OQO - overhyped or underdog?

Everything about the OQO UMPC series
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OQO - overhyped or underdog?

Post by Kyodai »

The OQO has an incredibly big fanbase. But after all the years I am looking back to the OQO models with a more critical eye.

When the Model 01 came out it was impressive regarding the size and design. From the specs this was not really a killer - but remember - this was in 2004. Most notably the slow ethernet, low res screen, USB 1.1, missing speaker, weak touchscreen precision and slow processor were critizised. The lack of interpolation made working with the low resolution nearly impossible for some applications, even though there was a "scrolling mode" with some higher resolutions available. Some also complained about the chiclet type non-backlit keyboard - however that seemed to be the best solution at this size and in later years we had seen worse as history shows. What people heavily overlooked when critizising the processor was that the Transmeta Crusoe - even if slower than comparable x86 1GHz mobile processors - was by far the most power saving processor regarding "Instructions per Watt". So even if the 1GHz Crusoe rather performed like a 600 MHz Intel it consumed by far less power than a 600 MHz Intel. In my eyes the worst flaw was the high price of the Model 01 - at 2000 USD it was simply too expensive to buy as a "toy" for most normal "geeks". In 2004 you could have bought 2 Toshiba satellite notebooks for 200 USD. The latest Macbook Pro started at around 1600 USD. So 2000 dollar was quite a lot.

OQO heard the critizism and delivered. The OQO 01+ - released in 2005 - had faster ethernet, 512MB RAM, a bigger hdd, built-in speaker, better touchscreen and USB 2.0. The pricing did however not improve much - at around 1900 USD for the cheapest edition it was still too expensive as a "toy".

In 2007 there were finally some competitors on the market for UMPCs and OQO released their much praised Model 02. While it was even smaller and featured a backlit keyboard, faster wifi, optional 3G, SSD and 1 GB of RAM - the choice of processor - the VIA C7-M was rather a step back energy wise. Also the 800x480 resolution display felt really outdated. At least the latest driver was able to interpolate higher screen resolutions. While technically some options (SSD, 3G) and specs (1 GB RAM) were still better than most of the competition and size wise it was still the most impressive itw as clear that much competition was on the way. The VIA C7-M had a sluggish performance and ate up the battery pretty fast. The Sony UX series was released a year earlier and while the UX is considerably thicker and a tad bigger it was much more impressive from nearly every point of view. The Sony had 2 webcams, a fingerprint reader, a much higher resolution screen (1024 x 600 vs. 800 x 480) and a much faster processor while having a battery lasting more than double the time of the OQO. Pricing of the OQO was between 1300 USD and 2500 USD depending on CPU, RAM and SSD options.

In the end there were still loads of users buying the OQO model 02 for it's small footprint - but not enough to save OQO from the financial collapse. In 2009 they went bankrupt - before they were able to deliver the promised 02+ model which was supposed to have an Intel Atom processor.

After all is said and done the OQO model 02 is still a pretty small UMPC with nice features. If you get it cheap and you can live with very short battery life and sluggish performance it may still make it into your list of favorite UMPCs...

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