When it comes to laptops, Asus’ EEE PC set the standard in affordability last year by offering consumers a stripped down machine that would fulfill all of their basic needs without the bloat of a traditional laptop, and with a stripped-down price to match. In the wake of this single machine, many other manufacturers have begun to pile into the ultra-low-cost market, attempting to refine Asus’ formula even further. Chipmaker VIA made one of the first entries with its Nanobook, and other Nanobook-based designs such as the Packard-Bell EasyNote XS and Everex Cloudbook have followed suit. With a $399 USD price tag and widespread availability throughout American mega-retailer Wal-Mart, the Cloudbook could be called one of the most promising in the new breed of subcompact offspring.
To give credit where it’s due, the Cloudbook is still, in almost every respect, an EEE clone. From its tiny 7-inch LCD, to its weight of two pounds, the Cloudbook borrows much of what makes it appealing from its class-forging cousin. But that said, Everex has also attempted to address the EEE’s shortcomings with a handful of its own modifications, and an operating system that is unique to Everex.
Image Courtesy of Everex
For starters, the Cloudbook comes with a 30GB hard drive. Even fans of the Asus EEE have acknowledged that its limited 4GB of flash storage can become a major hindrance, and Cloudbook engineers attempted to sidestep that complaint by switching back to conventional hard drive technology to offer a full 30GB of space. While this will give the system a definite leap in immediate practicality, it should also be noted that it will reintroduce moving parts to the design, perhaps robbing it of some of the durability that solid-state memory offers. Battery life, another motivating factor to use flash memory, appears to be unaffected. Everex claims the system can wring five hours out of a full charge, even longer than the three hours Asus claims for its own flash-based EEE.
To power the ultra-light Cloudbook, Everex reached for VIA’s C7-M ultra-low-voltage 1.2Ghz processor, a notable departure from the 900Mhz Intel Celeron buried in most Asus EEE models. While a leap in clock speed won’t necessarily provide a noticeable boost in performance, VIA’s own benchmarking shows the C7-M ULV outperforming Intel’s ULV models in power efficiency, perhaps explaining the boost in advertised battery life between the systems.
The greatest difference between the Cloudbook and other competing systems, including those that share the VIA Nanobook design it is based on, lies in its operating system. Everex has made a name for itself with its own Linux-based operating system dubbed gOS, which leverages free applications like Gmail and Skype, along with open-source applications like Firefox, GIMP, and OpenOffice, rather than commercial equivalents. You may not see the price of all that software on a traditional notebook, but it’s built into the price, and the $399 USD tag on the Cloudbook shows just how much expense can be shaved off and passed on to the consumer by eliminating it.
When it launches in late January, the Cloudbook will have the potential to become a major player in the subcompact laptop market. For would-be EEE buyers who prefer increased storage over the benefits of solid-state storage, and a different Linux-based operating system with a closer resemblance to OSX, the Cloudbook might be a perfect substitute in this quickly growing field of ultra-low-cost laptops. You can find out more at the company’s website.