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Pinebook – Powerful, Metal and Open Source ARM 64-Bit Laptop (pine64.org)
104 points by convivialdingo 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments



Linus Tech Tips put out a video this week on Floatplane about the Pinebook (not the Pro edition) and it was woefully underpowered. CPU was compared to the PS3 and GPU was compared to the original Xbox, for reference. It barely ran with the stock software (they had to install updates/new software to get it running) and was unable to play a 480p YouTube video fullscreen without noticeable frame drops. The hardware in it and their tablet and phone prototype are several generations out of date (easiest example is WiFi only being 802.11n and single band). They were also unable to get Windows running on it when they tried using a Raspberry Pi image, if that is something you care about. Pine64 themselves claim that the machine is not a daily driver.

The Pinebook Pro looks more respectable hardware-wise, but I would avoid looking at it as a daily driver until you can find reviews of it saying otherwise. I had been looking at the phone a few days before and was astonished at how outdated the hardware was, even for an open source device that is possibly upgradeable.


I own one of the original Pinebooks, and for $99 it is a great little machine.

Comparing it to my MacBook Pro... it's terrible.

It has some flaws, and it may be underpowered for things like YouTube, it works flawlessly as a small note taker that has an extremely long battery life and a decent screen/keyboard. It's also really nice for having a Linux machine around that most dongles/serial consoles just work with when you head into the datacenter to deal with a Cisco device that isn't playing nice.

For the price point, you get a lot. As an owner of a Pinebook, I am looking forward to the Pinebook Pro.


You must have had a very different experience than I did; in my case even running something like LibreOffice was laggy, and the default install of KDE was laughably slow. Command-line applications worked fine, and yeah, I mostly live in the command-line anyway, but if the computer isn't even fast enough to go to Stackoverflow at a reasonable speed when I encounter s a problem, I don't see how usable it is for me. It was bad enough to where I tried opening it up to see if I could reasonably-easily install an ODroid N2 or NVidia Jetson in there. (I'm sure someone smarter than me could make that work but it didn't look like a trivial operation).

I'm hoping the PineBook Pro is bit better, since I love the idea of having a good ARM based laptop with FOSS software driving it, but as it stands my Pinebook is more or less a paperweight


I remember preferring lighter alternatives to LibreOffice (OpenOffice, in fact, at the time) on Linux back in the early and mid 2000s because that suite was such a sluggish resource hog, only firing it up if I needed a decent chance at MS Office compatibility, for which purpose it was merely a disk space hog, because so rarely used but necessary. Ditto KDE, for that matter, on the resource hog front. Guessing my main laptop back then (single-core 900Mhz Celeron IBM Thinkpad with 384MB RAM) was weaker than most of these single-board computers, though.


In pinebook’s defense... OpenOffice/LibreOffice is slow and lags pretty much everywhere.


Sure, and my main "word processor" is typically vim+pandoc->LaTeX, so maybe that's a bad example anyway. Still, the fact that the web browsers are so completely unusable (I tried Chromium and Firefox; haven't tried something like uzbl yet) makes the entire system pretty difficult to use.

I have thought about writing some kind of ncurses application and having it live next to my server to display some cool diagnostic screens that I pretend to read, but most likely it'll just be a novelty that I whip out about once a month to complain about to my wife.


The only major(ish) browser I know of that seems to give half a damn about performance—by which I mean "does not make the whole system feel slow" rather than "achieves high scores on JS benchmarks"—is Safari, unfortunately :-/

I really miss when Firefox (Phoenix, Firebird) felt snappy and light. So, like, pre-2.0, back before 2006 :-(


> extremely long battery life

How long? The reviews say around 6 hours; that's not long and definitely not extremely long. My X220 from 2011 has a lot more than that while being cheaper and a lot faster (really a lot; I am often surprised how fast this almost decade old machine is).


As a note taker, how long is the delay between you opening it to the point where you can type a note?


I was using Google Docs for note taking, and as long as drive.google.com was already loaded, I could pop open the lid and create a new document in about 3 - 5 seconds.


I'm not saying the old Pinebook wasn't bad, I've never owned it but some of your points are a bit hollow for me.

> CPU was compared to the PS3 and GPU was compared to the original Xbox, for reference.

Why is this a problem? This is "desktop" hardware against mobile hardware.

> It barely ran with the stock software

How so? It didn't perform well? It didn't boot at all?

> and was unable to play a 480p YouTube video fullscreen without noticeable frame drops

With which software? Did it support the A64's hardware decoder?

> They were also unable to get Windows running on it when they tried using a Raspberry Pi image

...Is expected that you're able to boot Raspberry Pi images on completely different devices?

> Pine64 themselves claim that the machine is not a daily driver.

I think you should have opened with that.

> I had been looking at the phone a few days before and was astonished at how outdated the hardware was, even for an open source device that is possibly upgradeable.

Open source hardware projects don't have the luxuries that multi-billion dollar behemoths like Samsung do. They don't have access to pre-production SoCs so they're handicapped from the start and they need to handle everything from design to parts sourcing to manufacture to distribution themselves, with a small team.

That means you're going to get "outdated" hardware. You don't buy open source for the latest shiny things, you buy it for other reasons.


> Why is this a problem? This is "desktop" hardware against mobile hardware.

No one said this was a problem, the commenter was simply stating the comparison.

> How so? It didn't perform well? It didn't boot at all?

The commenter explained that in literally the second part of the sentence:

> > It barely ran with the stock software (they had to install updates/new software to get it running)

>With which software? Did it support the A64's hardware decoder?

Again, as stated by the commenter, it was using youtube in the distro that comes with the machine.

> ...Is expected that you're able to boot Raspberry Pi images on completely different devices?

It's not too far fetched, they're not very different at all, they're both quad-core A53 (ARMv8) 64-bit based SOCs with similar clock speeds, and the some of the Pine boards with more RAM can run Win10.

> Open source hardware projects don't have the luxuries that multi-billion dollar behemoths like Samsung do.

Pine64 is just a Chinese knockoff of the Raspberry Pi, and is more closed than RPi due to the AllWinner SOCs they use. They have more support and reliability issues too.

There's no need to be rude, but if you're going to be rude, you should at least be accurate.


> It's not too far fetched, they're not very different at all, they're both quad-core A53 (ARMv8) 64-bit based SOCs with similar clock speeds, and the some of the Pine boards with more RAM can run Win10.

There's a lot more to a system than the CPU.

For the Raspberry Pi, someone bothered to port EDK2 and write ACPI tables: https://github.com/andreiw/RaspberryPiPkg

And Microsoft themselves were interested in the Pi (for IoT Core), so they even have some support for weird Broadcom hardware in the NT kernel.

If someone writes ACPI tables for Allwinner SoCs, it will work :)

> more closed than RPi due to the AllWinner SOCs they use

Allwinner has the most community support out of all SoCs there are. It is reverse engineered of course, but it's really good. To the point of someone writing a FOSS driver for the video decoder: https://linux-sunxi.org/Sunxi-cedrus — the RPi still only has blobs for video acceleration. The GPU situation is a bit reversed: VC4 is well established and maintained by Broadcom, while Panfrost and Lima are still pretty young.

It would be very incorrect to suggest that anything is more closed than the old garbage SoC that's in the RPi. It starts booting from the GPU (!) and it has a custom Broadcom exclusive interrupt controller instead of ARM GIC (!!). The author of the open GPU side firmware for the Pi literally suggested Allwinner (sunxi) as a better alternative: https://github.com/christinaa/rpi-open-firmware/issues/37#is...

But Rockchip of course a much better company because they themselves work with upstream Linux.


> There's a lot more to a system than the CPU.

I said SoC, not just the CPU, but even there, no, there isn't much difference as you yourself state:

> If someone writes ACPI tables for Allwinner SoCs, it will work :)


There is a project that adds hardware video acceleration [1].

[1] https://linux-sunxi.org/Sunxi-cedrus


I have a RK3399-based (same chip as in the PBP) chromebook -- ASUS Chromebook Flip CA101P -- as one of my daily rides. It has no issue playing 1080@60fps & 4K@30 youtubes (I cannot physically output more than 4K@30 to my TV). Its Chrome browser is among the fastest browser experiences I get in my daily routine (which includes linux and windows desktops). On top of it, that chromebook lasts 6-10h of productive usage on a single charge.

Of course, Google's ChromeOS level of polish is a far cry from most 'freely assembled' distros out there, but last time I checked, the ubuntu/debian images for the PBP were getting there in terms of working features and performance.


>Linus Tech Tips put out a video...

They just uploaded it to youtube:

youtube.com/watch?v=sXLdIYL30tw


So a quick look at Linus Tech tips tells me far more about the video creator than the hardware.

This is a combination of gurning and cheap shots. This seems to be a repeated methodology. Ordinarily I would consider reviews like this completely worthless, but I think I might have overestimated their value.

The fact that people are repeating attitudes conveyed by these videos elsewhere would suggest to me that they simply make the world a worse place.

Normally I try to maintain a more positive air in comments, but this is simply terrible.


And Raspberry Pis are bad at mining Bitcoin, but no one in their right mind would use a Pi to mine Bitcoin.

For $99, I'll be more than happy if it runs Void or Alpine Linux, gcc, i3wm, vim, git, and Firefox renders websites that know not to abuse Javascript. That's all I need 80% of the time.


People complaining about the old Pinebook are missing the point completely. Pine was always super open about its limitations, even on the "purchase" page. From the beginning, it was always intended as a product for tinkerers, ARM enthusiasts, and OSS advocates, not for consumers. And now they've taken what they learned and applied it to create functional, Chromebook level hardware.

Even with the Pro version, why would you ever buy this thing as a typical consumer? I mean, how would you even find it in the first place? The Pinebook is not aimed at the general public, even the Pro version.

The Pro will be great as a terminal and as a machine for casual development. It's not a gaming PC, a media center, or a server.


The ISO keyboard is unfortunately a true bummer. I hate that layout with a passion and would gladly pay extra to have an ANSI layout keyboard (the one with the flat Enter and the backslash above it) and even install it myself if it's feasible.


And IMO that on/off button as part of the keyboard is so stupid: I've used a cheap Asus laptop with the same arrangement and it was a painful experience. Just why? To save half a fraction of a buck perhaps? Then bill me the cost for a proper keyboard and I'll be glad to pay more for it. The on/off button belongs to an area where the user cannot hit it by mistake, and the writing surface can't be that place.


I have never hit the power button by mistake, you have to hold it down for a while anyway.


Personally, I prefer ISO- the Big Enter bothers me because it removes one spot that my pinky could be pushing buttons from, and so feels less efficient.

Mind you, when programming, I touch type with my right hand translated over a row- so instead of [J][K][L][;] it'd be [K][L][;]['] and my pinky is just all over the place. I do see why people like ANSI, but it's probably just a nature / nurture thing.


Also see their prototype video.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mj3_jMBlbxA


The thing that I was missing in the last version, and most of why I didn’t buy it, was that the GPIO present on the Pine SOC boards (and Raspberry Pi’s, etc.) were not exposed in any way, shape or form on the last version. I think it would be really neat to have some flavor of internal GPIO (exposed pads on the edge of something are just fine, a low-profile connector with a fanout cable would be great for repair, too) that could be used for hobbyist projects or some fancy integrated controller for something like industrial robotics.


We used to have GPIO ports in all computers including laptops via the parallel port.


That thing is so big, though, and doesn't really work when laptops are really thin (which, to a certain extent, I really appreciate).


Preferably with some sort of overcurrent protection. It's one thing to fry an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi - it's quite another to fry a whole laptop.


I bought a pinebook a few months ago. It's so bad I consider it e-waste. They've lost me for life.


That describes almost every SBC.


A little disappointing it's not actually made of pine.


A bit like the Raspberry Pi when it's not made of berries... ;)


Do we have FOSS drivers for 100% of the hardware yet?


There's an opensparc 1000 running proprietary firmware, much like the Intel Management Engine and company. There's a small effort to replace that in open software. If I had oodles of free time I might contribute, but I've got my own projects to fry.


So, other than mangement engine firmware, that's a yes? We'll be able to turn it on and run 2d and 3d acceleration without closed-source blobs?


No, it has a Mali GPU, you still need a blob for that. The SoC doesn't have 2d hardware, unlike some older Allwinner chips.


You don't. Panfrost is already capable enough to run a simple desktop like Weston :)


Looks like Lima would be needed on the Pinebook, how well does that work ?


Not sure. Why is everyone talking about the original Pinebook now? The Pro is coming.


This is the type of laptop I would get with RISC-V. That would be amazing. But for an ARM Laptop I'm not interested enough. But decently a cool project.


I had one. Horribly slow, and the keyboard was terrible and near unusable. Sold it to a coworker a couple of weeks later.


It's a shame they're dropping the 11", though I concede that if they want this to be feasible with the magnesium alloy body they did need to condense the product line.


> there will be an upgrade path for owners of the 14" regular Pinebook to a 'Pro-like' Pinebook (we're exploring an upgrade path for existing 11.6" users too - stay tuned).

https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=7093


Conceivably, you may be able to build your own. Pine sell the bottom and top halves of the Pinebook 11" as spare parts minus the mainboard in their store. I've no idea how mechanically compatible the Pinebook Pro mainboard is with the Pinebook chassis, though.


The 11" is being superceded by a touchscreen tablet, with an optional keyboard.

(No "pro" bump though - the same original Allwinner internals)


Isn't all their software support done by the community still?

PINE's hardware has always been amazing. But their software support has always been terrible.


Waiting for the successor with a RK3588


Price?



That's a really nice price point.




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