Pine64, the makers of a popular Raspberry Pi rival, have kicked off pre-orders for a $200 Linux laptop, the Pinebook Pro.
In an age when smartphone owners are balking at $1,000 price tags on super-powered smartphones, the single-board computer world, championed by the Raspberry Pi, is producing capable machines at the other end of the price spectrum using Arm-based hardware.
But the Pinebook Pro Laptop, which uses the popular Rockchip RK3399, is for fans of different section of the developer board market, those who favor higher-performing devices based on ARM64.
With the Pinebook Pro, Pine64 has doubled down on the first-generation $99 Pinebook, which featured a quad-core Allwinner A64 system-on-a-chip (SoC), 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of eMMC storage.
The Pinebook Pro has a 14-inch screen and features a six-core Rockchip RK3399, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage, with fans who registered early being offered a free storage bump to 128GB.
Pine64 announced the Pinebook Pro in January and flagged its arrival earlier this month, promising to ship the device in August.
A notable feature of the Pinebook Pro is its "privacy switches", which come in the form of three keys on the keyboard — F1, F2, and F3 — that offer shortcuts to privacy features. Press any of the keys for 10 seconds and the firmware cuts the power, respectively, to the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi module, the webcam, and the device mics.
Pine64 developers say that it's the equivalent to "cutting a peripheral power mechanically via a physical switch" with the "the power state settings for each is stored across reboots".
The operating system also cannot override the power state value for each of the components.
Speaking of operating systems, the Pinebook Pro will support multiple Linux distributions, as well as Chromium OS and Android 9. However, it ships with a custom build of Linux Debian, which features local video playback up to 4K at 30 frames per second and Netflix at a 1080p resolution in the Chrome browser.
The Pinebook Pro joins Purism in becoming a privacy-focused Linux laptop for the tech-savvy crowd. It's also a much cheaper option than Dell's Ubuntu Linux laptops, which target a different segment of the developer hardware market.
According to Liliputing, the Pinebook Pro comes with a sturdier chassis and the option to configure it with an M.2 connector for a PCIe SSD for an extra $7. But it's also worth noting the laptop only comes with a 30-day warranty.
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