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

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Wi-Fi

Considering that Everex wanted to hint at cloud computing with the CloudBook name, the poor performance of its Wi-Fi is disappointing. I don't live in a "McMansion" by any means, but the CloudBook failed to connect in the majority of my house, areas that the Eee has no trouble with. Also, the CloudBook's Wi-Fi log-in software had a tendency to lose my saved WEP security key at random times.

Bottom line

Big edge to the Eee.

Upgradeability

In just several months, the Eee has spawned a plethora of cute accessories and not-safe-for-warranty do-it-yourself mods. The CloudBook has only started to match that.

Moreover, those who want to do something as seemingly simple as upgrading the CloudBook's RAM (it supports up to 2GB) will, according to a conversation I had with Everex's technical support, need to paw through such fragile components that Everex will void your warranty. Instead, the company plans to offer a service by which you can mail your CloudBook in to have your RAM replaced. The tech had no word on when that would be available or how much that would cost.

Bottom line

Wanna pump up your wee PC? Pick the Eee.

External ports

Although the CloudBook has a pretty good selection of ports, it unfortunately still doesn't come out better than the Asus Eee for several reasons.

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The CloudBook has a number of useful ports.

Click to view larger image.

First, the CloudBook has two valuable USB ports to the Eee's three -- not a serious difference, but one that can be helpful if you've got a lot of USB utilities you want to use. Also, there was a persistent electronic hum through my headphones when I plugged into the CloudBook's headphone port. And the Eee's VGA port is plug-and-play, letting me display up to 1,600 by 1,200 flicker-free pixels on an external monitor.

The CloudBook's external Digital Visual Interface monitor interface is theoretically more powerful than the Eee's VGA port, but I never got to test this out -- my sole attempt resulted in a fatal system crash that corrupted the xorg.conf file (the equivalent to the Windows registry, but for Linux) and rendered the CloudBook inoperable.

Bottom line

The Eee wins here.

Operating system/BIOS

The Eee uses a tweaked version of the unheralded Xandros distribution of Linux. The CloudBook, meanwhile, uses the gOS flavor of the popular Ubuntu distribution of Linux that has garnered raves for its Macintosh-like graphical user interface.

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The CloudBook uses the gOS distro of Linux.

Click to view larger image.

But don't let that fool you -- the Eee's "easy mode" desktop was smooth and easy to use. Meanwhile, the CloudBook's gOS felt like it needed a lot more quality assurance testing before it shipped. None of the bugs that I encountered were really acceptable -- not minor things such as the hiccupy microphone volume adjustment, the missing WEP key, the conflicting battery readings or the desktop windows that were too large for the screen, and not the major one that, after I tried to connect it to an external monitor, rendered my CloudBook unbootable.

And practically unfixable. There is no shortage of information on the Internet about how to install your preferred flavor of Linux or Windows onto a USB flash drive, which can be used to boot your CloudBook (or Eee) or install a replacement or secondary operating system. Unfortunately, about the only Linux distribution I couldn't find detailed instructions for was CloudBooks's gOS. And while the Asus Eee comes with a support DVD containing a re-install of the operating system, the CloudBook doesn't.

On the positive side, the gOS green-tinged desktop is as attractive as advertised. And the CloudBook did automatically recognize and install drivers for my HP OfficeJet fax/printer. Contrast that with the many hours I spent unsuccessfully trying to get my Eee to print.

Bottom line

No contest -- the Eee wins this one. While gOS has its good points, the CloudBook implementation isn't ready for prime time.
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