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Another HPCesque device? Pinephone + upcoming official keyboard

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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-06-12 9:13 AM
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Update: My Pinephone is finally here! It was indeed held up while they worked out the duty on it. I wasn't stung to badly but it would have been nice of DHL to keep me informed! I'll be playing with it over the weekend so I'll be posting my mini-review in a couple of days.

Initial impressions (running supplied Manjaro with Plasma Mobile):

- It's a fairly standard size for a modern smartphone, a little larger than my Blackberry Key2 in footprint and somewhat on the 'thick' side. The back of the casing is nicely curved and it feels good in the hand.

- The screen is very nice although 'only' 720p resolution or so.

- Plasma Mobile looks pretty, but it doesn't include a lot of apps - I'm hoping non-native apps can fill some of the gaps.

- It gets noticeably warm doing anything taxing and doesn't seem to greatly enjoy multitasking.

Based on the above I wouldn't be greatly impressed with it as a smartphone, but as I want it to be a HPC-type device none of these are dealbreakers. I'm planning to try out a number of alternative OS options over the weekend, hopefully among these is something more 'desktop' oriented.
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2021-06-12 5:48 PM
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Well, very glad that the machine found its way into your hands.

Good luck with your distro-hopping. I'm most interested to hear if you find any decent word processing software. libreoffice might be an option, but I'm hoping more than assuming.

Jake
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2021-06-14 2:51 PM
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Congratulations!

I can't wait till the keyboard is released.
I've been considering buying Pinephone too for some time, especially for the keyboard.

Here's a video of the Pinephone with keyboard: First look at the PinePhone Keyboard dev unit


Although this is off topic, Amazon released a Kindle Fire HD 10 with official keyboard recently. That looks nice too.


It comes with Office 365 Personal and priced at $219.99.



Edited by stingraze 2021-06-14 3:03 PM
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2021-06-15 12:46 AM
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This is a new video of the keyboard in action. (Uploaded on 6/15/2021)


Keyboard firmware progress:
https://xnux.eu/log/#037 (link from the YouTube video)
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-06-15 11:48 PM
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Pinephone mini-review - As promised:

This is by no means a comprehensive review - It's based on me playing with the Pinephone over the last few days, so there are undoubtedly a lot of areas I have not covered yet. I'll add updates as I discover more.

1. Hardware
Specs are readily available (see https://www.pine64.org/pinephone/) so I won't go into detail here:

  • SoC: Allwinner A64, quad-core ARM Cortex A53 @ 1.1GHz, Mali 400 MP2 GPU

  • RAM: 2GB / 3GB

  • Storage: 16GB / 32GB eMMC + uSD card slot

  • Screen: 5.95" IPS LCD, 18:9 aspect ratio

  • Cameras: 5MP rear, 2MP front

  • Wireless connectivity: Wifi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, 4G LTE, GPS, Glonass

  • Wired connectivity: USB-C for charging, USB2.0 host/device mode, video out (displayport alt mode)

  • Dimensions: 160.5 x 76.6 x 9.2 mm, weight 180-200g



The Pinephone feels good in the hand, though perhaps a little thick by modern standards this and the curved sides make it easy to keep hold of. The screen is bright and colours seem good, though it should be noted that I have red-green colour blindness according to my optician so should probably be disqualified fom commenting on this. Resolution is 1440 x 720, which seems perfectly OK. On several of the OSes I've tried the scaling is set at 200% so I doubt this is proving a limitation. Neither camera seems to be able to take even passable photos, but I believe this is substantially software-dependent and being worked on actively.

2. OS Options
The following are the OSes I have tried on the Pinephone - Please note that there are several more that I have not tried and also that they are at varying stages of development, so my experience does not necessarily reflect on the quality of each OS, just where it is at present.

UBPorts (Ubuntu Touch)
+ UI is similar to desktop Ubuntu (Gnome) at least for the 'launcher' part, does a nice little run-through of basic operation on first boot
+ App store (OpenStore) contains web apps as well as native apps, widens the selection somewhat
- Difficult to install desktop Linux apps despite underlying Debian-based OS, I didn't succeed although you can via containers I believe
- Not too many native apps

Manjaro with Plasma Mobile UI
+ UI is quite familiar as an Android user and looks modern and quite 'slick'
+ App store (Discover) allows install of desktop Linux as well as native apps
- Few native apps, though the native apps available work well
- Desktop apps often do not scale well to the UI

Manjaro with Phosh UI
+ Clean UI, seems to have quite a few options
+ Fairly easy to install desktop Linux apps
- UI not as easy to just pick up and use as Plasma Mobile or Ubuntu Touch
- Few native apps, though the native apps available work well
- Desktop apps often do not scale well to the UI

Mobian with Phosh UI
+ Clean UI, seems to have quite a few options (same as Manjaro Phosh)
+ Easy to install desktop Linux apps, familiar Debian commands in terminal (for me as long-time Debian / Ubuntu user)
- Few native apps, though the native apps available work well
- Desktop apps often do not scale well to the UI

3. Further exploration - Manjaro with Plasma Mobile
Based on my experiences I went with Plasma Mobile for now - This just seems the most 'usable' for me at present. I've not spent long playing with it but below is what I've tried so far.

Web browsing
Default browser (Angelfish) has a nice clean interface, loads quickly, scrolls smoothly and plays Youtube videos OK. All considering the relatively weak hardware so not amazing but certainly usable. I've not felt the need to try another yet.

Installing apps
App store (Discover) is quite easy to use though a little slow and pulls up desktop Linux as well as mobile apps. Wide selection of apps though I cannot find any way to use web apps yet.

Word processor
No native / mobile word processor, there is one (Calligra Gemini) that claims to have a touch interface option - I could not make this work. Libreoffice Writer runs fine though a little slowly but I cannot get the menus configured to be usable on this screen - It's just very much a desktop app. A shame as I use this on every Linux device and have managed albeit with some difficulty on my 7 inch RPi-based 'homemade HPC'. So far the most usable is Abiword, it defaults to quite uncluttered menus with elements large enough to operate with a finger, and the menus can be scrolled down by swiping. Size of screen elements doesn't leave much 'paper' space though, as my photo shows.

Keyboard support (USB)
A USB keyboard is picked up without issues and works for text entry in apps, seems to suppress the virtual keyboard as well. Some limited functions elsewhere in the UI (Alt-Tab works as you'd expect, as does Alt-F4 and Ctrl-Alt-Del) but not nearly as many as on Android, a little disappointingly. I imagine this is yet to come though - As the Pinephone seems to be driving a lot of the development in the Linux mobile world I can only imagine the keyboard case will help once it arrives.

4. What I've not tried yet

  • Running a desktop OS on the Pinephone

  • Android (Glodroid) - I'm finding it a little difficult to see much point in this, but at least it's open source Android and probably supported for much longer than 'normal' phones

  • Calls / SMS / Mobile data - I've not put a SIM card in the Pinephone at all yet - I bought it to be a PDA but I'm happy to stick a spare SIM in and try this out for others who are curious

  • Email / PIM functions - This will take a while to set up so I've just not got round to it yet

  • Testing the battery life - It seems as though it would get through a day of mixed use but I have no idea what standby usage is like - I'll report back soon



5. Overall impressions
I'm honestly pleasantly surprised - The level of community support for this device is remarkable, and getting this to function more or less like a modern smartphone whilst running a recent Linux kernel and a fully open source, properly accessible OS is a real achievement. It's clearly not a very powerful device compared to today's phones with decacore 2GHz+ CPUs and 16GB of RAM but outside of Android / iOS I believe you can get a lot more out of less hardware, not to mention tweak the OS to your exact requirements.

Please let me know anything you would like me to test and I'll give it a try and report back, time permitting.

Edited by robertojones 2021-06-15 11:56 PM




(Home Screen.jpg)



(Top menu.jpg)



(Apps.jpg)



(Browser (Angelfish).jpg)



(Libreoffice Writer.jpg)



(Abiword.jpg)



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Attachments Home Screen.jpg (36KB - 0 downloads)
Attachments Top menu.jpg (34KB - 0 downloads)
Attachments Apps.jpg (52KB - 0 downloads)
Attachments Browser (Angelfish).jpg (56KB - 0 downloads)
Attachments Libreoffice Writer.jpg (32KB - 0 downloads)
Attachments Abiword.jpg (33KB - 0 downloads)
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-06-19 2:51 PM
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Micro-update:

I've left the Pinephone in standby to get some idea of battery life - It got down to around 10% after 48 hours so not looking too bad. With the keyboard case I'm not sure whether the phone's own battery has to be removed so it will either be 6000mAh or 3000+6000mAh total battery capacity, so with the case we could expect either 2 or 3 times this amount of standby time.

I'll have a go at doing some battery tests in use next.

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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2021-06-22 3:04 AM
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Thank you for sharing the information!

When the keyboard case is made, I'm sure there will be a lot of demand from H/PC enthusiasts all over the world, especially it's not only running Android but a phone capable Linux.
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2021-06-22 9:55 PM
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My apologies, Robert, for not posting my thanks sooner. I've been away and preoccupied with non-internet things.

But I'm much obliged for your extensive examination and the bonus of all those pictures. I'm especially glad to see LibreOffice up and running. While it seems daunting without a pkb, I imagine LO would be fine with that clip-on.

When I buy, I'm going to try and use it as my daily driver. Certainly one knows when he's carrying abound the Planet Computer Cosmo, it's cumbersome in the front pocket. I wonder what the weight of PP + PKB feels like, as in lugging it around.

Again, thank you for your thoroughness,
Jake
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-07-06 9:06 PM
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Jake - 2021-06-22 9:55 PM

My apologies, Robert, for not posting my thanks sooner. I've been away and preoccupied with non-internet things.

But I'm much obliged for your extensive examination and the bonus of all those pictures. I'm especially glad to see LibreOffice up and running. While it seems daunting without a pkb, I imagine LO would be fine with that clip-on.

When I buy, I'm going to try and use it as my daily driver. Certainly one knows when he's carrying abound the Planet Computer Cosmo, it's cumbersome in the front pocket. I wonder what the weight of PP + PKB feels like, as in lugging it around.

Again, thank you for your thoroughness,
Jake


Jake - No need to apologise - As you can probably guess from my very late response I've been quite busy myself recently.

Unfortunately I'd imagine the Pinephone + keyboard case will be at least as heavy as the Cosmo. The Pinephone itself comes in at around 195g and I can't imagine a 6000mAh battery weighing much less than 100g, then there's the keyboard and casing on top of that. I'm guessing around 300-350g, depending on whether the Pinephone's internal battery is removed when it's put in the case. Looking at the photos I've seen so far I'd estimate the whole assembly to be about an inch thick. Good job it's got rounded edges! I'm still excited for the keyboard case - As much as anything I think the limitations of the device and software (so far at least) will force me to use it for more creative / inventive purposes.

I've not played much more with the Pinephone since my last post - Hoping to rectify that soon though.
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2021-07-16 9:37 AM
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More news on keyboard. Seems like firmware will be open source too.

Via Twitter.

https://linuxsmartphones.com/pinephone-keyboard-will-ship-with-open-...



Edited by stingraze 2021-07-16 9:39 AM
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-07-19 11:17 PM
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stingraze - 2021-07-16 9:37 AM

More news on keyboard. Seems like firmware will be open source too.



This is great news! Thank you as always for the update. I have to admit I was a little concerned that the arrow keys are only usable via the Fn key by default - If the firmware is open source hopefully it will be possible to reprogram this. I may just get used to it the way it is of course - I don't remember the unusual layout of these keys on the MobilePro 900 being too big of a deal.
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2021-07-21 8:54 AM
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Glad you liked the info.

When the keyboard is made, I might buy the Pinephone.... Or earlier.
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ArchiMark Page Icon Posted 2021-07-21 8:12 PM
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Thanks for sharing this, Roberto!

Currently, using my Cosmo....and awaiting my Astro Slide....hope to see it in October....

Otherwise, I'd consider the PP plus keyboard approach.....

Best,

Mark
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stingraze Page Icon Posted 2021-08-03 12:39 PM
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Final keyboard prototype is here:
https://twitter.com/LukaszErecinsk1/status/1421170181263527940/photo...

It says that it has deep travel. That is nice!

-stingraze
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robertojones Page Icon Posted 2021-08-03 8:29 PM
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stingraze - 2021-08-03 12:39 PM

Final keyboard prototype is here:
https://twitter.com/LukaszErecinsk1/status/1421170181263527940/photo...

It says that it has deep travel. That is nice!

-stingraze


This is looking very promising - We've been getting into mechanical keyboards here this past year (see below my keyboard with Cherry 'silent red' switches and 'Olivetti-style' keycaps) so I certainly appreciate good key travel!



(Keyboard.jpg)



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