Return to Level1Techs.com

ARM Laptop: Pinebook Pro: A72, 14" IPS 1080p, 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC, m.2 NVMe, USB-C

I thought this upcoming bit of Linux-specific hardware is deserving of its own thread, particularly for developers of server-class ARM Linux software & tools, and also for tinkerers and enthusiasts of ARM SBCs. Note, I’m not affiliated with PINE64, just an enthusiast!

The original $99 Pinebook was never intended to be a daily driver, but the black magnesium alloy body $199 Pinebook Pro pushes into that territory; specs & more on the PINE64 forum FOSDEM 2019 Blog post.


The Pinebook Pro will run the same [modified] distros as the popular ROCKPro64 SBC: Debian, Ubuntu, Arch (in progress), Android, NetBSD, and others. [Edit: plus PINE64’s own performance and 2D/3D graphics-optimized community distro, TBA]

Edit 2: Robbie Ferguson’s interview with Lukasz Erecinski (@Luke_PINE64), with more background, details, photos of prototype units, and info about the in-development $149 PinePhone and $20 CUBE IP cam, both hackable like all of PINE64’s gear.

Edit 3: PINE64 Update 2019-04-02: OS images with video, 3D and browser acceleration…available for purchase early Summer.

Notes & More

Order at: TBA, see the PINE64 forums or their newsletter subscription.
FOSS-targeted hardware, RK3399 SoC (2x Cortex-A72, 4x Cortex-A53).
Motherboard upgradeable & replacement parts available (like the original Pinebook).
Extra charges for NVMe adapter & shipping (worldwide).
eMMC upgrade to 128GB for PINE64 forum members.

11 Likes

That’s packed with features for only $200.

1 Like

The GPU on these chips is absolutely horrid and therefore, you’ll be hard pressed to use it for much more than a super-minimal linux workstation. Youtube videos might be too much for it.

Turns out I’m incorrect, See post 20.

That said, this is a major step in the right direction!

I’m excited to see ARM hit the mainstream consumer laptop market.

6 Likes

The GPU is actually considerably faster than the Raspberry Pi so for Youtube Videos I don’t think it will be that terrible.

The real problem could be drivers and yes, it’s a Mali GPU, so maybe it will run that terrible.

Yeah, that’s the problem.

Until that’s solved, I refuse to acknowledge the performance of it, since it cannot be harnessed by software.

3 Likes

Yes, really a step in the right direction. The open-source availability of ARM Mali GPU drivers has been an ongoing sticking point. There appears to be some hope on the horizon though with Panfrost Gallium3D Driver Merged Into Mesa 19.1 for ARM Mali GPU. Also, the RK3399 supports H.264/H.265/VP9 video decode [email protected] (under Android, presumably) so, when the Linux drivers are sorted, it should make for a good experience.

1 Like

Yep, if the drivers do turn out to work well then I should really consider getting myself one of these as a secondary machine. If not then forget it.

Can’t we just rip the proprietary blobs from Android then? It runs some bastardized variant of Linux…

Oh man, I’d love one of these things for travel. lightweight, small, battery lasts longer than my vacation, what’s not to like?

Oh, and the type-c charging. They’re getting it right from the start.

3 Likes

The battery life part will be really great, if the keyboard is anything close to a Dell Latitude in build quality it would actually be a nice secondary machine to have.

I still kept a Dell Latitude handy for extensive typing (and because Ryzen Mobile drivers still aren’t good on my main laptop) but maybe I won’t need it when I have something that’s actually power conscious. The Dell Latitude has a 45W CPU lol, even Ryzen Mobile is 25W.

Honestly though thinking about the Dell Latitude I could just carry a regular keyboard with better build quality than my laptop for typing.

1 Like

Yeah, I was just about to comment about this. I’d be willing to pay another$50 to $100 to get a good trackpad and keyboard.

I believe Android’s Surfaceflinger compositor is such a different beast from Mesa (although both use the Linux kernel DRM) that ripping its blobs isn’t possible.

Now that I think if it, I believe many have tested Linux video decode with the RK3399 and gotten good performance; it’s just the OpenGL/OpenCL/Vulkan support that’s problematic, and the Mesa 19.1 update should begin to address at least the OpenGL part, making it good enough for accelerated composited desktops.

1 Like

There’s a good deal of discussion on the Rock64 forums about this; the stock keyboard/trackpad will be just ‘good enough’ for the $200 price point, but there’s hope that upgrade options will become available (the hardware is designed/intended to be very user-serviceable).

1 Like

Someone had just told me the RK3399 chips had poor multimedia performance. I’m not sure what to believe now.

Bummer, but I get that. It’s not meant to be a high-end device.

1 Like

fuck it, one week.

From what I’ve seen of these discussions, adequate cooling is a major issue (a heatsink alone is frequently insufficient). If the laptop comes equipped with a good fan, or mechanical cooling utilizes the magnesium alloy case (as the Pine64 people suggest doing with adding an NVMe SSD), it should be a non-issue. I guess only time will tell.

1 Like

It wasn’t until I installed Manjaro on my Pinebook that it was finally able to play youtube videos smoothly at 480p. Before that, it was a terrible slideshow. Proper GPU acceleration is still not supported (not really sure why), but hoping they add that in the near future.

IMO, that’s going to be a necessity for the Pinebook Pro. While $200 (USD) is not a ton of money, I would still be disappointed to find it still doesn’t have this capability.

3 Likes

I’m gonna be honest. I’ve got an XPS15 that dissipates probably 25-30w of heat through the case alone. This thing is literally on fire though. I really don’t think active airflow will be needed for a rockpro.

1 Like

Progress is moving quickly to get ARM Mali (both old and new) GPU drivers in to the Linux graphics stack, with code merges already in the [unreleased] Mesa 19.1 (OpenGL) and proposed for the [unreleased] Linux kernel 5.2 (kernel direct render manager ‘DRM’ driver); more updates over at phoronix about the open source ARM Mali GPU driver project Panfrost.

3 Likes

That’s an interesting option if you want a laptop form-factor, but I would go with the new Nvidia Jetson Nano myself. It’s $99 for basically a tegra X1 ARM SoC computer with half the CUDA cores, and comes with 4GB RAM.

That said, ARM in datacenters is basically dead. ARM on the edge, in self-driving cars, robotics, etc, is very much alive and thriving.

2 Likes

Hi all,
Luke from PINE64 here. Not really here to argue, but when I see comments such as this …

The GPU on these chips is absolutely horrid and therefore, you’ll be hard pressed to use it for much more than a super-minimal linux workstation. Youtube videos might be too much for it.

… I cannot but scratch my head and only offer up a short clip of the absolutely horrid GPU (and VPU), on the same hardware that will be in the Pinebook Pro, running: 1080p Youtube, 3D WebGL applications, 4K playback and 3D applications … and with ease I may add.

As a side-note, both the BSP and mainline kernels are very solid for this SOC, as just about any third-party with a degree of insight will be able to confirm. And for those of you whom are not fans of blobs … panfrost has been demoed on this very board a few months back.

N.B. video of a very early OS image

12 Likes