After reading, hearing about the newly available development in Linux related hardware, namely, Linux compatible laptops that are, most importantly, cheap enough to afford without breaking the piggy bank, reasonably usable, and Linux compatible. Now, Linux compatibility has come a long way in recent years, many popular laptop manufacturers, and nearly all the desktop hardware is compatible with Linux these days, There are a few holdouts, but it is safe to say, if you can buy it in your local, or distant computer shop, it is very likely to work just fine with a recent version of Linux. The Pinebook, being advertised as a cheap laptop built using the Pine64 SBC is meant to run a Linux, or an Android if that is your preference. The bar being set low enough, as i mentioned, the Pinebook comes with 2 gigabytes of ram, WiFi, and a 15 gigabyte internal storage, i chose, as the title of the article would have already suggested, the 14 inch variant, the other one being the 11 inch one. I have seen 10-11 inch displays, not my thing when it comes to readability for me. The two sizes, apart from the size difference are the same in terms of technical specks, with the smaller one being even cheaper. I requested a 14 inch variant from the website, and was sent an e-mail confirming my request, and supplying me with a coupon code to complete my purchase a few weeks later, apparently there is a waiting list of sorts.
So i eagerly went to the website, punched in my credentials, and selected ny laptop, paid, and, because i chose DHL, i was able to track the movements of my purchase every minute, hour and day, until it got to my door. All in all, with shipping, taxes and customs, it ended up costing around $150CAD. Still way cheaper than anything else comparable in size or specks, even the cheapest chrome-books clock in at around $200+
After a short unboxing, it arrived in a large sized padded yellow envelop, the laptop itself was inside a plastic hard shell, a very good thing, since mine was shattered during shipping, saving the laptop from any subsequent damage. I am merely bringing it up, to help the with the shipping policy, yes, do keep the utterly ugly hard shell, it may save you a few returned, and badly smashed laptops.
The laptop arrived is good shape, not a scratch. And i was pleasantly surprised, a matte 14″ screen, very good quality, nice crisp breaking keys, not much travel, but nice, crisp definitive breaking keys. My laptop arrived fully charged, i have seen reviews who received a their laptop with a flat battery. So after finding the power button ( it is top right ), the Pinebook booted right away, prompted for login and was ready to use it. The Pinebook comes with Ubuntu MATE, arm64 ..
Using the gui updater unfortunately fails, and i haven’t figured out why, nor was I able fix this issue, however using the command-line apt-get update and apt-get upgrade sequence did the trick just fine. So a cosmetic problem, but would be nice if it was fixed and shipped with a working gui update for the novice user.
WiFi worked out of the box obviously, and still works fine after the updates, so that issue seems to have been fixed. The Pinebook does not have an rj45 Ethernet port, but i tested it using two USB-ethernet dongles and it picked them up and they both worked great. Bluetooth worked great, i have paired a Bluetooth mouse, and it consistently pairs after reboots, haven’t tried pairing a headset yet, but i will update the article when i do.
I played YouTube video, normal and hd, and it plays the normal size, full screen HD .. not so much, i am assuming the GPU is not fully utilized at this moment, my understanding is, the development team is working on GPU acceleration, which would greatly improve video and graphics performance and reduce system load when doing so.
The Pinebook does not get hot, in fact, after many hours of heavy load, it would only get slightly warmer than room temperature. Also, to note, the Pinebook is fan-less, so no noise when it is working, good for audio work, good for reading before sleeping, or operating on soft surfaces, since it has no ventilation slots that can be blocked.
I did experience some audio problems tho, the Pinebook has two down-firing speakers, they are reasonable quality and loudness for a quiet room, but when i plugged my headphones into the headphone jack, the speakers just kept going on, well that was odd, the function keys would mute the speakers, but the headphones would remain off, this is being worked on too, the current workaround is to use the available .. but command line, alsamixer to manage your audio transition from speaker to headphone and back, i guess there is some fixing to be done here.
Battery life is phenomenal tho, after a full 10 hours of use, i still had a 20% left in the battery, you can take this laptop with you all day, and never worry about the battery. Charging takes a bit longer, but this would be your run around laptop, that you will end up charging over-night. I am very comfortable with this battery. Apart from the adapter, you can buy a special USB charging cable to charge tour laptop from say a battery pack or a car usb outlet, just make sure your charging device is capable of more that 2A.