Finally got the Pinebook Pro

This post is not a review, but what I think about this $200 laptop and my experience using it. I placed an order for a Pinebook Pro back in March of 2020 and received the laptop sometime in May of 2020. At the time of this writing, I have been using this laptop since then.

Since last year in 2019, I have been searching for a new laptop. I really don’t have an extensive requirements. What I am looking for the physical requirements:

  • Great battery life – 5 hours or more
  • Weight should be less than 3 lbs
  • Between 13″ and 14″ screen size
  • USB C port(s) that support charging and external screen
  • Thin like an Ultrabook if possible
  • 1080p screen resolution
  • Not too expensive. Probably < $1200

I don’t game on PC anymore. I bought a Nintendo Switch for the family and me to enjoy casual gaming. For the system requirements, as long as I can run these apps in more than decent speed, I’ll be happy:

  • Should be able to run Linux OS
  • Remmina for remote access mainly for SSH
  • Firefox with at least 10 tabs open
  • Atom for text editing
  • X2go client

A little back story. I have been using my MacBook Pro 2012 and MacBook Pro Retina 2014 with Xubuntu installed. I think I paid $999 when I purchased the MBP in 2012 and paid $1300 for the MBPr 2014. These two laptops have been rock solid for many years. The issue that I have with the MBP 2012 was the battery, screen resolution which is 720p and weight. I have replaced the battery 4 – 5 times now. About the MBPr 2014, I am getting about ~3.5 hours, but the screen sometimes turns black and there are times that I had to physically reboot the machine. Both laptops are still turning on and run Linux fine. I think it is time to find a replacement and retire these two machines.

What I am trying to do software-wise can be accomplished with the Raspberry Pi 4B, so I don’t need a powerful laptop. I heard about the Pinebook Pro from Linux Unplugged and Destination Linux podcasts last year. These guys really praised the ARM laptop with really great reviews.

When I received the laptop in May of 2020, I was so excited when I received my Pinebook Pro. The laptop came with Manjaro Linux with KDE desktop environment. I am not an Arch user, so the first thing I did, was installed Fedora 31. It worked, but it was very sluggish. Because of the Fedora 31 performance, I ended up re-installing Manjaro 20.04. Since installing the Manjaro Linux and updating it, the performance has increased drastically compared it with the Fedora 31. I have not tried the Debian flavor, but I think I will keep the Manjaro for now.

The battery life is really great. I think I was getting 10 – 11 hours if not watching videos on YouTube or Emby. A screenshot shown in Figure 1 shows at 46% charged and the Time To Empty shows ~5 hours.

Figure 1

I don’t have a scale to weigh this laptop, but it is really light and really thin. The only USB C type C port supports charging and external display. The laptop came with a barrel port for charging, but I don’t think I will be using this. I have been charging my Pinebook Pro using my OnePlus phone charger and type C cable. The body feels very sturdy and it doesn’t feel cheap. The keyboard feels great when typing.

Despite all the pluses, there are several things that I noticed physically. The touchpad size is nice, but the right-click button does not make the click sound which is really annoying. The left-click button does make a click sound just like your typical laptop. There is also a slight lag with the touchpad.

There is a gap between the bezel and the screen as shown in Figure 2. You can see the glue that supposed to keep the screen and the bottom bezel.

bezel and screen gap
Figure 2

I also noticed a dead pixel. The dead pixel is not that obvious but visible when the background is black such as the Terminal as shown in Figure 3. According to Pine64, it is normal to receive a screen with a dead pixel(s).

pbp dead pixel
Figure 3

Did I waste my $200 on this laptop? I think it is a good price and I have the option to switch to a different distro or even Chromebook OS. The community is constantly making improvements. There is definitely community supported. However, I think it has overhyped by the podcast community. I don’t think it can replace my old MBP 2012 or MBPr 2014. I will definitely use this laptop when traveling because it is lightweight and long battery life.

I received my System76 Lemur Pro today. I am not sure if I would post about it. If I would, it’d probably in the same format as this post.

Cheers!

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