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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Applications

Both units feature the same basic menus of free, open-source applications, including Firefox and OpenOffice 2.3, as well as buttons that load Web apps such as Google Docs, YouTube and Box.Net. While the apps may load faster on the Eee, you can install many more of them on the CloudBook's hard drive.

Bottom line

They're tied.

Tech support

Everex offers free round-the-clock support for its PCs through a call center in the Midwest. I made four calls during the course of my review. It was obvious that they had some knowledge of Linux. But they hadn't received any CloudBooks themselves, much less been trained explicitly for them.

I haven't used the Asus tech-support line for the Eee. A colleague did and reported that the support tech was courteous and did his best to be helpful. However, as far as I can tell, most Eee users rely on message boards such as Eeeuser.com.

Bottom line

Another tie.

The final analysis

It may not be a knockout, but the Eee overwhelmingly beats the CloudBook on points. Apart from the admittedly subjective area of hardware design (which I scored to Everex), the Eee trumped the CloudBook in nine categories, including the key ones of video playback, operating system, Wi-Fi and touchpad. The CloudBook did tie the Eee in four areas, including software, tech support, keyboard and storage. If not for several small problems, the latter two should actually have gone to Everex.

If you're in the market for a $400 subnotebook, there are a few reasons -- none of them crucial -- why you might choose the CloudBook today over the Eee: desire for greater storage in order to store multimedia files or install a heftier operating system such as Windows XP. A deep preference for the color black. A contrarian streak that rebels against the Eee's trendiness.

But until Everex makes a large public commitment to releasing an updated operating system and/or BIOS fixing the CloudBook, I can only recommend it for experienced Linux users who will view the inevitable hours they spend hacking their CloudBook as recreation, not hassle. Fortunately, most of the CloudBook's problems are operating system- or software-related and hence should reasonably easy for Everex and gOS to fix.

While I applaud both the Eee and CloudBook -- as well as the One Laptop Per Child -- for their trailblazing efforts, I think that most consumers will ultimately be much happier spending a teensy bit more money for a slightly bigger machine. That's why I recommend waiting several months to check out the HP Compaq 2133, the Asus Eee PC 900, the recently announced ECS G10IL or Everex's own updates to the CloudBook. All will sport larger 9-in. screens, while the HP and the Everex models will have keyboards larger than today's Eee or CloudBook. And all will reportedly cost between $500 to $1,000.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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