So last week a package was delivered to my work place. It came in a padded envelope and was addressed to me from someone in Hongkong. That’s usually a good thing. As it turns out, is was.
Mmmmh. What could it be?
Aha! The long awaited Pinebook64. As the team from PINE sensibly only orders the hardware to be built once enough orders are in, I had to wait 4 weeks for my particular unit to be built, but for this price was happy to be built.
Certainly a new take on packaging a laptop for a 9000km journey, but it worked, as the plastic minicase was broken, but the Pinebook arrived in perfect shape.
Pretty thing, innit?
All connectors present and accounted for.
Two USB2 connectors, headphone connector, micro ssd slot and power. What else do you need?
The unit came with a completely depleted battery (which we were warned about on the Pinebook forum – apparently an issue during quality control), but after two hours it happily started up. It immediately booted into this special Ubuntu remix, running on a board supported package (BSP) linux kernel, making it possible for this Allwinner board to run this OS. Hardware specs are not particularly exciting, as you would expect from a machine for £75.
It’s got a 4 core Arm A53 CPU on an Allwinner board with a Mali 400 MP2 graphics unit, a 16GB EMMC and 2gb DDR2 Ram. It’s pretty much a low-specced mobile phone in a (well designed) plastic laptop case. But, the display is gorgeous, it looks and feels pretty sturdy, and it’s perfectly usable. The GUI is responsive and easy to use (previous Ubuntu use will help), Libre-Office runs well and Chromium is acceptable to use. Even that terrible slog on browser resources, Apple’s iCloud website, is usable. Youtube and Vimeo work well on Chromium. The speakers are very very tinny, but the DAC is of acceptable quality, so headphone use is ok. I haven’t yet checked battery performance, but I’m expecting good results from a solid state machine like this.
The PINE community has a few different OSs you can try, but at present I’m quite happy with the current OS. Only bugbear is the inability to switch GUI’s, as I’m pretty sure at these specs would benefit from using LXDE instead of MATE, but I’ll be happily tinker away until I got it sorted. For this price (it’s actually more 160£ with import tax and postage) you can get a used chrome book or modestly specced used Windows laptop, but what’s the fun in that? The future is definitely in low priced, low specced machines like this. Will it replace my Macbook Pro for day to day use? Of course not. Would I take it on holiday for some light browsing, emailing and watching movies? Yes.