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Tell HN: Pinebook Pro is a $219 brick
6 points by nikolay 54 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments
Just got my Pinebook Pro, installed the default Manjaro Plasma (you can't get that wrong), after reboot, I was asked to apply updates. I did and after a reboot the machine is completely bricked. Many people on Reddit share the same experience! I wish I've search Reddit before throwing $260 down the drain!

The people in your reddit thread are giving you the advice on how to go about fixing it. Pinebooks have a number of boot/recovery options, and it is does not seem you have tried all of them (if any).

But in general, if you are not comfortable with embeddy things like writing data to SD cards and changing motherboard switches, then maybe Pinebooks are not for you. They are certainly less user friendly than conventional x86 machines in the boot department.

These are all issues, which are a direct result of the choices PINE64 made - to put the switch inside and to install Manjaro Plasma as the default OS! And this is also poor testing - they ship their brand new Pinebook Pro with outdated distro and did not test it against the latest packages, which break it! All these are poor choices on my end. It's not about my comfort - I don't want to have to unscrew the brand new laptop on day 1!

I think we have established that you are not a target audience of the pinebook. There a nice big warning on the page that "These pre-orders are meant for enthusiasts" and it seems you are not one.

You established wrong! I am an enthusiast, just not enthusiastic about dealing with poor choices and faulty procedures on day 1!

> they ship their brand new Pinebook Pro with outdated distro

Honestly, it was probably physically built months ago. Shipping takes like a year.

> to install Manjaro Plasma as the default OS

This is custom SOC that Manjaro's community specifically built out support for, including PinePhone too. Other distros don't really do this, and PINE do give back to Manjaro for it.

> to put the switch inside

I have very serious difficulty trying to figure out what the problem is with putting a switch that controls eMMC next to the eMMC board. Which is a hardware board that is attached to the SOC, not an external or hotswappable drive. I don't think this is unreasonable?

> It's not about my comfort - I don't want to have to unscrew the brand new laptop on day 1!

The PINE store warns on nearly every single page in large red text that this is not for non-tinkerers. And explicitly tells you to not order if you want something right out of the box.

I understand that you want a laptop, but this is very much not a "laptop that I can just throw linux and use a browser" on. For that get a thinkpad or something.

A custom build bricking is sounds even worse - both sides screwed up! I am a tinkerer, but this is not a welcoming experience!


Flip a switch to disable eMMC and boot from sd card, upgrade uboot, life continues.

(Not an owner, just a reader if your problem lies beyond this known issue you may want to be less terse seeking comment)

Great experience! I should use the screwdriver on day 1! This is unacceptable!

"We make no profit from selling these units. If you think that a minor dissatisfaction, such as a dead pixel, will prompt you to file a PayPal dispute then please do not purchase the Pinebook. Thank you."

"Please do not order the Pinebook Pro if you’re seeking a substitute for your X86 laptop, or are just curious"

"These pre-orders are meant for enthusiasts familiar with the Arm architecture and interested in the PineBook Pro for this specific reason"

There are recovery methods, I would expect to be using a screwdriver on the first day with anything from the Pine store, tbh.

So, that's a great way of turning off enthusiasts! Right now Best Buy sells a Lenovo Chromebook with better specs for $79 and a fully featured one for $499. So, $219 is barely cheap, considering it was shipped from Hong Kong with DHL and the shipping was around $40! So, no, it's not cheap and I don't buy "we make no profit". If there are a bunch of enthusiasts making decent salaries but the corporation has minuscule profit, that's still profit in my book!

All of the products you mentioned are targeted towards consumers though. The Pinebook seems to be targeted towards enthusiasts who aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty troubleshooting issues such as this.

"Broken since day 1" and "made for enthusiasts" are not the same thing! Otherwise every crappy product will be listed as "for enthusiasts only"!

I think there's a reasonable expectation that if you're buying a product, it actually works, enthusiast or not.

It seems Pinebook are using that as an excuse to ship low quality untested bricks.

Complaining about your dead pixels? You're obviously not a real enthusiast!

A real enthusiast would relish the fact that the unit is bricked after updating!

I bought a kickstarter device (monument2) and it's way more buggy than I expected and I do feel dissatisfied with how it eventuated, but viewed from another perspective that was basically the deal day #1 and I just didn't understand it.

Pine64 has a "danger/warning" all over it. If you buy things which come with DIP switches they aren't there for decoration.

At the volumes made, and design cost, it's almost inevitable they will have a higher failure rate than Lenovo or Dell.

Not designing the uBoot update path to be fail-safe is pretty bad. But, if the cost is "use the DIP switches" maybe the problem is not being warned at the time?

No disagree, but I wanted to make sure that the potential un-bricking was visible to you Because being irrevockably bricked sucks.

If I did something outside of the norm, I can understand, but I did nothing and just followed their suggestions - their distro of choice and the distro's suggested upgrades - that's all! That's something there supposed to catch before shipping!

Yes. And in due course, I hope they recognise it.

Do you have the serial adapter? It can be very helpful.

Opening the case and pressing the reset button the board usually works to get it booting.

It's an extremely cheap laptop for hackers, so you should be prepared to hack on it.

I didn't and just double-downed by ordering it plus extra stuff.

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