by Jerry Jackson
The Everex CloudBook marks the latest entry to the expanding world of UMPC-type subnotebooks at affordable prices. With a 7-inch display, 1.2GHz processor, and 30GB hard drive, the CloudBook certainly doesn’t make a very good desktop replacement computer, but it does look like one impressive little road warrior. What did we think of the CloudBook after one day in our office? The answers may surprise you.
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The Everex CloudBook (starting at $399) is available in just one configuration at the time of this writing. Our CloudBook has the following specifications:
- gOS Rocket operating system (Linux variant)
- 1.2GHz, VIA C7-M Processor (ULV)
- 512MB DDR2 533MHz, SDRAM
- 30GB Hard Disk Drive (3600rpm parallel ATA)
- 7" WVGA TFT Display (800 x 480)
- VIA UniChrome Pro IGP Graphics
- VIA High-Definition Audio
- 802.11b/g WiFi
- 10/100 Ethernet Port
- DVI Port
- Two USB 2.0 Ports
- 4-in-1 Media Card Reader
- 0.3MP Webcam
- Headphone/Line-Out Port
- Microphone/Line-In Port
- 4-cell Lithium-Ion Battery
Build and Design
The Everex CloudBook is an impressive little machine at first glance. The innovative grip-through LCD hinge design and compact form factor come together with smooth matte black plastics and a hint of metal reinforcement in just the right places. Weighing in at just two pounds the CloudBook was built around the VIA Nanobook reference design … a subnotebook prototype developed by VIA as a platform for their new mobile technologies.
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Despite the impressive compactness of the design, the CloudBook is reasonably solid and durable thanks to the fact so much was packed into such a tiny space. We don’t recommend dropping the CloudBook but it should survive the average use and abuse that any other $400 notebook can handle.
The CloudBook does not have a latch to hold it closed, and while the hinge mechanism generally works well at holding the lid in place it is very easy to move the lid by slightly shaking the notebook. On the bright side, there is almost no flex to the screen or chassis. While we’re on the topic of the screen lid, the hinge was designed so that you can reach under the CloudBook and grasp the back of the notebook with one hand (wrapping your fingers under the display) and type with your free hand. While this is a nice idea, it’s hardly practical since the CloudBook uses a non-standard touchpad interface which requires two hands to use (more on that later in this review).
Below is a video overview of the Everex CloudBook for those who want to take a closer look.
The CloudBook has generally acceptable performance based on the 1.2GHz VIA C7-M ultra low voltage processor. That said, initial benchmarking suggests the performance on this processor is comparable to much slower 700MHz Intel processors. We will have detailed benchmarks in our full review coming in the near future. In a nutshell, Everex had to sacrifice some performance in order to bring this ultra-mobile laptop to consumers for only $400.
The VIA UniChrome Pro integrated graphics processor should provide adequate performance for some games with minimal system requirements. That said, don’t expect this notebook to play the latest graphics-intense games … we’re not dealing with a dedicated graphics card here and in some cases the UniChrome Pro is less powerful than Intel integrated graphics.
The 30GB hard drive in the CloudBook provides a reasonable amount of storage but isn’t anywhere near the amount of storage that most consumers are likely to want in a modern laptop. Sure, you’ve got enough storage for travel needs, but if you download tons of music, movies, and TV shows from iTunes and store them on the CloudBook’s hard drive then you’ll quickly run out of space. Additionally, the slow 3600rpm speed of the 30GB hard disk means the CloudBook wastes a large amount of time trying to access data.
Although the CloudBook offers significantly more storage space than its main rival, the Asus Eee PC 4G, the Eee PC uses a much faster integrated flash drive/SSD. In short, the hard drive on the CloudBook is yet another handicap this system didn’t need.
Below is a video with a side-by-side comparison of the Everex CloudBook and Asus Eee PC 4G.
The 7" WVGA (800 x 480 pixels) matte screen on the CloudBook isn’t ideal for extended use and certainly isn’t designed for HD video, but it does offer sharp contrast, excellent color, and reasonably even backlighting. Horizontal viewing angles were excellent although vertical viewing angles were only average. The screen itself didn’t suffer from ripples or stuck pixels, but we did notice some minor light leakage from the top edge of our display at maximum brightness.
Another interesting problem we encountered during our first day with the CloudBook involved connecting an external monitor to the built-in DVI port on the side of the notebook. After connecting an external display and changing the settings in the default gOS operating system the CloudBook responded with an error message and refused to display anything on the external monitor, after we disconnected the external monitor the built-in LCD could not be reset to the native 800 x 480 resolution and would only work in 640 x 480 mode … not acceptable for much of anything.
After several hours of work we were forced to format the hard drive and install Microsoft Windows in order to restore the display to the correct default resolution. Again, that’s just not something you expect from a brand new notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard on the CloudBook is cramped to say the least. It will take most users several hours or more to get used to typing on such a small area. The keyboard is virtually identical to the keyboard used on the Asus Eee PC and is probably the same part provided by the same OEM. However, unlike the keyboard on the Asus Eee PC the keyboard on the CloudBook has significant flex that makes typing somewhat like pressing down on a plastic trampoline.
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As mentioned previously, the touchpad interface on the CloudBook is quite unique compared to other notebooks currently on the market. The actual touchpad is located above the keyboard on the right side of the notebook and is a small area about the size of a US postage stamp. There is no dedicated area for scrolling (thank goodness) and the touchpad is so small that precise control is extremely difficult.
The left and right touchpad buttons are located above the keyboard on the left side of the notebook and are likewise much smaller than typical touchpad buttons. Both buttons have deep feedback and well-cushioned clicks, but they are so small that it’s easy to press the wrong button or both buttons at the same time.
Touchpad buttons on the left side.
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Tiny touchpad on the right side.
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Input and Output Ports
Although the ultra-mobile form factor of the CloudBook cannot accommodate the standard array of ports you’ll find on other notebooks. Everex did manage to include a reasonable number of ports. The complete list of ports includes:
- DVI out
- Two USB 2.0 ports
- Audio out
- Microphone in
- Multi-card reader
- 10/100 Ethernet
Although VIA and Everex engineers deserve serious credit for developing the CloudBook it’s safe to say that most consumers would have rather taken a third USB port or FireWire port instead of the DVI out … particularly since the VIA integrated graphics aren’t particularly powerful. Here’s a quick tour of the notebook:
Front: No ports or indicators. (view large image)
Back: Just the hinge and battery. (view large image)
Right: Microphone in, headphone out, two USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, DC power jack. (view large image)
Left: DVI out, 4-in-1 card reader. (view large image)
The built-in stereo speakers located beneath the display hinge are the very definition of bad notebook speakers. Most budget laptops have terrible speakers that sound like someone speaking through a tin can, and indeed so does the CloudBook. The difference here is that the speakers on the CloudBook sound like someone speaking through extremely tiny tin cans.
The good news is that the audio out port (headphone minijack) provides excellent audio output. There’s little or no distortion or static and the sound on my earbuds was quite enjoyable.
The CloudBook uses a four-cell lithium-ion battery. Everex claims five hours of battery life on the CloudBook, but our tests under gOS suggest the battery life is closer to three hours, and after installation of Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium the battery life was likewise looking closer to three hours.
The CloudBook is an impressive design with some innovative features and some reasonably impressive specs for the $400 price tag. However, it’s clear that VIA and Everex had to make the number of sacrifices to bring this ultra-mobile notebook to the market for such a low price.
The low-capacity slow hard drive, and slow overall performance make the CloudBook a less than compelling purchase compared to the current generation Asus Eee PC 4G … despite the much smaller storage space. We reserve final judgment for our full review, but we certainly hope the CloudBook performs better under Windows Vista than it has under the default gOS version of Linux. Stay tuned for our full review of the Everex CloudBook in a few days.