Today my CloudBook ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) arrived. It just came out on Friday and is only being sold by one company thus far. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to pre-order it and, as a result, I’m one of the few people who have it today. Kudos to ZaReason for being so transparent about the initial product launch delay and the problems they’ve had securing the number of CloudBooks Everex had promised them. I have found their customer service to be fantastic and I would definitely buy from them again. The computer has a 7 inch screen and weighs only 2 pounds. I swear it’s lighter than my purse! The computer only costs $399 and comes with a funky Googlish version of Ubuntu (which I think isn’t nearly as good as plain old Ubuntu).
I just opened it up about two hours ago, so I haven’t had much time to play with it. Here are my initial impressions:
Screen – nice, bright, very clear. It is also very small. I’ll definitely have to do some side-to-side scrolling from time-to-time. It doesn’t look like the graphics card is using the proper driver (it’s using the generic driver) so I bet connecting to external monitors will not go well.
Keyboard – I was a bit worried about it being too small to comfortably type, but I find that I’m already able to type with ease and without losing too much speed. I’m sure I’ll get more comfortable with it as I use it more. That being said, I have very small hands and very skinny fingers. I can’t imagine someone with big meaty hands typing on this with ease.
Trackpad – The trackpad is about the size of two fingers of an average man and is located by the upper right-hand portion of the keyboard. The buttons are on the left-hand side of the screen. It definitely will take some getting used to, but it wasn’t difficult to use at all. Again, I have tiny fingers. It had no problem connecting to an external wireless mouse, which is definitely a good thing.
Software – This is where I really have complaints. We have had many laptops with Ubuntu in this house and none of them have ever had a problem connecting to our wireless base station. This one did. I kept putting in the key and it kept not connecting. Luckily it has an Ethernet port so I was able to connect to the Internet and download the software updates. Once the software was updated, the CloudBook connected to wireless. I saw that the folks at Laptop Magazine had the same problem, so if you’re expecting one of these in the mail, be prepared with an Ethernet cable.
The worst part though is the fact that they did not adapt the software for the size of the screen. Registration windows for their software don’t fit the screen, so you just have to hit enter and hope you filled everything out. When I loaded up Firefox, a winfow for configuring the Google Toolbar popped up (which, by the way, no one would want with a 7-inch screen, Everex!) and I couldn’t get to the bottom of it to get rid of the window since it was cut off at the bottom. Resizing the window didn’t help. Every time I tried to kill it by clicking the button in the upper left, it would come back. Finally, I clicked one button on the configuration window, then clicked tab and enter a few times until finally it disappeared. Then I immediately got rid of the Google Toolbar and any other toolbars that take up the very limited screen real estate on the CloudBook. Everex told Laptop Magazine that the problem with windows extending beyond the screen was only a problem with the evaluation version. Clearly, that isn’t true. It’s pretty obvious that the software was thrown together at the last minute and thus has some pretty annoying flaws. I’m sure I’ll notice more flaws as I use it more and things like this continue to happen.
Verdict (after 2 hours) – I bought this computer so that I wouldn’t have to lug around my 15-inch MacBook Pro at conferences. For that, this machine will definitely meet my needs. I can connect to the Web, I can use Open Office, and all on something that is ridiculously light. I will definitely take this on my vacation to Florida in March, since I won’t be doing much other than keeping an eye on the class I’m teaching and checking email occasionally. If this was someone’s primary computer, it would be a disaster. This is not something you’d want to use all the time and there are a lot of things that just plain don’t work right. But for me, it’s pretty much what I was looking for (other than the software issues).
I have a feeling Adam and I will end up making some changes to the computer over the next few weeks and it may get to the point where we just end up installing regular Ubuntu on it, but it’s definitely “good enough” now for what little I need it for. Coming in with such low expectations, I couldn’t help but be pleased with it.
Thanks for the review and pictures. It helps many of us who are waiting to get our own Cloudbooks.
Thanks for the honest review and pics. I am really curious to know how it works playing halo on it – but I doubt you would try that (it may need 3D analyze to work if you feel up to the challenge). Also, it would be interesting to know how it performs compared to gOS v.2.0 Rocket with enlightenment (as opposed to the GNOME version on your unit). Also would be interesting to know how ubuntu runs as well. Keep up the posts and pics, and enjoy your new system! I am so envious you got one before me 🙂
Also check out http://www.cloudbooker.com
Jealous. I”ll get mine in the second shipment. Oh, and you made Cloudbooker. http://www.cloudbooker.com/2008/02/19/solid-cloudbook-review-with-pictures/
I plan on using mine as my main PC. If it truly is using a Frame Buffer or VESA driver for the video, then yeah it’ll have to be updated to something better. I don’t anticipate that it’ll be a disaster though. I think it could definitely be made to work “plugged in” as a desktop, and then unpluged for mobile use. Worst case scenario like everyone is saying…it’ll end up getting another OS installed on it.
I think it would be a disaster as is, but the main issue is the software, so you could definitely make it work if you install a different OS (or fix the one that’s on it now), and hook it to an external monitor and mouse. Good luck with it!
I think If I end up getting this or the eeepc my first step will be installing Ubuntu or Xubuntu. Other than that, looks like a nice little machine! I’m curious if you could use it to present. I have not had good luck getting external monitors to work with Ubuntu.
Got mine yesterday (2/19/08). The UPS guy rang the doorbell ten minutes after I got home from a faculty meeting. I am a professor of philosophy for over thirty years, I also own an Eee, iMac, MacBook pro, PC’s with Vista and XP. In addition, I was once director of faculty computing at UCSB in the 80’s, as a junior faculty member. I have been working with computers since UNIX days on a PDP 11. With all those years of testing almost every major OS and machines, I agree with your review. It serves a particular purpose. The Eee is faster and has the same size. But, the Cloudbook is Ubuntu and not Xandros with all its limitations. Yes, there are issues with the wireless setup and I am working on them. After 24 hours, my initial impression is mixed. The Asus was so effortless. This is rougher and will take some work and help from various forums. Still, I believe it is worth the effort to help this Linux machine make it. It deserves a place in the “game”. We need more Linux players with solid Ubuntu sources and ready availability (Zareason). I believe in diversity and the Cloudbook has its place along with my other platforms. People should stop playing “my dog is better than yours”. Every ‘breed” has a role to play, speaking as a multiple dog and computer owner. To close this analogy, the cloudbook is not the best in breed, but is a competitor in the “show”. Now, if only my wife would only give computing a chance.
Are you going to test out real Ubuntu 7.10 on this box. Might be worth a check. I don’t have one but if I diid I’d test it out. Let us know 😉
Warren, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about…..
Benchmarks show the VIA CPU in class above the Intel CPU. Benchmark tests are actual numbers and not feelings. Your remark that the EEE PC is faster is not measure of speed but opinion.
You appear to be looking at the OS of the Cloudbook and the EEE PC. XP Pro for me.
I just wanted to point out the “poison” by calling the cloudbook slower when its the OS!
You are very defensive. You must love XP. So do I. I have it as the preferred OS on the PC right by my iMac. Still, I am on the iMac writing this to you. At my office, I have a Dell running XP Pro with about a 3GHz Pentium 4 and 1Gb of ram. The Eee boots and gets on line about the same (20 seconds approximately). The Cloudbook has me waiting near 3 minutes. This is “subjective” and it is an “opinion”. But I have the CPU benchmarks for most recent CPU’s (I’ll take a Xeon X5365 any day) and know that there are different ways of measuring performance. You can do it by the numbers or the speed in which an OS and a CPU work together for a specific application. There is much literature on this and debate, as to which measure is more accurate. It takes both a CPU and an OS working together. I agree with you on that. Most of the time it is the OS. That is why I am on OSX Tiger. But the XP Pro at my office has different issues besides speed. Comparably, they Eee and Dell work about the same. But the security issues and size are another matter. The Eee travels. The Dell sits on my desk. Back to the Eee and Cloudbook. I can only speak having both and using both. Do you? I do not want to argue test numbers. Computing is how I get my job done and a “hobbie” now. When I was in the game, I knew every number for every machine. It got to be a pain. All I was talking about was 2 LINUX machines with different chip sets and OS’s. I could put XP Pro on the Cloudbook and the numbers would be better than the odd variation of Ubuntu with Gnome that Everex has installed on it. The Asus with its strange version of Xandros is a different machine, in terms of CPU and OS. On paper the Cloudbook’s CPU is superior. In real life, under LINUX, one takes less than a half minute to boot and get on line. The other almost 3 minutes. I am losing valuable time in my “opinion”. I should go out and spend $2700 and buy a Sony Vaio Premium with a 2.5 Ghz T9300 and 4Gb of RAM. I just played with one. It gets me on line about the same as the Eee , which I paid $400 plus shipping. The Sony runs Vista Business and not XP. It would perform better under XP in my opinion. The Cloudbook has potential as a LINUX machine. I do not want to run Windows on it. But I believe in Ubuntu and want the “unit” to work better. As an XP user also, I do not want to speak “poison” about it as an OS. I only wanted to put on record support for the Cloudbook. Get one and try it out. Compare it to an Eee as much as the Sony. Then tell me what you think based on experience and not a spec sheet. Then you would know what you are talking about. I can only stand by my opinion knowing the specs, but having worked and timed the performance on the application level.
one thing to keep in mind about those dialog windows are that one can keep alt down and drag most windows around, no matter where in the window the mouse is iirc.
but it sounds like everex did the cheap way out and slapped their existing distro on the hardware without properly checking first. something that will, sadly, in the end give all linux distros a bad rep.
I’m with you, Warren Lew. My Cloudbook arrives Monday. My fondness for Ubuntu and my need for more than 4GB of storage(!) dictated the Cloudbook choice. Before I decided, I borrowed an Eee PC for a weekend — thanks to good friends. I’m a little disappointed by the reported 3-minute boot — the Asus 30-second boot was terrific. More to tell Monday!
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what gOS -is- and why it takes 3 minutes to boot.
First, gOS practically -is- Ununtu!
Ubuntu 7.10 to be exact. gOS is based on Ubuntu and the GNOME desktop with a “gOS” theme, switch to the regular theme, and you practically have a regular Ubuntu.
And, contrary to what is said, gOS v2 is -not- the same OS as what was available as “gOS” before, but was totally rewritten for the CloudBook (and the coming gBook laptop) to be based on GNOME instead of the inadequate Enlightenment desktop manager, making it 99% the same as the Ubuntu, on which even the older gOS versions are based on.
The current performance problems have nothing to do with gOS as-such (because as I said, gOS v2 is 99% Ubuntu) but with the fact it is currently using a regular, non-tweaked non-optimised kernel, which among other things switches the CPU speed to half-speed during booting (600 MHz), and has other performance limiting issues. Once a specific kernel for the CloudBook is released, that has had some optimisations, the performance will be as one would expect Ubuntu to have on this hardware, and it won’t matter at all if gOS or Ubuntu is used.
Of course a flash based EEE PC will always boot faster than any 1.8 inch hard-disk laptop based system, but that is to be expected, and is just the price you have to pay for a tenfold larger storage capacity. There is no real reason though that the CloudBook couldn’t boot in a minute and a half or so, the hardware is very comparable to the gPC, and it boots Ubuntu in about that time, or faster.
Then, yes, the current batch of systems have had no optimisation for the small screen, it’s expected the next batch will have those optimisations already installed, but gOS has a built in update manager, so many tweaks etc will be automatically installed as they come available.
But even as it is, gOS is perfectly useable even with windows larger than the screen, as the windows can be easily dragged around using the Alt-left mouse button + mousepad trick.
As shown on you-tube. It was just that this information was not provided with the verions distributed by Zareason, CloudBooks from wal-mart will have a sheet describing this trick, so even newbies will be able to overcome the “large windows problem”.
I use the Everex desktop version with gOs to run my student/personal blog and the thing has plenty of “horsepower” for such things. Meredith, you can change out the windows manager easy enough as you need to remember that gOs was really made with the beginner in mind-not for us geeks. I don’t think you have to reload another distro but that Ubunta is almost already there. Regardless, I am sure there will soon be all sorts of mods and cool add-ons for your Cloud just like the EEE. As far as the guys fighting in the comments, just be glad these kinds of machines are finally hitting the market so consumers are starting to get some real choices again. I like both my Everex and EEE and they are both fast machines for what they are with the EEE subjectively appearing faster to me. Now compare them to Vista if you want to see something shocking. Recently I was working on our dean’s new Dell with Vista. It is a nice,loaded machine but Vista is no match on boot up or shutdown performance to the EEE with the factory installed Linux. The difference was so much I had to show my director. The Triple E walks all over the Dell speed wise. And I have already seen beginners take to the EEE ui first hand. My dad is confined to a wheelchair and I bought an EEE at Christmas to give him something to do. He has never used a computer before in his life except for the public library OPAC. With a full size wireless keyboard/mouse hooked to an hdtv, he has already learned how to use Google and Ebay well enough to drive my mom nuts.
I purchased a cloudbook and received it 4 days ago. I also own an Eee pc from Asus.
Pros of the Cloudbook:
1.) very lightweight
2.) stylish and the whole in the middle makes it
very easy to carry around without dropping it.
3.) built sturdy, this is good especially for those concerned with the hard drive.
4.) cost efficient
1.) Very slow to boot and some other applications are slow.
2.) Software is horrible too many bugs to fix
3.) Technical support is horrible also, you have to figure things out on your own.
4.) Wifi problems, even after software upgrades
Overall I think if you’re willing to change out the operating system, or wait for a better copy from everex then the cloudbook system will serve it’s purpose and be good to have if you’re looking for an alternative to the Eee Pc from Asus. However do to the solid state drive in the Asus it is much faster. It is also very sturdy and has many help forums. Installation is easy for the Eee pc and so is installing other operating system such as Windows XP. I love the performance of the eee pc, but I’m sure everex will tweek the cloudbook for better software and performance. I guess it all boils down to how much patience you have with the cloudbook and what your speed requirements are. I have both and will probably keep them but if I had a choice it would definitely be Asus because its more user friendly and easy to upgrade.
NotebookReview.com has the following review of the Everex Cloudbook laptop:
Excellent high-resolution scaling on the tiny screen
* Innovative design
Very low performance
Included gOS operating system is a joke (a bad joke at that)
Horrible touchpad interface
No easy upgrades, opening chassis voids warranty
System gets too hot … overheats and stops working
Loud cooling fan that is constantly on when plugged in
We’ve had some wireless connection success with one of our user’s new Cloudbook. It connected to some open networks right out of the box, but wouldn’t connect to our WPA-PSK network or his. The user finally got it on his WPA-PSK network by removing the spaces from the pass phrase. (Maybe Ubuntu folks know this already. We didn’t. He just happened on it as a commonality between the two networks’ PSKs.)
We’re still struggling to get the Cloudbook onto our WPA-PSK network. It appears to be getting through the wireless router (using a spaceless pass phrase), but our DHCP server isn’t giving it an IP. The Cloudbook is on the road this week. I expect we’ll conquer the DHCP thing once it’s back in the building.
The company plans to make sure everyone who preordered a Cloudbook gets one, but ZaReason will no longer accept new orders.