Back in October 2007, Taipei-based Asustek Computer Inc proved that less can be more with its £200 Eee PC.

Since then, other subnotebooks have followed (or are soon to follow) in the Eee PC's wake. However, only the Everex Everex CloudBook has dared to take the Eee PC 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 (£200) price tag.

The excitement around the CloudBook's public unveiling at CES in January 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 PC, 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 1.2GHz VIA C7-M processor and 512MB, DDR2, 533MHz SDRAM. Unlike the Eee PC, which uses solid-state memory, the CloudBook offers a 30GB hard drive. Like the Eee PC, it offers a 7in, 800x480 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 do this seriously handsome machine justice.

The CloudBook uses the same dark black plastic shell as the Lenovo ThinkPad. But unlike the ThinkPad , whose splashes of colour 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 1in 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.

Bottom line: Ebony beats ivory. Edge to the CloudBook.

NEXT PAGE: We compare, the weight, video quality and storage capacity of the Eee and the CloudBook.

  1. The under £200 laptop battle
  2. We compare, the weight, video quality and storage capacity of the Eee and the CloudBook
  3. We rate the battery life, touch pad and WiFi capability of both machines
  4. Operating system and external ports
  5. Our final verdict

When it comes to laptops under £200, Asus were the first into the market with the Eee PC. While many have followed, Everex’s CloudBook appears to be the Eeeis biggest competitor. We’ve put the two laptops head-to-head to find out which one you should purchase

Heft

With its conventional brick-style power supply, the CloudBook weighs just over 1.25kg. By comparison, my ThinkPad T42 weighs nearly 3kg with charger. The Eee, however, tips my postal scale at just over 1Kg2.25 lb., because of its smaller iPod-style charger.

Bottom line: Both are petite, but edge to the Eee.

Video quality

Both PCs feature 7in., 800x480 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 1024x768, a hassle.

I give the edge to the Eee PC 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 PC 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.

Storage

One of the biggest differentiators between the two systems is the Eee PC's 4GB solid-state drive and the CloudBook’s conventional 30GB hard drive. It's size versus speed. With an operating system and applications installed, you have less than 1GB of free space on the Eee PC, but almost 25GB on the CloudBook. (Granted, both the Eee and CloudBook have four-in-one flash memory card readers that, along with the USB slots, augment users' storage.)

But while the Eee can boot up in just 25 seconds, the CloudBook takes more than three minutes, including the time to enter your username and password. The CloudBook does offer a hibernate mode that takes about a minute to wake up from. Or take file copying - copying a 925MB file from an USB drive to the CloudBook took 95 seconds. Copying the same file to the Eee took 70 seconds, despite the Eee's slower USB ports.

Bottom line: Depends on your needs, so it's even.

Keyboard

Buyers need to accept compromises from these extra-small laptops, and the keyboard is a major place where compromise is necessary. However, though the keyboards and keys are exactly the same size in both units, I was surprised to find myself less error-prone with the CloudBook. I think the CloudBook has greater key depth, in other words, the keys push in more.

However, this was dragged down by the CloudBook's patchy implementation of the blue Fn keys. I already mentioned the kludginess of adjusting the screen brightness. Worse is adjusting the volume through Fn+F10 and F11. It worked on the speakers, but failed to adjust the volume of the headphones.

Bottom line: It's a draw.

NEXT PAGE: We rate the battery life, touch pad and WiFi capability of both machines.

  1. The under £200 laptop battle
  2. We compare, the weight, video quality and storage capacity of the Eee and the CloudBook
  3. We rate the battery life, touch pad and WiFi capability of both machines
  4. Operating system and external ports
  5. Our final verdict

There's a wealth of laptops under £200 available. The Asus Eee PC and Everex's CloudBook have emerged as the market's two biggest players, but how do the two models compared against each other? We've taken an in-depth look at them.

Touch pad

In my Eee PC review, I described its touch pad as being like the hero of a romantic comedy: sensitive and sturdy.

The CloudBook's touch pad doesn't lack those qualities, but at just a quarter the size of the Eee's touch pad, and located at the top-right corner of the keyboard, it's hard to use.

The CloudBook's jet-black exterior also has a tendency to camouflage the track pad and its two buttons, which are awkwardly located at the top-left corner of the machine. This arrangement does let you use the CloudBook while standing, but it's ultimately less handy for use when sitting down.

Bottom line: The CloudBook track pad is a victim to fashion. Big edge to the Eee PC.

Processor

The CloudBook would seem to have a big edge, since its Via C7-M chip set runs at 1.2GHz, or double the 600MHz of the Eee's Celeron chip (a still-unfixed BIOS prevents the Eee from attaining its 900MHz potential). Based on my experience opening applications, transferring files and playing media files, the CloudBook pretty much lags behind the Eee in every task, though the CloudBook's slower storage is part of the reason.

Bottom line: Edge to the Eee.

Battery/fan

The Eee PC's 5,200 mAH Lithium-ion battery is over twice the capacity of the CloudBook's 2,200 mAH battery, and even the Eee PC's cheaper Surf model has a 4,400 maH battery. However, I found little difference in actual battery life. The CloudBook, even with its fan whining like a hair dryer, got the same 2.5 to 3 hours I get with my Eee PC. Meanwhile, the Eee PC takes twice as long to recharge.

The CloudBook's battery meter is unsatisfactory, however, giving conflicting readings of the remaining charge and shutting off without any pop-up warning when the charge runs low. The tiebreaker was the fan. The Eee PC may get hot, but the CloudBook's fan was ubiquitous and louder.

Bottom line: Edge to the Eee.

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 mansion by any means, but the CloudBook failed to connect in the majority of my house, areas that the Eee PC 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 PC 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.

NEXT PAGE: Operating system and external ports.

  1. The under £200 laptop battle
  2. We compare, the weight, video quality and storage capacity of the Eee and the CloudBook
  3. We rate the battery life, touch pad and WiFi capability of both machines
  4. Operating system and external ports
  5. Our final verdict

The under £200 laptop market has exploded and with a host of models to choose from, which model should you go for? We've put the two most popular machines; the Asus Eee PC and the Everex CloudBook head-to-head to find out which is best.

External ports

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

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 1,600x1,200 flicker-free pixels on an external monitor.

The CloudBook's external Digital Visual Interface (DVI) monitor interface is theoretically more powerful than the Eee PC'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 PC uses a tweaked version of the unheralded Xandros distribution of Linux. The CloudBook, meanwhile, uses the gOS flavour of the popular Ubuntu distribution of Linux that has garnered raves for its Mac-like graphical user interface.

But don't let that fool you. The Eee PC's 'easy model' 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 flavour of Linux or Windows onto a USB flash drive, which can be used to boot your CloudBook (or Eee PC) 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 PC 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 recognise 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.

NEXT PAGE: Our final verdict.

  1. The under £200 laptop battle
  2. We compare, the weight, video quality and storage capacity of the Eee and the CloudBook
  3. We rate the battery life, touch pad and WiFi capability of both machines
  4. Operating system and external ports
  5. Our final verdict

When it comes to laptops under £200, Asus were the first into the market with the Eee PC. While many have followed, Everex’s CloudBook appears to be the Eee's biggest competitor. We've put the two laptops head-to-head to find out which one you should purchase

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 http://docs.google.com/ , YouTube www.youtube.com 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 centre in the US. 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 PC. 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 PC users rely on message boards such as Eeeuser.com.

Bottom line: Another tie.

The final analysis

If you're in the market for a £200 sub-notebook, there are a few reasons, none of them crucial, why you might choose the CloudBook when it launches in the UK 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 colour black. A contrarian streak that rebels against the Eee PC'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 PC 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 Asus Eee PC 900, the recently announced ECS G10IL or Everex's own updates to the CloudBook. All will sport larger 9in screens, while the updated CloudBook looks set to have a larger keyboard. all will reportedly cost between £250 to £500.

  1. The under £200 laptop battle
  2. We compare, the weight, video quality and storage capacity of the Eee and the CloudBook
  3. We rate the battery life, touch pad and WiFi capability of both machines
  4. Operating system and external ports
  5. Our final verdict