So criticizing the famous and now delayed Everex Cloudbook has been an unpopular decision. Heh, I guess it was just unpopular to go public with my opinion and making it even a little on Digg didn’t help. So in all fairness I think I should review the Cloudbook again in light of what everyone has mentioned. Before reading any further though, my kind readers need to understand that the point of MuddyGeek is to examine technology, open source, and environmentalism individually as well as how they may interact. For example, I may look at why a new solar powered building is very interesting from a technical perspective such as how researchers have made it thinner or more efficient. Or else I can look at the same building for its aesthetics and very noticeable stance on the environment. Not everything here is about cool technology. Something can be awesome from a geek perspective but environmentally detrimental nonetheless.
All that said, clarified, and finished… I would like to cover the Cloudbook completely like no one else has yet…
The Everex Cloudbook is intended to be a UMPC meaning that it is ultra mobile, easy on the battery life, and at least semi rugged. Everex calls this notebook “The Ultimate in Mobility.” (1) The UMPC category is a early niche market. It is relatively new compared to traditional full size laptops and the much smaller PDA segment. UMPCs seek to offer the best of both worlds combining the power, storage, and flexibility of a laptop computer with the size and battery life of a PDA. For all this, the Cloudbook generally succeeds. Other contenders have often been quite expensive (I’ve personally seen them as high as $2000 US with little performance difference) compared to traditional notebooks or the Cloudbook.
The Cloudbook also seeks to open up this niche market to significantly more people by offering a price that’s competitive with notebooks, PDAs, and smartphones (the Cloudbook does not include any phone capability). As I said, I’ve seen really expensive really small computers. The price of the Cloudbook fits solidly in line with a basic desktop computer instead of a UMPC. I.e., its cheap! Maybe not in a bad way but definitely in a “If I break it, I can buy another one” way.
Now that we know where the Cloudbook’s goals lie, how about those specs:
- 1.2 GHz Via C7-M Processor ULV
- 512 MB DDR2 533MHz SDRAM Memory (maximum is 1 GB)
- 30 GB Hard Disk Drive
- 7″ WVGA TFT Display for 800×480 resolution
- Via Unichrome Pro IGP Graphics
- Via High Definition Audio
- 802.11 B/G
- One 10/100 Ethernet Port
- DVI-I Port
- 2 USB 2.0 Ports
- 4-in-1 memory card reader
- 0.3 MP Webcam (not a typo, zero point three megapixel)
- Headphone/Line out port
- Microphone/Line in port
- Set of stereo speaker
- 4 cell lithium ion battery
- 2 pounds
- Up to 5 hours battery life
- gOS Rocket OS based on Ubuntu
- Software includes Google Apps integration
- $399 US
All specifications kindly borrowed from Everex. Please feel free to double check my specs sheet. The following are advantages to the Cloudbook based on opinion, my own and my kind readers, as well as fact. Then we shall look over the disadvantages.
At $399 the Cloudbook is downright cheap for what it offers. This would work well as a secondary computer or something to just throw in the suitcase when traveling.
- Size and Weight
With a 7″ screen and weighing 2 lbs, this is extremely light. Many 14″ notebooks easily weigh 6 lbs.
Many people are unhappy with Vista. The Cloudbook comes with gOS Linux preloaded. This not only helps with the price but makes the unit more stable and gives easy access to a lot of free software.
- Battery Life
The small screen and ultra low voltage (ULV) processor combine to make this really easy on power and thus increase the battery life.
With such an energy efficient processor, this means less power is ultimately used. The Via processor utilized here probably pulls a maximum of 20 watts under heavy load. See my previous post on the gPC developers kit for more info on the Via processor compared to standard processors. The key thing is less power used means less power produced. Easing our impact on the Earth is always good.
- Third World Countries
No, the Cloudbook doesn’t include any of these. But it’d be great if third world countries had Cloudbooks. No matter how much I may ever disdain the Cloudbook for whatever reason, it trumps the One Laptop Per Children or any of the other projects out there (that I’ve seen). This is cheap and capable for a growing infrastructure.
- Just Another Gizmo
While there are inherent advantages to using a ULV processor powered UMPC like the energy savings, I have an issue with throwing in one more gadget to most people’s current army of them. If this is going to a replacement for a laptop, that is one issue. However, if this is going to be added on top of a desktop, a laptop, a smartphone, a PDA, and whatever else, why bother?
- Not So Green
The point of MuddyGeek is to look at how green things really are. Everex does not use any RoHS compliant components (or does no specify them) nor are they making any known efforts to do so.
- Its Cheap
Believe it or not, that’s a bad thing, at least in the United States. We as Americans have a tendency to buy cheap stuff so that when it breaks, we can just throw it away. Why not invest the money in something more durable and rugged? Recycling does make this less reprehensible but about as much as recycling one can out of a 12 pack. Reducing our consumption is key for cleaning up the planet.
- Lack of Innovation
I received a lot of criticism over the Cloudbook before. Part of that was due to me supposedly picking on a company attempting to “spearhead” a new niche market (cheap UMPCs). I’m sorry, everyone, the Cloudbook is not new! Packard-Bell (yes, they are still around) has been selling this in Europe for a while now. The only differences I can see are the name (EasyNote), installed RAM (PB gives you 1 GB standard), and the operating system (Windows XP). While this alone doesn’t make the Everex Cloudbook a bad product, I would expect Everex to do something special with it.
- Not So Rugged
I don’t expect a cheap UMPC to have a solid state drive, yet. What I do expect is that people give up the expectation that this is somehow semi rugged or else Everex needs to make it that way. As long as your laptop or UMPC carries a standard hard disk drive, its vulnerable to easy data loss. Flash would have limited capacity but would have made it faster, more rugged, and used less energy.
- A Good OS
The default gOS is practically homegrown by Everex so its no wonder they used it. They are a major backer of the tiny startup. This Ubuntu Linux based OS is heavy on Google (which I consider to be a good thing). What it needs is a better finish. I’m waiting for gOS Rocket to come out of beta before giving it an honest test run. However, if gOS version 1 is any indication, this is will come off as a mish mash of Google, Linux, and Enlightenment. I won’t really count this as a strike against the Cloudbook as we’re all still waiting to see what really happens.
- Meet Deadlines
This is aimed squarely at Everex and is not meant to be anything against the Cloudbook. If you promise a deadline, meet it. I expect this out of every company, big or little.
Now I wait for the negative feedback. I want to know what you as a reader honestly think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Cloudbook. It has received a lot of attention but seemingly little discussion. If you question it like I do, let me know. I only criticize products to help improve them.