May 2019 News

News Pinebook Pro PinePhone

The new website is finally online and it is now easier to deliver news to people within and outside the community. Unlike the forum, information in this blog won’t easily get lost among the countless other day-to-day threads concerning troubleshooting, new builds and similar topics. In the long run, I trust this will make it easier to find, reference and share information.

And so, with no further ado …

News for May 2019 Run-Down:
  • Forum updates incoming
  • BTO is going away (for all devices)
  • PinePhone Status Report 
  • Pinebook Pro Roadmap
Forum Updates Incoming
One of the reasons for moving the community services to a new infrastructure was to make it easier to update and improve stuff on the fly and when it suits us. One of the issues we were facing with the previous server setup was the inability to keep the forum up-to-date (as to why that was the case … it is a long story and not interesting). This is now an thing of the past, and so this week we will clone the forum database, update myBB to a recent version, add services we think / feel the forum deserves and migrate over. We do not expect any major or lengthy blackout because of this but be prepared for some potential forum disturbances this and the next week as we’re working on it.
 
BTO is Going Away (for all devices)
BTO is going away and is being replaced with a pre-order system. This change has already been reflected on the Pinebook store page. All those of you currently waiting in the BTO queue will be serviced, so don’t worry – you are not waiting in vain. Initially, when the BTO system was implemented, it was intended to determine interest levels in the Pinebook. In practice however, it failed to work as a reliable indicator of how many people actually want a unit and hence, how many Pinebooks need to be built. It also proved to be very demanding on the shipping team and those who dealt with the system put in place to reissue BTOs when customers decided against purchasing their unit. We also realised that you guys aren’t exactly huge fans of the system –  BTO tickets lost in spam folders, people forgetting their BTOs, high volume of ‘when will it ship?’ emails … are all an indication that a different system had to substitute BTO.
 
So, for the Pinebook, Pinebook Pro and PinePhone (and potentially other similar devices in the future) a pre-order system will be used instead. There will be a set quota of available units in each batch and the system will work on a first-come first-served basis. You will be notified about the availability of the device via an email; there will also be notifications on social media, such as Twitter and Mastodon. Forum and chat members will always get a short heads-up that the sales are going live. Consider it a nod to those actively taking part in the community. The pre-order page will list the expected shipping date and any other relevant information, which we trust will lessen the degree of confusion of when and what ships. There isn’t much else to be said – the functioning of the system will be pretty straight forward.
 
PinePhone Status Report
Development for the PinePhone is progressing nicely. Before I jump into some of the details, let me say that it is a real treat to see developers from all major Linux on-phone projects working together to achieve support for the PinePhone. The developers also collectively contribute to one repo, which means that they can benefit from each others work and do not have to re-do something that has already been solved or implemented. As things stand, new features and functionality are literally added daily. I hope to have some builds later this month so I can showcase them on youtube and make a post about the progress.That said, I fully understand and appreciate that developers want to take their time so as to have their early work reflect the effort they’ve put in, so this showcasing timeline may slip a little. Stay tuned.
 
On the hardware front, the design of the PinePhone case is now complete (I’ll make a video showing the mockup at the same time as I’ll be recording the videos of early dev builds) and work on dev kits 2.0 with numerous fixes as well as the actual phone PCB will begin concurrently and very shortly. We expect to have a working prototype, as well as dev kits v2.0 (expected to be final) which will be fully aligned with hardware in the prototype(s), sometime mid-to-late summer. I dare say, unless something really unexpected happens – we will likely have the PinePhone ready before the end of this year. As we’ve said numerous times, this does not mean that we will start selling PinePhones the day we get them from factory; we will wait for at least one fully functioning OS build prior to sales commencing.
 
More PinePhone news will follow late this month or early in June.
 
 
 

Front of the PinePhone Mockup

Back of the PinePhone Mockup

Pinebook Pro Roadmap
The Pinebook Pro software and hardware is coming together both quickly and well. In terms of software, community developers have all key functionality already working in their respective builds, and partner projects will be getting their hands on dev units sometime this Summer. As of today, there are two builds that have full functionality from the two developers whom have worked to get their kernels ship-shape for partner projects; these two builds are, Ubuntu (with Mate/ LXDE) from ayufan and Debian Stretch from mrfixit2001.
 
In terms of hardware, the Pinebook Pro demoed in a recent (and poorly recorded – sorry about that!) video is probably nearly identical to what you’ll be getting when you order your unit. There are still a few outstanding PCB hardware issues in the unit I showed off in the video, which have now been identified and successfully resolved. The new PCBs should be back from the factory shortly, and granted that the PCB has no issues and test well, a pilot production of Pinebook Pros’ will commence shortly after.
 
I am assuming that since you are reading this blog, then you must at the very least have an idea about what hardware is in the Pinebook, and what sort of materials it uses (if not, click here). In light of this, here I will focus on the two things that are rarely discussed but probably of vital importance to most users: the keyboard and trackpad. You will be happy to hear that the new ISO keyboard has a nice feel to it, has a soild click-y tactile plunge, the keys have a relatively long key-travel, and in my testing the keyboard has not exhibited any issues – indeed, I am writing this blog entry on the Pinebook Pro as a part of my testing. The trackpad is also a major improvement over the one found on the original Pinebook. For one, it is an actual point-to-point trackpad (and not an emulated mouse) and the coating / material that it is made out of is smooth and feels almost metallic to the touch. Now, if you’re coming from a high-end laptop, such as the Macbook or Dell XPS, then the trackpad will probably not going to blow you away; that said, I have compared the trackpad on my prototype up against similarly priced laptops as well as laptops twice the price, and frankly speaking it is on par with just about everything that is out there.
 
More information about the Pinebook Pro will follow next month.

The ISO keyboard layout that will be used on Pinebook Pro production models.

EDIT: Here is a video where I showcase the software functionality on the current prototype. In this video I also discuss some of the design choices made – such as the ISO keyboard.

 
[Edit 13/05/2019] Future ANSI Keyboard Option

Right, ok, we get it – many of you want an ANSI keyboard layout as an option. Understood. We will eventually offer a EU/US keyboard layout option at store check-out.

This may take some time as we need to find a suitable keyboard first, put it though its paces to make sure that its good quality, and also make sure that no extensive retooling needs to be done on the Pinebook Pro case. This means that you can expect the first end-user batch (or two) to ship with the pictured ISO keyboard only, as its unlikely we will find a candidate ANSI keyboard, test it and implement in into the production schedule on-the-fly. I trust everyone understands that these things need to be properly tested and evaluated before going into production.

More Pinebook Pro updates are coming soon – I’ll keep you posted.

 

49 thoughts on “May 2019 News

  1. Would be nice to see a PineBook Pro version with a Trackpoint and Physical Buttons. I mean, if people don’t like it they can just use the regular touchpad but at least everyone will have its favorite way to navigate its computer :).

    1. Thumb up for this one! Indeed, trackpoint or tp-like device would be great together with buttons. Unfortunately I do have feeling that this is never going to happen due to general movement from those devices to bigger and bigger touchpads. 🙁

      1. True but if there’s enough demand to justify the production of an alternate top bezel it could be possible to have both option. Why not a crowdfunded model or a group sale? There’s a lot of solution we could explore.

        1. In general it would be difficult for us to have multiple SKUs, but obviously we’re not saying there isn’t space for future iterations. But first things first – lets focus on the current Pinebook Pro, in its current form, first.

          1. An other quick question. What’s the expected battery life on the PineBook Pro?

            > In general it would be difficult for us to have multiple SKUs, but obviously we’re not saying there isn’t space for future iterations. But first things first – lets focus on the current Pinebook Pro, in its current form, first.

            Sure, I totally understand. Glad to see you’re open to ideas from the community :).

        2. I think that in real-world use – a mix of browsing the web, watching youtube, listening to spotify, playing some game/emulators, the unit sitting idle for some-time, etc., – with brightness set to 50% (btw, the screen is plenty bright) and the governor set to on-demand, you’re probably looking at solid 6-7hrs. The current PCB has some issues, and software probably needs some more tweaking, so its a rough but educated estimate.

          Remember, if you want to really preserve power, then you can switch off the big cores and drop the brightness to 25% (still OK for indoor use); that could even result in 9hrs (or so) of run-time I imagine.
          Please take the above with a grain of salt until I test a closer-to complete unit.

      1. They sell a USB to Ethernet dongle for $10, or an adapter for $5.

        Sucks to give up a USB port for that, but if you really need Ethernet, you can do it.

        If I had a vote, I’d vote for two more USB ports, as I never seem to have enough. But complaining about getting this much computer at this price point almost deserves a slap in the face.

        1. I understand that the ANSI keyboard was lower quality. I’m not a fan of the huge enter key in the ISO keyboard and the layout changes required by it. I’ll still get one, but I wish I could get it in the ANSI layout with the quality of the ISO one.

          1. Deal-breaker for me as well. I understand the need for the ISO layout for markets outside of the US but as a technical user who can touch-type the whole US-layout keyboard having to re-learn many of the special characters is simply out of the question for me.

        2. I would also second the need for a US keyboard as North Americans have standardized on the US keyboard layout. Is there a chance that we can have it as an option? I understand that the ISO keyboard is higher quality but forcing people to relearn keyboard layout is annoying going to be quite annoying.

          Thanks!

          1. Ok guys, we get it, we’ve already started looking into the ANSI keyboard as an alternative … there will be a US/EU option in the store. We just need to find a good quality ANSI keyboard that wont require a lot of tooling (super expensive!).

            Read the update please.

  2. PineTab? All three devices were announced at the same time. The Tab is what got me really excited, but updates on progress have been much less. Had it been dropped from the que? Will it be ready near the same time as the Phone?

    1. There are two ilthing with the PineTab we need to sort out: 1) digitizer and 2) suitable software distribution. We’re figuring out 1) and will have a suitable panel soon. We’re discussing 2) and will be zeroing in on software soon. Stay tuned.

  3. Which DE is running on the Pinebook? On the picture, it seems like Ubuntu Mate with Gnome Shell?

  4. I’m so excited since i discovered pine64 a few months ago! I immediately ordered a pinebook (expected shipment early may, so hopefully on my doormat soon!!!!).

    And when the pinephone is available: I’ll try to be the first to order 🙂

    Regards and keep up the good work!!!

  5. good to read about elimination of bto. question on pre-order. some devices allow for payment when shipped other devices require payment, or a deposit, at time of pre-prder. has pine64 decided on the time framework for when [and acceptable methods] payment is required? thanks.

  6. It would be great to see an option for a higher quality US keyboard layout. Was the ISO keyboard less expensive? If necessary, I would be willing to pay a bit more for this option. Regardless, I am still pre-ordering this laptop as soon as I can. Excited to learn that availability is coming soon! Amazon Prime order a possibility? 😉

  7. Ok, I’ll talk to TL and see if there is any remote possibility of exploring an ANSI keyboard in the future. This would mean finding a different vendor with a good ANSI keyboard, testing it, etc., so even if it will happen it will be some time after launch. Once I know something I’ll let everyone know …

    1. Thanks for taking our feedback into account! I would be willing to pay a bit extra (up to $20) for the US/ANSI layout and I suspect I’m not the only one who would.

      1. Just had a talk about future ANSI keyboard options with TL Lim. The initial batches will ship with the ISO keyboard we’ve already selected (its really a good keyboard), but once the production volume increases with demand, with time we’ll revisit this subject and search for an ANSI keyboard (possibly also offer a US / EU keyboard choice in the store).

        Just to make it clear, its ISO for the foreseeable future. Thanks for the feedback.

  8. To my astonishment, the Pinebook Pro is the only Linux laptop that actually comes with a sensible keyboard layout. System76 has really good models (and offers) but their keyboards are a mess. Laptops shouldn’t need to mimic desktop layouts and certainly shouldn’t need to have their keyboards stuffed to the brim with keys. The Pine64 guys seem to be the only company to understand that. I don’t need a numpad section on a laptop. I also don’t need function keys on a laptop. I just need a well-aligned, well-designed keyboard. That’s it. The only other guys to come close are StarLabs but I don’t like what they did with their directional keys. For that reason alone, I would be more than willing to purchase a Pinebook Pro. I don’t need high-end specs—I’m running Linux after all. I just need bare minimum.

  9. ok yeah I definitely prefer the ANSI layouts. But honestly my bigger appreciation is for the arrow keys. The negative space around the arrow keys is one of my most asked for features of a laptop keyboard layout. It lets the user feel with their hands where the arrow are which is a surprisingly frustrating experience in modern laptops.

    I also really prefer actual buttons but for a laptop this is a minor complaint. I tend to use a small mouse anyway most of the time. I’m really excited for the USB-C charging and display out on the pro version.

    I don’t like it but I can tolerate the ISO layout. All in all it looks like a really attractive offering. Can’t wait to pre-order it. Cheers.

  10. I’m really happy about the ISO keyboard. Thank god it’s not an ansi one.
    Can’t wait to buy this laptop.
    Have a good day 🙂

  11. Pinebook Pro’s that power button position…

    Some other laptops like LG gram also have power button on same position, and some people calls it “Homework Assassin”; Because students push it by accident during homework, then system turned off immediately, so homework lost just before save…

    1. You can always just set the power button to do something less tragic than turn off the computer instantly – for instance, sleep or suspend. You can also disable it in software. I understand the concern, but don’t think its a real issue on the Pinebook Pro due to the above.

    1. Hard to tell. The quectel modem that we use has been “approved” by Verizon, but all CDMA networks require phones to be registered to function. PINE64 will not take active steps (that is to say pay Verizon) for the PinePhone to work on their network. So, in a sense, it depends on Verizon and if they decide to allow the Pinephone to work on their network.

  12. I am really looking forward to the new machine. In terms of the ansi keyboard is that doing to be available as a post sales option as it would be great to have should the ISO keyboard not be a viable option or even wear out

    1. We’ll let you know when pre-orders go live sometime in advance. Admittedly I expect that it may be a bit of a rush for the first few batches …

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