Notebook Review: The Zonbu Zonbook - Page 2

By Joseph Moran
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Hardware and Setup
The size, weight, and specs of the Zonbook (which is built by Everex) are on par with what you'd get with a conventional entry-level notebook. At 14.1 x 10.7 x 1.5 inches and 5.3 pounds the unit isn't exactly small or light, but neither is it especially large or unwieldy. Zonbu rates the unit's lithium-ion battery at 2.5 - 3 hours of life, and we got within that range during our time with it.

The Zonbook is powered by 1.5 GHz Intel-compatible Via C7-M processor and offers fairly modest amounts of RAM and hard disk space at 512 MB and 60 GB respectively. There are three USB ports, a DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, and built-in wired Ethernet plus 802.11g Wi-Fi. Topping it all off is a 15.4-inch widescreen display capable of 1440 x 900 resolution (plus a VGA connector for use with an external monitor).

When you turn on the Zonbook, it takes a minute or two before it finishes booting and you're able to log in to your Zonbu account. (Given how long Windows can take to load, we were hoping for a bit more speed here.) If no wired network connection is detected, a wizard will let you locate and connect to available WLANs — we were able to connect to a WPA2-encrypted network with no difficulties.

Operating System and Applications
Once logged in, you're presented with Zonbu's operating system desktop. Like many of the more user-friendly Linux variants, this one looks and feels very much like Windows, so suffice it to say if you've used Windows for more than an hour you'll probably acclimate to the Zonbu without much difficulty.

For tackling daily computing chores, Zonbook comes with a host of applications preinstalled, many of which are familiar open-source tools that are also available on Windows, such as the Firefox Web browser, OpenOffice.org productivity suite (a half dozen applications including word processing, spreadsheet and presentation graphics that work with most Microsoft Office files), and Pidgin multi-protocol instant messaging software. There are a number of other programs too, including Skype, GNUCash (a Quicken-compatible personal finance manager) and for those not using Web-based services, an e-mail client called Evolution.

In addition to workaday computing tasks, the Zonbook is also adept at handling multimedia content like photos, music and video through a host of built-in utilities. We didn't have any problems playing MP3 audio files or viewing JPEG images, MPEG videos or recorded DVD movies. In addition to basic multimedia playback tools, the Zonbook comes with software to organize (and often edit) various types of content. (It's worth mentioning that the Zonbook has only a single mono speaker, though you can listen to stereo sound by connecting headphones to the unit's standard 3.5mm audio jack.)

Generally speaking, the applications you get with Zonbook are roughly equivalent to those you'd find built into or used with Windows, and as with the Zonbu OS itself, the learning curve required by the bundled software should be minimal for most. But while the interface and capabilities are similar to popular Windows-based applications, they're not necessarily identical, so in some cases not all expected features will be available or work the same way. (Zonbu offers a money back guarantee within the first 30 days.)

In a testament to the efficiency of Linux in general and Zonbu's hardware/software combo, in particular, the Zonbook remained responsive when using and switching between applications. Even when a half-dozen were running at once, about half the RAM was still available — try that with equivalent Windows-based PC. (Actually, don't — you won't get a good result.) Only video playback — clips more so than DVDs — seemed to noticeably tax the Zonbook, pegging the CPU at or near 100 percent if more than one or two other applications were running.

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This article was originally published on February 22, 2008
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