Eric Lai

CloudBook here, but too soon?

By Eric Lai
February 15, 2008 6:09 PM EST
As it promised, Everex's $399 mini-laptop is slowly trickling down to e-commerce stores, with Linux-focused ZaReason claiming to be first with the CloudBook. But the first Web reviews by Laptop magazine indicate that the would-be competitor to the Asus eee may have been pushed out too fast.

The Laptop reviewers were stuck during the initial setup for about an hour because the screen was sized wrong and obscured the 'Ok' button. They also had trouble connecting to their wireless WEP network. Laptop also noted the small, awkwardly-placed touchpad.

These are small but niggling issues that caused Laptop to headline one of its blog postings: "CloudBook blows so far."

Laptop did like the GNOME-on-top-of-Ubuntu desktop interface, the video quality and the speedy Web surfing. It even connected the CloudBook up to an external 23-inch monitor via the DVI port!

Alas, the high-def DVI port is a bit of overkill, since, as of now, it's not possible to make the resolution any finer than 840 x 480, according to Laptop. By contrast, the eee can display external resolutions up to 1600 x 1200, fast enough for Web surfing though too slow for video.

I should be getting my CloudBook over the weekend, and hope to start sharing my impressions in the next few days. Since I own an eee, it'll definitely be a comparative review.

As for consumer availability, Everex head of marketing Paul Kim said that WalMart.com won't be selling CloudBooks until next Thursday, February 21st. He hasn't gotten back to me on when NewEgg or WalMart itself will be selling them.

I assume ZaReason is able to claim pole position because it's based in Berkeley, just 30 miles from Everex's U.S. headquarters in Fremont. Supply chain issues become moot when you can just pop down Highway 880 and load up your truck or SUV (these are tiny tiny computers, after all).

On the other hand, WalMart.com, at least its e-commerce division, is based across the bay from Fremont in the San Mateo area. NewEgg, meanwhile, is based down in LA.

I'm also pinging Kim on whether the bugs noted by Laptop will be limited to the reviewers' Cloudbooks and/or fixed in a soon-to-come BIOs/software update.