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Battle of the featherweight notebooks: Everex CloudBook vs. Asus Eee

The popular Eee now has a new challenger with the same price, same size and a different Linux distribution

By Eric Lai
March 12, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Back in October 2007, Taipei-based Asustek Computer Inc. proved that less can be more with its 2-lb., $400 Eee PC. Since then, other subnotebooks have followed (or are soon to follow) in the Eee's wake. However, only the Everex CloudBook has dared to take the Eee head-on, matching its weight, screen and keyboard size, as well as its reliance on the Linux operating system, open-source applications and a $400 price tag.

The excitement around the CloudBook's public unveiling at CES two months ago has deflated -- hurt by, among other things, a delayed release -- originally due to ship in January, it finally became available in mid-February.

When I first reviewed the Asus Eee, I was rather critical of its shortcomings, including the difficult keyboard, small display and mediocre battery life. Time has since mellowed my feelings -- and I've learned to work around the system's limitations, which were dictated by the machine's small size and low cost. The question is: Can I similarly forgive the CloudBook's faults and limitations?

Stats

The CloudBook comes equipped with a 1.2-GHz VIA C7-M processor and 512MB, DDR2, 533-MHz SDRAM. Unlike the Eee, which uses solid-state memory, the CloudBook offers a 30GB hard drive. Like the Eee, it offers a 7-in., 800- by 480-pixel display. Connections include an Ethernet port, a DVI port, two USB ports, audio line-out/line-in ports and a four-in-one media card reader. There's also 802.11g/b Wi-Fi and a 300KB pixel webcam. It operates on a four-cell Lithium-ion battery that is rated to offer 2.5 to 3 hours of use.

Design

You know how some attractive people don't photograph well at all? That's the CloudBook's problem. None of the pictures I've seen (or taken myself), not even the stock photos put out by Everex Systems Inc., do this seriously handsome machine justice.

The CloudBook is a seriously handsome machine.
Click to view larger image.
The CloudBook uses the same dark black plastic shell as the Lenovo ThinkPad. But unlike the ThinkPad, whose splashes of color feel dated, the CloudBook goes the other way, achieving a snazzy "black on black" effect. The pure obsidian case makes the CloudBook's orange LCD indicator lights even more striking. I also preferred Everex's cute green-leaf logo. Asus, by contrast, looks like it stole its font from the 1982 movie Tron.

The display is separated from the CloudBook's base by a 1-in. gap. This allows you to do two cool things: hold the CloudBook securely with one hand as you type or mouse with the other, and flip the screen a total of 270 degrees (compared with the Eee's 75-degree range of motion). There are reports Everex is also working on ultraportables that will have a touch screen. This one doesn't.

Bottom line

Ebony beats ivory. Edge to the CloudBook.

Heft

With its conventional brick-style power supply, the CloudBook weighs 2.75 lb. By comparison, my ThinkPad T42 weighs nearly 6 lb. with charger. The Eee, however, tips my postal scale at just 2.25 lb., because of its smaller iPod-style charger.

Bottom line

Both are petite, but edge to the Eee.

Video quality

Both PCs feature 7-in., 800 x 480 LCDs that are bright and sharp. Both displays suffer from the same detriment: Their small size makes navigating documents and Web pages, which are coded to be at least 1024 x 768, a hassle.

I give the edge to the Eee for several reasons. While both machines allow you to tune their brightness through the Fn keys, the Eee pops up with a brightness meter and allows more fine control than the CloudBook. Second, I encountered fewer hiccups playing streaming or downloaded videos on the Eee than on the CloudBook. That's not surprising -- the Eee's solid-state drive is faster than regular hard drives, and CloudBook's hard drive spins at just 4,200 rpm, slower than virtually all other desktop and notebook drives today.

Bottom line

Edge to the Eee.


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