The Pinebook Pro is a considerably more capable machine than the $99 Pinebook released in 2017, but the open source laptop still isn’t exactly a powerhouse by modern standards. The system is intended to compete with mid-range Chromebooks, and to that end, few would argue it’s not worth the $199 price tag. But there’s still room for improvement, and at this price point that makes it a hardware hacker’s delight.
[TobleMiner] has recently released the design files for a drop-in adapter that allows you to install M.2 wireless cards like the Intel AX200 in the Pinebook Pro. With the latest-and-greatest WiFi 6 technology onboard, transfer rates as high as 600 Mbps have been demonstrated on this relatively low-cost Linux laptop. It sounds like there’s a possibility the adapter will be offered officially through the Pine store at some point in the future, but in the meantime, you can always spin up your own copy if you feel the need for speed on your Pinebook Pro.
The adapter takes the place of the official M.2 SSD upgrade board, which means users will need to choose between expanded storage and an upgraded wireless card. But [TobleMiner] hints that a version of the adapter with a second M.2 slot should be possible in the future. The design also features pads to install an optional voltage regulator, as testing has shown that the Pinebook Pro’s 3.3 V line can fluctuate a bit depending on battery level.
We took a close look at the original Pinebook when it was released, and came away cautiously optimistic. The Pro model appears to be an improvement in every way imaginable, and upgrades like this show just what’s possible when users are free to explore their hardware.
If you’re the kind of person who likes small and cheap Linux devices, you’re definitely alive in the perfect moment in history. It seems as if every few months we’ve got another tiny Linux board competing for our pocket change, all desperate to try to dethrone the Raspberry Pi which has already set the price bar exceptionally high (or low, as the case may be). We’ve even started to see these Linux boards work their way into appropriately cheap laptops, though so far none have really made that great of an impression.
But thanks to the efforts of Blue Systems and Pine64, the situation might be improving: they’ve worked together on a build of KDE Neon for the $99 Pinebook. The fact that they’ve gotten Plasma, KDE’s modern desktop environment, running on the rather mediocre hardware at all is an accomplishment by itself. But they’ve also set out tailor the entire system for the Pinebook, from the kernel and graphics drivers all the way up to Qt and Plasma tweaks.
In a blog post announcing the release candidate of the OS, Neon developer [Jonathan Riddell] says that these top-to-bottom improvements show that you can turn a super cheap Linux laptop into a practical computer if you’re willing to really get in there and optimize it. He also says the project has been something of a two-way street, in that improvements made for the Pinebook build have also been applied to upstream development.
The last time we looked at the Pinebook, we came away cautiously optimistic. It wasn’t great, but it was about as good as you could possibly expect given the price. If more developers are willing to go out on a limb and start optimizing their software for the device, it might become a very promising platform for low-cost mobile hacking.
The Pine A64 was a 64-bit Quad-Core Single Board Computer which was kickstarted at the tail end of 2015 for delivery in the middle of 2016. Costing just $15, and hailed as a “Raspberry Pi killer,” the board raised $1.7 million from 36,000 backers. It shipped to its backers to almost universally poor reviews.
Now they’re back, this time with a laptop—a 11.6-inch model for $89, or a 14-inch model for $99. Both are powered by the same 64-bit Quad-Core ARM Cortex A53 as the original Pine A64 board, but at least Pine are doing a much better job this time around of managing user expectations.
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