By February 26, 2008

OQO Model e2 review

OQOs e2, the future of portable computing?

The 10 second review:

Device: OQO Model e2
Cost: from £909 to £1400
Available from: eXpansys
Summary: A good looking, powerful, UMPC. A credible notebook replacement

Best of: You can leave your notebook at home, no really you can.
Worst Of: Well nothing really, being really picky you could say it’s a bit too heavy for the pocket with the extended battery
Ho hum: Style marring 3G whip aerial, thumb keyboard a bit fiddly

OQO Model e2

OQO Model e2

OQO revealed the Model 01 back in 2005 to great reviews and I can remember lusting after it at the time. I was really quite excited when the postie arrived with the package that contained OQO’s latest model e2, complete with its docking station.

There are a couple of limitations in this review as the review device we’ve been sent was not quite the latest incarnation of the Model e2 as it came with Windows XP pro rather than XP tablet edition or Vista installed. There are a few other enhancements you can add but more of this later.

The Full Review:

Ultra mobile computing has been a fascination of mine for a while, my old Toshiba Libretto 50CT was one of the first sub notebooks and its always been a favourite, very portable but now far too under specified to be of any real use apart from geek bragging rights. For the first time since using the Libretto I’ve found a device that is as equally portable and sufficiently powerful to compare it to its larger contemporaries.

Environment

I set out to use the Model e2 as a fully fledged notebook replacement for a full working week; it was a typical week for me a couple of days working from home on client proposals, a couple of days on customer site and a day in the office. My regular kit bag was otherwise the same Windows Mobile Smartphone for email triage and quick calendar and a pen and pad for note taking. I’d hoped to use the OQO to take notes using Microsoft OneNote in meetings, which is a real UMPC benefit but the review device had XP pro onboard which prevented this, I did however put the powered up unit on the table, to assess how obtrusive the noise it generates is.

OQO Model e2 Specification:

  • Up to 1.6GHz VIA C7-M CPU
  • Up to 120GB HDD and available 32GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Up to 1.0GB DDR2 SDRAM
  • Integrated WiFi 802.11a/b/g with diversity and Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR
  • Ergonomic illuminated thumb keyboard
  • Ultra bright 5” (127mm) 800×480 display with zooming up to 1200×720 interpolated mode
  • Windows® XP Professional, XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, or Windows Vista®
  • Handheld form factor at 142mm x 84mm x 26mm and only 454 grams
  • UK keyboard with Pound Sterling, Euro, and Japanese Yen shortcut keys
  • Up to 6 hours of continuous usage and 3 days of standby time with extended battery
OQO Model e2

The e2 as supplied was almost the top of the range model, a 1.6 GHz VIA CPU, 1 Gbyte DDR2 SDRAM, 120 Gbyte, drop detect shock mounted HDD. The review device was fitted with the HSDPA option so Connectivity is 802.11a/b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2, and ‘mobile broadband’ it’s unclear as to which variant of HSDPA is supported but I was getting reasonable performance. Windows XP pro was the OS of choice.

You can now get the e2 with vista Ultimate or Business installed and the latest offering from OQO is the inclusion of a solid state drive of either 32 Gb ( add about £300 to the cost ) or 64 Gb with a sunlight optimised display (add about £700). The e2 is also available in the states with embedded WIMAX a novelty for most of us today but a taste of the future.

I’m not sure how the OQO would cope with Vista’s demands, the Gbyte of RAM is below recommended levels and I’d be intrigued to see the device in action, a comparable notebook of mine runs vista in XP mode (all the prettiness turned off) without too much difficulty.

Pricing
The e2 can be yours with the 1.5 GHz CPU, 60 Gb HDD and Vista Business for about £850, add about £15 to get XP. The 1.6 GHz model starts at about £1000 with the top pf the range 1.6 GHz, 64 Gbyte SSD sunlight optimised display version just squeezing in under £2000.

Highlights:

  • A credible notebook replacement: the e2 easily replaced my HP notebook, was way more portable and is a whole order of magnitude sexier.
  • Connectivity: the e2 supports 3G, 802.11g & Bluetooth WIMAX is available in the states so you truly have connectivity on the move.
  • Size: it’s tiny; with the standard battery you can fit the e2 into a jacket pocket.
  • Performance: the OQO is up to the job for most tasks, there were a couple of hiccups, Groove takes a while to sync up but apart from that the e2 flies

No Lights:

  • Thumbpad: notwithstanding the fact that OQO call the thumbpad a thumbpad and it’s a good thumbpad, I’d prefer a keyboard I could touch type on it’s the only real disappointment with the e2 for me (and it’s a personal opinion). I got round it using a separate Bluetooth peripheral but that’s more stuff for the kitbag. Tablet handwriting recognition would help but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to try it out.
  • Wireless Application: frankly it’s a bit of a pain to set up and grumbles in conjunction with the XP zero configuration wireless service but once up and running it’s OK
  • 3G Performance: the SIM holder is perched on the back of the device, not recessed and there seemed to be occasional problems with the SIM connection in the review device once or twice the battery had to come off to wiggle the SIM to get the wireless app. to recognise it was installed. The e2 is supposed to support up to 3.6 Mbits 3G but I was never able to take advantage of it.

Lowlights:

  • Nothing: really Nothing!

REVIEW

First impressions were great, unboxing the device was a pleasure, you can ignore this bit if you want to skip to my impressions of the device itself however the presentation of the unit and the docking station in their boxes was excellent.

I’ve revealed my shallowness before and there is no point hiding the fact that when I shell out a chunk of money on a device my eco warrior credentials slip and I like to see packaging that reflects the fact that I’ve exchanged several hundred pounds for a piece of technology.

Packaging can play a big part of avoiding the technology disillusionment that can hit you when you hold your latest gizmo in your hand. Apple are absolute masters of great packaging and although it may seem a little facile, great packaging demonstrates consideration of the customer experience from end to end which is essential no matter what solution you are providing.

The device

Fantastic is the word that springs to mind when describing many of the attributes of the e2 build quality is fantastic, size is fantastic, performance is fantastic, styling is fantastic, the form factor is mostly fantastic.

The device looks great, glossy black, a great 5” WVGA screen, not touch sensitive but tablet capable with the OQO pen which costs around £20.

OQO Model e2 closed

OQO Model e2 closed

Closed it’s about the size of a small notepad with thumbpad exposed its a little larger but still easily hand portable,

The thumbpad is very positive, well implemented, and ergonomically pleasing but remember OQO are being honest when calling it a Thumbpad. The thumbpad is QWERTY with other characters accessible by the function key and has a separate number pad, for sending a short email or quickly editing a document it’s spot on, for more extensive documents it’s not brilliant but adequate in an emergency.

OQO Model e2 keyboard

OQO Model e2 keypad

The mouse nipple falls readily under the right thumb and the left and right mouse buttons under left thumb, you can whiz the pointer around the screen really easily. Function, Ctrl, Alt and shift, are sticky keys with a handy LED next to the key to notify you that they are activated.

The pad has the same layout as other OQO models and does the job well, however I found the keys a little small for my liking, personally I’d prefer relocating the number keys onto the main keyboard and having slightly larger regular keys that said it’s a thumbpad.

Layout Is logical, power, battery release and Kensington lock port to the left

OQO Model e2 left side

OQO Model e2 left side

3G whip aerial to the right, you can also see the battery charge indicator on the main body of the battery on the bottom right of this shot, another nice touch, it works independently of the main power and on a disconnected battery so you can quickly press it and get an LED indication of remaining charge in your spare batteries.

OQO Model e2 right side

OQO Model e2 right side

HDMI adapter port, docking station/ Ethernet adapter port and USB2 port to the bottom

OQO Model e2 bottom

OQO Model e2 bottom

Size wise the OQO is definitely a hand portable device; pocketable (with the standard battery, a bit of a struggle with the extended battery) you can carry the standard device in a suit pocket without too much difficulty.

There are some very pleasant visual design cues, fancy grilles for the fan outlets the touch sensitive scroll bars next to the bottom right of the screen are perfectly placed.

Operation

The e2 seems to be pretty responsive regular applications (OpenOffice, Outlook, OneNote) run well without glitches, as I mentioned above Groove took a while to synchronise and there was the occasional momentary hang when switching applications however for its size the e2 is brilliant. It doesn’t run too hot either as the device seems to be well vented.

I had the e2 running for over two hours on the standard and over four hours on the extended battery with WiFi in use and Bluetooth for an external keyboard, this is pretty impressive for a full XP device, again Vista might make a difference to this, but with both batteries to hand you can get a full working day out of the device without recharging.

I couldn’t test out the use of the e2 as a tablet, however I did have the device on and on the table in couple of meetings, apart from the interest this elicited the e2 runs silently enough so as not to be obtrusive, if you’re a OneNote fan as I am you really could use the e2 in meetings.

Configuration

The OQO is great, the device is very well put together and well thought out, the inclusion of a USB port on the main body of the unit is a real boon there’s always a tendency to leave these on the docking station to save space but it’s a real pain when you want to transfer files in these post floppy days.

The supplied power adapter is compact and easily portable, the package as a whole, with the VGA adapter is easy to slip into small bag and take with you, and if you were to decide to take the docking station with you as well you’d still end up with a package that’s smaller than the average notebook.

My one reservation is that the SIM holder is a bit exposed and it seems that the SIM occasionally gets disconnected if you move the device too violently.

OQO Model e2 SIM card slot

OQO Model e2 SIM card slot

Look and Feel

We’re talking good old Windows XP and not a great deal to add to this really, it’s familiar and reliable and does the job.

Applications

The standard bundle is pretty light, you get full XP pro or Vista but there’s no Microsoft Office, there are a handful of OQO specific applications but nothing that adds a great deal, as a consumer to be honest I’d have liked to have seen Office here, as a corporate user I suppose there’s a good change office is already licensed within the business. There’s always OpenOffice which runs like a dream.

Peripherals

Docking station, with built in CD or DVD recorder, it retains the visual styling of the e2 and

OQO Model e2 docking station sockets

OQO Model e2 docking station sockets

Provides plenty of ports, the e2 looks really good when docked and if you’ve embraced the benefits of dual monitors you can make use of LCD and e2 screen at the same time.

OQO Model e2 docked

OQO Model e2 docked

The docking station is really compact so you could, if you wished, carry it with you to provide full notebook facilities.

There’s also a capacitive pen for use with table edition for about £20 you can use the e2 screen as a touch screen and take advantage of the handwriting recognition

Overall Assessment

I can’t stress it enough, the e2 is really a mini notebook, with the docking station and pen you get a fully featured tablet and with the new SSD options you should experience next gen mobile computing faster boot and better battery life. If it weren’t for the imminent arrival of the HTC shift I’d be tempted to shell out on one myself, I may yet do so.

Review by: Alasdair

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Posted in: Laptops, Reviews
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About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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