Open hardware smartphone PinePhone Pro starts to ship – to developers only, for now
New e-ink tablet, too. Open mobiles, tablets and laptops are coming... slowly
Open-source-hardware vendor Pine64 has started shipping versions of its upgraded smartphone and new e-ink tablet – but so far, only to developers.
There's more to affordable Arm hardware than the bare single-board computers (SBCs) from, for example, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, or TI's BeagleBone.
Hong Kong vendor Pine64 started out with the crowd-funded $32 A64 SBC, but then started building this core design into laptops, smartphones, tablets, even smartwatches – with open designs that support multiple operating systems.
The A64 board, with a 1.2 GHz quad-core A64 Arm SoC – Allwinner's fourth generation after entering the market with a splash a decade ago with the A10 – formed the basis of the PineBook in 2017, and later the PinePhone.
With 2GB of RAM and 16GB of flash, the original models already looked rather dated when the device started shipping in 2020, despite a later "Convergence" upgrade with 3GB of RAM and twice the flash.
Now, slowly, the company's second-generation devices are trickling out. The newer kit has 4GB RAM and a 1.5 GHz Rockchip RK3399 (with two Cortex-A72 performance and four Cortex-A53 efficiency cores).
The upgraded notebook, the PineBook Pro, appeared briefly last year. With 64GB of flash, optional NVMe, and USB 2, 3 and C ports, it has a respectable spec, which together with ongoing silicon shortages means that despite a price bump from $199 to $299, you can't have one.
You will also have to wait to get your hands on a PinePhone Pro, unless you're an OS developer. The original PinePhone supports some 20 different Linux variants, to which the laptops add NetBSD, OpenBSD and RISC OS. There's even a nifty-looking keyboard.
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The company also offers tablets with cases presumably hand-whittled from pure unobtainium, to which it recently added an e-ink model, the PineNote, which is now shipping to developers.
Given levels of customer dissatisfaction with the Remarkable e-ink tablets, this too might get geek pulses racing – which you could measure with a PineTime, one of its products that is available. Just don't hold your breath. ®