At first glance, the $399 Everex CloudBook CE1200V looks like it could go toe-to-toe with the similarly sized (and priced) Asus Eee PC. However, a closer look reveals several shortcomings, including a poorly placed touchpad, inconsistent wireless performance, and woefully long boot times. Everex promises this system will get better with upcoming software updates, but for now we'd pass.
Everex CloudBook Design
Weighing just 2 pounds and measuring 9.1 x 6.7 x 1.1 inches, the CloudBook is housed in a plain-looking, matte-black casing emblazoned with the Everex logo. Beneath a sturdy dual-hinged lid is a relatively bright, 7-inch, 800 x 480-pixel resolution widescreen display with an integrated webcam to the right side of the screen. Color quality was quite good on the tiny panel, and images appeared sharp.
The two small speakers mounted above the keyboard deck were predictably tinny but surprisingly loud. As is the case with any scaled-down notebook, the mini keyboard takes some getting used to but is responsive and firm. The smallish touchpad--only 0.8 x 0.6 inches--is located above the keyboard to the right, and its buttons are on the left, making it impossible to use without moving your hands away from the keyboard--an awkward design at best. An On/Off switch for Wi-Fi and a power button are illuminated by amber backlighting, as are the drive activity and Caps Lock indicators.
The CloudBook also has a 4-in-1 card slot, two USB ports, a 10/100 Ethernet connection, and two audio jacks, all of which are side-mounted. We love that the CloudBook has a DVI port for connecting to an external display, although you have to turn the notebook off first to hook it up.
Mixed Software Experience
Fortunately, the user interface for the Linux-based gOS V2 Rocket operating system is fairly straightforward, easy to navigate, and contains colorful desktop icons.The CloudBook also comes with a handful of open-source applications, including Firefox, OpenOffice 2.3, and RhythmBox Music Player. There are also several icons embedded in the dock that link to Web-based apps such as Google Mail, Calendar, and Reader.
However, certain program windows were too big for the small screen. For example, the bottom portion of the dialer in the Ekiga Softphone application was cut off, requiring us to drag the window up to access the lower half of the page; this problem also cropped up with the Eee PC 701.
Also familiar to our Eee PC experience was our difficulty in getting the 0.3-megapixel webcam to work. We were unable to get it to operate with the included Ekiga software. We called Everex tech support, which also failed to resolve the problem; the technician did mention that some users were having success using Skype and even suggested checking out the CloudBook forums for more detailed information. Some desperate digging in the box uncovered a slip of paper telling us to change the video plug-in setting. Once we got it working, the quality is what you'd expect from a 0.3-MP camera: grainy and sluggish as far as movement goes, but fine for quick video chats.
The system, powered by a VIA 1.2-GHz C7-M processor and 512MB of DDR2 memory, required an excruciatingly long 2 minutes and 45 seconds to fully complete the boot sequence and load the main gOS menu screen. We also experienced long wait times while loading certain apps, particularly the Add/Remove program, which needed 1 minute and 40 seconds to load. We suspect the combination of a slow (4,200-rpm) hard drive and too little memory is to blame.
On the upside, the drive gives you 30GB of storage, which is much larger than most notebooks this size. And we had no problems running Firefox, a text doc, an Ekiga webcam session, and Blackjack at the same time.
We were disappointed with the CloudBook's wireless performance. While we were able to connect to a WEP-secured network (it's also capable of WPA encryption), we had to be within five feet of the access point to do so. Moving just 25 feet away resulted in intermittent disconnects and very slow Web page loading. Everex boasts a battery life of 5 hours, but--running no programs on it--we managed to squeeze only 3 hours out of it (with Wi-Fi enabled) before needing a recharge.
We were surprised by the complete lack of documentation when we opened the CloudBook box. Granted, you can download an 87-page user guide from the Everex Web site, but a quick-start guide would have been nice, especially when trying to configure the webcam and an external monitor. The warranty card states a one-year warranty with one year of tech support, toll-free, 24/7. But our experience calling the help line, and the fact that Everex's forums are loaded with fixes and workarounds, tells us that the CloudBook is a work in progress.
For what it's worth, Everex claims to be working on some of the issues we encountered, including window sizing, power settings, and wireless configuration. Everex also says that all users will be offered the new operating system free of charge when it is released.
If you're the type of user that loves a challenge and doesn't mind spending lots of time downloading and tweaking Linux apps, the CloudBook won't disappoint. However, if you're looking for a UMPC that's ready to use out of the box, you're better off waiting for Everex to resolve these issues or looking toward the popular Eee PC line, which is less buggy and generally more polished.