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Pinebook: An Affordable 64-bit ARM based Open Source Notebook (pine64.org)
394 points by tonteldoos on Apr 18, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 244 comments

I have this laptop.

The beauty of it is that it is unashamedly bad. It is the humblest of laptops. The body is a direct copy of the 13" MacBook Air. As a computer, it is at least as usable as a Raspberry Pi. The teardown photos are hilarious because the motherboard only takes up about 1/6 the internal space. The rest is empty. https://hackaday.com/2017/04/28/hands-on-with-the-pinebook/

It comes with Ubuntu 16.04, but there are other distros available that work to varying degrees. Since Firefox Quantum came out it's actually pretty usable for web browsing.


* It does in fact turn on.

* It boots surprisingly fast, since it is running on flash memory.

* There is an HDMI port, which may work in the future.

* The battery life is fantastic, due to it's meager CPU.

* Most have no more than 2 dead pixels.

* You can charge it from another computer's USB port.

* Potato quality camera.

* It costs less than a replacement battery for my ThinkPad.

It has one of those goddamned AllWinner chips in it, I wouldn't hold my breath on the HDMI or any of the GPU acceleration working in the foreseeable future. Hardware drivers is not their business, nor is releasing docs that might allow someone else to write a driver.

I have a dev board with one of those chips and getting any of the peripheral hardware working turned out to be a complete nightmare. I eventually gave up on it. Hopefully whomever is doing the Ubuntu port knows Mandarin and is living next to the factory in China so he can sneak out some driver specs.

Looking at the pics there looks like enough space to be able to experiment with other dev boards. I wonder if we can just think of it as a case. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Ready Bunny Huang's book on working in China, it sounds like knowing someone who works at Allwinner is in fact the way to go.

Oh! I would hold my breath, because I backed this project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bootlin/allwinner-vpu-s...

The bootlin group is a awesome collection of embedded linux engineers and they are well known if not one the top of the lines engineers for the Linux-Sunxi community.

This will be big if it pans out. There are tons of SBCs with AllWinner chips that look amazing on paper but are kneecapped by the poor/nonexistent driver support. It's shocking how many ship with Linux distros that support only half of the hardware on the board.

> Hardware drivers is not their business, nor is releasing docs that might allow someone else to write a driver.

Is there a third road to device support? What's the point of selling hardware if you're not going to provide any sort of path to enablement?

This is a question that has puzzled linux devs for a long time.

Why the hell release a linux only device, marketed at the DIY/hardcore user with no, or very limited ways to actually use the damn hardware? (like being stuck on some ancient kernels with 3.24x10^43 remote holes)

Its pretty astonishing, and seems to be primarily driven over paranoia about IP/patents.

After the answer a lawyer is always going to give to the question "Is there legal risk here" is yes, companies arnt going to do better until we demand they do.

I'm sure they release documentation - under NDA - to companies buying this. However the legalese probably makes it impossible to use those documents to release the source to a linux driver.

Hackers like us are not a large market. Those who need a lot of CPUs for something that nobody even realizes has a CPU are ultimately a much larger market.

People who say that the raspeberry PI is "bad" and "barely useable" say so because Ubuntu + Chrome + botnet social networking sites tend to slow your PI to a crawl.

If you configure i3, compton, and build your own distro from scratch WITHOUT ubuntu, then the rpi can actually be very fast and snappy for programming.

If this laptop is anything like the raspberry pi, then it will require LOTS of customization to get the OS to work right. But once it's configured just right and you stay away from botnet browsers and sites like FB and IG, then the pi is actually quite nice.

Yup, just _not_ using a massive DE goes most of the way for improving performance, especially on little devices like this. i3wm is great for this because it's a tiling window manager for both the masses and for the expert.

Also once you are using i3 then using Debian instead of Ubuntu makes little difference to the user while going a fair way to removing a lot of bloat.

However suggesting linux from scratch is a bit extreme, it can be fun but you can get 99% of the benefits with i3 alone and maybe choosing a distro with a lighter HD footprint. Building your own OS is a lot of work for most people on the otherhand, and will scare people off your otherwise sound suggestion :P

Well said. :)

Personally, I don't think laptops like the Pinebook should ever be used by the masses because, like you said, building your own OS from scratch is difficult, even for the tech savvy! And no I'm not talking about compiling your own Gentoo yourself. What I mean is just starting with a barebones distro with NOTHING installed, then sudo apt-get intsall your carefully selected list of packages- followed by tons and tons of googling and man pages to figure out how to configure your config files in just the right way.

This is how I learned linux- the hard way. My powerful windows 10 workstation died one day, and I decided to actually try using my abandoned rpI for day to day use. It took a LOT of googling, but I finally figured out how to make my pi enjoyable after close to half a year's worth of effort.

I'm definitely buying this laptop when I get paid because I am one of the few people out there who's masochistic enough to enjoy pi-like devices. This laptop is EXACTLY what I have been looking for.

“a barbones distro” ≠ “nothing installed”

Maybe you mean nothing more than what comes with the distro's install? In that case a clean Ubuntu counts? I think you should rethink what you have in mind; maybe you mean a distribution with few default packages and minimal preconfigured settings? Something like Arch?

You're right, I probably used the wrong words there. By barebones distro, I actually meant "headless debian with minimal packages configured to fit nicely inside 1/3rd of a 32 Gb SD card". My main problem with Ubuntu is that even Xubuntu felt too bloated for me under raspberry pi. I can't even fit Xubuntu into a 64Gb SD card without running out of space. What do all those extra gigs do? They sure as hell don't make my rpI faster that's for sure.

yeah, once you move away from any kind of "it comes preinstalled with a DE" type distro, moving to a headless barebones distro is easy, and you can mostly take your configs with you... xorg is also so frickin easy these days. I've yet to try something even more minimal like arch or.. from scratch! but maybe one day with enough time :)

I think The trick to helping others though is to show it can be done in stages, because trying to learn everything at once is too hard, it's easy to forget how long it took to acquire all of the knowledge and skill that make it seem easy to set up a bare bones linux distro into something comfortable and yet lightweight.

For most people I'd advise: Ubuntu (cos the web will help), then find your lightweight desktop of choice by installing and experimenting along side... then try to replicate it on barebones (or ubuntu server, mostly just involves adding xorg to your install list)... then experiment with more lightweight distros... and if tinkering with your desktop is not satisfying enough then you will no doubt go down the from scratch route as well eventually but at that point you don't need people telling you what to do. The thing that's lost with my seemingly simple suggestion is that you will learn so much by yourself while trying to achieve this, but without sacrificing your productivity.

Do you reckon a recent RPi is good enough for Emacsing away, with the occasional PDF-reading and watching videos w/ mpv? I think having a desktop computer with a wider monitor would be a nice improvement for me, given using a laptop for long times is not really ergonomical. If I can have a decent enough desktop experience with such a setup, that'd be very nice.

Emacs? yes. Terminal work is enjoyable on the pi.

PDF? PDFs and the web will be laggy unless you set up a compositor like Compton to speed things up. There's enough GPU power in the PI to set up decent 2d compositing with transparencies.

Videos? I wouldn't count on it because youtube videos are still choppy for me. Even after a ton of work, I still get light choppiness on 320p video. I haven't tried local video files yet, though I assume local files might perform better than web videos. I mean, gifs and webms play smoothly without choppiness, so why not mpv video?

One of the biggest flaws in the raspberry pi is the USB Micro port. If your USB micro cable is broken and unreliable, then your PI will get extremely slow and may even crash a lot due to the flickering power supply. Your pi won't tell you what's wrong either, which makes troubleshooting a pain until you figure out that the lightning bolt icon on your screen means power problem.

If you like linux and tinkering, I would highly recommend you get a pi. Just don't expect a pi to work out of the box. Most distros are so bloated and the pi is so limited, that you have to trim everything down for the pi to be even remotely enjoyable.

If you wish to send me a download link to an example video file of yours, I can play it on my setup for you and let you know how well the video performs.

Thanks a lot! I'm quite comfortable with Gnu/Linux and FreeBSD, and I do have a Pi, though it sits there on the shelf running a couple cron jobs and being a CUPS server. I've never tried it for desktop computing tho (I don't think I've ever used it unless through ssh). I'll definitely test it out when I have a monitor handy (I'll either use a Pi or connect the monitor to my laptop, I really need a screen at my eye level, I'm fed up with the neck aches because I was too caught up with reading a paper, or more often, fiddling with my emacs config).

WRT PDFs and web, I use qutebrowser w/o JS, which is lightweight, and most PDFs are just papers with nothing fancy (I'm a humanities student / prospective researcher). I can take the choppyness if it's not unusable.

The videos are just any video on Youtube. Mpv is a program similar to mplayer, and I use it to watch any video on the disk or use it like "mpv <youtube url>" to view videos from youtube (it even has titles and can show progress, really nice), I guess you mistook it for a video format.

How come you have trouble with 320 when people are using them to watch HD movies with kodi?

I find Pi64[1] to be a decent improvement over Ubuntu on the RPi 3 (haven't tried it on one of the shiny new ones, though).

1: https://github.com/bamarni/pi64

Thanks. I'd probably put FreeBSD on it though. I can't use it because I can't get suspend and resume working on laptops, but I miss it like Odysseus misses Ithaka. One of the few software I actually love, it is...

I recently switched to Gnome 3 (5th of march, tells me mercurial), and it just crawled my laptop, w/ 4G mem and i3 cpu @ 1.80 GHz. That's not super fast, but it freezing with merely Firefox and Emacs running was unacceptable. I tended to blame that on Firefox, but when I switched to Qutebrowser I understood that it was not it, and decided to see what was the cause. I saw that my fairly minimal Gnome 3 DE (i.e. the session and nm-applet, no extensions) took half of the resources. Six days ago I switched to Xmonad, boom, the machine hasn't used the swap since. Even when I start Chromium for some silly websites life makes me use. Even when I have Chromium, mpv, Qutebrowser and Emacs all open at once. With Gnome I'd probably have to kill Emacs in such a session a couple times...

Gnome 3 is really really bad. It is so bad that it actually makes me want to use Windows 10 instead.

Context: i've been using Xfce4 for the last 4-5 years and recently had to use Gnome3.x because of RHEL. Since I've a recent Gnome, I decided to also try a recent KDE.


- XFCE manages to be consistently fast and overall a joy to use

- KDE is getting usable again after the KDE4.0 mess. Still too much gummy by default, but it's so customizable that you can turn off most of the trash that is enabled by default.

- Gnome really looks like it has been designed for and tested against mentally challenged people. It's infuriating, most of its utilities lack menus and basic options/settings, to the point where having a GUI is more of an impediment rathen than being something useful.

I am very worried by the fact that Ubuntu is reverting back to Gnome.

I wanted to use it [edit: i.e. Gnome] in order to slim down my heavy configuration. But just not worth it. All I do is use two GUI programs, and it managed to get in the way. XFCE gets bonus points for its configuration being in plain text and version controllable. I had to have this for Gnome: https://github.com/cadadr/configuration/blob/master/scripts/... https://github.com/cadadr/configuration/blob/master/xdg-conf...

> The teardown photos are hilarious because the motherboard only takes up about 1/6 the internal space. The rest is empty. https://hackaday.com/2017/04/28/hands-on-with-the-pinebook/

As mentioned in that review, the software part seems to be a problem area for Pine. That could also be why it's cheap (because it's mainly the hardware alone that one is paying for). I got the original Pine64 board through the crowdfunding campaign, and I found the distro images provided to be lacking and also not kept updated. I wanted to use it like a headless server/NAS kind of setup with VNC access to run other programs as necessary, but found that a bit too hard to get done. So it's just been gathering dust since then.

The Ubuntu image has been actively maintained for a while now. Though now the maintainer is putting more effort towards Android 7.1. Which is the crux of the issue... These distros are usually maintained by just one community developer.

serious question: why do people insist on using Ubuntu for low-end hardware like this and the PI??? Ubuntu is a cluttered nightmare full of so much unecessary stuff. Why not use a minimalistic non-GUI barebones version of Debian and build your OS up from there?

I agree. I'm a fan of headless Debian, and running i3wm when needed. (I currently run headless Ubuntu, but only because Debian on the Pine is no longer maintained)

If you need multimedia and heavy web browsing, run Android. That's what it was designed for.

That's good news. Could you please point me to where these updated images are? I had been looking at the official site [1] once every few months last year, but didn't find the Ubuntu (or Debian) images updated. The dates are still from end of 2016.

[1]: http://wiki.pine64.org/index.php/Pine_A64_Software_Release


I'd recommend the Xenial images. There are Mate/i3wm versions for the pinebook, but all the others (Pine64 & Sopine) are headless and require the installation of a GUI.

Thanks for that link. I'm looking for updated images for Pine64 (not Pinebook), and all of them on this repository seem to be minimal images (without a desktop environment). Is my understanding correct? I'm looking for one with a desktop environment.

Yeah, I'm afraid that's the case :/ So you'd have to SSH into your pine64 and install a GUI yourself.

Then to enable Mali support (which basically lets the device actually use the GPU to render the screen), you have to add an additional repository:

  - apt-add-repository ppa:ayufan/pine64-ppa -y
  - apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-armsoc-sunxi libmali-sunxi-utgard0-r6p0
then you'd run the script to enable it. Probably need root to run it.

  - exec /usr/local/sbin/pine64_enable_sunxidrm.sh
Then in your GUI's settings, you'd disable software compositing (force it to use the Mali GPU instead of the pine's CPU)

  -  System -> Preferences -> Look and Feel -> Windows and disable Enable software compositing.
If things go awry, or you have more questions, there's a community IRC that's usually pretty active with people willing to help. http://pine64.xyz/

FreeBSD makes images available for it that you burn to the SD card and pop in and you are off to the races, although just for -HEAD so you end up chasing new images every so often since the system is still heavily in flux.

Thanks for the pointer on FreeBSD for Pine. I wasn't aware about this. I've now found the images online, though it'll require some reading to figure out if it's appropriate for me.

> * It does in fact turn on.

That is something you and I both have experienced with this laptop :P

As for the rest, it really is bad. Like really bad. Although I did get lucky, I have 0 dead pixels.

What is the actual battery life?

If it has a decent one (atleast 12 hours) I could use it as a travel notebook instead of my hefty thinkpad.

A quad core A53 consumes around 2W when idle. The battery is 37Wh, so I don't think it can make 12 hours (including screen consumption).

2W when idle is very high.

Are you sure it is just the Core A53 or is it measured in power/battery connection which account for the display, wifi, DDR, IO, etc?

I did power profile for cellphone SOC couple years ago. Typical power usage for CPU is very low - milli-watts or less range for IDLE, worst case 1-2 W at full performance mode OP (Operating Point).

When I profiled it, the Display, Wifi module consumed a lot more power than CPU/SOC during "normal" operations.

I surely used the wrong term - I meant that the entire board consumes around 2W in idle/light workload.

I can't guarantee about the precision; 2W may be 1.5W or 2.5W on my tool (it doesn't have decimals), although, I've measured my XU4 consumption, and it's consistent with third party measurements (5W on idle).

Thank you for the link and the review.

It does in fact turn on

This one made me laugh

> * It does in fact turn on.

Genius. I was seriously doubting how it was possible to be this cheap.

I just added my name to the BTO list. How long did you have to wait before they contacted you (and then before it shipped)? I can't seem to find anything about that on their site...

They are making them in batches. Whenever they get enough people on the waiting list they send out the order emails, then they manufacture the batch and ship them out. Once I was able to actually place my order I received it 3 weeks later.

I'm also working on an ARM notebook in the spirit of Novena called Reform: http://mntmn.com/reform/

This version is 32-bit, but it has 4 cores @ 1.2GHz and 4GB of RAM. Also, it is actually open source, meaning that all the electronic design files (made in KiCAD) are available on GitHub and as soon as we have decided on the correct formats the same will be true for the mechanical/case parts, so you will be even able to 3D print replacement parts.

I could not find the design files for Pinebook so I'm not sure what is "Open Source" about it? Schematics are not sources.

I don't know how you can sustainably make a laptop and sell it for $100. I'm selling the first developer models for EUR 549/599 and I'm not making any profit on these, it's basically passing on the material cost. I guess it's a tradeoff between cutting enough corners to bring the price down and trying to achieve some base of quality and durability. These are different goals.

Anyway, I'm happy to see more activity in the ARM space as that means more eyeballs on ARM Linux applications, potentially more issues filed and bugs fixed.

> I don't know how you can sustainably make a laptop and sell it for $100. I'm selling the first developer models for EUR 549/599 and I'm not making any profit on these, it's basically passing on the material cost. I guess it's a tradeoff between cutting enough corners to bring the price down and trying to achieve some base of quality and durability. These are different goals.

I don't completely understand your goal. If the case has been designed to be able to sensibly 3d print replacement parts, why are you spending so much making the thing high-quality and durable in the first place?

After almost a year the Pinebook I bought doesn't have any broken parts at all. Additionally, that FF update that brought multi-threaded page loading was essentially equivalent to upgrading the CPU. (The people I bought it for use it mainly to browse.)

Are these things good enough that you could buy one and say stick it in the laundry room (or wherever) with a web browser on it and make actual use of it? Like a laptop in every room?

Chromebook would better for that use case I think. Since it’s entirely managed and simply runs a browser.

> I don't know how you can sustainably make a laptop and sell it for $100

I assume that this product was able to source laptop parts from a factory that already had production set up for generic android notebooks or something like that, which would help keeping the prices down.

It even has Cherry ML keys! That's pretty cool.

I also like how you avoid the whole Wi-Fi/OSS mess by just offering a mPCI slot so people can add proprietary hardware if they chose.

> I don't know how you can sustainably make a laptop and sell it for $100.

I wondered about that and then saw it only has 2GB RAM and a 16GB Flash drive.

They're a bit out of my price range for the moment

I just wanted to say though. I absolutely love the hacker aesthetic those laptops have going on

I love the keyboard, reminds me of my old compaq beige brick laptop. What does it actually feel like to type on though? They actual keys look kinda squidgy but that may just be their translucent appearance.

It feels good. The squishy look is irregularities of the resin printing process for the keycaps. We are working on solving this so that all keycaps are exactly equal.

This keyboard is better than all the chiclet island crap.

What's the graphics driver situation like on i.MX6? Is Etnaviv decent?

Neat project! I'm interested in the 1.2GHz version, but is there any reasonable way to have some guarantee that I will get it? I understand that things can get pushed back with projects like this, so delays aren't my concern, just actual follow-through.

Well, I can only promise you that I will deliver. We shipped around 400 VA2000s&CXs out of my house. Smaller scope, but I’m used to ship.

Edit: I already purchased some critical parts (all SoC modules, 100x hinges, 2000 keyswitches, fans, optical sensors), and I have suppliers for the screen and batteries.

Fair enough. I looked a bit more around your website. Hopefully there will be one more preorder available in the morning.

Best of luck with the project regardless.

I just preordered one. Please don't disappoint me :)

> I could not find the design files for Pinebook so I'm not sure what is "Open Source" about it? Schematics are not sources.

That might be what you were looking for : https://www.pine64.org/?page_id=5734

No it is not, or I’m too ignorant to find it. Where are the PCB design files?

This looks like a great project. Great work!

I'm curious, what sort of battery life are you getting out of the setups that are currently available for pre-order?

im a huge fan of your work. may i ask if a IMX8M version will be available in the future ?

Hi, thanks! Not to trigger the Osborne effect, but yes, this is a plan. And/or RISC-V. But we need to get the ball rolling. I will give a discount or upgrade option for people who get the i.MX6 version now.

RISC-V would be great, but I understand this is going to be far off at the moment in terms of viability, here's me hoping single digit years before RISC-V appears in a laptop though.

We were dealing with Freescale for iMX6s when the NXP buyout happened, and the transition was day and night. They cut all sorts of support right out from under us.

Did you see anything similar?

Wow, this looks and sounds great.

Honest question. Why don't people buy old laptops instead of cheaper new ones? I'm no expert but the cost to performance ratio isn't to far off. I am typing this on T420 Thinkpad laptop. I get desiring to use open hardware but at the detriment of performance doesn't quite make sense.

That's what I do as well, but in my experience you need to do some serious reading before buying one. Some people claim you can buy the Txxx models pretty much blindly, but then you might be in for a surprise. The worst offender are the displays. I know these machines are office machines, but that's no excuse to use panels with deplorable contrast and brightness (look up the T410 and T420 on notebookcheck). Even current models like the T450 can come with displays with a contrast of 234:1 and brightness of 163 cd/m². Working with 'solarized' or 'zenburn' on such a panel is not fun at all, especially outdoors... Then there's the trackpad of the x40 series (T440, T540), which many people find unusable (you can change it against the one from the T450, though). Also, not all Txxx are equally serviceable. The 'p' series is much better in this regard than the 's' series, for instance. But yes, I agree that used Thinkpads are often a good choice - mostly good Linux support, very serviceable, and it is very easy to get replacement parts like keyboards, trackpads and panels for many years.

I have a T410 and have to use the Nyan Cat Terminology skin simply because that's the only way the cursor shows up against the background. Additionally, the i5-520M is a little anaemic for my use cases, with effectively no hardware video decode and no AVX2.

Honest question. Why don't people buy old laptops instead of cheaper new ones?

Because the batteries are knackered and new ones aren’t available for old models. Tho’ this does vary by vendor. Chinese knock-off batteries are usually available but carry their own risks.

While I agree on the battery part, which is generally what dies first (that or fans), most batteries are available on eBay. I recently bought a new battery for a T60, a laptop which is over ten years old.

Original part or generic clone?

I think a cloned, new battery might even be better in this particular case. An original battery that's been sitting on a shelf for 10 years is e-waste.

There are several articles online about how hard it is to store Li-Ion batteries, eg: http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_store_batt...

A new part made by the original vendor is infinitely preferable to an off-brand clone. There have been too many stories of “bargain” LiOns catching fire!

I think I lost my x201 due to a Chinese battery. After I used the replacement battery I think a Mosfet transistor burned out inside. The laptop wouldn't turn on, and if turned on it closed in matter of seconds.

Although the actual cause might be different (I'm no expert) I've become cautious of super cheap Chinese 9-cell batteries.

Oh absolutely. It's a shame there's not a reputable company making replacement compatible batteries for old laptops and phones. I guess the original companies have design patents to try to stop this.

It's not hard to rebuild old laptop battery packs with new 18650 cells.

It's often not easy, either. It very much depends on the battery and the used controller. Make sure to always have enough voltage on the controller, since it might shutdown on power loss, leaving you with a battery with '0.0Wh capacity', regardless of the new cells. Also, some battery packs might require you to solder the cells, which is not for the faint of heart.

Can you recommend a good place to get new 18650 cells? I live in Norway.

I’ve been wanting to order some but obviously don’t want to buy them from some rando off of eBay because I don’t trust that they will

1. actually be new, and

2. that even if they are new they won’t explode in my face

I'd use Farnell. They're a huge, reputable, supplier that takes product direct from the manufacturers.

I don't know how easy it is to get them to ship to you, nor how easy it is for individuals to buy from them.

UK: http://uk.farnell.com/search?st=18650

Norway: http://no.farnell.com/search?st=18650

Genuine Panasonic 18650s are decent. Not had any problems so far with ThruNite either.

there is probably a more 'electronics' source available, but these are pretty much the go-to batteries for vaping, so probably any reputable vaping vendor might be a good, if overpriced supply...

Norway? Isn't Nkon next to your door?

Never heard of Nkon. If you mean in the almost literal sense then I think you might be conflating Norway and the Netherlands? But if you just mean that they are next door in terms of being in Europe then yes so it seems. I’ll have a look at them thanks, along with the others people have mentioned.

Yes, I meant that-end-of-EU, sorry for coming off cheeky. Winning the great EU customs roulette with batteries is not worth it if there is an OKish intraEU seller. Plus, a lot of discussions about it's batteries in .ru (!) internets.

Hey, also live in Norway, I've ordered from NKON before, just use https://ru.nkon.nl (we're outside the EU VAT region).

I've tried rebuilding the battery for an x220 twice and both times the battery case ended up too damaged to be used. I'm about to fork over $100+ for my forth battery for this machine.

I am confused. I have a Thinkpad X220 I bought used. The original battery is still usable for my purposes. (I don't use it for travel so I haven't tried using it for more than a few hours at a time.) I just looked on Ebay and the most expensive batteries listed for the X220 are less than $50, with some less than $20. Am I missing something?

As a rule of thumb, any laptop battery for less than $50 is recycled crap.

There are companies who mix-and-match recycled cells and combine them into Ebay batteries out there. Beyond the explosion risk innate to Li-Ion, you're going to get bad battery life with these recycled cells in the very best case.

The cheapest "legitimate" laptop batteries I've found come in the ~$80 mark.


A good and proper 18650 cell costs $7.50 alone, and you'll need six of them to build a laptop battery.


That's $45 for 6x proper cells straight from the manufacturer. Plus labor, plus all the other parts of the laptop battery (chassis, protection circuit, etc. etc.). Anyone selling for less than $50 is straight up recycled mix-and-match junk. Its the only way you get to $20.

And before you go look up cheaper cells: Ultrafire cells are recycled junk. So ignore all of those listings. Its best to stick with Panasonic / Samsung / other name brands.

Man, I was thinking about taking on this challenge next. I have 2 of the extended batteries that work excellent but the regular battery wont hold a charge for more than a few hours.

So the main issue was not damaging the case? Did you have any references or guides?

The cases aren't meant to be opened. I followed some guides on YouTube. Most require using a saw and really sharp knife.

"Honest question. Why don't people buy old laptops instead of cheaper new ones?"

That's exactly how I've done desktop Linux: buy ex-corporate laptops from a reputable refurbisher. You get a quality machine with a good chassis and keyboard, highly-compatible internals (all-Intel) and a decent screen for a good price. Performance doesn't matter if you aren't doing stuff that actually needs the power. Trade-offs are worse power management, and short life-span (I change my Linux laptop every couple of years).

I do agree. You can get used X and T series Thinkpads for a couple hundred dollars. They will outlive most cheap new laptops.

If you get a good one. I've been burned so many times now by people selling something they know has problems. They often don't manifest during the "test drive." It sucks.

Refurbished by a reputable re-seller always seems to work well for me, altho it adds a bit to the cost.

I've picked up i5(2600)/8g/500G laptops for 150 like this on several occasions.

And who is a reputable reseller of old ThinkPads? It seems like it's the wild west in the market and I am interested in an old reliable ThinkPad with an expansion slot for an ssd.

I've had good luck so far (knock wood) with Newegg...let me find a link...


Sounds great, thanks for the link.

Yahoo auctions in Japan is reliable. They also ship overseas.

The advantage of a T- or X- series is that they are common fleet models so you can buy from a bulk reseller that is less likely to be passing off a single dud.

Is there a specific bulk reseller that you use that you could recommend?

What kind of issues do people conceal?

I got a refurb Thinkpad and:

1. Battery puked out pretty quickly, so that's $100 (AUD) to fix on a $500 second hand laptop.

2. Some keys stopped working, could be bad luck as laptops have shite keyboards normally.

Both are not necessarily concealed issues BUT this is the kind of shit you are dealing with with second hand laptops and the savings don't seem to justify it, for me anyway. Plus less NSAWare.

The main benefit of buying second hand is the 'good for the environment' feeling it gave me.

What kind of NSAware are you worried about, and why do you think buying new would lessen those chances?

While a refurbisher could potentially insert malware, they're not going to do it for the NSA.

Old Thinkpads are also generally well supported by libreboot/coreboot, so that's one less attack vector to worry about.

Oops. Textual screwup. I meant less NSAware as a plus for the older laptop.

The keyboard at least might be a cheap fix. I got a new Thinkpad and the right-hand shift key was useless which is the one I use. I couldn't be bothered returning it and bought a keyboard off ebay. About 5 - 10 mins to install and its great now.

You can actually deactivate the Intel ME on the older thinkpads, so thats better if you are worried about NSAWare.

Some enterprise IT departments have piles of them, if you have connections.

Yeah I went the same way as you got a t420 upgraded to ssd and threw Ubuntu studio in it and it smokes. I use it for everything from native Android development to music and video production and with lxde compared to windows 10 it's smoking fast even though it's not exactly lightweight. When you dj with a laptop the last thing you want is a flimsy device. Mixxx enables me to dj on the same device I use for software engineering.

Do you have the i7 or i5? How is the android emulator (or do you debug on the phone)? I'm looking into a better mobile setup.

I bought a refurbished T410 from Ebay with an i7, discrete GPU and 1440x900 display, for like $250, and put a SSD in it.

The big limitations of this model are:

- Display has poor contrast

- Even with discrete GPU, worse performance than modern integrated graphics - it can drive 1080p monitors and play old and some indie games, not much more than that

- Max 8GB of RAM

- No USB 3 (but I have a USB 3 express card which works ok)

- Not great battery life - more recent CPUs are not THAT much faster but they are less power-hungry

Its upsides are:

- Classic thinkpad keyboard and clit mouse (if you're into that)

- Cheap, easy to find refurbished accessories (though I don't know for how much longer this will be true)

For my use (mostly development on Ubuntu), it works pretty well. For computation heavy stuff I remote into a 6-core Dell Precision I got refurbished for $400 (DDR3 ECC RAM is cheap as dirt).

Unless you have particular needs for high-perf CPU or GPU, or want extra-long battery life I'd buy a refurb and throw an SSD in it over buying a brand new laptop every time.

I bet this is cheaper, and lighter than your thinkpad, with a better battery and require less care.

Cheap for good reason; an A53 quad core is Raspberry Pi 3 class. Hope every package you're gonna need is precompiled for arm64 because building anything nontrivial is not going to be fun.

Can you not cross-compile from a cloud instance? It seems like compiling software would be a perfect fit for per-minute or per-second VMs.

I used a aws spot instance to compile GCC for Alpine Linux. It's a decent idea I think, especially if you already know what you need to do.

I had to do a lot of trial and error stuff to get it right, but anyway, I was having that spot instance sitting there almost idle, while using up the credits I got for free, so I had no issues with it.

The C5 instances are great for this kind of stuff.

I got my x220 for 150€ plus 70€ (3 years ago, still running smooth) for a new replacement battery, so it's not directly comparable. The x220 might be a bit heavier but it's not too bad and I got a x86 cpu (i5-2540M) with 8GB of memory compared to the arm64 with 2GB in the pinebook. Considering the memory usage of many contemporary desktop programs thats makes quite a difference too me

I got this thinkpad without hard drive for under $100 so they are a lot closer then some would have guessed.

And how long does its battery last?

10000mah and an ARM A53 mean it should last 10 hours or more with moderate brightness settings. It's hard to beat this for a light cheap terminal/browser with plenty of battery if that is something you need.

Reviews I read said 4-6 hours. Poorly optimized probably.

I bet it's software compositing. GPU acceleration doesn't work on those boards last time I checked, so it's probably having to do a lot more work on the CPU. It would also explain why it feels so sluggish despite being on paper more powerful than a Raspberry Pi. You should probably forget about trying to play video on it.

Can't speak for parent, but my T430s lasts for three or four hours, despite longterm heavy battery use. Beware of Lenovo's rootkits if looking to buy from them, however.

ThinkPads never had the rootkits, it was the consumer Lenovo models that had them. Very different culture between those two groups.

I like both old laptops and new chromebooks, but I prefer my Chromebook for university, since it is very light (I walk ~45 minutes per day).

I think that this Pinebook thing would be a perfect replacement for my Chromebook once I drop coffee on it by mistake. However, it would be even better with a x86 like my current Chromebook. It is not that much of a problem, since I remember living happily with my old ARM Chromebook with crouton (before the screen died).

I do, I bought a refurbished T430, core i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD and run it dual-boot with Windows / Fedora. Works brilliantly, I do all my work on it.

I brought a second one of the same spec for my 5yo daughter out of curiosity. Thinkpads are perfect for kids as they're built much tougher and can take serious amounts of liquid spills on the keyboard.

I have problems with sound and DVD playback on the second one I bought, but screen, speed and general reliability has been great.

Plus I also had an issue with the microphone jack on the first one I bought.

Battery life isn't great (~3hrs), but I typically don't need the battery for that long.

There's also places selling them with libreboot. E.g. minifree.org

I'm a big fan of any i7 MBP generation that still has normal USB ports. After battery replacement cost used Macbook Pros are still a great deal for quality and speed, especially running a linux distro. #NotMyDongle

I second this. All laptops i bought lately are 2nd hand thinkpads. You cant get more bang/quality for the buck. A new battery and a large SSD are generally the only things that go into it.

I don't own one of these yet, but I just signed up for the waiting list because I a) want to support a more-open hardware than the x86/x64 duopoly we have with most laptops, and because I would like as many components in my laptop to be as open as possible.

As a developer, I want to make sure my stuff works with ARM, if for no other reason to help the ecosystem a bit.

I considered doing that, but I found a refurb Lenovo 11e for $190. I went for it because it's a bit smaller (11.6") and is "ruggedized" for the classroom. That latter is a benefit having a 3 year old around. It also had a fair bit of its original warranty left. Buying a used laptop off of Ebay or whatever sounded less appealing.

I'd second this having just tried this yesterday. I picked up a Thinkpad X230 for £150. Battery test (looped windowed youtube video running over wi-fi) lasted 3 hours, so that's fine and the laptop itself all seems to work as expected.

Was that from ebay? I'm in the UK too, not sure of the best place to buy used Thinkpads

I got it from an amazon seller, but I think a lot of them sell on eBay too.

X220i here, 128GB SSD, 8GB RAM, runs like new. I put in a new 9-cell battery, and that's all I had to do. Amazing little machine, especially for the price 2nd hand.

I hope the availability of nice used ThinkPads is sustainable. I guess it's fine as long as they keep selling well new and the used ones don't become popular.

I'm with you I recently purchased a thinkpad s3 yoga made in 2014/15 for $275. Works for me.

I wish the Motorola Atrix concept of plugging your phone into a laptop-shell and using the phone's CPU, memory, storage, etc. had taken off. My iPhone is already much more powerful than this ARM laptop, but I obviously can't use it like a laptop.

Samsung has a "DeX"-åroduct that aims to do this:


Would be nice if there was a standard so, any USB c phone could plug into a display - along with the display acting as a hub, and/or Bluetooth for keyboard.

[ed: for desktop/dock. See sibling for sentio - which is for turning phone into laptop]

This product is too obvious and to doable for it to that far off, so hopefully a bit more patience is all we need.

you mean this? https://www.sentio.com/

In android world, the concept is alive & well. I myself use the sentio desktop app to connect to a monitor and use a bluetooth keyboard/mouse.

And imagine if you could plug in multiple phones.

I’m convinced Apple is working towards something like this.

Why would they turn your phone into a laptop when they can sell you a Macbook?

Because less people are buying macbooks and maybe you will by a macdock instead?

exactly, it is hard to believe a dock would cannibalize the macbook market

Could cannibalize the iPad market instead

I just released a OS Image for this nifty piece of Hardware with full hardware video decode and gpu acceleration.

Check it out here https://kshadeslayer.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/launching-netr...

Is the 2D X11 acceleration done via glamor using the closed source driver?

(Congrats btw!)

Any EGL calls go through the armsoc driver to the closed blob.

I tried the X11 modesetting driver, but the mali blob is missing GBM support on there.

I own a 11" Pinebook - it's pretty much the same as an rpi3 with a decent screen, decent keyboard, and a mediocre trackpad. I put a 32GB eMMC upgrade in it right from Pine.

I find it a bit slow for web browsing with a heavy modern browser, but I haven't spent the time to find a more optimized one.

I'd say that for $99 it's nicer than most $300-400 laptops I've used in terms of build quality, and it makes a great dumbish terminal.

For the price I paid, if it got broken/lost/stolen I wouldn't be too worried about it. A handy little toy that I use more often than I thought I would.

Reviews here to save people doing what I just did:



It looks like it might be worth the price.

Anyone have one here? Any idea on delivery times?

I'm think those reviews are more or less fluff pieces.

First, they intentionally gloss over the performance aspect; as a owner of multiple ARM boards, I can tell you that the A53 performance is terrible for desktop usage; it's not even good for headless servers (although "terrible" is relative).

Second, I'm very skeptical about the 64-bit claim, which they haven't investigated. While ARM CPUs are 64-bit themselves, ARM Linux distros are typically 32-bit.

And finally, don't underestimate the lack of support for ARM builds. While of course, the full Ubuntu repositories are available, for software outside them, the "compiling from source" can be troublesome for ARM architectures.

I think that a high-power ARM laptop (ie. A15 or more) would be interesting; but not a low-power one.

I’m curious about Aarch64. Is it like x86 where you can just install a generic Aarch64 kernel and operating system and just make it works or do I have to build a very specific system for that board like images that are specifically aimed at the pi?

To be clear I’m really interested on the Rock64 boards but I don’t like any of their OS options. It would be great to be able to use the Aarch64 port of Alpine Linux on those.

In general, SBC SOCs require customizations due to (at least) bootloader and blobs. On top of those, there are typically other patches to expose various functionalities (eg. cooling).

There's surprising little information about 64-bit SBC O/S. It's possible that 64 bits don't give so much performance improvement, or that they increase the power consumption - not sure. It seems that nobody really took the time (and distro...) to do an accurate comparison.

Having said that, curiously, SUSE actually produced a 64-bit distro (https://www.suse.com/c/suse-linux-enterprise-server-raspberr...), due to them already having an ARM distribution. I'll actually try it at some point - I'm very curious. More direct download link: https://www.suse.com/de-de/products/arm/raspberry-pi/

Did we read the same review? Terrible keyboard and trackpad, 2gb ram?

For $100 I think the expectation is set that there will be some rough edges. At that price point, I'd consider picking one up as a toy… even if it is giving me flashbacks of the netbook era.

I still work with my eight year old notebook and its glorious Intel Atom and 1GB of RAM... It was gifted to me during my second year of college and now that I'm on my PhD I still have a use for it.

The original Windows distribution lasted around one month. Since then it's been running a number of lightweight distributions, currently Lubuntu. It works noticeably better than laptops running Windows with twice the memory. Even compared to more powerful machines I manage to keep it competitive by avoiding bloated crap.

Of course the battery doesn't last like it used to, and I had to replace the keyboard a few years ago.

When my thinkpad x201 broke down, I lived with an atom 1.6 Ghz eeePC (1000HE).

It was certainly doable and tweaking the laptop to run on limited resources was fun.

My only real issue was that I couldn't browse with javascript, because the cpu load was crushing the netbook.

Other than that a recent OpenBSD installation used only 128MiB of RAM, with ram usage occasionaly rising to around 280 MiB when I opened firefox.

I still use the netbook as my primary mobile machine. But I think getting a second hand thinkpad again would be a reasonable thing to do. Although the netbook is perfectly usable, it is really heavy compared to today's standards. That is the only complaint I have for my machine.

A few things....

Pinebook uses a Mali GPU, which if I understand correctly relies on closed binaries to run though it looks like that is changing: https://www.cnx-software.com/2017/09/26/allwinner-socs-with-...

Also my personal experience with this laptop was less than stellar. This was last May (before Firefox Quantum), but I opened it, tried to do some things, and immediately closed it because it's absolutely too slow to use as a laptop. Definitely cool as a terminal. I ended up putting it back in the box and donating it as a prize for an event

This manages to cost less than a Nexdock, which has essentially the same components _except_ a CPU. (You attach it to a PC stick, RPi, mobile phone, etc.)

That's pretty impressive!

I recently bought a Linx 14 from Tesco in the UK (https://www.tesco.com/direct/linx-14-ultraslim-full-hd-light...) which is Intel and I've been pleasantly surprised by how good it is! Particularly for the money! And an OS that I could get on with or give to my mum to use.

Looks like rebranded Chinese laptop. Some Chinese companies sell very decent low-budget laptops (Chuwi, Teclast, Jumper, etc.) and some have full Linux support (according to reviews [1]).

[1] https://techtablets.com/

Yes I think it is, but it doesn't have such visible iterations as the Chuwi (which went from having to take the bottom off to get to the SSD and then adding a flap) and having indeterminate specs from the sellers, or having bad reviews where the screen scratched on the body when hinged open.

At least with this one, the specifications are on a reputable seller's website and the Linx company is a UK Ltd company; the box it came in and tiny manual were good quality, unlike some of the Dells I have ordered!

I was pleasantly surprised! Impressed by the lack of bloatware on it too.

I've had the Pinebook 11.6'' since its initial release. It's been great for doing occasional server maintenance on-the-go.

A few tips:

- You can install an OS on the internal 16gb memory. Then swap in an SD card to run other OSes.

- Performance is not too bad if you run i3wm. And Firefox Quantum helps it out even further.

- I've yet to try this out (waiting on another SD card to come in the mail), but shadeslayer released an image for the pinebook that runs KDE with accelerated X11 & video playback support[0]. Which is pretty impressive if you know anything about Mali and the issue of closed-source binary blobs.

[0] https://www.netrunner.com/netrunner-for-pinebook/

They had one on display (and to touch) at FOSDEM. Mechanics felt cheap, but what can you expect at the price point.

I asked about the Allwinner misery with Linux kernel support. They answered that is no longer an issue with the new 64 bit chips. I have not verified the statement.

I would try one if they had a reasonable distributor in the EU. Now it's gambling with customs. Might not come much cheaper than e.g. an HP with Intel Atom and 32 GB of eMMC. And those play in a whole different league in build quality. (I use them with Linux.)

Looks neat, but i hope they find a reseller in EU (with actual stock, not like those "homebrew" consoles like Pandora and GCWZero that took me two years to actually get one because it was always out of stock - which sucks since i really like it, but the limited availability harmed it considerably) since it sounds like you'll need to pay VAT and at the customs office yourself (which is extra annoying when you actually have to go there yourself).

Front Camera: 0.3 Megapixels

Where does one source a webcam this crappy in 2018? Did someone find an old stock of 90's sensors in the back of a warehouse somewhere?

Why is there no Ethernet port?! Even the Pine64, which the Pinebook seems to be based on, has one. Just because Apple stopped including one does not imply that an audience that loves to tinker will not miss an Ethernet port.

The cost of the PHY and the Ethernet interface would increase the price

This looks like the perfect hackable netbook with very little surface area for attacks but sadly it has an Allwiner SoC (A64) which violates the GPL and contains many binary blobs. I have been burnt with them, MediaTek and AMLogic in the past. Never again.


Allwinner has done mistakes in the past and posted tarballs of the Linux kernel source with object files for drivers they did not have the right (from others) to post the source. They called these "SDKs" and distributed them to those that asked.

There are ways to get around such issues like distributing those blobs or the object files separately, but they were not savvy in free software. They started getting savvy by posting on github sanitized Linux sources and sources of the bootloader, https://github.com/allwinner-zh

So what do you do if a fabless manufacturer violates the GPL out of cluelessness? Do you follow the path of the core kernel develolpers (https://lwn.net/Articles/698452/) or do you go for the nuclear option?

Well, a certain person on linux-sunxi went for the nuclear option. You can see the `GPL violation` edits on the linux-sunxi Wiki on these obsolete tarballs with object files. You can see the same person on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allwinner_Technology writing about 'GPL violations'.

I admit that the `nuclear option` is a strategy. If it works, it would transform the company by force to become friendly to open-source (/sarcasm). But it is a shitty strategy.

They've been violating the GPL license for years. The 'nuclear option' has been long past-due.

And the "path of the core kernel developers" is to simply not sue them. Which this "nuclear option" follows. Plus, suing a Chinese company might be a fruitless endeavor.

Seems a bit big for a netbook which is a shame, there don't seem to be too many companies catering for the 10" form factor anymore.

I'd love a computer with those specs, twice the cost, with a great keyboard and trackpad.

I've got one - the trackpad is kinda ordinary but the keyboard is pretty good (as calibrated by someone who mostly uses a 2015 MacBook Air and a 2017 runout non-retina 12" MacBook Pro).

I'm really happy with the money I paid for it - the screen is significantly better than I expected (it's become my go-to "watch tv in bed" laptop...)

The only problems I see with this laptop is the 2 GB of RAM and resolution.

Firefox with all blocking plugins takes regularly about 1.5-2.5 GB RAM on my machine, even with 5-10 tabs only.

I would like to see 13" model with full size keyboard (not the 11.6 one with crippled/squeezed keys) and at least Full HD screen.

Having 1366x768 resolution in 2018 is misunderstanding to say the least.

One thing about memory usage: programs will use as much as they can. Firefox will most likely use less memory if it has less.

As it is very cheap one can't expect a lot of support but "Warranty: 30 days" is pretty short, 90 is a little more reasonable.

FYI: If you're in the EU these sorts of warranty statements are meaningless.

As an EU citizen, regulations state that you have two years of warranty within which, if the item is faulty, you may return it and get a refund.

That’s why it will cost in EU closer to 300$ than original 100$.

Which would tell you a lot about the expected failure rate.

It’s not about failure rate alone. As a seller in EU you are liable for the product for 2 years. Plus WEEE (recycling), waste management, user manuals in all European languages. And you also want to have some profit at the end.

I found a video after a quick search on youtube that gives me a little better impression about this laptop.


I think for $100, I will give it a whirl. It has escape key unlike my new fancy overpriced macbook pro.

It seems reviewer didn't like keyboard much. :( That is unfortunate.

I would say that having usb port for power would be very much welcome feature.

Also, further video review:


Do you rebind your caps lock to escape? That's what I did, and it's become second nature at this point.

Yep I did that. I still often fatfinger the brightness and other things. It is corporate one, I have my old macbook air that works just as fine.

Why 2G of ram? Its certainly usable but seems so limiting is there really a huge savings from not including another 2G?

The SoC doesn't support much more than 2G, the Allwinner Wiki says 3G is the maximum but you probably want to just use two memory chips to keep costs down.

Is there an ARM motherboard that accepts more that 4GB?

You could get a Xilinx dev board and just ignore the FPGA features, this [1] one will accept at least 6GB.

[1] https://www.xilinx.com/products/boards-and-kits/zcu104.html

I have this laptop. If you find that the spacebar does not respond well if struck in the center, I've found that a small pressing of hot glue and a quick dab of your thumb on it on the middle ring on the underside of the key does wonders to keep it responsive.

This computer, to me, has been a blast to tinker with. It's so crappy, yet hides nothing. When my monitor didn't work well, I just took it apart, rewrapped the video cable with some copper-snail tape and attached that to the ground plane on the board, and the signal is so much better now.

I want this, but with a 7" display: smaller, lighter, better power efficiency (display is the main draw).

i.e. a netbook

The GPD Pocket fits this bill. It was available with Ubuntu pre-installed during it's crowd sourcing campaign. The support under Ubuntu is pretty good, including good support for the touch screen. 7" 1080p, atom CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD. More expensive, but under $500.


I just need one of these with the IBM butterfly keyboard [1] and it'd be wonderful

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_ThinkPad_Butterfly_keyboar...

There's an 11" model, IMO that puts it somewhere within netbook territory.

Assuming the same height/width proportions, it would have (11/7)^2 = 2.47 times the area. Quite a bit bigger.

11" is bigger than 7" for sure, but that's not my point. My point is that 11" is at the upper end of what I'd consider a netbook, and it wasn't immediately obvious to me when I browsed the page that there was an 11" model so I thought you might have missed it, too.

Thanks for being helpful, but I think we must be working with different definitions of the term "netbook".

I'm not sure of the proper definition, but I'm using it to mean something smaller and less powerful than a laptop - a kind of "sub-laptop" category.

What definition are you working with?

I'm thinking a small laptop with less moving parts (no DVD) and less powerful for the sake of price, mobility and battery life.

I'm intentionally vague about the specifics, but as far as I'm concerned, 11.6" fits the bill. For example, Eee 1101HA was 11.6" and was widely considered a netbook. The Pinebook, by comparison, must be somewhat lighter (no mechanical HD, tiny motherboard).

That said, I haven't really kept up with the ensuing maze of laptop terminology since the netbook days. Some late era netbooks would probably be classified as "sub-notebooks" or "ultra-portables" or some such today.

But I get that you'd ideally want 7", since you stated that explicitly. I've been passing time on train rides with a Libretto 50CT lately, and it's so damn practical in terms of size, so I feel you.

Fair enough! I had an original 7" eee, so that became my platonic form for "netbook". Though as a product category, that size doesn't even exist any more. Interesting that they got bigger, and today, phones are getting bigger. Perhaps approaching an ideal size?

I've switched over to android a few years ago as a development machine, expecting it to "disrupt" PCs, as other form-factors did. It has disrupted PCs, but not for development! BTW Always fancied the librettos, but seemed too expensive for me.

Another interesting project is this open hardware ARM-based laptop made in Bulgaria, shipped as a kit to assemble https://www.olimex.com/Products/DIY-Laptop/ It costs €240, though.

I had one of these. The concept was nice, screen was much nicer than I expected, but the keyboard was near unusable.

You had to hit each key HARD, directly in the center, for keystrokes to register. Touch typing was impossible.

The trackpad wasn't any better.

Ended up selling it to a coworker (with an additional standalone Pine64 board) for $75.

It reminds me of the Commodore 64 that it was underpowered but sold cheaper than the other computers.

I got a 99 dollar used Dell 64 but dual core system with Windows 10 on it upgraded from Windows 7. Runs quite well, but it is not a gaming machine.

The Commie64 didn't really have competition in its market space, which is a big reason why it was able to sell so well despite being kind of crappy.

This laptop is competing against Chromebooks, Netbooks, old but still functional laptops, etc...

The only competition to the C64 was the Atari 8 bit series in the USA and Sinclar Spectrum in the UK.

If Commodore got the C65 to work it would have cost less to make than the C64.

So now there is a remake called the Mega65


Do people realize how game changing this laptop would be for students in developing countries like Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria? For $100 price tag on a useable laptop that you can run code or productivity apps, this is an absolute game changer. We have students at university going computer science without owning their own laptops! So this would really go a long way in bridging that divide. Kudo Pine64 team.

Maybe its a pipe dream, but I'd love to see a really affordable ARM machine with a forever battery life - like one of the OP1 Chromebooks running Linux instead of ChromeOS+Crouton.

Is it likely for Crostini to support ARM anytime soon?

What could you feasibly use this for? The 1.2GHz CPU seems like it would put a bit of a damper on almost anything besides answering email and basic word processing.

My phone is slightly faster, but only 1GB RAM. For linux tasks, it is overkill - many unix utilities were designed in the 70's with many magnitudes less power available.

Command-line java development (ecj, dx, git, etc) is practically instant. (If you need an activity-center IDE, you're gonna have a bad time.)

The only problems I've encountered are super javascript-heavy retail pages (Why do they do that? They can only restrict their audience. Interactivity needn't be heavy. Are they just using frameworks upon frameworks upon frameworks?)

And unfortunately, some Khan Academy graphical exercise. Strangely, "kalite" (offline version) works instantly, probably because it uses an older presentation - I bet it's "modern" frameworks again (though maybe because offline?).

Back in the day at Nokia Research we were abusing their N800 linux tablets (mind you, this was 2007, way before the iphone shipped and when android was a mere rumor). These things were running a debian linux based OS with X based UI, and a mozilla based browser. Pretty much anything command line just worked after a simple apt-get install and most gui stuff kind of worked except for formfactor issues (low resolution screen, touch based interaction, keyboard overlay, etc.).

The N800 specs were very modest compared to this stuff (something like 500Mhz and 256MB if I'm not mistaken). So, for command line stuff, most of the stuff you'd use 12 years ago would still be valid today. Stuff hasn't really changed that much. If anything, some things might run a bit faster than they used to on the same hardware due to ongoing optimizations and cumulative fixes. E.g. python has improved a lot since 2.5, which I think was current then. Compilers have gotten better, kernels have improved a lot, etc.

However, these days, a minimum requirement for most would be to be able to run a modern browser (i.e. with all the security holes patched) capable of browsing all popular websites. Unfortunately, that just requires a lot of memory and CPU these days. Websites have gotten a lot more complex in the last 12 years. I'd say memory is actually the biggest bottleneck here. Most laptops are effectively idling most of the time and grow extremely hot if you actually run them at 100% CPU. So a modern low power ARM SOC with enough memory suitable for e.g. a mid range smart phone of around 200$ should have everything you need for comfortable browsing.

It all depends on what you do; I do a lot of software dev on (far) less powerful devices than that. And SSH or vnc etc work fine on low powered systems. I notice that mostly web dev, a lot of (but not all) gamedev and ML does not work at all on this kind of device. But API dev, some gamedev, language dev, embedded dev and a lot more work fine. For me, but this is all personal, I notice I can work on very diverse systems as long as I do not need a browser; browsers are so hungry for computer power that they render perfectly fine computing devices unworkable, fast. Well, not browsers, but the websites they run. For a laptop like this or with even lower specs (the Pandora for instance), I have no issues doing most of my work (which is api, embedded, code reviews and docs) if I have a second device like a tablet, or, ofcourse, two of these, for web browsing.

This comment seems hilarious to someone who grew up with 486s that did those things fine. However, I’m inclined to agree that i would find this machine challenging to use as my daily thing.

My Lifebook p7010 has a 1.2ghz processor and I still use it for programming, web browsing (mostly with javascript off), writing, light photo editing in gimp, 2d cad (qCAD and inkscape), and with two batteries I can watch movies for about 11 hours on the plane. It's true that I own other computers for 3d cad and gaming.

I loved that era in laptop design.

The Lifebooks and the VAIOs were both so cool.

For a few years now, I have been doing web/api dev on one Asus Eee Box with Intel Atom 1.8Ghz and 3GB of RAM. It does take a few extra seconds to load heavy web apps like Google Sheets or Google Maps; however, on the upside, if I make my apps run fast on such limited device, it will be super fast on most of my users' devices. I also love it b/c it makes zero noise.

You know back in the 1990's we had email and web browsers and MS office. We even had CAD software. All that stuff could run on a 200MHz Intel chip with 128-512M of RAM.

I wonder why people think it's OK that their daily use software is too big for a computer like this.

Yes I remember (and agree with you), but there was no Youtube non Netflix nor social networks, sites were 400kb of text plus a couple of images. That's why.

Just being able to run a browser gives it a lot of utility at an attractive price point which is comparable to the cost of a nice toy.

Sub $100 makes them close to disposable so you could have them scattered around a work site without much care for security or being careful to take good care of them. They could also be cheap enough for a classroom to afford that otherwise wouldn't be able to make any computing devices available.

The fact that it's only 1.2GHz is irrelevant. The important aspect is that it's an A53 core. These cores are incredibly slow. Each A53 core has geekbench score of roughly 300. Compare this to an A72 core which has a score of roughly 1500. Intel gets anywhere from 2000 to 6000 per core.

A72 cores are moderately slower than intel. A53 cores are excessively slower than either A72 and intel.

It is a notebook.

You carry it with you when you travel somewhere and then dial back to your supercomputer for the heavy lifting.

Most people I know who aren't video gamers use their home computer for almost solely web browsing. My phone browses the web fine on that amount so it should be enough for most people.

You'd be surprised - although it's a pain to get some software running on it - it runs all the SDR software I use pretty well (mostly rx only using RTL SDR sticks, but I've used it for tx with my HackRFOne as well).

Anything you can run on a Raspberry Pi you can get going on this - I largely use it as "a Raspberry Pi with a keyboard/screen/battery" - which it mostly does better than my PiTop (which has a vastly inferior screen and keyboard).

If you happen to hand code ARM assembly, it is extremely convenient for working on the go.

Does anyone know if this allows you to update the hardware?

If this included basic 10MHz 2-channel scope functionality, I'd call this a TinkerBook. And I would definitely buy it.

Why has RAM stagnated? I want 32GB in a similar form factor, make it power down unused chips if that's a concern.

Wow, 11' version is even under $100.

They still aren't selling the 11' version. I will wait for it to be avaliable to make a try.

I was 100% gonna buy the 11" but the shift key is on the right side of the up key.

I've tried to order one alas they never email me back.

Wifi looks like it is 1x1 SISO and 2.4 GHz only.

Can it run Debian?

Yep - at least my one (delivered May last year) only has 2.4GHz Wi-Fi on board).

I run Ubuntu on mine, but there's recent Debian Jessie support in the forums...

This looks like a chuwi, same body?

What GPU does it use?

Why are people still putting their computers inside keyboards !?

Put the SoC behind the screen !!!

That makes the screen thicker, and heavier, therefore more likely to tip the whole thing over. Why do you want it behind the screen?

Other poster mentioned the thermal issues. It's probably not great for EMC either.

I have an HP Pavilion convertable, the keyboard is detachable and it can be used as a tablet, I don't have a problem with it tipping over.

Because weight. It won't stand if keyboard is less heavy than screen

I'm guessing heat damage is a concern.

They have a typo on the spec sheet:

USB 2.0 Port

Should be 3.0 Port.

do you have a reference for that? The Main Board schematic also shows a 2.0 port...

The A64 in the Pinebook and Pine64 does not support USB3. The RK3288 in the Rock64 (same company) does!

I think he's trying to make a "why no USB3.0 in 2018" type argument

Close ... "why no USB3.0 port in 2015" is closer to my sentiment ...

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