector that simply allows VGA output from the Model 01+. For the sales team, this is almost a required option and makes the OQO a slam dunk for presentations.

The Model 01+ marks the first product refresh for OQO since its introduction, and they targeted exactly the areas that gave the biggest bang. The additional memory and the other performance enhancements make the Model 01+ a good laptop, especially for one small enough to fit in your pocket.

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