If you’ve been wondering why it’s been a but quiet around UMPCPortal for the last week, you might not have noticed that I’ve been working over at the MIDMoves project. Myself and three others have been playing with MIDs and have left a good trail of articles and media. Check them out if you haven’t already done so and keep watching as there are other events underway and planned for next week.
One of the highlights for me was having the newly announced OQO Model 2+ in my hands for an extended period. It really hits the mark as far as a ultra mobile PC is concerned, offering not only hand-portability but desktop capability too. It’s no exaggeration to say that the OQO and it’s peripherals offer one of the most productive desk-to-hand options I’ve ever seen.
During the week I’ve done some battery life tests and screen drain tests. I’ve tested the keyboard, used it as a desktop, used it mobile with the 3G connection and even tested it out in various pockets. It’s about time, now that I’ve handed the OQO over to Nicole for testing, that I make a summary of my experiences.
First of all, I need to mention that the OQO 2+ we have at MIDMoves is a dev sample that was used at CES. It’s not a final production sample and therefore it’s impossible to talk about battery life, noise and heat with any degree of accuracy. I have been a little disappointed that the device wouldn’t reach 3hrs online on a single charge but I also get the feeling, after looking at detail at power drain on various components, that there’s another 10-20% to be squeezed out of the device. That’s just a feeling based on experience but if it’s right, it would mean that 3hrs online can easily be achieved and for me, that’s an important landmark. The same goes for heat and noise. The version I had was a little warm and noisy but if 20% could be cut from the power drain then the fan and warmth would be well within acceptable levels for me.
I had the 1.8Ghz OLED screen version of the OQO 2+ with the 64GB SSD. It was running Vista and at 1.8Ghz it performed extremely well. I used it as a desktop with the stylish docking station and an external 1400×900 monitor and the fact that it was a ultra mobile PC was almost transparent in my usage scenario which includes multiple Firefox tabs and maybe 5 or 6 other programs running at the same time. Startup times were, relative to other Vista/ultra mobile PC solutions I’ve tested, very good although I still cant help thinking that XP would have been more productive. I generally need an OS to host Firefox and a few other app’s in the most efficient way possible so cutting the background processes in half, memory requirement to to 1GB levels and reducing background disk activity seems sensible to me.
The screen was quite amazing. In terms of brightness it wasn’t much better than other solutions I’ve seen but side-by-side with the Wibrain which has an amazing LED-backlit screen, you can see some contrast advantages. I doubt many people would worry about that difference but the other two advantages of OLED are definitely worth having. Firstly, the viewing angle is near 100% in every direction. Secondly, the screen power consumption is proportional to the amount of white on the screen which means you can tailor colours to improve battery life. At full brightness on a white screen it took no more power than a normal LED screen but with a good percentage of the screen dark, the power consumption was extremely low. Considering that most web pages are based on a white background, the OLED might not bring that great a power advantage but as it’s no worse than anything else I’ve tested, it only has advantages. One specification that I found annoying though was the 800×480 screen size. It really felt like a step backwards for me as I’ve got used to 1024×600 on a 4.8″ screen. Sure, you have to pump up Firefox to 120% magnification to make a bit more comfortable for reading but it means that fonts are super sharp and importantly, nearly all notification boxes fit on the screen. 800×480 means you have to use the +/- buttons and switch in and out of the interpolated 1024×600 mode. While not bad, it’s a bit of a pain when you’re used to higher resolutions.
The touchscreen was slightly heavier than on many other devices I’ve tested and I would put it right in the middle between the HTC Shift, one of the lightest touch screens I’ve tested, and the ASUS R2H, one of the ‘heaviest’ touchscreens I’ve tested. Playing around with the sensitivity didn’t seem to make much difference to me though so maybe that’s something that needs to be finished for the final version. Even so, it wasn’t bad for a finger and might even be interesting for those that want to make notes with a stylus.
Video performance on the OQO was the best I’ve seen on a ultra mobile PC yet. I’ve seen 16mbps H.264play on a Kohjinsha SC3 with no problems before but I’ve never seen HD WMV play back with such a low CPU load. Cyberlink DVD 7 was installed and maybe there were some driver tweaks but if that’s the way they deliver it then it’s fine by me. Test files all played back through Windows Media player. The HDMI-out port will make it an interesting portable HD theatre option. [Note: The Poulsbo chipset includes hardware video decoding for common codecs]
The keyboard is the same as you find on the current OQO 02 and as many people already know, it’s a high quality part. Learning curve is quick and error rate is low. Sticky shift, fn and ctrl keys help a lot and the mouse pointer is easy to get used to. Not quite as accurate as the big mouse pad on the Wibrain but when you consider the layout, you can see why the pad wasn’t used. My only gripe about the keyboard is they they’ve kept the ‘office’ layout and separated the numerics onto a numeric keypad. This offsets the keyboard to the left and after extended thumbing I was feeling an ache in my right hand. I hadnt experienced it when I tested the OQO E2 last year though so maybe it was just a matter of changing from the Wibrain that i’ve been using a lot, to this new layout that meant my hands needed to get used to it for a few more days.
It was a bit surprising that there was no SD on the OQO. Again, this could be due to OQO targeting an ‘office’ environment where SD cards (and cameras) often aren’t welcome but I bet there will be some digital photographers that are looking at the OQO thinking that it would be perfect if it it had an SD slot. USB fixes the problem but I always end up forgetting a cable or adaptor at some point or another.
I’m not sure how much the version I had would retail for. It looks like it’s in the region of $2000 which is NOT cheap. If you were to replace the SSD with a HDD then you’d save $600+ dollars but you’d be in a difficult position with Vista. HDD and XP would pair well together though. As for 3G, it’s a tough call. The built-in option is about $170 but you get a global standard modem (EVDO, GSM and UMTS supported) and you get it built in which means its always there. I would take it and I think most people looking at the OQO as a truly mobile device would take the option too. As for processing power, you would have to think carefully about usage. If you wanted it to be a desktop-capable device you’d have to go for the 1.8Ghz option. If you just want a mobile device for web use then the 1.3Ghz HDD version would be OK and with an added 3G module, that’s the one I would personally choose from the range.
Overall the OQO 2+ is an all-round improvement over the previous version and as a UMPC, it’s still one of the best.
The OQO has been handed over to Nicole now and she’s going to be using it at DLD in Munich for the next week. Keep an eye on MIDMoves for impressions from a web professional who’s probably not as concerned with the specs as I am.