Before there were netbooks running Linux and Windows XP, there were handheld PCs, running EPOC or Windows CE software. They may not have been able to run full fledged desktop applications like Firefox, Office, or OpenOffice.org, but they were good enough to give you some mobile computing power on the go. But for some reason, the handheld PC fell out of fashion a few years ago. Cellphones and laptops took their place, to some degree. But laptops didn’t have the battery life or ease of use of handheld PCs and cellphones didn’t have the large screens and full keyboards.

But the rise of the netbook apparently has some manufacturers taking another look at the idea of handheld PCs running stripped down operating systems like Windows CE.

The latest netbook/handheld PC running Windows CE is the Cuol Book, available in the UK from Robert Dyas. This odd little system has no trackpad or touchscreen to speak of, but comes with a mouse. It has a 7 inch display, measures just 21cm x 15cm, or about 8.3″ x 5.9″ and weighs just 680 grams or about 1.5 pounds.

The Cuol Book runs Windows CE 5.0, which is a bit outdated. But the system includes a web browser, Skype, and some basic Office applications as well as a media player. It has a 533MHz ARM CPU, 1GB of storage, and 512MB of RAM and a 3000mAh battery which should provide 5 hours of operating time.

It also includes 2 USB ports and a mini USB port and a SD/MMC card reader. If you’re looking for a small device with long battery life and a full sized keyboard (and no trackpad), the Cuol Book actually looks kind of cool. But at Β£159.99, or nearly $300 US, I’m not sure why anyone would really choose this over a cheap netbook like the Asus Eee PC 2G Surf of the Acer Aspire One, both of which can run Windows XP or Linux.

thanks John!



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13 replies on “Cuol Book: Netbook running Windows CE, or a glorified PDA?”

  1. i have a cuol book it’s powering up but after it reaches windows ce that’s it the screen goes blank

  2. Hi,

    I’ve just purchased a cuol book but am aghast at the lack of documentation…Does anyone have a manual I could download or purchase?…by the way, the cuol book is also being marketed as the TAG ELECTRONICS UMPC-7000A

    REGARDS,
    R PITALUGA…GIBRALTAR

  3. as much as i hate windows and wince at the thought, this cuol book is a little dream to use. it’s a cute lappy and a serious mobile machine. so what if it’s lacking in features (please note, steve, that bluetooth dongles are tiny and cheap) this is supposed to be a nifty lightweight reliable netbook and succeeds in this wiithout a hint of the inferiority complex that turns other laptops into techy bloated bug bears. i also own an eee 900 which is very nice but bigger, complicated, and actually quite fragile. so i think that screwing around with the eee trying to get it to run various operating systems and second life isn’t half as worth it as having a smaller more rugged and reliable answer to my everyday needs, at half the price!

    btw, robert dyas in brighton has sold out, try eastbourne…

  4. Hi i’m a complete noob and i was wondering, is it possible to run linux on it? has anyone tried?
    thanks
    Gideon

  5. There was a thread about this sort of thing a few days ago, but I am still confused about sortware compatibility between the Razorbook, Cuol Book, etc., and the current Windows Mobile 5.0 and 6.0 (CE based) devices.

    I have an HP iPAQ 2795 with Windows Mobile 5.0 and am amazed at the number and variety of sophisticated apps available for it.

    Would I be unable to run any of these apps on the Razorbook, Cuol Book, etc? Sorry, but I’m not a programmer and don’t have a good grasp of the relation of MIPS vs ARM processors to software, etc, so please answer in words of one syllable or less πŸ™‚

    1. razorbook uses a mips processor so unless these apps have a MIPS version (not so many do these days) you will not be able to run this software.

      From my experience with earlier versions of CE as WM is a layer sitting on top of CE some apps will run straight out of the box. Others likely only need 1 or 2 WM dll files to make them run.

      Also there are a lot of suppliers who provide software that works on both WM and Core CE. Arm CPU has the most software so I guess the Jointech JL7100 or Cuol book are best candidates for WM software (though I think there are more ARM based laptops on the way some look like they will use a Qualcomm ARM CPU at 1Ghz and actually run WM as opposed to CE professional (so these may be better for you).

      I am a member over on http://www.HPCfactor.com/forums which is a site purely dedicated to HPC (Handheld PC) like devices (basically all sizes of mini laptops that run Windows CE) and there are a lot of experienced CE users on there who have a lot of experience of making PPC and WM software working on earlyer versions of CE so this would be a good place if you would like to see what software people get running on these CE-Books.

      Hope this helps

      John

      1. Thanks very much, John, for the very informative response. This clarifies the current situatuion to the extent that I now think I have a pretty good grasp of it, while also pointing out that there don’t seem to be many really simple answers. Also, you’re such a good writer that I only had to move my lips once or twice while reading it πŸ˜‰

        Doug

  6. I had a Psion 5MX many years ago and was more than happy with the EPOC OS and the applications available for it. At the time I wasn’t keen on Windows CE, but it seems to have matured to the point where I would consider a CE-based device.

    For word processing, email and other basic tasks, these instant-on devices can easily compete with a x86 computer running Windows/Linux. The only trouble is the price – when you can buy a much more capable EeePC 701 for the same money, buying a limited CE-based device doesn’t make sense.

    I’m hoping the sub-$100 CE palmtops covered here recently (the MenQ EasyPC or HiVision NB0700) manage to make it outside China. This is almost certainly a bulk/OEM price, but if they end up with a street price of under $150/Β£100, that could really shake things up.

    1. Not sure I would recommend the Menq/HiVision/razorbook CE devices. From what I could see in the youtube video of the razorbook it doesn’t have instant on. Seems to switch off and boot CE from rom each time it is turned on (and doesn’t start up all that quickly).

      I compared my Smartbook G138 to the razorbook CE version (it does do instant on/off) but it can hard re-set and load from rom quicker than the razorbook can turn on. I also followed the video and clicked on exactly the same websites as they did in the video. I had a flash plugin installed (so got full page) and I am sorry to say the smartbook spanked the razorbook in terms of browsing speed.

      You may think this is not so bad but the smartbook is over 4 years old and is running CE 4.2 off a 200Mhz Strongarm CPU. It has a 7″ 800×480 screen, CF slot, 10/100, VGA-out, usb sync and headphone/mic ports. I just feel it is a shame that a device this old useing a CPU that was basically released in 1996 can outclass the razorbook and think either the xburst CPU or it’s implementation is not quite up to the job. Never mind the lack of MIPS software for CE these days (though some ARM developers may make MIPS versions available).

      This is too expensive but when the linux Hi-Vision first appeared in the uk it was more than this but within a few weeks other retailers had the same device at considerablly less. Give it a month and I feel we could be seeing them quite a bit cheaper. They will need to undercut the 4G eeePC 700 quite quickly so this should happen.

  7. My experiences echo John’s. The problem is, a Win CE netbook needs to be much more inexpensive than the current Linux/XP netbooks… somewhere between $100-$175 USD, IMO.

    1. Agree.

      Do think they will get there quite quickly well at least to the $140-175 (almost bubble pack price). And people do need to make a considered choice if the plus points are worth the tradeoff.

      I do hope someone has the sense to develop a reasonably fast RAW photo viewer for CE. Imagine how handy a $140 unit you can just chuck in a camera bag would be to view RAW photos when out and about. Instant on and battery would again be great plus points. And they would be cheap enough not to worry to much about them getting damaged.

      John

  8. No worries for sending you the link.

    Sometimes CE gets a bum wrap. I just thought I would put some of my thoughts down to offer an opinion on Windows CE from a person who uses CE.

    I actually use CE devices at the moment (sigmarion 3 and Smartbook G138). In some situations these have good points that make them the only viable devices or at least a lot more useful than full desktop OS’s. IMHO Journalists and college students could find instant on/off invaluable and unlike early smart phones it is a very stable OS (you would be surprised how many industrial devices use CE – if it is stable and does the job required they don’t care what OS is on it).

    So for writing reports and taking notes 5hrs battery life (off a std battery), not waiting to boot and not requiring to lug a full laptop bag and AC pack etc. is actually a huge benefit. Also very handy for starbucks browsing and email etc. Or like me I have a very low AC consumption X86 box at home as a media and print server – RDP is quick and gives me full desktop access and CPU power within a few seconds.

    So what else does CE offer. Well for kids you can’t kill the OS or have a virus destroy it so the parents won’t have to constantly rebuild the software setup etc. (how many times do parents have to re-install an OS after their children brake it). You have access to syncable PIM software (for calendar, tasks, contacts and inbox) An x86 netbook or laptop can’t do this so you would need to muck about maintaining two lists. There are full office packages (softmaker office which is MS office compatible and very nice to use). Email (Qmail 3 is free and can handle gmail and yahoo secure + html), TCPMP – open source media player that can handle DIVX, XVID, MPEG1,2,4 etc. etc.. Opera is available, the new version of Netfront is very fast and works very well and Firefox is doing a CE version. On a well implemented CE device with flash plugin and java plugin the web can be very well rendered and quite quick (the smartbook G138 proves this with only 128Mb and a 200Mhz Strongarm – browsing is good quality and is not far off a PIII laptop).

    Yes it is missing all the huge software library that XP or Linux has but if people who actually use laptops as business tools and notetaking tools (not games machines) had a look a large number will realise there isn’t much software they actually use that CE can’t offer. I expect the price of these CE units to drop quickly to be cheaper than X86 netbooks and with CE5 devices from Jointech, Razorbook, albatron (tablet) and others (and a 4 core cortex capable of 8000 DMIPS on less than 1watt) if sales are good there will be plenty software comes along to support them.

    Most SarNav devices and PMP’s run CE and you rarely hear complaints about stability from those devices. I expect the OEM of this device will sell to other brands so hopefully US will be quite a bit cheaper than $300 (they usually are cheaper for electronics than just the exchange rate).

    If it hits Β£100 I will buy one without question.

    One final note. You will not believe how many times I have had my CE (HPC) type devices when travelling or on a plane and had some executive business type looking shocked when I open the clamshell and start typing in 2 seconds (by the time he has got his laptop bag out, opened and booted the laptop, logged in and started word. I am already through a paragraph or two. Often he will ask what it is and ask lots of questions. It usually turns out I can do everything he uses his laptop for on my CD device he looks impressed. The killer blow is when we come to land within 2 seconds I have saved, turned off and popped CE laptop in storage pouch and he is still waiting for Word to shut πŸ™‚ They look and say I may have to get one of them.

    They are not for everyone, not for gadgeteers that just want to show off, gamers or people who need very specialist software for work. However you often find old CE HPC’s still in the hands of professionals, Writers, reporters, programmers, students etc. who prize those few + points CE can hold over desktop OS’s which often get missed by x86 users when they pass reaction over CE devices (most of them have never used a core CE clamshell or laptop like device.

    Kind Regards

    John

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