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New Hardware from PINE64 (hackster.io)
140 points by lelf 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments

Just as a word of warning, I bought the old PineBook64 and it was dreadful. I could accept the speed limitations of a $99 laptop - but the hardware was inadequate. The trackpad couldn't tell the difference between scrolling and zooming. The keyboard regularly skipped keypresses. Firmware updates were promised, but never arrived.

There was also very little software support. The occasional community build of of Ubuntu or Android. Neither of which received much in the way of bug fixes or development.

I appreciate it was designed as a "tinkering" machine - but it's hard to tinker when the basics don't work.

Devices like this live and die by their community. If you don't have lots of committed people working on supporting a platform it quickly withers and dies.

I like the look of the "pro" model. But if it receives the same lack of attention as their earlier hardware, it won't be worth buying.

> The trackpad couldn't tell the difference between scrolling and zooming. The keyboard regularly skipped keypresses. Firmware updates were promised, but never arrived.

Only when people run into things like that, they get appreciation for people making decent low-end hardware.

I say, it is twice as hard to design a decent $300 laptop that a decent $1000 laptop.

Supply chain for low-end parts is a total Wild West (or East if you want.) If you want 100k top-tier panels from Samsung, you sign the contact and go away having a good sleep. If you want 100k of ok quality and moderately priced panels, you are up for a lot of sleepless nights picking them up from random distributors, through all of manufacturing run.

For touchpads that don't go on standalone modules, calibration is also case by case. Some times, it simply doesn't work - you plastic is too thick, it's dielectric value is off. Ideally, you have a specialist company making a custom made module for you, with Synaptics blessing, but for budget stuff, you your only option is to calibrate it yourself using SDKs leaked to Chinese FTPs

And stuff like keyboards - there are no dedicated keyboard module makers these days, your chassis maker is doing that nowadays. You are up for a lot of trial and error on that, and if you want any custom switches, god save you.

Ideally, if you are a budget maker, you want to spin as many models on a single "chassis" as possible to cover RnD expenses. This is the only way big ODMs like Quanta and Clevo or brands like Asus can make cheap and moderately good stuff.

Trying to be small and differentiated differentiated is the hardest thing to do for a budget OEM.

Checkout a brand called Chuwi - it's a miracle how they can make five different chassis a year, and do it profitably, while being an e-commerce-only brand.

Indeed. Casio is one of my favorite brands in electronics because they have been so reliable about doing cost reduction without compromising the core device functions. For example, when they do a high end keyboard, which seems to happen about twice a decade, the key features are soon brought back down to their low end models, meaning that at any given moment their offering is most likely biased towards the cheapest of the range, with a bit of price differentiation on features.

Casio is a well-established brand and gets the benefits of scale, but that only makes some parts of the job easier. They still have to carve out market share one product at a time, like everyone else, and they don't do it through the expensive flagship pieces.

> There was also very little software support. The occasional community build of of Ubuntu or Android. Neither of which received much in the way of bug fixes or development.

This is exactly why I gave up on the PINE ecosystem. Their hardware is amazing. But their software support is dreadful. I don’t understand why they cannot have PINE supported OS builds.

I have a Pinebook, I'm happy with it, I don't run Linux on it though.

What are you running on it?


Care to share a bit about what has worked with the Pine64 and what hasn't?

I'm pretty interested in how you installed this; I am very dissatisfied with the default KDE crap they put on the Pinebook.

I was curious enough to try it too. Wish I hadn't. It's e-waste in my opinion. My inner environmentalist wanted me to make my first youtube review video to warn people off but it looks like we'll have to settle for this HN comment for now.

Are there fast desktop ARM machines? Can I spend $500, not $50, to get something with 16-32GB of RAM and a ton of CPU cores?

I am with Linus on this "server ARM revolution won't happen". I've had to fix an ARM incompatibility that QEMU didn't emulate (related to hardware timers). Pine64 wasn't in stock. I got RPI, but compilation on that toy machine was soooo slooow that I literally forgot about the whole project before it finished compiling.

The ROCKPro64 is not super fast, but it is a pretty big step up from the Pi. 2 big cores and 4 little cores with 4GB RAM for $80. ~2800 geekbench multicore, Pi 3 is ~1400.


About $1000 will get you a Snapdragon 845 devkit with 6GB RAM which is again quite a bit faster. 4 big cores and 4 little cores. ~8500 geekbench.


$6400 will get you a 96 core ARM server.


$269 (+ $70-100 shipping) will get you a MACCHIATObin (+ a 4GB DIMM), a mini-ITX board with four A72 cores, PCIe and FOSS firmware (https://github.com/MarvellEmbeddedProcessors/edk2-open-platf... or even just mainline TianoCore) capable of running a graphics card before the OS (thanks to qemu).


$300 for a tiny Kirin 970 board with 6GB RAM.


$1200 will get you a Developerbox, 24 A53 cores, also PCIe and FOSS firmware.


£2255 will get you a 32-core Ampere eMAG workstation


You can also order a system from Ampere directly, no public prices but they might be offering 16-core systems for less.


A friend of mine is building a k8s cluster out of 4 gig Rock64 boards. Not terribly fast, but low power and fun for experimentation, I guess.

Just ran across your post. Coming over the summer we are releasing a mini-itx board based on https://www.solid-run.com/nxp-lx2160a-family/ That will be early release silicon. Production silicon will be end of 2019

The chip is 16 core 2ghz (maybe 2.2ghz for production), up to 64GB of DDR4

The board will be ATX PSU / 12v input 4xSATA connectors 1xNVME (x4 lanes) PCIe gen 4 x8 open slot (gen3 for LX2160A first silicon) PCIe add-in card 1x USB 3 in the back 2x USB 2.0 in the back 2x USB 3 header for front panel 2x USB 2.0 header for front panel 1xQSFP28 100Gbps cage (100Gbps/4x25Gbps/4x10Gbps) 1 1Gbps rj45 ethernet RTC battery Multiple FAN connectors; one of them with PWM / Tach USB FTDI USB to STM32 for remote management (on/off, remote SPI flash etc...)

The barebones board and COM will be sub $500. So adding all the bells and whistles you are going to looking at minimum $750 for a full working system. We have a proper Developer Workstation spec'd out in the $1300 range. Radeon GPU with multi-display support, 32GB of memory, 1TB NVME, nice looking compact mini-itx case, cooling loop etc.

Just for comparison a full ARM64 kernel build takes about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The same build on a ThreadRipper2 16 core / 32 thread takes 50 seconds. However the ThreadRipper is a 200Watt CPU and this is a 30Watt SOC

Just a little heads up that options are coming.

The MACCHIATObin Double Shot[0] from Marvell is reasonably fast. CPU wise it's twice the speed of a RPI, has two 10 Gb NICs, one 1 Gb NIC, 3 SATA ports, a PCIe 3.0 x4 slot, in a mini-ITX form. I picked one up from Solid Run with 16 GB RAM for around $500 with the intention of making a desktop replacement to do all my online financial stuff on. Unfortunately the processor initialization doesn't configure large enough BAR space for video cards. A desktop like this has been done[1], but how was not publicly documented.

[0] http://macchiatobin.net/product/macchiatobin-double-shot/

[1] https://www.cnx-software.com/2017/10/03/macchiatobin-based-d...

You should use the TianoCore based firmware instead of the U-Boot it comes with. TianoCore even runs QEMU to emulate the VBIOS, so you should be able to get graphics before OS boot, like on a normal PC :)


How to compile: http://wiki.macchiatobin.net/tiki-index.php?page=Build+from+...

How to run without flashing: https://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-arm/2018-October... (at the bottom) (tl;dr the 'bubt' command)

There are also jumpers for configuring where it gets the boot loader, so when I did happen to put a bad build into the SPI flash, it was possible to recover by using the SD card.

I'll have to revisit the TianoCore build as my previous attempts to use it were miserable failures. I assume due to the fact that my OS isn't arranged in such a way as to support EFI booting.

I would love to get it up and running as my gut feeling is that running on a platform that less than 0.0000001% of users are using insulates you from almost all automated attacks I'd encounter on the internet. The only thing I'd feel more secure using would be a Talos PowerPC based system, but those are out of my budget.

I read Linus's point as saying that the desktop/developer experience is what drives the adoptions, not the other way around. You want to be able to run similar stacks on both. So server can't happen unless desktop/laptop gets adoption first.

I for one would love to see an ARM desktop; I'm already a Linux user and I've largely stopped gaming so there's no reason for me to stick around x86 except that that's basically all I can get. Architecturally I find ARM much cleaner and nice to use, without all of the crufty 8-bit/16-bit/32-bit compatibility shims that we're stuck with because of the evolution of the x86-64 [ed: was IA64] architecture.

x86, not IA64. IA64 is the Itanium architecture.

Well, you can spend $1000 for an Atom-grade laptop with 8 ARM cores and 4GB RAM:


I think that is pretty much as good as they get.

> Atom-grade

Is this really the best ARM can do?

No but ARM is obviously not the go to thing for high performance computing (At the moment... Or forever in the near future)

Not for $500 [1], that one looks to be over $10000.

[1] https://www.anandtech.com/show/12571/gigabyte-thunderxstatio...

Not yet, no, but it looks like they're starting to creep up the value chain.

Direct link to announcement this post seems to take most info from: https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=7093&pid=43850#p...

I have a RockPro64 4GB version & I have been very pleased! Lots of OSs available & easy to flash with their provided installer software. Used it mainly as a home web server runnibg Ubuntu 18.04 so far, but I have some other ideas to tinker with in the future.

Been really happy to have it around! Nice to see the company continue to deliver new products. I might pick up one of those camera cubes. Bravo Pine64!

Back then I was interested in the $90 Pinebook and finally opted against it, mainly because the driver support seemed problematic. The new Pinebook Pro according to the article will have a RK3399: Arm Cortex-A72 + quad-core Cortex-A53 + Mali T860 MP4 GPU. Can someone here judge based on the specs how driver support of that laptop will be like? Does the Mali gpu have a proper free (kernel-included?) linux driver? I did not find the answers to that.


RM produce designs for a GPU called 'Mali'. This is incorporated in many SoCs and thus devices. It is used in a number of devices that can run Debian.

There are three major revisions of Mali GPUs: Utgard, Midgard, and Bifrost. See wikipedia page for reference.

Partial free drivers were developed for Utgard but were abandoned (lima). Work on Utgard has continued by a new set of developers (lima). Free drivers for Midgard and Bifrost are under active development but are not yet ready for Debian users (panfrost).

Proprietary drivers are also available from the vendor for each Mali version. Since 2016, the binary drivers put out by ARM have been redistributable and thus can be packaged for non-free. GPLed kernel shim drivers are also released by ARM, which is eligible for Debian contrib. As of March 2017, these have been packaged in Debian for Midgard devices; see MaliMidgard. Upstream proprietary drivers are available from The ARM developer site

Thanks. But that's bad:

> ARM dropped support for X in their releases after r16 (Jan 2017). This is a massive pain as that's what we all still use. Only wayland, fbdev and android are supported after that.

If that's not misleading and there would be no proper X support the laptop is a no-starter for me. On the other hand, panfrost is in mesa now and https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Panfrost... sounds promising. Maybe that free driver will be ready till then.

The RK3399 has improved mainline support in 4.21/5, I think (which is just out now, thankfully!). Right now it'll work, but some boards (like the Rock960) are still a bit sketchy and things are missing. The user leds aren't in the device tree on the Rock960 for example. Otherwise you're at the whim of maintainers, eg if you want docker you need a kernel with aufs/overlay support and this is often not the case.

Speed wise though, it's plenty fast.

Thanks, Mainline support is great. And like mentioned above, that there is mesa/panfrost for the gpu could very well mean that this time the driver situation will actually be quite good when the laptop comes out. I'm looking forward to see how it works out.

You can see the current status here: http://opensource.rock-chips.com/wiki_Status_Matrix

May be a little out of date though.

I have a RockPro64, which is basically that as a SBC. Runs well with just mainline Linux, apart from the GPU.

There are blobs, but I didn't manage to get them to work with recent Xorg or Wayland.

But there's hope in the form of Panfrost, which seems to be coming along nicely: https://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=Panfrost...

My experience with Pine64 is that if it didn't work out of the box you're not going to get a fix later. And that definitely includes the video drivers. It's kind of a shame because the chipset has good specs on paper, but the driver situation is a total shitshow. I don't even think I ever even got the GPIO pins to work.

Think the Pine guys are doing what the Raspberry peeps should have done long ago: releasing products with 3-4GB of RAM. This way consumer facing devices are not constantly disk trashing for swap disk when browsing the web.

RAM is, relatively speaking, one of the most expensive components of an SBC.

Raspberry Pi _could_ have offered 4GB+ of it, and they could also have quadrupled the price.

As much as I'd love a Pi with 4GB+ of RAM, is quite obvious why the $35 computer doesn't have it.

> Raspberry Pi _could_ have offered 4GB+ of it, and they could also have quadrupled the price.

Raspberry Pi's SoC does not support more RAM than the 1 GiB that it now has. This is as far as I am aware considered a serious problem by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

I don't know by what they thus plan to replace the SoC in the future.

This is what I was alluding to. There was an interview recently with Eben, where he explained that the SoC needs an upgrade to give them more (faster) peripherals and the ability to add more RAM. I can't find the source at the moment.

As I understand it the SoC in the Pi was some older IP that was licensed to them (RPF/Eben) for free (or close to) by Broadcom.

The RPF will have to sink so significant cost into a new SoC (and I choose to believe that this is already happening, as we speak).

>As much as I'd love a Pi with 4GB+ of RAM, is quite obvious why the $35 computer doesn't have it.

The reason is because it can't. Almost all SBCs are based on TV boxes (including the Rasberry Pi) which don't need more than 4 GB of RAM and are designed to only support that much.

16GB of RAM is $89 retail at the local Microcenter, in 2x8gb sticks. Not seeing how adding a bit more RAM would quadruple the price. Pine sells a 4gb RAM sbc for what, $59?

Edit : "Pricing will remain the same with the 1GB model priced at $24.95, the 2GB model at $34.95, and the 4GB model at $44.95."


That's the thing, everyone has different things that they want. Some want higher bus speeds but consider the current CPU speeds and RAM to be sufficient. Others need more CPU, but don't need the RAM. Still others would like to have more RAM, but don't necessarily need dramatically faster processors.

I don't see how the Pi Foundation can cater to all of them. Although, I do expect the Pi 4 next year to address at least some of them.

In the mean time, there are great devices, like the RockPro64.

IME, 1GB can be enough to browse modern websites without swapping, and 2GB allows you to do so while keeping lots of tabs open. Of course having more RAM than that is always nice, but even these "low RAM" specs are far from useless.

We need 8-16G options for smoother experience once you start up desktop applications.

Except that isn't the target market for the PI, there are other SoCs for that.

Not everything needs to be a desktop system.

I recently bought an Orange Pi 3 which is roughly similar to Pine H64. Easy enough to setup and runs Pi Hole and Kodi just fine, unfortunately no way to run RetroPie at the moment.

These boards are kind of hamstrung by lack of Mali support from what I can tell. If you want a cheap single use server board they are great but they don’t compare to Raspberry Pi’s community and support ecosystem.

I bought an Orange Pi 1+ H6 for the high-end Mali GPU. The board was dead on arrival, as in, it never pulled any current from the power supply. It was plain as day to see this on my bench top power supply. The support I received was horrible. They kept demanding the same "troubleshooting" steps over and over and for me to upload YouTube videos showing me doing the steps. It clearly was DOA. I threw it in the garbage and swore off Orange Pi forever.

I switched to a Rock 960 and had a much better experience.

I really really love the idea of this Pinebook Pro but find this Pine64 ecosystem a risk. I would love it if I could buy this with an RPi heart. At least then I'd know I could easily run fullHD video on the GPU, I would for certain get a nice modern Ubuntu Mate desktop that is reasonably nice speed-wise. I'm pretty sure I could do most of the things I do on my 800 dollar laptop on a Pi3. The Pine64 eco-system makes me very weary though and it is again echoed here in the comments.

I do a fair amount with SBCs for my home automation, and various projects (always flashed with Dietpi where possible). I've got Raspberry Pis, NanoPi Neos, Odroids, and the one regretful purchase, a Rock64 by Pine.

The hardware support was abysmal from day one; the only recourse was a message board where suggestions from the makers included using a magnifying glass to look for bad surface mount welds on resistors.

Dietpi later came out with an image for the Rock64 (those folks really walk on water in my eyes), which has saved my Rock from the bin (all the officially supported linux builds were rife with crashes), and I'm currently using it as a massively overpowered nginx server (because I don't trust the hardware for anything else at this point).

tl;dr - I would not buy something from Pine64 again.

Re the new Rock64

>The new version will add Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) support

_Integrated_ PoE? I’ve been waiting a looong time for a reasonably-priced SBC to offer this. Anyone know if that’s the case?

The phone looks interesting. Although the realist in me questions why it would be successful over all the other Linux phone efforts.

I hope it's successful though.

These look really cool, I had no idea the PINE project was so diverse in its hardware projects.

Especially the $20 "naked" digital camera core ("The Cube") looks like it might trigger loads of cool projects. I guess it runs Linux, since it's pretty high-specced and has rich I/O. Power over Ethernet support suggests fixed installations is a niche (like security cameras, smart homes, automation and so on), but it might also be useful for visual effects. Cool stuff.

I think this:

Over the last year or two we’ve seen the Raspberry Pi form factor starting to become a defacto standard for single-board computers, much like Adafruit’s Feather has for micro-controllers

was a bit surprising, Feather is cool but surely it's an attempt to establish another standard, since Arduino already is the standard for microcontrollers? It was a bit weird that Arduino wasn't mentioned, there.

Looking forward to seeing when these become possible to order.

I have the original Pine64 in a case with all the addons, remote, etc. I played with it for a bit thinking to use it as a Kodi box. It’s been sitting on my project tablet since then. It is going on the eBay item pile soon. It was just not quite fast enough to keep up with how I wanted to use it. At this price point however it was a cheap experiment. I will likely order a the newer model and try it out. They current Kodi box for the man cave TV is an Intel compute stick (i5) (windows 10 because I am to lazy to figure out how to get Linux on it). It drives a 4K TV. It has steam installed for older games. Speaking of which it was funny as I was playing the Mater of Orion remake on the system. At larger sizes of galaxy it was painfully slow. I also have a much older (~5 years) 6 core AMD FX. Tried it on that system and it was much faster. Looking at activity monitor it seems it was one of the few games (from a few years ago) that take advantage of multi core chips.

Anybody know of any SBCs* with good low power modes enough to run for a few days on a 4000 mAh battery?

Phones have been able to do this for years, but I can't find any modern Linux SBCs with real lower power CPU modes to last for days.

* ideally 1+GHz with 4GB RAM and on-board lipo charging circuit

Not sure if this meets all those requirements, but check out the NanoPi Neo. I've run it on battery a few times, and it only cost $12

The recently released Linux 5.0 kernel supports energy-aware scheduling, which should help out with this: https://lwn.net/Articles/749900/

Finding a recent board that can run mainline kernels may be a challenge.

Indeed, that's what makes the raspberry pi so hard to beat, even though I'm just a hobbyist using it as a tinker toy.

If something major breaks software-wise you can be pretty sure that the rPi community is large enough to produce a fix within hours.

OTOH if you'd like a new kernel for that fancy $65 big.LITTLE 4GB dualchannel ECC Gigabit PCIe SBC then you're at the mercy of your vendor who considers 4.4 LTS ought to be good enough and already reassigned the entire dev team to work on a future hardware release. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Plenty of the boards supported by Armbian are on Mainline kernels: https://www.armbian.com/download/

Y'know, I'd really like someone to produce a proper Linux tablet 7/8 inch that was affordable and wasn't 1/2inch thick. I can dream I guess...

Biggest deal in my opinion is 2 dedicated USB2 _hosts_, in addition to a USB3 host. The raspberry pi multiplexes (i.e. uses a 4 way USB hub) it's ports. If I remember correctly the Ethernet is also multiplexed on the same bus. This makes connecting multie cameras and streaming over Ethernet a problem.

Had to wait a long time to get a Build-to-order email for the old pinebook after I sign up. Maybe I sign up today I'll get a pinebook pro before it stops being cool.

I think I might just found the replacement for my 2015 MBP.

I'm curious what you're doing where a $200 laptop replaces your (presumably) $1300+ MacBook Pro.

I'm considering ordering the pinebook as a replacement for my rMBP too.

For me, CPU power and RAM are not that important, I don't need MacOS (any unix system will do for me) and I don't play games (or at least none that would require a powerful GPU).

The pinebook offers 4k60 over USB-C (my MPB only does 4k30 over hdmi, and the mDP ports on the early rMBP have a design flaw that makes them unusable for 4k monitors). The 10Ah battery in combination with the low-power hardware should give very good battery life.

What I'm looking for in a laptop is a metal case, decent keyboard and upgradability. The pinebook seems to offer just that. At a low enough pricepoint not to be disappointed if it has some flaws. (Any flaw on a 3000 euro macbook would make me mad, and it has many).

> mDP ports on the early rMBP have a design flaw that makes them unusable for 4k monitors

what is the context on this? I have a 2015 MBPr hooked up to two 4k monitors on my desk right now, and I am not having any issues...

I would also worry about the GFX ability to actually output 4k/60 for anything other than a terminal (The ARM Mali-T860MP4 GPU doesn't look like it is going to be able to deal with 4k video for example)

The early (first?) retina macbook pro's (sold from mid 2012 till 2013) have a design flaw on the motherboard, this causes external 4k displays to show noise, weird colors, lose sync or not turn on at all. Apple 'solved' this by not listing the 2012 macbook pro on the supported device list for 4k monitors [0] (this list appeared in 2015)

It seems like a signal timing issue on the early motherboards. The macbook negotiates 60Hz with the monitor, but as soon as the monitor switches to 60Hz it loses sync. If you install linux you can work around this issue by forcing the output to 30Hz.

The issue was solved in the following motherboard revision, somewhere in 2013. So that's why your MBP plays nice with your monitors.

[0] https://support.apple.com/nl-nl/HT206587

(btw, I was not complaining that my almost-7-year-old 2012 device does not work with modern 4k displays. I was just trying to explain why a 200USD pinebook would be an upgrade over my 2012 macbook.)

Software & systems engineering. I am tired of Apple positioning themselves as premium brand and fucking up every product cycle since Steve Jobs passed away. I need very little and I would like to pay them but not for these broken ideas like removing the jack from all mobile devices or screwing with the keyboard. If they are serious about being a premium brand they have to do better.

An example of how people are unhappy:



I'm wondering too. Generally you spend that much money because your time is valuable and Apple offers a safe and "no bullshit" experience. A $200 ARM laptop by a company that isn't known to support it's hardware well doesn't sound like it's in the same market at all.

Very tempted to buy the Pinebook Pro - if the battery life delivers, could be a great machine to tinker with that can still run my daily workflow.

It’s great that we have access cheap and open hardware projects like these! This new product line up is exciting.

I’m really interested in the Pinebook64 Pro. What retailers are selling them or when can I pre-order?

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