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 handtops.com 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.


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