Problems in OQO-land


Oqo_model_01_1 There is little doubt the OQO is one of the most anticipated computers to come around.  This little jewel of a device has been talked about, anticipated and lusted over for a long time.  The only gadget I can think of that has been discussed longer than the OQO is the Vulcan FlipStart, which won’t make its appearance until some time next year, most likely.  A lot of professional reviews have already been published covering the OQO and they certainly give a mixed impression.

The first OQOs have started appearing in customer’s hands the last couple of weeks and  I have been following a number of discussions in the OQO forums on where most of the new OQO owners hang out to get some of their first impressions.  What I am seeing is somewhat troubling to me, although perhaps it is to be expected for a first production run.  One thing that everyone seems to agree about is the small size.  New owners are very happy with the very small size of the device which is to be expected given the specs of the ultra-portable computer.  Other feedback however, is not so positive and I am hearing complaints about a number of recurring problems that might be very serious.  Some of these problems are already appearing in the OQO Knowledge Base which indicates they may be more widespread than indicated so far.  The truth is not many customers have received their devices from OQO yet and from what I am seeing  this may become big very fast if OQO doesn’t address them quickly.

One of the unique features of the OQO is the touch screen utilizing an active digitizer, similar to those found on Tablet PCs.  This touch screen makes it possible to work with the computer solely with the included pen, and should be perfect for entering text with a third party handwriting recognition program.  I have seen a number of new owners complaining that the screen calibration is not very accurate, and in fact is almost unusable towards the edges of the screen.  One user has stated he has stopped using the pen altogether as the accuracy makes it almost impossible to use, even as a mouse, and recalibrating the screen does not make the problem go away.  This effect was actually mentioned months ago about a preproduction unit being demonstrated at CeBIT earlier this year.  It is beginning to sound like OQO did not resolve the problems with the touch screen and if that is the case this will be very expensive to repair.  My concern is that OQO cannot resolve this touchscreen calibration problem since it’s been around for a very long time and affected units are now shipping.  I hope I am wrong about that.

Several owners have commented on a very annoying high pitched whine coming from the fan that keeps the OQO cool.  Keeping the little computer cool is extremely important as many reviewers have commented on the heat the unit generates.  I have seen the OQO referred to as a "hand warmer" on more than one occasion which gives me pause to wonder.  It appears that some of the UPCs have fans that are loud enough to interfere with audio playback and OQO will need to rectify this pretty quickly or I expect there will be quite a few units returned for repairs.

Oqo_1 The OQO has integrated WiFi (802.11b) which is essential for a portable device like this.  Surprisingly a number of new owners are commenting on a weak WiFi signal that has a surprisingly limited range.  There are active discussions on one forum about connecting an external antenna to provide a normal range.  This phenomenon may explain why OQO actually put an external WiFi antenna jack on the bottom of the unit.  This is the first device of any type that I have heard of complaints about WiFi radio strength from so many owners.  Some users are speculating that wireless connection reliability can be impacted by how they hold the OQO in the hand.  If this is true I would consider this to be a tremendous design flaw for a device intended to be the most portable Windows XP computer ever designed.

All new gadgets as innovative as the OQO are prone to having glitches here and there in the first production run but these problems are very severe in my opinion and are cropping up in such numbers to make me concerned about the reliability of this UPC. As everyone knows I am a big fan of the UPC genre and I really want the OQO to succeed so I hope they can get these problems fixed soon. I do not have access to an OQO to test it so I can only go by the discussions I am seeing on public forums so if you have an OQO and have insights to share about performance in these areas please feel free to add your comments.



Does anyone know OQO’s phone number. Not for their office in San Francisco, but in Boston.



Mark Russell

“UPDATE: apparently the Blue Screen errors on some OQOs are due to the fall detection that parks the hard drive. Moving the OQO around on some units triggers the hard drive shut down. Once Windows loses the system hard drive in mid-action it’s lights out. OQO will have to fix this pretty quickly as it makes a device intended to be mobile very unstable.”

My laptop has this exact problem. Does anyone know of a solution for it? thanks

Frank Hoen

I’ve got an OQO as well and boy, is it pretty and cool! And with the Wifi problems currently fixed, I’m quite happy with it.

True, the tablet/pen feature is near useless and it should have more memory, larger CPU. I’m especially missing a phone, so it could replace my Qtek 9090. But all-and-all it remains a remarkable usable piece of kit.


tried it in my front jeans pocket for a while but it’s a little too much bulk weighing my pants down without a belt. and if i have to wear a belt then i might as well wear a case. currently using it with the compaq case that came with the original ipaq pocket pc. that model had a pcmcia sleeve adapter that doubled the size to that of the oqo, so the case fits perfectly. it has a fixed belt loop, and also a velcro loop so that you can detach it quickly. the front is a flip top velcro. anybody know of any other belt cases that are a good snug fit for the oqo?


Regardless of all of the issues, the OQO has replaced my PocketPC and 75% of my notebook use.

I carry it everywhere and it’s the ability to always have a notebook within your reach factor that has me hooked since I carry it in my front pant pocket (I wear slacks, khakis, and jeans often).

If only OQO got a bigger battery, it would be ultraportable with day-long battery life.


just received my oqo today and typing on it now. matt and robin are dead on. oqo has all of these issues (ALL OF THEM) but i still like it. work paid for it though and i would never pay 2k for it out of my own pocket. i would however pay for the dell x1 out of my own pocket which i also have.



I have an OQO and I thought I would share my thoughts.
The OQO really shines with the Tablet PC OS. It’s too bad that OQO did not include it. After searching the net for information installing Tablet PC and coming up with nothing I decided to do it myself. Unfortunately Microsoft does not sell tablet pc as a separate install, to get it you have to have an MSDN account.
The install went flawless, and after the drivers were installed, I started using the table and pen feature more often. The pen is much more accurate with the tablet pc os installed if you use the table pc software to calibrate. There are still the issues I had before with the corners but it’s nowhere near as annoying and it’s much easier to use. The speech recognition was dead on and pretty quick, and it has a cool feature that will let you click on a word to change it to other variants. The speech recognition worked well in a quite room, ambient noise did mess it up a bit though.

The OQO does get warm but not too hot to hold.
Yes it is somewhat slow but I use it as my work computer with no issues. Office 2003 installed runs a little slow but it works. I have also installed visual studio 2003 and this works about as slow as the office does but its not annoying slow.
For input I mainly use the keyboard, after the format and the install of the tablet pc os, I have started to use the pen more, but I find the keyboard is quicker. The keyboard layout is quite intuitive and the sticky keys for Function ctrl alt del are handy.
Battery life is adequate I get about 2-4 hrs on the battery, and have noticed that battery life is pretty much the same as any other laptop.
The docking cable is kind of a pain, it not very neat when you have to make a presentation you have this tiny computer with a huge cable, it looks crappy. I would have much more liked a standard docking device instead of the cable.
The resolution is not too small, I can surf the net without an issue using the default settings. On the times that I watch a video I have noticed the 8megs of ram on the video card too bad it does not have at least 32, it would cut load times of apps too.
The usb port does not have enough power to run some devices. I tried an external usb hard drive and a usb wireless nic, and the OQO would not run them off battery power.
The build in LAN does have some range issues but the range is much better that what I get with my pocket pc.
To make it a little faster I have disabled the all the xp eye candy. I set search mode to the older 98 look. I disabled the indexing service. I turned off all the annoying bubble notifications, and all the theme sounds I turned off.

This is a ultra personal computer or tiny laptop, if you are used to pocket pc with its instant on and quick loading for jotting down notes and calendar dates the OQO will not replace your pocket pc. It could replace your laptop, depending on what you us it for, it has replaced my laptop.
Too bad most people will not see the Tablet PC 2005 installed as it makes a huge difference.

Mark Carson

Oh yeah, I found out that the BIOS can be brought up during boot by pressing the F2 key, but there are not a lot of usefull options in the BIOS.

Mark Carson

Re: Robin Nixon’s complaint #2

2) There is no Standby button – you have to go to Start – Shutdown etc… which is annoying when you need it off in a hurry.

Answer: You just press and hold the power button for a couple of seconds. Windows XP then display the option to enter Standby, Power off. etc. Just press the ‘S’ key(meneumonic for standby?) – no pointy sticking and mouse clicking required. The Model 01 then enters hibernation mode. The power switch’s light will thereafter slowly glow on and off while in hibernation mode. To wake up, just press and hold the power button again for a few seconds. That’s it. Not a big deal once you know how. I found out via trial and error that the ‘S’ key works to select standby mode. So a button press and a key press is all it takes.

I got another OQO the week before Christmas and I’ve been enjoying it since (see my previous post about the first OQO I received). The RMA turn around time was not optimal and while everyone one I talked to at OQO was polite and tried to be helpful, they just did not know much about the status while the unit it was in repair or the shipping status of the replacement unit. They are still a young organization I guess. But it was frustrating and I was going to be damned if I was going to pay the credit card bill if it came before the replacement unit it. Fortunately (for OQO), the replacment unit was received a few days before the credit card statement. I had no intention of paying $2K for a toy I only got to play with for 4 hours… Anyway, it worked out ok.

Now how do I get to the BIOS? Hmmmm…


A reader emailed me and asked me to respond to Robin’s post above to compare the OQO and the Sony U-70. Here’s my response I sent back:

1) I usually run the Sony at the 3rd dimmest position to save battery. Screen looks fine.

2) Sony has a dedicated Standby button and the Power button can be programmed to perform a Hibernation instead of Power off.

3) The Sony WiFi is not only the best I’ve seen on any laptop but it’s 802.11g so it’s lightning fast.

4) Sony touchscreen is superb. The U750 comes bundled with ritePen for handwriting anywhere on the screen.

5) No burned digits.

6) Sony display is as good as the advanced laptops.

7) Rotate button swaps the display instantaneously, rotates the digitizer, and rotates the h/w buttons on the front so the proper “up” direction is always correct.

8) The Sony has a small trackpoint joystick that when pressed down performs a left mouse click. Right clicks must be made by the appropriate mouse button on the left of the device.

9) Don’t have an integrated keyboard so N/A.

10) Sony screen resolution of 800×600 is perfect for viewing. Can’t remember something being so small as to be unreadable.

11) Sony has a built-in speaker and headphone jack. The speaker is not very loud as it is very small but loud enough for system work. Headphone jack is iPod-like to drive the included remote control.

12) See WiFi comment above. I stream music all the time with iTunes.

13. Sony graphic speed is on a par with my widescreen laptop. I have run Doom 3 on the Sony. Had to turn down the video detail though.

I use the Sony as my main machine by docking it while at the desk. I have not done anything other than play Half Life 2 on my main computer (laptop) for over four months.

Robin Nixon

I have one of these and… What a disappointment!

1) The display setting it comes with is too dim to clearly read. In order to see the screen properly you have to set it at it’s brightest and that *really* impacts battery life.

2) There is no Standby button – you have to go to Start – Shutdown etc… which is annoying when you need it off in a hurry.

3) The wifi is absolutely useless – unless you are within 15 feet of a hotspot forget about it. Every single other laptop I have goes at least 50 feet without too much problem. The main reason I wanted this machine was for using at hotspots – but unless you can get right next to one…

4) The tablet-like pen and software is beyond useless – you can only calibrate top left and bottom right for the central area of the screen. You cannot reliably use any of the outlying 8 or so millimeters. What do OQO say? They suggest you resize all your scrollbars to make them big enough. Oh – and you don’t get MS tablet software or handwriting recognition or anything – the tablet pen is totally useless in my opinion.

5) The heat output of this device is so much as to be unbearably hot – I mean it you practically burn your fingers. Ouch!

6) The display is messed up. It looks like OQO have taken a Pocket PC-type display and rotated it 90 degrees. This means that the left and right eyes see different levels of brightness and it’s very tiring on the eye. Try rotating your laptop screen sideways and you’ll see how bad it is.

7) Speaking of which, there is no facility to rotate the screen and use it in portrait mode – which *would* be much more readable. You *can* flip the screen 180 degrees but guess what? The mouse doesn’t flip so it goes in all the wrong directions.

8) You *must* use two hands to move the mouse and click. Your right thumb moves the mouse and your left thumb clicks. This makes it impossible to do anything else at all while using it. If I want to show a friend something I can only have them look over my shoulder. The old Toshiba Libretto PCs used to place the mouse buttons *behind* the mouse pad so that the thumb and two fingers of the right hand could operate the mouse. This is *definitely* what OQO should have done.

9) It is impossible to use the OQO in low light. With a laptop enough light comes from the screen to light up the keyboard. The design of the OQO does not allow this. Therefore surfing while watching TV can only be done with a main light on. The keyboard should have had a light built in and used translucent keys.

10) The resolution of the screen really makes it impossible to read most web pages because it is set at an effective 1024 x 768 (well the top half of it anyway) but in such a small unit text size is miniscule. You can improve it a little by installing Microsoft ClearType but the only way I could really use it was to install Mozilla Firefox which *properly* enlarges all browser text at a single key press (MSIE doesn’t really do this very well). But… It does make web pages look very weird and not how they were designed. OQO also preset all Windows system fonts to their largest which sort-of helps – but Microsoft don’t use these settings for important dialog boxes etc so you still have to squint and bring the unit close to your eyes anyway.

11) There is no built-in speaker – not even an itty bitsy one – you can only plug in headphones.

12) Speaking of headphones… I was hoping to be able to use this device like a wifi Ipod but the wifi is so poor you simply CANNOT stream any audio over this device unless you stand still next to the access point. And with only a 20Gb drive, if you have a lot of music you won’t be able to copy much across to the OQO.

13. The Graphic speed of the OQO is appalling. One simple test is to go into Windows Media Player – play an MP3 and try to watch a visualization. You would think you were back on a 286. Or you can place a few photos on the OQO then select the “My Picture Slideshow” screensaver – make sure “Use transition effects between pictures” is enabled. Just watch how pitifully long it takes just to fade between two pictures. I mean it – I was shocked – it’s truly flabbergasting that OQO thought this was acceptable.

In summary. OQO market this as a single PC for work, home and travel. It is NOT. It’s a slightly interesting toy to travel with (better buy another battery for $150 if you want more than 2 hours though) – but as a home or work PC PLEASE do not be fooled you will be totally disappointed and waste your money – it will be the slowest desktop PC you had since your last 286!

I signed up for and paid for one of the very first of these off the factory line because I was so impressed by it’s spec. Now I feel a chump for having wasted my $2K.


Thanks for the detailed account, Mark. Let us know how it goes when you get it back from OQO. As a mobile techno-geek I so want the OQO to succeed.

Mark Carson

I got my OQO the day before Thanksgiving and it lasted a whole 4 hours before shutting down. It was on the power cord at the time but it appears the the power connector, the power cord/brick, the battery, or something internal no longer gets juice. Battery is flat and I have not way to supply power to it, so its dead for now.

After talking with OQO for a couple of days, I got an RMA and its on its way back to them today (Friday 3-DEC-2004).

While it ran it was pretty neat. I had good WiFi coverage, better than the LinkSys CF card I use in my Laptop (which is very directional and very short range in my house). I did not get a change to test Bluetooth or Firewire but the USB worked very well. I hooked up a USB mouse and keyboard and it was a pleasure to use even with the internal screen. I did not get a chance to hook an external monitor directly to the cable (and it did not work right off the bat with my current external monitor setup which goes thru a KVM switch) so the jury is out on that also.

I’m hoping to use my OQO as a light-weight, somewhat light duty desktop replacement as I ordered an additional stand, power cable/brick, and connector cable in hopes that I can set up at work and home and only have to carry the OQO back and forth.

Once I figured out and got used to the sticky shift/alt/control/fn keys I started to enjoy keyboarding whenever possible vice using the mouse/pointing stick for everything. For instance, the back button operation on the browser (Firefox of course) is just an Alt key and Left Arrow key press away. Set the text size/zoom up a couple of notches in Firefox (press the Control key and then the Plus key) and reading web pages is a no eye strain activity.

I’m really looking forward to getting mine back. I just hope nothing else craps out on it. Except for this power problem, the fit and finish on the unit is very nice. It gives the impression that it is a high quality hand warmer (yeah it gets warm but not too hot to hold).


Will you do it? :) Compare the 2 days?

I went shopping with the family on Saturday and it was illuminating which device I grabbed for, which had enough battery and I wasn’t afraid to use at will or randomly, which the wife banned me from carrying after the first couple of stops, and which device worked well enough for shopping, getting directions, looking up phone numbers.

Looks like I’m still posting at Brighthand for a while longer regarding PPCs.


Wow, have you seen this blog over at Handtops?

I was so close to buying an OQO, but threads like this keep freaking me out and I dug up my 2215 and started using it again. And I’ll tell you, connect any PPC to a BT cellphone and it’s a very functional device again.

I’m about to a blog up about a day out with the 2215, the U50, and a BT cell phone and it was an interesting exercise.

You may want to do this before me ;) since you are more the prolific writer.

Go out for a day (shopping for example), and just document the battery life, ease of use, and other little things you notice when you leave your house with a PPC, U50, and your motorola.

It would make a good update to your excellent Living with the U70 for a month blog over the Summer.

Thanks! Hope you’re doing a little better.


UPDATE: apparently the Blue Screen errors on some OQOs are due to the fall detection that parks the hard drive. Moving the OQO around on some units triggers the hard drive shut down. Once Windows loses the system hard drive in mid-action it’s lights out. OQO will have to fix this pretty quickly as it makes a device intended to be mobile very unstable.


Sorry to hear that mike. I don’t understand why the OQO should have a range problem unless the case is interfering somehow. There’s no reason for the range to be so short.


Wireless operation on the OQO is a joke. The range limitations render the device useless. I’ll be returning mine.


As for battery life, on my OQO I get about 2 cumulative hours of use with WiFi enabled and the screen brightness set to maximum. But that’s with me taking breaks and letting the computer go in standby mode several times.


The fan on my OQO is never loud enough to be a problem… At its loudest it is no louder than the fan on my (former) 12″ Powerbook. It certainly deos not interfere with audio playback!

The WiFi reception on my OQO is pretty weak, similar to that of a Titanium Powerbook, ie. adequate if you’re within 100′ of a consumer grade wireless access point.


Consider that the might Sony Corp couldnt create a device this small without making the same compromises such as weak wifi and bad touchscreen. Sony instead created a large freak in its upcoming U750 and it doesn’t even have a keyboard.

I would that Sony created something small like the OQO with a keyboard, small battery,and weak wifi.


Good points. I didn’t address the battery discharge issue as I’ve only seen that happen to one user. I have only covered problems reported by multiple owners. One user has also expressed concern over stability and blue screens but again, that is just one user and may not indicate potential wide spread issues.


I think a bigger problem is about its battery. It doesn’t last that long. No large battery yet. It gets hot. It needs the AC adapter to charge. The AC adapter requires a true sine wave inverter in car use. And one user already broke his OQO just because he over discharged or whatever battery related problem.

But anyway, I’ll buy one!

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