PineBook Pro Linux / BSD Rockchip RK3399 Laptop Coming Up for $200

Pine64 announced the Pinebook laptop in 2016. The ultra cheap ($89 and up) laptop was based on Allwinner A64 quad core Cortex A53 processor coupled with 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, and a 11.6″ or 14″ display. It was never meant to be a replacement for your current laptop due to the low end specifications, but you could still use it to tinker with Arm Linux or *BSD, as a lightweight portable terminal, etc…

Pine64 made several announcements in a single blog post right before FOSDEM 2019 where they’ll showcase some of their upcoming products including the Pinephone development kit that’s use to develop software for the upcoming Pinephone open source phone, PineTab *BSD/Linux-only tablet with  Allwinner A64 SoC, and an 11.6″ display like Pinebook laptop, a retro gaming case compatible with Rock64 and Rock64Pro boards, an open source IP camera based on Allwinner S3L processor,  Pine H64 Model B (Allwinner H6) board with Rock64 form factor, Rock64 Rev.3 with some improvements including PoE support, and the new Pinebook Pro laptop which we’ll have a closer look in this post.

Pinebook Pro
Click to Enlarge

Pinebook Pro laptop preliminary specifications:

  • SoC – Rockchip RK3399 big.LITTLE hexacore Arm Cortex A72/A53 SoC
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • Storage – 64GB/128GB of eMMC flash (128GB is a free upgrade for registered users of Pine64 forum), SD card slot
  • Display – 14″ 1080p IPS LCD panel
  • Video Output – Via USB-C up to 4K60hz
  • Audio – Aux out, microphone, speakers
  • Connectivity – 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2
  • USB – USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports
  • Camera – 2MP front-facing camera / webcam
  • Serial – UART
  • Expansion – PCIe x4 that can take a m.2 NVMe SSD using an optional adapter
  • Battery – 10,000 mAh capacity battery
  • Power Supply – Charging via barrel port or USB-C
  • Black magnesium alloy body

Pinebook Pro looks interesting as it’s Chromebook-class hardware, but capable of easily running Linux or *BSD distributions out of the box. Contrary to the first Pinebook, Pinebook Pro can be used as your daily driver thanks to the much better specifications. Pine64 has collaborated with Manjaro, KDE Neon, Netrunner, FreeBSD, NetBSD Q4OS, Armbian , DietPi and many other open source projects to bring software support to the laptop.

The target price is also attractive as the company plans to sell it for $199. Pinebook Pro won’t replace the original Pinebook, as the latter will still be sold after the launch of the Rockchip laptop. There may be a demo unit at FOSDEM 2019 at Allwinner booth this coming week-end.

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blu
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blu

Seems we’re finally getting to the age of affordable commodity computing. It took us a long way to shake off the notion notebooks are a pricey accessory for college students or something used mainly by professionals.

A quick and highly superficial look over the Pinebook Pro and recent entries in the category of day-to-day ARM notebooks that can do more than a workday of work (not just watching videos) on a single charge:

* vs the sd850-equipped Lenovo C630 ($800 entry price), Pinebook Pro should deliver approx. 1/3 the compute performance, same RAM, comparable battery life, at 1/4 the price; no Windows — if windows is your OS, PBPro is not an option.

* vs the older-gen sd835-equipped ACPCs ($600 entry price for the ASUS NovaGo), Pinebook Pro should deliver approx. 1/2 the compute performance, comparable battery, at 1/3 the price; no Windows

* vs an identically-specced chromebook (e.g. ASUS Flip 101PA, $280), Pinebook Pro should come at -$80 and a choice of Linux/BSD options offering freedom to customize your notebook to your exact liking, but sans Google’s highly-polished Chrome pipeline — if web is your focus, a chromebook might be a better choice.

Needless to say, essential-for-notebook factors like kbd and screen quality are things yet to be established by users of these devices.

Good times!

tkaiser
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tkaiser

> if web is your focus, a chromebook might be a better choice

If I or my business are affected by the GDPR… am I able to use Chrome OS?

blu
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blu

IANAL, but if you’re referring to the frequent exchange of info between chromeos devices and google’s cloud — there’s still on-board storage on the chromebooks which is just that — a local FS. You can store all sensitive data locally, and never send that to the cloud. On all my chromebooks there’s an entire non-chromeos ecosystem under /usr/local, and I’m not even using crouton ; )

Gégé
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Looks like the perfect laptop for sysadmin at datacenter … except it lacks an Ethernet connector …

vincele
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vincele

Yeah, too bad we’ll need to handle an Ethernet dongle alongside, I’d gladly pay 10 bucks more to have it integrated…

tkaiser
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tkaiser

Grab an RTL8153 adapter, they’re inexpensive and the best you could get with USB3 and Gigabit Ethernet. Only thing you need to be aware of in a ‘sysadmin at datacenter’ position is that you’re most probably running into flow control issues when using the USB adapter to test against 10/40GbE network gear.

willy
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willy

and more importantly, constantly looking for your adapter hanging somewere at the tail of a cable 🙁

tkaiser
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tkaiser

Well, that’s why my current notebook has 802.11ac and 3×3 MIMO (my AP supporting this too). But yeah, last weekend in a server room without wireless connectivity dealing with those GbE adapters sucked a lot but an USB extension cable at least helped somewhat.

Back to PineBook Pro: I would believe the problem is the enclosure’s tooling and adding the GbE port would increase costs too much (the additional RTL8211 PHY not being the problem)

TLS
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TLS

So you have a MacBook then?

tkaiser
Guest
tkaiser

Sure. For convenience (being able to always transfer data at +700MB/s between two machines thanks to ‘IP over Thunderbolt’, attach every 10GbE or FC gear at customers again thanks to TB and running a familiar userland — below the proprietary Apple frameworks it’s just a funny mixture of GNU and BSD)

Last time I checked other options I was a bit shocked (‘premium’ notebooks with multiple USB3 Gen2 Superspeed+ ports behind one single Gen3 PCIe lane) so back at square one supporting a company almost as evil as Google (spying on their customers and not paying taxes 🙁 )

Sander
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Sander

I think a typical sysadmin has an i5/i7 Windows laptop.

CampGareth
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CampGareth

If they operate in the windows server world, maybe. Otherwise the machines I see most often are macbooks, then thinkpads and Dell XPS 13 dev editions both of which using linux.

benjamin
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benjamin

I wish pinebook a64 was more readily available….

Weill
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Weill

Can the RAM be upgraded or is it soldered like in smartphones? How many slots does it have if any?

CampGareth
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CampGareth

“System Memory – 4GB LPDDR4 RAM”

Soldered. I don’t think you can get sticks of LPDDR4 which is the clue.

Tesla
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Tesla

10,000 mAh is a useless number without voltage. When will all this madness stop?

itchy n scratchy
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itchy n scratchy

It is most likely single cell, so about 4 volts.

blu
Guest
blu

For any given config (1-cell, 2-cell, etc) of battery it’s normal to report the capacity in Ah alone. As @itchy noted above, it’s likely 1-cell ergo ~3.8V for LiPo. The vendor would’ve mentioned if it was multi-cell.

Paul M
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Paul M

if they can sell one with 4GB RAM and fullHD S-IPS screen for under $250, I’ll be queing to buy

blu
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blu

First picture of the internals of the PBPro: https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=7091&pid=44102#pid44102

Theguyuk
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Theguyuk

Video of their stuff here

https://youtu.be/80TYh_OPWvU

blu
Guest
blu

Close-up of the PCB plus an m.2 adapter confirmed: https://forum.pine64.org/showthread.php?tid=7091&pid=44266#pid44266