So, we’ve covered specs and pricing, what about looks? Well, despite more than a passing resemblance to an enlarged Nintendo DS Lite, as a design the Everun Note is more functional than fun. When closed it looks and feels boxy, albeit with a rounded front edge, while the lid is finished in a pearlescent white that, like the Eee PC 901, is an acquired taste to some. We like it well enough, but there’s a black version available as well if white isn’t your cup of tea.
Inside it’s finished almost exclusively in matte white plastic, the only exception being a thin sliver of black around the screen that contrasts the overwhelming whiteness rather well. Build quality is pretty reasonable too, the body in particular feels compact and sturdy and there’s nary a hint of flex in the keyboard. Things are let down somewhat, however, by the screen and its hinge. Its wide adjustability – it can be set parallel to the main body for easy use of the touchscreen – is very welcome, but the hinge feels loose and flimsy and could possibly cause a problem over a prolonged period of ownership.
It is remarkable, though, how useable the keyboard is given the machine’s small size. Its primary alpha keys are, in fact, slightly larger than those found on the Eee PC 901 and its predecessors and since, with a little practice, we’ve adapted to those fairly well, the Everun Note is much the same. Yet, as remarkable as this is, to achieve this usability some more dramatic layout compromises have been made elsewhere. For instance many commonly used punctuation keys, like the apostrophe, colon and semi-colon keys, have been re-located to the top row. This takes a significant amount of getting used to and has a noticeable effect on typing speed, as does the relatively small Return key.
On a more positive note, there are two appreciably large Shift keys and common pitfalls, like the Fn key outside the Ctrl key, are avoided. Other changes, like the cursor keys all on one row, are also quite sensible and less obtrusive and Raon Digital has even found space for a Windows key in there, too. Moreover, the basic feel of the keyboard is very impressive; keys are firm with decent travel and bounce back crisply. This still doesn’t mean typing is easy, a device this small is always going to take a little getting used to, but it’s pretty damned good all things considered.
Something else that’s rather ingenious is the small optical touch point. To operate it you simply run your finger over the top of it, pressing downward to activate a normal ‘left click’. It’s surprisingly accurate and easy to use and is flanked by left and right mouse buttons as well, making dragging and dropping no problem. As solutions to difficult problems go, this is a good one. Another nice touch is the magnetic lid fastening.
Unfortunately we’re not so sure about the touchscreen. It works well enough, of course, but no stylus or place to stow one is provided and Windows XP has never been anything approaching finger-friendly. So, though it might be useful for controlling media playback, the lack of a stylus, or preferably a custom touchscreen OS, means the touchscreen is somewhat superfluous.
Since we’re on the topic of missing items, it’s also somewhat galling that no carry case is provided in the box. A device this small really does need one, since it would make carrying the device in a bag less hazardous.