Honey, I shrunk the computer

OQO’s model 01+ packs more technology into smaller handheld computer

Computer makers have been trying for years to put more functions into smaller packages with mixed results. The model 01+ from OQO, however, represents a real breakthrough in portable computer technology. It’s not much bigger than an average personal digital assistant, but it runs a full version of Microsoft Windows XP.

In addition, you can order it with Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and use the model 01+ as a miniature tablet PC.

The system measures 4.9 inches x 3.4 inches x 0.9 inches and weighs 14 ounces. It can fit into a shirt pocket, but because of its weight and thickness, you wouldn’t want to carry it in one for long.

The screen display takes advantage of most of the space available, measuring 5 inches diagonally and 2.75 inches high. The size makes content easy to read, and the generous width means that minimal horizontal scrolling, if any, is required when viewing Web sites.

As with most tablet PCs, the screen is digitized and requires a digital pen to receive input.

The display’s 800 x 480 resolution is surprisingly clear and viewable outdoors. Unfortunately the viewing angles are narrow, so you can’t tilt the unit too far in any direction. Also, when you use the digital pen to tap on the screen, the liquid crystals form a noticeable ripple.

The screen slides upward to reveal a thumb keyboard that is larger and easier to use than those on PDAs, with more space between the keys and a separate numeric keypad.

We loved the inclusion of a trackpoint navigation system designed for easy use while holding the device in your hands. Also, a thumbwheel located on the bottom of the unit can be used for vertical and horizontal scrolling, and volume control. Double-clicking the wheel displays an interface that lets you toggle among applications.

When working at your desk, you can place the model 01+ on its stand and operate it easily. The stand allows room for connecting the power cord so that the unit can charge as you use it.

If you’re not a power user, you could employ the model 01+ as your only computer. It comes with a 1 GHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, 512M of memory and a 30G hard drive. The hard drive is about half the size of one in a typical laptop PC, but the processor speed and memory are similar to today’s average laptop specifications.

You can connect an external monitor, keyboard and mouse when working at your desk by using the included clever — and portable — docking cable. You can also connect an external optical drive via a USB or FireWire port. The long cable features the various port connectors, including Ethernet, at regular intervals along its length.

We were surprised and impressed with the product’s performance, especially when connected to our wireless network using the integrated 802.11b connectivity. The video quality was similar to that of a TV’s, and surfing the Web was on par with desktop PC speeds.

The battery is a removable slice on the back of the unit that has a handy external fuel gauge. It’s rated at two to three hours of life, and a thicker battery rated at four to six hours of life will be available later.

The lack of a keyboard continues to be an issue for small, portable computers such as this one, but you can buy foldable, stowaway keyboards. Think Outside makes a Bluetooth stowaway keyboard that costs $149.

The model 01+ might be small, but it will make a fairly big dent in your wallet. Nonetheless, there isn’t much to dislike about OQO’s product. We acknowledge that we suspected it was a gimmick at first, but our tests revealed a surprising level of functionality and ease of use. It’s clear the designers gave a great deal of thought to how this computer would be used in the real world.

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