Everex to make CloudBook UMPC with 9-in. LCD

More big doings on the tiny laptop front as competition with Eee heats up

Hoping to capitalize on the minimomentum generated by the CloudBook and gPC, Everex has several other low-cost Linux-based computers due out by the end of March. They include:

-- An ultraportable the size of the 9-in.-long CloudBook that will come with an LCD touch screen and cost between US$400 and $500. Tentatively called the DevBook, the computer will run the gOS and be aimed at open-source developers, who Kim hopes will write applications customized for the DevBook. The side module, where the webcam is today, will be removable so that users can swap in other components, too.

-- A regular-size laptop called the gBook that will have a 15.4-in. screen and cost US$399 (PDF format). It will come with a 1.5-GHz Via C7-M processor, 60GB hard drive, 512MB of RAM upgradeable to 2GB and a DVD-ROM drive.

-- A minidesktop called the gPC Mini (PDF format) similar in size to the Mac Mini or those made by Shuttle Computers Group. It will use notebook PC components, such as a Pentium dual-core T2130 processor running at 1.9-GHz, 120MB hard drive, dual-layer DVD drive, and both DVI-I and S-Video ports for easy hookup to high-res monitors or TVs. It will cost US$499. While it will include the same software as the CloudBook, Kim expects the gPC Mini to turn out to be more of a "media machine," he said.

Speed and support

Kim declined to comment on when the CloudBook would boast WiMax in addition to Wi-Fi networking, since Asus plans to add to its Eees by midyear.

He also disputed notions that the CloudBook, because it relies on a conventional spinning hard drive with disks and read/write heads, will be vulnerable to physical harm. The Eee, in contrast, uses a 4GB flash-memory drive that has no moving parts.

"Our internal drop tests have been pretty good," Kim said. "The CloudBook is definitely better than a standard notebook PC."

Kim recommends against upgrading the 4,200 rpm, 30GB drive to a faster, larger one, warning that it will void Everex's warranty. CloudBook owners may upgrade the RAM up to 1GB without voiding the warranty, he said.

Kim claimed the CloudBook "should run apps a little faster" than the Eee, with the higher clock speed of the CloudBook's processor (1.5 GHz, versus 900 MHz for the Eee) outweighing the Eee's faster storage.

Depending on how fast storage prices fall, a CloudBook model with a solid-state drive such as the Eee may be available by Christmas, Kim said.

One thing that has kept low-cost PCs from taking off in the past has been a reputation for poor reliability and bad (or nonexistent) technical support.

Kim claimed the return rate for the gPC, which has a one-year limited warranty, has been "very, very low, lower than our Vista PCs." Everex has had a call center in Carmel, Ind., that offers customers toll-free 24/7 support free for the first 30 days.

Now that TigerDirect's parent, Systemax Inc., owns the assets of the bankrupt CompUSA, could we see the CloudBook in re-opened CompUSA stores? "We've talked about it. We're not 100% sure yet," he said.

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