Archive

Posts Tagged ‘laptop’

CHUWI LapBook 14.1 Laptop Manufacturing Changes – Hardware at Launch vs Several Months Later

October 22nd, 2017 11 comments

Products may evolve over time due to parts becoming phased out (EOL), so company often issues PCN (product change notices) to the company for example to replace eMMC flash that’s not manufactured anymore by a new one. They won’t change any advertised features, so the product specifications should remain the same. Reviewers normally get product from one of the first batch of production, and if you purchase the product a few months later, after carefully reading reviews, you may end up with a device slightly different.

But in some cases, the company makes major changes, while still delivering the same advertised hardware specifications. That’s apparently the case for CHUWI LapBook 14.1 laptop. The photo below shows how it looked internally for the sample I reviewed.

Click to Enlarge

If you zoom on the photo, you’ll find an M.2 slot on the bottom of the right PCB, potentially allowing you to add an SSD internally. At the time, I could also install Ubuntu 17.04 to the eMMC flash. None of those features (M.2 SSD and Linux) were officially supported by the company.

I installed Ubuntu on February 2017, and I had recommended this $250 laptop as a decent inexpensive Linux laptop. But in May, I started to get reports that Linux would not find the eMMC flash. Several people had the same experience even after following the same instructions. So it was likely the company just changed the part.

But at the end of September, I had another person telling me the M.2 slot was gone too, and the company dramatically changed the hardware design with new batteries, motherboard, and so on, as shown in the photo below. The shell looks exactly the same, and connectors are placed at the same location, so I’d assume this is indeed the same model.

Click to Enlarge

Beside the different eMMC flash, missing M.2 slot, and completely different motherboard, he also pointed out other differences / issues in the model he bought in GearBest (the same seller I got my sample from):

  • Keyboard issues for some keys that need to be pressed harder.
  • Battery changed, and issue with charge controller, so the battery is not usable below 20% charge level
  • Different BIOS with few options
  • Doesn’t run Linux without considerable effort. systemd-boot worked on Arch. It can’t boot Ubuntu boot disk (without isorespin.sh/refind see below)
  • The USB touchpad replaced with a cheaper I2C touchpad, not working in Linux. (He wrote his own driver for it to make it work).

Some of the changes are confirmed in one of the customer reviews on GearBest (Search for user BearGest):

  • No m2 slot in 3rd revision
  • Linux users need to use isorespin.sh to replace grub with a compatible bootloader \’refind\’.
  • Touchpad not supported yet in latest Linux Kernel

MNT Reform DIY Modular ARM Linux Portable Computer To Feature NXP i.MX 6/8 SoC

October 20th, 2017 6 comments

The first usable DIY ARM Linux laptop that I can remember is Novena, unveiled in 2014, based on Freescale i.MX 6Quad processor, and fairly expensive at close to $2,000 since it was a nice product. Recently, we’ve had more affordable options with products such as Olimex TERES-I laptop (Allwinner A64), and the second version of Pi-Top laptop shell for Raspberry Pi 3.

There may soon be another option as MNT Media and Technology (Lukas F. Hartmann) partnered with an industrial designer (Ana Dantas) to work on “Reform”, a DIY and modular laptop / portable computer powered by NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor, and eventually i.MX 8 hexa core Cortex A72/A53 processor.

Click to Enlarge

They are the prototype stage right now, and mostly looking for feedback. The preliminary specifications and features of the Reform portable computer include:

  • SoC – NXP i.MX 6QuadPlus quad core Cortex A9 processor @ up to 1.2 GHz, with Vivante GC2000 GPU . Update planned to NXP i.MX8 hexa core processor
  • System Memory – At least 4 GB of RAM (4GB in prototype)
  • Storage – micro SD card slot (for uboot), SATA SSD slot (120 GB in prototype)
  • Detachable display housing with standard screws
    • 10″ 1920×1200 color panel with HDMI to dual LVDS adapter
    • Future E-Ink option
  • Custom designed keyboard with Cherry ML switch,  swappable keyboard PCB, 3D printed key caps. Currently based on Teensy LC Cortex M0+ Arduino compatible board.
  • Exchangeable pointing device (trackball / trackpad). Currently also based on Teensy LC board
  • USB – USB 2.0 ports
  • Expansion – PCIe slot (tested with Penguin Wireless N Mini PCIe card)
  • Battery – 3,000 mAh @ 7.4V LiPo battery good for about 2.5 hours
  • Modular Chassis for motherboard, battery, SSD storage, input device controllers
  • Dimensions – 28cm x 17.5cm x 5.5cm
  • Weight – 1.5 kg

Note than some not-so-flattering features like 5.5cm thickness and short battery life are just for the prototype, and will be optimized if the computer gets manufactured. They used TinyRex Ultra development kit in the prototype, and will likely use the system-on-module found in the kit in the final product, especially VoiPAC has plans to make an i.MX 8 version.

Lukas could run Debian Linux, and successfully tested LibreOffice, Blender, GIMP, Inkscape and Audacity. GPU acceleration and hardware video decoding also work, as tested with respectively Quake 3 Arena and mplayer (H.264).

Going forward they’ll work on improving the design with a slimmed-down baseboard, an integrated charger/power brick, and better modularity management. Once everything is ready they’ll either launch a crowdfunding campaign, or take pre-orders with price likely in the 500 to 700 Euros range. All details can be found on Reform product page.

Via ARM Netbook Mailing List and Liliputing

The New Pi-Top Modular Laptop includes a 14″ Display, Sliding Keyboard, and Better Cooling

October 13th, 2017 6 comments

Pi-Top was first launched in late 2014 via an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, as a modular DIY laptop powered by a Raspberry Pi board. It’s equipped with a 13.3” LCD screen with 1366×768 resolution, and uses a sliding top cover placed between the display and the keyboard where you could insert your Raspberry Pi with enough space for extra hardware.

This is a good week for DIY ARM laptops, as after the launch of Olimex TERES-I laptop yesterday, Pi-Top team has announced a new version of Pi-Top modular laptop with an larger 14″ display with 1920×1080 resolution, a sliding keyboard, and better cooling with a passive cooling unit for the Raspberry Pi 3 board.

Pi-Top 2017 laptop specifications:

  • Display  – 14” full HD LCD screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 180° screen angle range
  • Keyboard – 105mm sliding keyboard for internal access (US layout)
  • Touchpad – 104x75mm trackpad with Gesture Control
  • Officially Supported Board – Raspberry Pi 3 with Broadcom BCM2837 SoC, HDMI, Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, Audio jack, micro SD slot, camera and display interface
  • Modular Rail for pi-top accessories
  • Power Supply – 18V, 2.5A charger with AU, EU, UK and US adapters
  • Battery – Good for 6-8 hour battery life

Click to Enlarge

The kit also includes an 8GB class 10 SD CARD with pi-topOS and an SD Card Removal Tool. pi-topOS is a firmware image specifically designed for Raspberry Pi 3 and Pi-Top with components such as pi-topCLASSROOM online classroom management software, pi-topCODER intuitive coding environment, CEEDuniverse educational space exploration game, and pi-topDASHBOARD interface.

While the company only officially supports Raspberry Pi 3, it should be possible to use other boards that are electrically and mechanically compatible to Raspberry Pi 3 board such as ODROID-C2 or ROCK64, but you may have to work on the software side. The most adventurous could also try other boards, as Bero (Linaro) used a 96Boards compliant DragonBoard 820c board in the older version of Pi-Top with some custom cabling.

The new Pi-Top can be purchased for $319.99 including shipping with a Raspberry Pi 3, or $284.99 without. A free Inventor Kit with a breadboard, and various modules and components to get started with DIY electronics.

Olimex TERES-I DIY OSHW Laptop Now Up for Sale for 240 Euros

October 12th, 2017 14 comments

Olimex has been working on their open source hardware TERES-I DIY laptop since last year. The laptop is supposed to come in kit form, so that you can build it yourself. Every board and most parts are open source to let your easily repair it, or improve it by adapting the part to your own needs.

The company has now launched the laptop kit for 240 Euros in black or white.

Olimex TERES-I laptop updated specifications:

  • SoC – Allwinner A64 quad core ARM Cortex-A53 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
  • System Memory – 2GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 16 GB eMMC Flash, micro SD slot
  • Display – 11.6″ LCD display with 1366×768 resolution
  • Video Output – 1x HDMI 1.4 port
  • Audio – Via mini HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, 2x speakers, microphone
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi up to 150Mbps, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • USB – 2x USB port ports
  • Front camera
  • QWERTY keyboard + touchpad with 2 buttons
  • Debugging – Serial debug via header or 3.5mm audio jack
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A
  • Battery – 9,500mAh capacity
  • Weight – ~1 kg

The laptop will ship with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Mate, Firefox browser, Video player, Open Office, Arduino IDE and IceStorm for FPGA development (an FPGA add-on board is planned).

Mainboard

The build instructions can be downloaded here. Hardware design files for all 5 boards for the laptop, and software will soon be all found on Github. Note that the laptop is intended for engineering development and evaluation only, should not be considered a finished product, and may not comply with FCC, CE or UL directives. Olimex had quite a lot of people registered their interests before, so they only expect to be able to fulfill new order within 2 or 3 weeks.

Cloud Media Openbook is Another Smartphone Laptop Docking Station (Crowdfunding)

October 12th, 2017 6 comments

Cloud Media (previously Syabas) is better known for their OpenHour and HourPopcorn Hour TV boxes, but the company also has a close relationship with Pine64 company, and helped them make Pinebook laptop powered by an Allwinner A64 ARM processor.

They’ve now used their experience, and likely some parts, from the ARM laptop to create Openbook, a 14″ laptop dock for Android smartphones.

Openbook specifications:

  • USB Monitor SoC – DisplayLink DL-4000 Series USB 3.0 to LVDS/eDP SoC
  • Storage – micro SD card slot
  • Display – 14″ TN LCD with 1366 x 768 resolution
  • QWERTY Keyboard + Large Multi-Touch Touchpad
  • USB – USB 3.0 host port, USB port to connect to mobile phone
  • Audio – Headphone Jack, stereo speaker, microphone
  • Battery – 10,000 mAh Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Power Supply – 5V/3A (DC Jack: Type H 3.5mm OD/1.35mm ID barrel ‘coaxial’ type)
  • Dimensions – 329mm x 220mm x 12mm (W x D x H)
  • Weight – 1.26 kg

The dock works with smartphones equipped at least with a quad core processor @ 1.5 GHz, 2GB RAM, 50MB free storage, USB type C or micro USB OTG port, and running Android 5.0 or greater. Since stock Android does not exactly offer the best desktop experience, the company has patterned with LeenaOS, multi-window launcher that brings the desktop operating system experience to your mobile device.

Openbook is not exactly the first smartphone laptop dock, which also started with Motorola LapDock (now defunct), as new players have entered the market place including NexDock and Mirabook. Just like the two aforementioned products, Openbook also launched on a crowdfunding website, specifically Kickstarter with the goal of raising at least $30,000 for mass production.

A pledge of $129 should get you a white Openbook with a power adapter and a custom USB-OTG cable. Shippings adds from $22 (Hong Kong) with several other prices depending on destination up to $88, and delivery is scheduled for December 2017. The people behind Cloud Media are highly experienced in bringing products to market, so failure is very unlikely.

$290 DERE A3 Air Intel Celeron J3455 Apollo Lake Notebook Comes with 64GB SSD, 512GB HDD

October 9th, 2017 2 comments

We’ve already seen several laptops and notebooks powered by Intel Apollo Lake processors such as CHUWI LapBook 14.1, Voyo VBook A1, or Acer Spin 1. However, most of the time those models only come with 32 or 64GB eMMC flash for the operating system, which – for my needs at least – is clearly not enough, as I need extra space for data. Some allow for M.2 or mSATA card expansions but that’s usually expensive, and I’d prefer the combination of an eMMC flash (or ideally a similarly sized SSD) for optional performance, together with the capacity and cheaper price of an hard drive.

DERA A3 Air notebook appears to provide just that as it includes a 64GB SSD and a 500GB HDD. The device also comes with a 14.1″ display, and is powered by an Intel Celeron J3455 quad core Apollo Lake processor.

DERA A3 Air notebook specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron J3455 quad core “Apollo Lake” processor @ 1.50 GHz / 2.30 GHz (Burst frequency) and 12 EU Intel HD graphics 500 @ 250 MHz / 750 MHz (Burst freq.); 10W TDP
  • System Memory – 4GB DDR3L RAM upgradeable to 8GB
  • Storage – 64 GB SSD flash, SD card slot up to 128 GB, optional 500GB hard drive, mSATA connector
  • Display – 14.1″ LED display with 1920 x 1080 (FHD) resolution
  • Video Output – 1x mini HDMI port
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, microphone jack, built-in stereo speakers and microphone
  • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
  • Camera – 1.3 MP front-facing camera
  • USB – 1 x USB 2.0 host port, 1 x USB 3.0 port
  • Power Supply – 19V DC / 2A
  • Battery – 4,000 mAh/7.4V Li-ion polymer battery good
  • Dimensions – 32.90 x 21.90 x 2.50 cm
  • Weight – 1.50 kg

The laptop comes with Windows 10 Home, and ships with a charger and English user manual. The choice of Celeron J3455 is interesting as it’s supposed to be a desktop processor, while N-series processors – often used in mini PCs – are for “mobile” applications such as laptops and 2-in-1 hybrids. That will mean cooling will be more challenging, but at 10W they may have managed. For some reasons Bluetooth is not listed anywhere, and battery capacity looks quite low.

DERE A3 Air notebook can be pre-ordered for $289.99 with 64GB SSD and 500GB HDD, and $249.99 with the SSD only. Shipping is expected after October 15.

MACCHIATOBin based DIY ARM Desktop, DragonBoard 820c based DIY ARM Laptop (Video)

October 3rd, 2017 22 comments

2017 may be the year of the (ARM based) Linux desktop, sort of. We’ve already seen GIGABYTE ARM development PC powered by a Socionext SC2A11 Synquacer 24-core ARM Cortex A53 processor that will be available in December, and apparently working fairly well already.

But there are even more options, as Bernhard Rosenkränzer (Bero) from the Linaro Mobile Group, and unofficial Linaro superstar, has decided to create his own ARM based desktop and laptop, based on respectively MACCHIATOBin board with a Marvell ARMADA 8040 quad core Cortex  A72 processor, and DragonBoard 820c board with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core Krait processor.

Since MACCHIATOBin board complies with mini-ITX form factor, he could simply use off the shelf parts with a standard desktop case with power supply, NVIDIA or AMD Radeon graphics card, 16GB memory modules, and a 2 TB SSD drive. The AMD Radeon card fried due to overheating, so the demo was made with an NVIDIA card driven by Nouveau open source driver. The complete system was actually run on fully open source drivers and firmware, and Linux 4.14 mainline with 2 extra patches.

The laptop leverages Pi-Top modular laptop, but replaced Raspberry Pi 3 board with a much faster DragonBoard 820c board that also includes 3GB RAM, and had an SSD connected over PCIe. I ran OpenMandriva with KDE + Linux 4.11 using fully open source drivers.

Bero mentioned that while it’s quite easy to make an ARM desktop as described above, a way would have to be figured to make it more easily reproducible. I got all the information above from Charbax’s video below.

;

The first 8 minutes are about the DIY ARM desktop and laptop, and after they talk about his work with Android (Project Treble and others), the importance of open source drivers, and his political (non-) future 🙂

CHUWI LapBook 12.3 Apollo Lake Laptop with 2736 x 1824 Display Sells for $300 (Promo)

June 20th, 2017 2 comments

CHUWI LapBook 12.3 is a laptop powered by an Intel Celeron N3450 “Apollo Lake” processor, with 6GB RAM, 64GB storage, and a high-resolution display that ships with Windows 10 Home, and is supposed to support Ubuntu too. While the laptop was announced last April for $349, it has now started to sell for $299.99 on GearBest with coupon CHUWI123 valid for the first 100 orders only, after which you should be able to get it for $309.99 during flash sales.

Click to Enlarge

CHUWI LapBook 12.3 specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Celeron N3450 quad core “Apollo Lake” processor @ 1.1 GHz / 2.2 GHz (Burst frequency) and 12 EU Intel HD graphics 500 @ 200 MHz / 700 MHz (Burst freq.); 6W TDP
  • System Memory – 6GB DDR3
  • Storage – 64 GB eMMC flash + micro SD slot up to 128 GB + M.2 SSD up to 256 GB
  • Display – 12.3″ IPS display with 2736 x 1824 (2K) resolution; 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Video Output – 1x micro HDMI port
  • Audio – HDMI, 3.5mm audio jack, built-in stereo speakers and microphone
  • Connectivity – Dual band 802.11 b/g/n/ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0. (Intel Wireless AC-3165 module)
  • Camera – 2.0 MP front-facing camera (on GearBest shown as 0.3 MP)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 host port, 1x USB 3.0 port
  • Power Supply – 12V/2A
  • Battery – 8,000mAh / 7.6V (60.8 Wh) Polymer Li-ion battery good for about 5 to 6 hours
  • Dimensions – 300 x 223 x 16.7 mm
  • Weight – 1.44 kg; all metal body

I previously reviewed CHUWI LapBook 14.1, and was pretty happy with it, especially it would also run Ubuntu 17.04 with basically everything working. However, there are some things you cannot test as a reviewer, such as reliability and customer service, and while anecdotal, I got some feedback about problems with the keyboard and poor customer service:

I bought Chuwi 14″ Apollo Lake laptop but unfortunately it had “well known” defect on the keyboard (keys stop working). It’s been over a month and two dozen emails and I still haven’t received the reference number to get it repaired. I had huge hopes on Chuwi but even if the hardware is nice they fail badly at post-sales.

The company also appears to have changed the eMMC flash part number in later production batches, which lead to several people unable to install Ubuntu on newer LapBook 14.1 laptops. The company also claimed several time that they considered selling Ubuntu versions of their laptops, but never followed through, so it feels they are not really committed to supporting Linux on their devices.

Via Liliputing