Raon Digital Everun Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) - Review

Raon Digital Everun Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) - Review

AMD Geode LX900 processor, 512MB RAM

When we first set eyes on the Everun, honestly, we weren't impressed. Looking like an ungainly, elongated Treo PDA-phone, we preferred the simplicity of the slate ASUS R2H, slider Sony UX series and even the clamshell Kohjisha SA1F00 and Fujitsu LifeBook U1010. Though we did not really go gaga over the design, we could appreciate its inner beauty. After all, with a battery life of close to 6 hours and a whole slew of upgrade options, the Everun has come closest to fulfilling the UMPC promise of mobile connectivity and all-day computing.

Design of the Raon Digital Everun Ultra Mobile PC

Though the images of the Everun make it look rather huge, the elongated 170 x 83 x 25mm form actually fits into the hands very nicely and resembles a portable gaming console. But unlike a Sony PSP, this UMPC is a full-fledged computing system running on Windows XP Home. We like the fact that the battery, keyboard and sides have a rubberized finish that is non-slip and perfect for those with sweaty palms. Not so hot are the silver borders which, unfortunately, displayed signs of paint dropping despite our utmost care keeping the unit in its included cloth bag when not in use. For a unit that is meant to be used on-the-go, this lack of attention to the exterior hardiness is a little disappointing. Fortunately, the manufacturer is aware of this issue and offers to fix any units which have this problem free. It assured us that future units will not exhibit this symptom.

The Everun weighs a mere 490g. Though the pre-production unit had a charger which resembled those used to replenish handphone cells, the final unit came with a more conventional two-piece device that increased the traveling weight to 802g. The Everun compares favorably with the 580g Fujitsu LifeBook U1010 which has a similar display size and quite a bit lighter than the 7-inch Kohjinsha SA1F00 which is almost 1kg.

There is no lack of dedicated buttons on this machine. Besides the 56-key keyboard and 12 function keys, there is a directional pad, right/left click and scroll buttons as well as two sets of shift, Fn, Alt and Ctrl controls (for use when the unit is in portrait or landscape mode). The top of the unit (in landscape view) contains the audio jacks, mini-USB, USB as well as additional keys to change CPU speeds, resolution and volume mute. The right side holds the volume control and power button. The latter is recessed enough to prevent accidental power ups while still being easy to press. A SIM card slot (for use with the optional HSDPA radio) and proprietary expansion jack are found on the bottom.

Frankly, we would have preferred if the direction pad was switched with the right/left click and scroll keys as this makes navigation a lot more intuitive. The reason for the current layout, however, is for the feature which changes the input from standard to gamepad mode for gaming. Though a laudable effort, we do not think this is necessary as a UMPC is less a gaming device than a productivity tool. There is a slot at the back for the stylus so that it can be used as a stand. However, it is so flimsy that we do not advise doing so.

This UMPC can be used as an external storage device when switched off, allowing you to access the contents without draining the battery. Unfortunately, the mini-USB and charging port are paired too close to allow both to be used simultaneously. Hence, you can either replenish the battery or access the harddisk, but not both.

Features of the Raon Digital Everun Ultra Mobile PC

As mentioned, one of our favorite party tricks with the Everun is its ability to be used as an external harddisk while switched off. Despite its size, this is a full-fledged computer capable of running most Windows XP-compatible programs. Despite its seemingly underpowered AMD Geode 600MHz, we were quite surprised that applications opened rather promptly with acceptable video performance. It may also be the first device to use an optical sensor as a mouse which we found to be intuitive as well as conducive to one-hand operations. An internal accelerometer detects the orientation of the device and automatically rotates the screen to an upright position.

The keyboard letters are tilted so they can be used in either landscape or portrait positions. Though a useful feature for quick password inputs and Web surfing, the smaller keys are terrible if you intend to write anything longer than a short email or phrase. We suggest pairing it with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse if you need serious work to be done.

We lament the omission of an Ethernet port as some hotels and offices still use the faster wired networks for Internet connection. Nevertheless, with the increase of wireless hotspots, most users will make full use of the 802.11b/g radio under the hood. Short-range Bluetooth connectivity is included as well. One particular quirk we found is that you cannot disable only one radio. So we either had both wireless and Bluetooth up and running, or none at all. This is quite a pity as some may want to use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse but with the power-draining Wi-Fi component turned off. An optional 3G/HSDPA module for mobile broadband users can be added for an additional S$450 (US$296.11).

A singule USB port is all you get for hooking up external devices, so we suggest investing in a powered USB hub if you have many peripherals. Using an included VGA adapter, an external display of up to 1,920 x 1,440-pixel resolution can be used to extend the 4.8-inch wide-aspect touchscreen. The latter's native resolution is 800 x 480, hence you may need to scroll the screen for certain applications and Web sites. To be honest, the small display is not really meant for extended use as the fonts, though sharp, are more than a little straining on the eyes. Surfing and emailing are not a problem, but for longer usage go for an external display instead. The underlying graphics engine can be tweaked to use from 0MB to 254MB of the system RAM for graphics rendering. Considering the rather anemic 512MB soldered on, we suggest reducing the video RAM to boost application performance.

We were surprised to find stereo speakers as we expected only a single mono output in a device this size. There is also a built-in microphone for quick recordings. But for better sound and voice capture, we suggest using the integrated audio jacks at the top of the unit. We were not too keen about the positioning of the jacks as the wires obscure the screen while in use which is a bad thing if you are trying to watch a movie or video.

Performance And Battery Life of the Raon Digital Everun Ultra Mobile PC

Our S$1,638 (US$1,077.11) review unit held a AMD Geode LX900 processor clocked at 600MHz with 512MB of memory and 60GB harddisk. The memory is soldered on and cannot be upgraded. A cheaper variant with a 500MHz chip and 30GB storage is also available at S$1,288 (US$847.37). Later in the month, a version with a 6GB solid state drive (SSD) will turn up and will tentatively retail for S$1,488 (US$978.05). According to the distributor TrendsMobile, the 6GB SSD comes with an adapter which allows CompactFlash cards to use the 1.8-inch harddisk slot for more storage space.

In an era where most processors are measured by the number of cores which clock in at over 1GHz, having a single 600MHz sounds like a recipe for disaster. But remember that Windows XP was released at the turn of the millennium when some PCs were running at 233MHz with 128MB memory. During our tests we found that the operating system was quite responsive and most applications had no problems running on the Everun. Trying to run Photoshop or Microsoft Office 2007 would, however, be pushing it. Fortunately, the distributor's Web site provides a list of programs which run quite well on this UMPC. Windows Vista is, of course, a big no-no on this machine.

One of the best uses for this machine is video playback. Capable of running up to 4Mbps 720 x 400 DivX videos, the graphics was smooth with minimal frame skips. WMV videos, however, did not fare too well and for YouTube clips the quality had to be set at low to prevent jerky playback. Some users even claim to be able to run older games like StarCraft on the Everun.

The battery life is where the Everun impresses. We looped a series of MPEG-1 and DivX videos on the included GOM player with the screen at half brightness and switched Wi-Fi off. From the CPU indicator light, it was screaming its 600MHz head off and yet still squeezed out over 5 hours of uptime. The unit did not heat up too much despite the stress we put it through. Using the machine in normal Web surfing mode with wireless radios on, we averaged about 4 hours. There is a high-capacity cell which adds 100g to the weight but claims up to 12 hours of running time, according to the manufacturer. Leaving the charger at home is definitely an option with this UMPC.

After-Sales Service And Support for the Raon Digital Everun Ultra Mobile PC

When it comes to support, Raon Digital's Web site provides only the manual for download. The device drivers have to be obtained via the distributor's Web site. There is a recovery partition on the device which will reset the Everun to its factory default setting, after which one can install the bundled programs stored in the second data partition. Suffice to say, any issues--software or hardware--will have to be handled via the local distributor, which offers a one-year local warranty for this device. Email and telephone support are available via the distributor as well.