The keys are backlit too and in another nice engineering touch the backlight is controlled by a sensor that switches it on and off depending on the ambient light conditions. This makes the Model 02 a dream to use in dimly lit environments. On a plane when everyone else is asleep and your insomnia kicks in, you’ll now be able to type away without having to turn on your light, or squint at the keyboard every time you reach for the @ key.
Perhaps the only flaw here is that the size of the device means you have to stretch a bit to reach the keys in the middle of the keyboard, but this small niggle is offset by the fact that you have a dedicated number pad for number entry, which is much more convenient than having letter keys double up as number keys.
Mousing duties are taken care of by a touch stick, which works as well as the keyboard does. It’s reliable and accurate and the left/right buttons located on the right hand side of the keyboard can be clicked without contorting your hand. But in a slightly regressive step, there’s no touch screen on the Model 02. If you prefer the pen tablet approach then the screen will work with OQO’s digital pen, but it’s an optional extra and you can’t simply use your finger in its stead.
What you do get, however, are a couple of touch-sensitive scroll bars, situated at the bottom right hand corner of the screen, which can be used to zip up, down and across web pages and documents with ease. It’s a simple idea but one that’s intuitive and once again bears the mark of quality engineering.
These swish navigational aids are supplemented by a pair of dedicated zoom keys, which are located just below the left and right mouse buttons, which can be used to quickly zoom out to 1,000 x 600 or 1,200 x 720 – essential if you come across a dialogue box which can’t be resized when OK and Cancel buttons disappear off the bottom of the 5in, 800 x 480 screen.
Under the hood, as you’d expect from a machine that’s now being asked to power Windows Vista (Ultimate in the Model 02 Expansys supplied to us for review), there’s much more power on offer than before. The CPU is a Via Esther 1.5GHz ultra low voltage model, the hard disk capacity has been upped from 30GB to a 60GB 1.8in Hitachi Travelstar drive with active drop protection, and RAM is now at 1GB, though we’d expect the latter as a minimum specification with any machine running Microsoft’s memory-hungry OS – even one as tiny as this.
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It all results in perfectly acceptable levels of performance when running office applications and the whole system seems to run much quicker and cooler than the old model. But there is a caveat: the graphics chipset – VIA’s integrated S3G UniChrome graphics with shared memory – isn’t particularly powerful. In fact it isn’t even capable of displaying Vista’s Aero graphics, so no fancy transparent glass windows and it definitely won’t put up with any 3D gaming. This is one area where the Sony UX1XN beats the Model 02, with its Intel 1.33GHz U1500 processor and Intel GMA 950 graphics chipset able to display all of Vista’s eye candy.