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MNT Reform 2 DIY Kit Review (mauromorales.com)
82 points by Corrado 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

One thing that doesn't come up here yet: our partners RBZ have developed an open hardware alternative SOM for MNT Reform based on NXP LS1028A with 2 Cortex-A72 cores and 8 or 16GB RAM. This is currently in the first bringup phase, but sources are already released:


I'm also personally working on a Kintex-7 (FPGA) SOM. This will allow us and others to implement RISC-V or other architectures, incl. retrocomputers and carry them around in a laptop form factor.

What type of Kintex-7 part were you thinking? This is a little more svelte than my 16-core Z80 "ZedRipper": http://www.chrisfenton.com/the-zedripper-part-1/

Ha, I've seen that! Really cool project!

The default part will be XC7K160T-FFG676, AFAIK it has some pin compatible family members as well.

I just want to say, that is a fantastic project!

Will you offer the MNT Reform with the new SOM (Cortex-A72) when it becomes available? I wanted to pull the trigger on the first batch but needed something a bit faster than a Raspberry Pi.

Sure, but that will still take a while.

I am very interested in this, but I am wondering, what is it's mainline support?

I had a Novena, and it was not fun to find out since verious things were not mainlined, I essentially had to patch my own kernel if I wanted to use a newer one.

Hi, mainline support is good in general, but we do have a few patches that are still being mainlined:


As we use (in the default, pluggable SOM at least) the same SoC as Librem 5, there are synergies to have good mainline support.

That's good to hear, thank you for the response!

If you've every wanted a laptop that you could customize and assemble yourself this laptop might be for you. I think it looks interesting for the mechanical keyboard alone.

The idea is nice, but wow it's expensive for what you do get.

The CPU being a quad-core A53 architecture is basically Raspberry Pi - but the 3B rather than the 4; only 4GB RAM; only Full HD resolution. You pay $999 and that doesn't include any storage or even the wifi card.

The comparison with an entry-level MacBook Air is sort of horrifying. Same price but just a completely different league in almost every respect.

The Reform isn't cheap, but it does come with other things that Macbook Air doesn't have (and never will):

- promise of drop-in replacement SoC boards in the future.

- open specifications.

- batteries are trivially user-replaceable.

- mechanical keys.

- the option for a trackball as a pointing device.

- a high-quality manual.

Are those worth the tradeoffs? Maybe; clearly they are for some people.

Keep in mind this is boutique hardware with very low volume, the device has a mechanical keyboard, and the case is milled and anodized aluminum. We are 3 people in the shop plus a network of freelancers. But unlike Apple, we can make open hardware and happily give you full control over the device, and you can communicate directly with us. This is a totally different scenario.

The CPU/RAM module is not the price defining aspect here, and we're ready for faster chips when they come out. The idea is you can upgrade for a fraction of the price of buying a new device.

Are you saying that it's possible to upgrade the CPU? If so, that would be game changing and would put the price point in a whole new light. I can imagine "upgrading" my computer to a faster processor like we do with RAM. That means you wouldn't have to dispose the old machine and re-install all the software. That's gotta be worth something to some people!

Yes, the CPU/GPU (SoC) and RAM are together on a SODIMM-200-shaped module.

> I can imagine "upgrading" my computer to a faster processor like we do with RAM

Am I going insane, or is our collective memory of user-serviceable computer hardware already fading?

There are a lot of people alive now who were not caring-about-socketed-CPUs-in-laptops-years-old when that was a thing (and even then, I had at least three 386SX laptops with soldered-on CPUs)

I do get that this isn't trying to compete with the closed-hardware market; no-one is cross-shopping the MNT Reform 2 with a MacBook Air (which does also have a milled, anodized aluminum case).

It's mostly just a note of despair about how large the gap is; you really have to care about the open hardware aspect to make the choice.

+1 on the aesthetic choices with this laptop (and its documentation!). i'm not a backer but have been following along and it's just lovely and thoughtful throughout.

i guess one major reason i'd be hesitant to buy is that i'm not sure i'd love a trackball, and i've been spoiled by apple's trackpads. maybe this could force me into practicing more keyboard-only navigation though...

Hi, we offer MNT Reform with a custom glass trackpad as well! You can even swap the trackpad and trackball modules, and we offer them separately if you want to try another one later:


Any chance of a Thinkpad-style trackpoint at some point in the future?

I have a beta MNT Reform 2, and the laptop falls in the "just works" category.

It gives a bit of bulk and the setup wouldn't work for everyone, but I downright love the user-replaceable standard batteries.

the most interesting thing about this laptop are the eight slots for 18650 cells. standard-size batteries, for once!

I love the MNT Reform and almost placed an order, but now I’m sort-of glad I decided not to. I’m not sure I can justify spending over $1k for a machine that struggles to run the Grammarly browser extension.

Just to give some perspective, JS applications I'm using on a daily basis on MNT Reform:

- GitLab

- Mattermost

- Telegram Web

- Glowing Bear

- CodiMD

- Discourse

- Mastodon

- (Discord, not daily)

- Youtube

- Youtube Music

I also use the KeepassCX and uBlock Origin extensions.

All of these work absolutely fine.

That's a relief. Thanks for the context!

Are you using discord in the browser? Does the desktop app work on the reform?

In the browser yes. I have not tried the desktop app because I prefer web apps for proprietary services.

I would totally get that PDA with ortholinear keyboard:


That looks to effectively be a Dragonbox Pyra:


Or a pinephone when it has the keyboard attachments:


I've contemplated getting a Pinephone just for the keyboard attachment before, the pyra on the other hand looks completely untypable.

If what's on the back of the MNT is a Rasberry Pi Compute Module it would be more powerful than the Pinephone, no?

When I had an Open Pandora (I lost it somewhere along the years...), I used thumb typing for the most part. It worked but was slightly clunky.

I had a question about the arm chips used in this project.

The shipping version seems to use Cortex-a53 while the development version seems to use Cortex-a72.

Does anyone know if these chips have Intel Management Engine or AMD PSP type backdoors built into them? I'm looking for hardware that is free of management engines and hardware and software backdoors.

Open hardware doesn't mean anything if the chip is sending your encryption keys and passwords to the NSA (or their Chinese equivalents) over the network.

I have been following the development[0] of these laptops for a while and I am really impressed and intrigued! The freedom to hack and modify your laptop seems amazing and the design decisions should really appeal to the ThinkPad crowd (like myself, writing this on a X201).

0: https://mastodon.social/web/accounts/35156

Reminds me of the old Heathkit catalog.


How the fuck do you have the energy to gatekeep DIY?

TIL the soldering iron is the DIY qualifying tool of self-cobbling...

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