I will agree that subscription/rental service for a PC is a real turnoff, but as mentioned by Blacktales it is available without subscription (see his thread for more details) and the $300 is the price without subscription. Personally I would not pay for such a service myself.
As for the Walmart Everex, it is cheap but it's not silent and huge in comparison. Frankly for a matx form factor, I would expect a lot more capability like photo/video editing, gaming, etc. ECS' budget board comes with an A64 3200+ venice core which is a very competent performer, runs very cool, and costs under $70 so a similarly configured system can be had for the same price. For $40 more you could even move to dual-core, so for me the Everex isn't interesting.
As for the Linutop, I wasn't aware they are finally shipping. Although slightly more expensive, it is smaller and 5W (if this is AC draw) is even more impressive (although for 4W difference I would say it's pretty close). Most of my comments above would apply to the Linutop as well, although it seems to ship with a lot less apps, not even mail/office programs, I am wondering how good a performer it is. Anyone have an idea how the Geode LX700 w/ 256MB RAM compares to the Eden 1.2 w 512MB RAM?
As for tinkering, I'll agree most SPCRers enjoy that, myself included. Software-wise the system is not locked and installations of other versions of Linux is possible as mentioned in the other thread. Hardware-wise probably not too much to be done given it's tiny form factor plus it will void the warranty. However to have such a nice tiny silent package, I'd be willing to forgo some tinkering. Also maybe my unfamiliarity with Linux makes not having to deal with booting off CF issues, linux driver issues, etc. an attractive option.
I'll agree the DIY Pico ITX looks nice and I was also tempted to go for VIA's Artigo kit for around $300 plus RAM/CF on top. However this is a fanned system and with such a tiny form factor it's hard to imagine it being very quiet. Plus on top VIA's website mentions 13W power consumption which is higher than the ULV Eden setup.
As for use, clearly there is a lot that the Zonbu is not suitable for, however my thinking is that for most users the majority of their PC time is on light work which Zonbu should be very capable of.
I actually considered purchasing a Zombu to be able to shut down my main computer which sucks 100w idle and is still not as silent as i would like it to be, but in the end i think it would be nothing more than a nice gadget, with a lifespan to match other gadgets. And i would probably not use it long enough to actually save money on my electricity bill. I am now inclined to consider building a D201GLY2 system yourself to be a better investment in the mid-long-term.
So Blacktales you didn't actually buy the Zombu? I am really curious what changed your mind as your original reasons seem to be the same as mine. I actually just built a D201GLY2 system, and although you get more processing power it doesn't run fanless and idles over 30W. It's really a very budget board, and I feel the main thing going for it is it's small size at such a low cost. But compared to some of my old systems, an AOpen Cube with XPM chip, or a Pundit barebone with a Sempron, both only slightly larger, I am finding the D201GLY2 really not offering much in terms of performance, power consumption, or quietness.