Is Pinebook Pro a good option for me?
#1
Hello there, im looking for a secondary laptop and found pinebook pro over reddit, i would use it for web browsing (including video), office, some cybersecurity learning stuff if able (nmap or similar tools) and at least some bash scripting and code learning (like ansible, JavaScript etc, might use Atom).
So, as the title says, is pinebook a good option for me?
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#2
It partially depends: what's your favorite Linux distribution?
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#3
Are you willing to get help here when it does something that most people would be inclined to return it for service?

Consider that there is absolutely no software support other than what you get from the community. You must be either self-sufficient as a system administrator, or, willing to learn how to be.
:wq



[ SRA accepts you ]
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#4
(07-22-2021, 10:22 AM)PeytonBirch Wrote: Hello there, im looking for a secondary laptop and found pinebook pro over reddit, i would use it for web browsing (including video), office, some cybersecurity learning stuff if able (nmap or similar tools) and at least some bash scripting and code learning (like ansible, JavaScript etc, might use Atom).
So, as the title says, is pinebook a good option for me?
It depends.

If you're OK using x86_64-based laptop for all of the above and you don't use any proprietary/commercial x86-only apps - PBP will be able to run all of your software, but likely will do it at around the same speed level as the later Core 2 Duo laptops with all 4GiB RAM available (earlier could access only ~3GiB RAM). Other than that...

Compared to x86_64-based laptop of similar specs and performance (something like Core 2 Duo with later chipset) running the same OS (just built for a different ISA - instruction set architecture) - you are most likely getting a better screen, more thin and light package, and better run-time battery life, but you trade it for difficulties running some more exotic apps (e.g., Windows apps, or some more commercial Linux apps) and, depending on your OS/distro choice, worse stand-by time. You are also likely getting a worse storage capacity and performance, unless you opt for NVMe adapter, in which case you gain storage speed and capacity but lose stability/convenience (suspend and boot issues) and battery run-time. Finally, QC had inconsistent track record - some people (like myself) have been pretty lucky to get nearly perfect units that are still alive and very well despite being abused non-stop for more than one and a half year, but others had problems with things physically breaking. You should also be aware of the design flaws like insufficient charging current to maintain charge at heavy system load or SoC heat soak causing charging to stop altogether, or insufficient power available on USB ports. Or component issues like the barely passable touchpad.

The rest of the issues with the machine mostly come down to the software, and there comes into play your preferred distro and configuration. There I cannot tell you what you should use, I cannot even tell you what's the best thing, I can only tell you what worked for me:
Right now I'm running a (nearly) stock Debian Sid/Unstable with u-boot-rockchip from Debian Experimental, with just the addition of not yet packaged in Debian firmware for WiFi/Bluetooth module and couple hacky script to co-opt acpid into muting speakers when headphones are plugged in and vice versa, as well as marked as immutable tweaked /var/lib/alsa/asound.state to get decent speaker volume and microphone sensitivity that don't get reset every time I suspend or restart. For the rest, other than storage layout and bootloader config, I use exactly the same configuration I use on all my other Debian laptops - I use zram for swap, configured to 4x my RAM size (overkill, but occasionally my RAM is that highly compressible and that can be useful), KDE Plasma as my main desktop, exactly the same application set (other than some x86 apps that are too heavy for PBP even using box86 instead of qemu-user).
Speaking of storage layout - mostly for the sake of simplicity when I was originally figuring out the machine, I just set up one single ext4 partition where I have the whole system and my /home, whereas normally I would have one partition for UEFI, second for LVM where I'd have two LVs, one for /boot and the other for LUKS where I'd have yet another LVM with the actual OS LV, /home LV, and other LVs. On PBP I have single partition starting at 16MiB mark, u-boot-menu that automatically generates /boot/extlinux/extlinux.conf that is read directly by u-boot, I don't use something like flash-kernel to copy DTB files from their original location to /boot since I don't use separate /boot, I don't use UEFI - very simple, borderline primitive setup. I chose not to use NVMe adapter because of boot/sleep/stability issues, and even without those considering charging issues I prefer to limit the power consumption and stick to eMMC.

To summarize - if you're OK (still) having to tinker just to get (unless you keep stock Manjaro) and sometimes keep (seems common with Arch-based distros) your OS of choice running, if you're OK with performance level around something that was top-of-the-line some time back in 2007, you generally don't care about running non-free software, you use your system lightly or in relatively short bursts of heavy for 2007-level performance load, you're mostly keyboard person or prefer external mouse, and you don't worry too much about finding out your $220 toy had a manufacturing defect - go for it, PBP can be lots of fun, especially for its price tag. Otherwise, if having a no-nonsense workhorse is more important to you than:
  • price - go for a new x86 "ultrabook"
  • battery life, great screen, and thing'n'light package - get a used ThinkPad
Hope that helps, ask if you have any more specific questions.
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#5
(07-22-2021, 05:57 PM)moonwalkers Wrote:
(07-22-2021, 10:22 AM)PeytonBirch Wrote: Hello there, im looking for a secondary laptop and found pinebook pro over reddit, i would use it for web browsing (including video), office, some cybersecurity learning stuff if able (nmap or similar tools) and at least some bash scripting and code learning (like ansible, JavaScript etc, might use Atom).
So, as the title says, is pinebook a good option for me?
It depends.

If you're OK using x86_64-based laptop for all of the above and you don't use any proprietary/commercial x86-only apps - PBP will be able to run all of your software, but likely will do it at around the same speed level as the later Core 2 Duo laptops with all 4GiB RAM available (earlier could access only ~3GiB RAM). Other than that...

Compared to x86_64-based laptop of similar specs and performance (something like Core 2 Duo with later chipset) running the same OS (just built for a different ISA - instruction set architecture) - you are most likely getting a better screen, more thin and light package, and better run-time battery life, but you trade it for difficulties running some more exotic apps (e.g., Windows apps, or some more commercial Linux apps) and, depending on your OS/distro choice, worse stand-by time. You are also likely getting a worse storage capacity and performance, unless you opt for NVMe adapter, in which case you gain storage speed and capacity but lose stability/convenience (suspend and boot issues) and battery run-time. Finally, QC had inconsistent track record - some people (like myself) have been pretty lucky to get nearly perfect units that are still alive and very well despite being abused non-stop for more than one and a half year, but others had problems with things physically breaking. You should also be aware of the design flaws like insufficient charging current to maintain charge at heavy system load or SoC heat soak causing charging to stop altogether, or insufficient power available on USB ports. Or component issues like the barely passable touchpad.

The rest of the issues with the machine mostly come down to the software, and there comes into play your preferred distro and configuration. There I cannot tell you what you should use, I cannot even tell you what's the best thing, I can only tell you what worked for me:
Right now I'm running a (nearly) stock Debian Sid/Unstable with u-boot-rockchip from Debian Experimental, with just the addition of not yet packaged in Debian firmware for WiFi/Bluetooth module and couple hacky script to co-opt acpid into muting speakers when headphones are plugged in and vice versa, as well as marked as immutable tweaked /var/lib/alsa/asound.state to get decent speaker volume and microphone sensitivity that don't get reset every time I suspend or restart. For the rest, other than storage layout and bootloader config, I use exactly the same configuration I use on all my other Debian laptops - I use zram for swap, configured to 4x my RAM size (overkill, but occasionally my RAM is that highly compressible and that can be useful), KDE Plasma as my main desktop, exactly the same application set (other than some x86 apps that are too heavy for PBP even using box86 instead of qemu-user).
Speaking of storage layout - mostly for the sake of simplicity when I was originally figuring out the machine, I just set up one single ext4 partition where I have the whole system and my /home, whereas normally I would have one partition for UEFI, second for LVM where I'd have two LVs, one for /boot and the other for LUKS where I'd have yet another LVM with the actual OS LV, /home LV, and other LVs. On PBP I have single partition starting at 16MiB mark, u-boot-menu that automatically generates /boot/extlinux/extlinux.conf that is read directly by u-boot, I don't use something like flash-kernel to copy DTB files from their original location to /boot since I don't use separate /boot, I don't use UEFI - very simple, borderline primitive setup. I chose not to use NVMe adapter because of boot/sleep/stability issues, and even without those considering charging issues I prefer to limit the power consumption and stick to eMMC.

To summarize - if you're OK (still) having to tinker just to get (unless you keep stock Manjaro) and sometimes keep (seems common with Arch-based distros) your OS of choice running, if you're OK with performance level around something that was top-of-the-line some time back in 2007, you generally don't care about running non-free software, you use your system lightly or in relatively short bursts of heavy for 2007-level performance load, you're mostly keyboard person or prefer external mouse, and you don't worry too much about finding out your $220 toy had a manufacturing defect - go for it, PBP can be lots of fun, especially for its price tag. Otherwise, if having a no-nonsense workhorse is more important to you than:
  • price - go for a new x86 "ultrabook"
  • battery life, great screen, and thing'n'light package - get a used ThinkPad
Hope that helps, ask if you have any more specific questions.

As an owner of both PBP and thinkpad x200, I think that you've nailed characteristics of both devices.
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#6
(07-22-2021, 05:57 PM)moonwalkers Wrote: Or component issues like the barely passable touchpad.

I fully agree that the Pinebook Pro is far from being issue-free, but now at least the touchpad is no longer one of those issues. Smile
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#7
(07-28-2021, 11:55 AM)dsimic Wrote: I fully agree that the Pinebook Pro is far from being issue-free, but now at least the touchpad is no longer one of those issues. Smile

[Image: 950babd2ab4ae420a72fae0aaa37df3d8b9535bd...d9e723.jpg]
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#8
Sadly, the picture you posted isn't visible for some reason.
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#9
(07-22-2021, 10:22 AM)PeytonBirch Wrote: Hello there, im looking for a secondary laptop and found pinebook pro over reddit, i would use it for web browsing (including video), office, some cybersecurity learning stuff if able (nmap or similar tools) and at least some bash scripting and code learning (like ansible, JavaScript etc, might use Atom).
So, as the title says, is pinebook a good option for me?
showbox speed test

@PeytonBirch 

Debian has a stable release coming this August 15 which should support the Pinebook Pro.

This should work "Out of the Box"   on the Pinebook Pro...  also Debian has quite a large Repository for additional software choices.

 This just  'may'  be a great time to get a new Pinebook Pro,  
       they have smoothed out some of the early problems, like the keyboard and touchpad firmware.

While this may the 'best yet' Pinebook Pro edition,  There is  ' NO Gaurantee '  you will Like it.

Good Luck
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