Does the Asus Eee PC have some serious competition in the $399 Everex Cloudbook? On paper it does. This 2-pound notebook boasts more storage than the Eee PC (30GB hard drive versus 2GB to 8GB) and runs the more flexible and slick gOS operating system, providing easy access to all sorts of Web-based goodies, including Google Mail, YouTube, Meebo for instant messaging, and Box.net for online storage. Standard specs include a 1.2-GHz Via C7-M processor, 512MB of RAM, and two USB 2.0 ports. And Everex promises up to 5 hours of battery life. Add in a webcam, SD Card reader, and DVI port for hooking the CloudBook up to a larger monitor and you have a potential killer value-priced laptop. On the other hand, there are some major caveats here, starting with the strange touchpad and the need to move windows up to execute simple commands. Here are our impressions so far. What We Like:
- Desktop is clean and has easy-to-read icons for popular Web-based applications and shortcuts to apps like the music player. Kinda like OS X, but not as elegant.
- Pretty speedy Web surfing; it took only six seconds to bring up nytimes.com. We were also pretty impressed with the video quality on YouTube when we streamed the hilarious Sarah Silverman "I'm (Blanking) Matt Damon" on Jimmy Kimmel clip.
- SD Card slot automatically recognized memory card from our camera and asked us to import photos. Also automatically recognized Kingston USB drive and launched File Browser window.
- OpenOffice included for writing and editing Office docs, although it took 18 seconds to load.
- DVI port worked fine when we connected the CloudBook to a 23-inch Philips monitor.
- Our wireless Logitech mouse was instantly recognized and it worked fine when we mirrored the desktop to an external monitor.
What We Don't Like:
- The keyboard is cramped, although it's about the same size as the Eee PC's keyboard. Tactile feedback was a tad stiffer.
- The touchpad is laughably tiny (about the size of your finger) and is awkwardly located above the keyboard on the right side. The two very small mouse buttons are located on the left side above the keyboard.
- Slow boot up time. The system, powered by a 1. took about 1 minute and 30 seconds to start up, versus about 30 seconds for the Eee PC. That's slower than some Vista-powered laptops. Firefox and other applications were also slow to load.
- We initially had difficulty connecting to our Wi-Fi network using a standard WEP key and were forced to use an open network. Now it seems to be working fine with our secure network and it remembers our settings.
- Many windows extend below the desktop. This may just be a problem with our test unit's OS, but the most frustrating thing about the CloudBook so far is that many Windows stretch below the desktop, forcing you to move them up to click on OK or Close buttons. (Everex says this may be a problem with the evaluation model we were given, but we can't confirm.)
- Screen occasionally looks like it's about to freeze or crash, but doesn't.
- Meebo worked fine for instant messaging but we could not get the TokBox application to work for video chats, even tough we were asked to allow access to the CloudBook's camera.
- No option to choose a higher resolution when connecting the Cloudbook to an external monitor. According to the settings menu, the top resolution is only 840 x 480. We're going to double check, but 1024 x 768 or higher would be preferable in this mode.
Outlook: We're not going to pass final judgment until we've had a full weekend to play with the CloudBook, but so far it's pretty rough around the edges and you definitely trade off some speed for storage space versus the Eee PC. The tiny touchpad is actually starting to grow on us. Assuming that Everex addresses the issue we're having with windows that extend below the desktop (the company claims our system was loaded with the wrong install of the OS) we could warm up to this little guy.