Sunday, June 17, 2007

OQO Model 02 Review Part 3: Desktop and Laptop Replacements

This is part three of my OQO Model 02 review. In parts one and two I talked about the OQO's form factor and its tablet pc and voice recognition capabilities. In this part, I talk about how I use the OQO as my desktop and laptop replacement as well as my on-the-go computer.

Those of you who read my blog know that I've been promoting the OQO as the only true ultra-mobile computer on the market. That added mobility has opened up new use cases for the OQO and mobile computing. For me however, the OQO is not a companion PC, it is my main computer that I use everyday in addition to my laptop replacement.

A big reason why I purchased the OQO is because it is the only device that seamlessly crosses the threshold between the three primary PC modalities: desktop, notebook and ultramobile computing. Laptops have done a great job of slowly replacing the desktop modality and now we have this emerging ultra-mobile modality. To date however, no UMPC other than OQO has been truly ultra mobile. As such, these UMPCs have remained something between a laptop and the OQO. The OQO is the only device that offers true ultra-mobility and desktop and laptop modalities as well. This is a significant achievement because we can now carry our entire desktop computing experience with us whereever we go. Arcane technologies for syncing our files, emails, appointments, to-dos, and bookmarks are no longer necessary. I can tell you for a fact that my life is greatly simplied by having a single device that switches between these different modalities with alacrity.

Desktop Computing

Let's start with my desktop environment. I spend a great deal of time in this modality ergo I need a setup that is comfortable, expandable and powerful enough to carry out my day to day computing tasks. By way of comfort, I need a large monitor capable of displaying my development environment and a comfortable keyboard and mouse.

For expandability, the OQO docking station provides a powered USB hub with two ports back and one port forward. Additionally, the LG monitor features a powered USB hub with one port down and two ports left. On the occassions when I need to print something out, I use my Canon i80 Bluetooth printer with battery pack. The Canon sits on the top of the filing cabinet under the desk: out of site but immediately available. When I need to scan, I have a Canon USB powered LED scanner in a drawer. When I do dictation, I plug my Logictech USB headset into the front USB port on the docking station.

From a power perspective, I've created a power scheme on the OQO that has the processor set at 100% maximum. I have the fan speed turned down to three quarters silent. I found that if I turn the fan speed all the way down to 100% silent that I suffer from Blue Screens of Death (BSOD). Set your fan speed to 3/4 quiet and the fan noise is greatly minimized without the danger of the OQO overheating and you'll have plenty of power to carry out your daily tasks.

With my desktop optimized power scheme I have plenty of power to run multiple applications. It is not uncommon for me to run: a Flex server, the Eclipse IDE coding environment, several Flex applications, OneNote 2007, Outlook 2007, VPN and several terminal windows to Unix servers. I have never had a problem running this typical setup on the OQO. I find application swithcing fast, my compile times are good and my Flex applications run smoothly. Would I benefit from a faster processor? Yes, but the point is that I don't need it.

Here's a picture of my desktop environment. The Q1 is docked to the left. It's driving a 24 inch LG LCD monitor in landscape mode at 1900x1200 resolution using HDMI. I use the Logitech DiNovo Edge bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I like this setup because it is clean and simple. There are only three cables present: the power cables for the docking station and monitor and the HDMI cable to the monitor.

The LG monitor is ergonomically designed: it swivels at the base; its height is adjustable and the monitor itself is mounted on a armature that allows it to tilt horizontally and vertically. The viewing angle on the screen is an amazing 178 degrees. Additionally, the screen itself rotates. Here is the desktop setup with the LG monitor in portrait mode. The OQO is driving the monitor at 1200x1900 which gives me a huge vertical display ideal for coding and reading documents. You can see in the photo the sheer amount of text that fits onto a screen at this resolution.
Here's a shot of the DiNovo Edge keyboard. Its fact is laser cut from a single sheet of Acrylic. In addition to being aesthetically complimentary to the OQO Model 02, the Edge features a touch pad (orange circle) and a right and left mouse buttons. The keyboard can be used on its own without requiring a mouse. The vertical control above the touchpad is a capacitive touch controller for volume. The function keys at the top are user configurable but are pre-programmed for Skype, Outlook, Internet Explorer, Search and Windows Media Player 7 playback controls.

Notebook Computing

Notebook computing needs to satifsfy one requirement really well: transportability. Here, the single unit design of a traditional laptop trumps the OQO. For the OQO to be a notebook replacement is needs to be coupled with a docking station and keyboard. However, the OQO setup has some benefits over a traditional laptop. For starters, the combined weight of the OQO, docking station and keyboard is about 2lbs. Much lighter than most laptops and lighter than many ultraportables as well. Secondly, not a whole lot of extra effort is required to setup the docking station and keyboard with the OQO. It is amazing easy to plug the OQO into the docking station and a USB keyboard takes no appreciable time to plug into the docking station. I use the Samsung Q1's USB keyboard. It has an integrated trackstick so I don't need to carry a mouse and its shiny black finish makes it look like it was designed for the OQO. For my setup I also throw in the MyPower All 3400 extended battery by Tekkeon. The MyPower All combined with the OQO's own battery blast out an amazing 8 hours of charge.
The OQO Model 02 in Laptop mode. Pictured here: The OQO in the docking station, the MyPower All portable power supply by Tekkeon and the Samsung Q1 USB keyboard with integrated trackstick. This setup gives me everything and more that a laptop can offer: DVD drive, HDMI out, VGA out, 3 usb ports, wired ethernet, WWAN connectivity via Sprint, audio out and an incredible 8 hours of continuous, real world battery life. A true mobile office. Total weight for the whole setup: about 3 lbs.

This is my Booq Mamba S, over the shoulder gear bag. Booq bags are stylish, well designed and affordable. I highly recommend them. This bag is considered a medium sized bag. Its dimensions are: 14.5x12.5x3.5 and it weighs only 2.2lbs. I use this bag to carry around my mobile office setup. Total weight of the bag and all its contents for the mobile office: about 5 lbs. Very easy to carry around.

What's in my bag? Here's the contents of the Booq bag. From top left: The OQO in a CaseLogic case; the docking station; the MyPower All cigarette lighter adapter; the OQO car/airplane adapter; the Western Digital 160GB USB hard drive; the MyPower All 3400 portable battery pack; The Samsung Q1 portable keyboard.

Tekkeon doesn't make an adapter tip yet for the OQO Model 02 but here's a tip: Buy the cigarette lighter adapter tip that way you can plug the OQO's car/plane adapter into it for a whole lot of charge.
This is the interior of the Booq bag. The rear compartment is padded and holds the docking station, keyboard, OQO case, MyPowerAll and mini-dock connector. Stuffed in the compartment flap is the OQO car/airplane power adapter.


This is the whole reason why I have the OQO. I can quickly pull the OQO out of its docking station, slap it into my Caselogic case and head out the door in about the same time it takes me to find my mobile phone. For a device to be ultramobile it needs to do a couple things really well: it needs to be easy to transition it out of desktop or notebook mode; it needs to be compact enough to fit in pocket or purse and it needs to have good battery life to allow it meet your needs until you return it to its docking station.

OQO has done a great job with the docking station. It is very easy and fast to pull the unit out of the dock and be on your way. Size-wise, I've talked about the OQO's diminuitive size. Battery-wise you'll need to tweak the system once to optimize battery time but after that you won't have to worry about it.

As I've mentioned before, I've created a new power scheme called Neil Optimized. When plugged in, I have the CPU set to 100%. When running on batteries, I have the maximum CPU set to 60% (recall that 60% is the cut-off for descent handwriting recognition). With this power configuration, I can maximize my battery life to more than 3 hours. Once you have this power scheme in place, pulling the OQO from the dock automatically switches the OQO into power saving mode. Putting the OQO back in the dock switches the OQO back to full power. Easy.

To make your ultra mobile life easier you should grab the Caselogic portable hard drive case from any Best Buy or Office Depot. I picked mine up for something like $15. The case is designed to hold a portable hard drive but the OQO fits perfectly in the case and there is even a strap to hold it in place. What I like about the Caselogic case is that there is a pouch on the lid that can hold various things that you might need like your OQO pen, USB hard drive and headphones. Put them in the case and you'll never be without these essentials. The case is small enough to carry around in one hand, but I was given a nice leather purse and the case fits into it nicely.

These are the contents of the CaseLogic case. From top, left: The OQO digital pen, a short USB to mini USB to power the Western Digital hard drive or any other USB device; Zune headphones (got to love the magnetic strips on each ear piece that hold the ear buds together!); 2GB Lexar USB drive, the CaseLogic case with the OQO strapped in; a black polishing cloth to eradicate fingerprints and smudges.

This is my purse (yes, I call it exactly what it is). This is the bag I pick up when I head out the house at any given time. It holds my wallet, mobile phone, keys and the CaseLogic OQO case.


At the end of the day, the OQO is about ultra-moblity. Am I willing to put up with a little less desktop computing power to do this? Yes. Am I willing to plug a keyboard into the docking station in notebook mode in order to do this? Absolutely. The fact of the matter is, the OQO performs admirably in both desktop and notebook modalities. I have no complaints. But, even if it didn't I would tolerate it because the ability to pick up my desktop computer and walk out the door is worth it. Knowing that I have my entire desktop experience with me at all times is worth it. Not having to sync up and manage a duplicate set of files, bookmarks and emails is worth it.

In part 4, I will talk about OQO ultra mobile use cases. I'll recount some of my own experiences with using the OQO as a mobile computing platform and speculate on where I think the mobile computing space is heading. It should be fun.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

OQO Model 02 Review Part 2: Pen Navigation, Handwriting and Voice Recognition

This is part two of my OQO Model 02 review. In Part One, I discussed the OQO's general form factor. As with all my reviews, Part Two will focus on usability, user interface and user experience as it relates to pen inking and voice recognition.

The unit I'm reviewing is the OQO model 02 with Vista Business installed. It's amazing how much you can get done on the OQO with Vista installed without needing to use the keyboard or mouse. In fact, this entire review is being done using voice recognition only. Even my outlines and notes were dictated using voice recognition.

Pen Navigation

While the OQO offers a superb Thumbstick for navigation, I prefer to use the pen and the built-in tablet navigation features of Vista and Internet Explorer seven. First let me talk about why I prefer pen navigation to the built-in keyboard and Thumbstick. First, I can hold the unit naturally. To use the Thumbstick I have to have the screen in its up right or open position and I have to hold the unit a certain way: my right thumb must control the Thumbstick and my left thumb must control the left and right mouse buttons. As I mentioned in part one of this review holding the OQO in landscape mode is just not as easy as holding it in portrait mode. So by using a pen I can close the screen and hold the unit in any way that feels natural to me including not holding the unit at all like laying it down on a flat surface or on my lap.

The OQO sports an active digitizer vs. what is commonly known as a touchscreen or passive digitizer. A touch screen allows you to use anything including your finger to touch things on the screen, drag-and-drop, push buttons. The disadvantage of a touchscreen is that you have to actually drag your stylus or finger across the screen to move the cursor. Because a touch screen can't differentiate between a pen and a finger it also can't differentiate between your hand and your stylus. So, when writing on a touch screen you have to be very careful not to let your hand touch the screen. Otherwise the touch screen driver will get confused and think your hand is your pen and vice-versa and you'll end up with a muddled jumble of scribbles on the screen.

The OQO's active digitizer solves these problems. The OQO's digital pen emits a magnetic signal that the active digitizer can track and read. This means you can hover the pen about a half inch above the screen and the OQO will read it. Move the cursor on the screen by simply pointing with the pen tip without actually touching the screen. This is more natural because when you want to group select you can simply press the pen down on the screen draw a box around your selection and release the pen. Very natural and simple. It also means you can hover the pen above a button or control to bring up its tool tip. these behaviors are impossible with touch screens.

Vista has two builtin features: Pen Flicks, and Grab-and-Drag that when combined with the OQO's active digitizer make pen navigation natural and my preferred navigational method when untethered from the keyboard and mouse.

Pen Flicks allow you to do basic navigation like scroll up, scroll down, page back and page forward in the browser and edit commands like copy paste and undo by simply flicking the pen in a certain motion. For example, to page up in any document simply flick the pen in an upward motion. To page down, simply flick the pen in a downward motion. To page back in the browser, flick the pen to the left. The gestural motions are very intuitive, simple and execution is fast. It works much better than using the Thumbstick to move the cursor up to the back button or over to the scroll bars.

Both the Internet Explorer Seven and Outlook 2007 incorporate a great tablet feature called Grab-and-Drag. Here's how it works: You put Internet Explorer Seven or Outlook 2007 into Grab-and-Drag mode (by clicking a button). Now the cursor looks like a hand. When you press the pen down the hand grabs the page. You can now pan the page by simply moving the pen around.

Grab-and-Drag and Pen Flicks work well together. I use Pen Flicks to quickly get to a part of a scrollable view. Then I use Grab-and-Drag to fine tune my position. I may use Pen Flicks to quickly get to a paragraph at the end of a document and then use Grab-and-Drag to scroll the paragraph as I'm reading it. The two work seamlessly together and are very natural to invoke and use.

Occasionally I will use the OQO's builtin Thumbstick and mouse buttons the pen navigation with Pen Flicks and Grab-and-Drag feel more natural and comfortable and frankly is faster.

Handwriting Recognition

Handwriting recognition on the OQO model 02 can be smooth and very accurate but you have to know how to set things up correctly. The most important thing to remember is that speech recognition consumes lots of processing power. The Via C7 - M is incredibly good at power management. This means it steps down processing power whenever it can. Unfortunately handwriting recognition can suffer if the Via steps down the CPU and there aren't enough CPU cycles left for the handwriting recognizer. If the OQO's processor is anywhere between sixty percent and one hundred percent handwriting recognition accuracy is good. Anything under 60% and you're likely to see handwriting recognition errors.

There are two problems that occur when the processor is running at under 60%: First, the text input panel (T IP) is slow to start recognition. If you're not expecting this, you'll begin to write but the T IP won't show your digital ink. Thinking you've done something wrong, you'll probably go back and rewrite what you thought the TIP missed. Unfortunately, the TIP did not miss what you wrote it simply was lagging. Now, as you're rewriting the T IP tries to catch up with you and you end up with a jumbled mess that is generally misrecognized as a complete non sequitur.

A similar problem can creep up in the middle of writing in the TIP. Everything may be fine until a background service or process kicks in and the TIP is left with no CPU cycles. Suddenly, you run out of digital ink and quite naturally go back and rewrite what didn't show up. Once again, the TIP catches up with you when CPU cycles become available to it and you end up with a jumbled mess.

After some experimentation I found the 60% CPU threshold is a good minimum when running on battery power. Create your own power scheme and set the maximum CPU to 60% when running on batteries. Now you can disconnect and take notes in meetings to your heart's content.

The other thing you'll want to do when you get your OQO is disable the pen buttons on your Wacom pen. Why? Because you will inadvertently hit them while writing and trigger a right click. Dreadful. I've enabled the eraser mode so I can flip the pen upside down and scrub out mistakes like I would with a pencils eraser. Call me old school but 12 years and a public school and five years at an engineering school are hard to break.

Voice Recognition

I was fortunate enough to work at Apple's Human Interface Group, a part of the Advanced Technology Group awhile back. My team focused on speech recognition and synthesis so voice recognition is something that's near and dear to my heart. Back then I had a $14,000 DEC speech synthesizer that sounded like Colossus from the Forbin project and a dedicated speaker dependent voice recognizer box that was 10 times the size of the OQO and couldn't do dictation. Man, have things changed.

The speech recognizer in Vista is superb. It requires no training (although training will dramatically improve recognition) and is speaker independent.

It's amazing sitting here with no keyboard or mouse in front of me. As I mentioned before this entire review from start to finish has been done using only voice recognition. I find voice recognition is much faster and oftentimes more accurate than handwriting recognition; which is faster and more accurate than typing on the built-in keyboard on the OQO (at least for me).

Running voice recognition on the OQO will take between sixty percent and seventy percent of the CPU. You can use voice recognition in power saver mode, when the maximum CPU is set to 50%, but you will notice a slowdown in recognition. Accuracy will not be affected.

Do not attempt to use the OQO's built in microphone for speech recognition. It simply does not have the fidelity for good recognition. Go out and buy yourself a good USB microphone and you won't be sorry. I use the logic tech USB microphone -it's good quality and doesn't look too dorky.

To show you how big of a dork I really am, I also purchased NaturalReader 2007 a speech synthesis package for Vista. The $39.00 download adds toolbars to Outlook 2007, Word 2007 and Internet Explorer Seven that allows any text in those programs to be read aloud. Not terribly useful but comes in handy I want an Email or an RSS feed read to me while I'm working on something else.

What I'm really interested in are how alternate forms of input and output can enhance the ultra mobile experience. Keyboards and mice are great when you're sitting at a desk but the whole purpose of the ultramobile platform is to be mobile -in the field, on a factory floor, in a car. In these environments voice commands and dictation and speech synthesis could provide solutions for interesting new use cases.

Imagine a mechanical engineer in the field examining an oil pipeline. As the engineer examines the pipeline she enters her notes into a special application using dictation. A special language module helps the application recognize engineering terms specific to this task. The application accepts voice commands and responds with speech synthesis. Using WWAN, the engineer can pull up specs from the home office and have the application read those specs back to her, all while she's busy physically examining the pipeline. This use case demonstrates how an ultra mobile PC like the OQO combined with speech recognition and synthesis allows the user to perform computing tasks while engaged in a completely unrelated activity. In this case the OQO conforms and adapts to the user's environment to provide desktop application and functionality where none previously existed.


The OQO Model 02 provides a wealth of alternate input mechanisms and performs all of them admirably. Its active digitizer combined with pen flicks and Grab-and-drag is a natural and intuitive way of navigating. Vista's handwriting recognition is superb and the OQO's processor has no problems keeping up provided the CPU is throttled no less than 60%. One of the most exciting alternate input mechanisms is the promise that voice recognition holds with a device like the OQO. Ultra mobility means moving about and often times neither a pen nor the OQO's built-in keyboard are ideal input devices. As speech recognition and synthesis technologies advance it will be interesting to see the new use cases that arise out of ultramobile platforms like the OQO in the field.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

OQO Model 02 Review Part 1: Form Factor

Dimension and volume

  • OQO is the definition of "ultra-mobile"

The OQO model 02 is quite compact and small. It is less than half the size of my Samsung Q1 P and weighs about 50% less. This means the unit can be picked up as quickly as a mobile phone as you're heading out of the house. The OQO's size is one of the main reasons why I purchased the unit and I'm happy to say I'm actually carrying it around with me almost everywhere I go.

Is the OQO's ultra-mobility useful?

You bet. Here's an example of how size matters. The other day, I was called into an impromptu meeting. We met in an office where there was no network connectivity. There were 4 other people in the meeting, none of whom brought their laptops. During one part of the meeting we were reviewing a bug list for a software product. All of us were given printouts. The printouts did not contain all the needed information. Normally, the meeting would have adjourned but because I had my OQO with Sprint, I was able to log onto the VPN and bring up the detailed bug reports from the website. We breezed through the bugs, completed business and adjourned.

The fact of the matter is that people prefer not to carry around their laptops. They like to transport them from home and work and then back again but generally, once a laptop is docked, it stays docked until the next transport. My experience has been that the OQO's size makes it more likely for me carry it around at all times and that is when interesting use cases come up.

Construction quality

  • Quality craftsmanship
  • Solid and durable

The unit feels solid and durable. There is a high-quality of craftsmanship throughout - no cheap plastic here. The unit is tight. Gaps and tolerances are amazingly fine and consistent. The sliding mechanism on the screen just feels great. The magnesium alloy body hides scratches and blemishes very well. The screen comes with a pre installed screen protector, which is a nice touch. There are nice touches all around: from the elegantly designed cooling grids to the noticeable lack of "VIA Inside" , "Genuine Windows Vista" and "Windows Vista product key" stickers.


  • Large and bright
  • Extremely readable
  • Flush with no extraneous controls around screen
  • Very satisfying screen movement

I've gotta talk about the OQO's screen. I was skeptical about its size and quality even after reading rave reviews about the screen. I was coming from a 7 inch screen on the Samsung Q1P and that's a nice screen size. But surprisingly the 5 inch screen on the OQO's simply looks exceptional. It is bright and extremely readable. It's clear that you're dealing with a premium LCD screen. While text is naturally smaller on the 5 inch screen compared with 7 inch screen I can still comfortably read web pages with the OQO sitting on my lap.

Here's the second biggest reason why I bought the OQO: it sports a flush screen with no extraneous controls to disrupt handwriting. This means you have an exceptionally smooth and uncluttered surface on which to write which is critical in pen computing. One of the biggest problems I have with my Samsung Q1 P is its bevel and its pseudo joystick on the left. Being a left hander, I find myself hitting the pseudo joystick in the middle of writing and moving the cursor to a new insertion point or form field. This is not a problem on the OQO. Writing on the OQO is smooth, silky and just like writing on a 5 inch notepad.

The OQO sports an active digitizer versus a passive (a.k.a. touch screen) digitizer like the Q1P. I would take the active digitizer over the touch screen any day. If you pen a lot, you'll appreciate the active digitizer on the OQO. You can rest you hand on the screen without worrying about vectoring. This is more natural and comfortable during longer periods of note taking.

No integrated stands

  • No notebook mode

One thing I really like about my Samsung Q1p are the two stands integrated into the back of the unit. Samsung designed them in a way where they do not add any additional depth to the unit. There is an 80° stand for working with the Q1P as a notebook and a 20° stand for working in pen mode. In 20° mode, the Q1 lays almost flat on a desk but is propped up just slightly to make it easier to jot down notes. Perfect for meetings.

I don't find much need for a 20° stand on the OQO . Simply lay the unit down on a flat surface and write on it. It's no different than writing on a 5-inch note pad.

Would a 80° stand be useful for OQO? Yes. Without the dock, there is no easy way to use the OQO in notebook mode. You can carry around a cheap book stand (the kind found in Barnes and Noble) or you can purchase the Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard which has a stand that attaches to the keyboard. Either way, it's just another something to lose.

No integrated pen holder

  • Full-sized pen is easy to hold
  • The belt clip case does have a pen holder

Some people have a problem with the Tablet and Vista versions of the OQO not having an integrated pen holder. However, here's the tradeoff: The OQO's pen is a real pen, not a tiny, toothpick-like stylus. The designers at OQO could have integrated a slot for a tiny stylus but I think their decision not to is the right one. Having used the tiny stylus on the Samsung Q1, I can tell you writing with a full sized pen feels better. It is has better ergonomics and I tire less quickly. I would take a full sized pen over a pen holder. Besides, the belt clip case does have a pen holder and I believe this case ships with the XP Tablet PC edition of the OQO.


  • Easy, even natural to hold in portrait mode
  • Not-so-easy to hold in landscape mode (pen mode)
  • Difficult to hold when the power supply is connected
  • Nice keyboard and track stick

Most of the time I use the unit docked. When I do undock it, I generally use the pen as my primary mode of input and not the keyboard. This is faster and more comfortable for me.

I generally ink in portrait mode. I find the OQO's form factor ideal for portrait mode. I can easily hold the unit in one hand like a note pad and write with the other. In 800x480 mode, I have plenty of vertical space and Vista's auto-expanding TIP uses all that space as I need it. I never feel cramped and the bright, readable screen is easy on the eyes.

The vent placements also work for me. Holding the unit in my right hand, my thumb only partially covers the long intake on the right side. The exhaust vent on the left side is above my grip and so I never feel the exhaust.

Weight distribution in portrait mode is great. My hand does not tire and I do not feel a need to shift my grip.

Note taking in landscape mode is not as easy. The OQO's weight distribution makes it difficult to find a comfortable place to grip. There is no affordance on the unit to facilitate holding. While straight, clean lines are pretty and all, they are not ideal from an ergonomic standpoint.

Still, it is easier to hold the OQO in one hand than a larger 7 inch device. Larger devices have more weight hanging out beyond your grip which can create an uncomfortable leverage point on your wrist. This is not really a problem on the OQO.

There's been a lot of talk about the keyboard on the OQO - mainly praise for its improvements over the model 01. Having never used a model 01's keyboard I cannot attest to that. However, I can say that the quality of craftsmanship on the keyboard and thumbstick are superb. Truthfully, I hardly use the keyboard except for passwords and to change the screen brightness.

Speaking of screen brightness, it would have been nice if OQO included an on-screen menu to control commonly used functions like screen brightness and volume. The Samsung Q1 has such a menu that is easily accessible and I use it a lot. OQO, you listening?

Fan noise

  • Definitely noticeable
  • Only revs up when needed
  • Quiets down quickly
  • Can be managed

Let's face it: the law of thermodynamics is not working in the OQO's favor. Heat drops off by a power of 3, the further it moves out from its source. A small increase in this distance results in a significant reduction in heat. Conversely, a small decrease in the distance results in a significant increase in heat. While the VIA process is amazingly efficient (the C7-M has a maximum thermal design power (TDP) rating of something like 10 watts), its diminutive size confines even that little bit of heat into a very small space. Heat builds up quickly and so a fan is needed to push it out of the unit.

In any case, enough of basic thermodynamics. We're talking UMPCs here. The bottom line is this: The OQO is noisier than I would like. It is noisier than the Samsung Q1 by quite a bit. However, I am willing to live with it.

Firstly, the fan only revs up when needed. The moment the OQO can turn it down, it does. This results in brief bursts of higher fan speeds, usually when opening an application or when visiting (no kidding. Cnet needs to optimize their site. All that Flash and heavy DHTML consumes cpu cycles. Multiple those cpu cycles by the TDP of those processors times the number of people visiting Cnet and you get a lot of wasted wattage which is bad on the environment).

Anyways, I digress. The point is that the fan noise is not that bad really. Additionally, OQO has provided a nifty control panel that let's you adjust the fan for either performance (more noise) or silence (less performance). Find the value that's right for you. What I do is keep the slider right in the middle and then use Vista's power management to throttle back the cpu. When I really want it quiet, I go into Power Saver mode which throttles the cpu back to 50% and hushes the OQO down pretty quickly.


The OQO's form factor is ideal for my needs. It is small enough to carry around like a PDA but has a large enough screen to be readable and useful. Quality and craftsmanship are high. You would expect this given the premium price of the OQO. While the integrated keyboard is much improved over the model 01, I find inking more natural. Inking in portrait mode is the best I have seen. It's form factor is ideal for this. Fan noise can be a problem but generally the OQO does a good job of minimizing the amount of time the fan stays revved up. User control of the fan is a nice touch.

In Part Two of this review, I will dive into inking and using the OQO as a pen tablet.