TECH BREAK: Can the Pinebook Pro Linux deliver where others fail?

Thursday February 07 2019

Pinebook is marketed as a tinkerer’s laptop, but, it is, in every sense, a fully working laptop, and by the looks of it, the best contender available to Chromebooks. PHOTO| FOTOSEARCH


When everything went online, the need to have an all-powerful computer was no longer that urgent. Today, we can do everything online - from writing, to picture editing, to entertainment and much more.

Tablets became the next best thing, but they, in rather dramatic fashion, proved to be a fad.

These days you rarely see them, gone was the time when everyone was dying to be seen with one. This made way for hybrids, though to be fair, tablets opened the path to low-end computers going mainstream.

This is where the Pinebook comes into existence. Sure, they market it as a tinkerer’s laptop, but, it is, in every sense, a fully working laptop, and by the looks of it, the best contender available to Chromebooks.

The Pinebook Pro Linux is the next level from the original Pinebook, and by the look of things, it is going to be a brilliant machine to own. It is expected to ship with a complicated sounding Rockchip RK3399 big. LITTLE hexacore Arm Cortex A72/A53 SoC, backed by 4GB RAM, and 64GB EMMC flash storage, though there is a 128GB option, a free upgrade for Pinebook Forum users globally.

Storage can be further expanded via microSD, so you are not without choice. It will come with a 14-inch fullHD display, a welcome upgrade from its predecessor.


For connectivity, you will have 802.11 “AC” WiFi connectivity, as well as Bluetooth 4.2 for peripherals.

For video calls, it will get a 2MP camera that is another major upgrade from its 0.2MP predecessor. It has a single USB 2.0 port, and a USB 3.0 Type-C port that also doubles as its charging port and video output port.

However, it will also come with another single barrel charging port assuming your Type-C port is occupied. There will also be a single headphone jack and a built-in microphone for voice calls.

Like its predecessor, it comes with a large keyboard that is a blessing in so many ways, but even better is the large touch pad, arguably the biggest seen on any laptop of its size.

Is it worthwhile to own?

Here is the thing, first, it does not ship with Microsoft Windows, and that is arguably the best thing about it. You will get to choose between different types of Linux distributions. Pine have collaborated with a number of developers and you will get to choose between Armbian, FreeBSD, KDE Neon, Netrunner, Manjaro, NetBSD Q4OS and DietPi.

However, you will be free to explore other flavours as long as there is some sort of software support.

What is surprising is the availability of FreeBSD and NetBSD Q4OS, given that they are aimed at enterprise machines, far removed from ordinary users.

That said, you are only likely to install a few programs on it, so if you are a light to medium user, this is exactly what you are looking for.

The 10,000mAh battery is ridiculously huge for the compute power it has to deliver.

This by far will get you the best returns on a single charge, and will likely outlast pretty much any laptop in the market to date.

Pine have included a PCIe x4 expanion slot that will take an extra Solid State Drive (SSD) of whatever size you want. As far as laptops go, this will offer the best value for money, costing around Sh20,000 for the base package.

Once you find your rhythm with it, you will find a delightful laptop that you can take with you anywhere.

With solid battery life, there is very little to discourage anyone from owning one if you are looking for an affordable and highly modifiable laptop.