An ultra-mobile PCs is a full PC in a nearly pocket-size unit. OQO, founded in 2000 by ex-Apple engineers, is the most distinctive of the ultra-mobile PC makers, producing over the years a series of increasingly gorgeous-looking devices, leading up to the e2, a European model with HSDPA mobile broadband, that has the potential to be a really mobile networked PC.
The OQO 01 had good reviews and, following decent sales from online stores here, the company launched a Europan version of its next model - the e2 - in late 2007, followed swiftly by an HSDPA-enabled version, which can get up to 3.6 Mbit/s from cellular networks.
At the moment, the e2 is only available in Europe, with a typical model costing around £1200, including 1.6GHz processor, 1G of RAM and 120G hard drive, as well as 802.11abg Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Model 01+ is still available at around £400 inc VAT (with a 1GHz processor, 500M RAM and 30G hard drive, 802.11b and Bluetooth) - but this lacks HSDPA and other new features.
I took the e2 for a spin over Christmas and the New Year, with my daughters helping checkint it out on Wi-Fi and cellular data.
Whatever else the OQO e2 has, it has lashings of style. It's designed to generate iPod-like love and envy, from the plain black box it arrives in, to the sturdy matt black aluminium case and luxurious 5 inch screen, which has a native resolution of 800 x 480.
The device has the minimum of slots and buttons, and several very nice touches. Four white LEDs on the battery indicate the charge level when pressed, and flash during charging to indicate the current level of charge. There is also a thicker battery that lasts longer than the pretty-accurate quoted three hours of the normal battery.
Other items on the sides include a docking/power connector, HDMI connector (it can drive an external screen at up at 1920 x 1200), a headphone socket, a single USB slot and a slot for a Kensington lock.
The screen slides to one side to reveal a keyboard which makes good use of multiple functions on each key - but is not big enough for touch typing. It's designed for use with two thumbs.
Overall, it weighs about 450g or 1lb, with the standard battery.
It may be stark and simple, but the OQO has options. The HSDPA version comes with Vista or XP Pro, and hard drives from 60 Gbyte to 120 Gbyte, or a 32 Gbyte solid-state drive, with prices ranging from £1175 for a 60G hard drive version up to £1558 for the 32G SSD, each with XP Pro or Vista Business and HSDPA.
Other OQO versions are available with XP Tablet, but OQO doesn't currently ship that OS on the HSDPA version, because there is less demand for that operating system. Many users may miss the fact that the OQO has an active digitiser screen, since it only responds to a special pen, which OQO doesn't ship as standard, since most users don't use it, and the rest would complain about paying for something they didn't need.
Digitiser pens are available for around £18, and might be worth buying if you want to use the machine closed up, as both Vista and XP will respond to it.
Al models also have two capacitive scroll bars, that respond to a finger touch, to navigate within windows.
The OQO has docking options, including a lovely looking docking station (£160) - which supports the device on a metal arm that puts it at a good height to work on a desk, and holds a slot-loading DVD drive. The station weighs about 590g, but on the road, it's probably easier to carry the port replicator which packs an Ethernet port and video connector to drive the screen.