OQO's new version of its Model e2 UMPC is already shipping, and here's a (slightly blurry) picture to prove it. OQO kindly left this model with me to try out when they dropped in to our offices where IT Week Labs is located.
As you can see, the unit is almost indistinguishable from the original Model e2, which we reviewed back in October. It is very slightly heavier (but not so you would notice) and has a new antenna to support HSDPA – the high-speed 'wireless broadband' version of the 3G mobile networks.
The antenna can be extended out from the top right corner of the case, in a manner that makes it look like some kind of spy gizmo that James Bond might have used in the sixties. This is theoretically to boost the signal if reception is poor, but it seemed to have little extra effect when I tried it, and the antenna looks like it might easily snap if the user isn't careful.
From our central London office I managed to get a 3.6Mbit/s connection on T-Mobile, as reported by the Novatel MobiLink Network Connection Manager tool installed on the OQO. Using some of the free broadband speed test tools available on the web, the HSDPA connection was rated at various speeds up to 688kbit/s, which is roughly comparable with what you would see with a 1Mbit/s home broadband connection.
Using the device backed up this finding – it seemed reasonably fast when browsing web sites, but not as fast as you would expect from using a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection. I even accessed one or two web-based applications and found performance acceptable, if not great.
Of course, get away from metropolitan areas and performance will almost certainly be worse than this, and will drop back to standard 3G or even GPRS the further away you get from a big city. I haven't tested this with the OQO so far, but have frequently found 3G coverage to be patchy outside of London.
This extra wireless capability does not really make the OQO a rival for a smartphone. The device I tested did not have the ability to make voice calls, although there is nothing preventing you from installing Skype or some other voice-over-IP client and using this instead.
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