Pinebook Pro – Hackable ARM64 Linux Laptop for $200

The Pinebook, released in 2017, was–and still is–an exciting product. The company responsible, PINE64, created a low-powered, low cost ($99) System on a Chip (SOC) laptop. But while the Pinebook is fantastic for tinkering and basic Internet usage, it was never intended to be a day-to-day laptop replacement1. Rather, it provides tinkerers a way to learn Linux and ARM without the need of a separate single board computer (SBC), keyboard, mouse and screen.

PINE64 has firmly established itself as one of the most highly-respected SBC manufacturers in the world, and the Pinebook proves that they refuse to be put in a box. Led by their founder TL Lim, PINE64 are a creative and innovative company, with a solid grasp on the needs of not only the makers and tinkerers, but also of the free and open source software fanatics, as well as the hardware hackers. All this while demonstrating a clear understanding of what the related community mentality is all about. Put all these traits together, combined with the talents of the wonderful people who comprise the PINE64 team, and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with, with a company whose products appeal to a very wide range of users.

Now, it’s 2019 and the Pinebook is evolving.

Today, PINE64 is unveiling the new Pinebook Pro, which is going to change the exciting world of SOC laptops.

With a target price of just $199 USD, the expectations surrounding the Pinebook Pro are quite different than those of the original Pinebook. I had the privilege of chatting with Lukasz Erecinski from PINE64 and he believes the 64-bit ARM Pinebook Pro could be used as your daily laptop, offering a compelling alternative to a mid-range Chromebook with some impressive specs for the price.

During our discussion, Erecinski says, “It is much more powerful than the Pinebook, it has much more memory; 4 gigs of RAM, and we expect that this could really be a daily driver.”

This changes everything. Erecinski says that there are “so many people out there who take a Chromebook and transform it into a Linux laptop. We looked at that market and we thought, what about a proper laptop? A real laptop replacement based on ARM64 architecture that is built from the ground up with free and open source software in mind, having features which you rarely find on high-end or mid-range Chromebooks such as a lot of internal storage, a 1080p IPS panel, as well as high-quality materials for the build.” He goes on to explain, “We’re using aluminium alloy for the Pinebook Pro.”

A First Look at the Pinebook Pro

Erecinski says of the Pinebook Pro, “in a sense, it is a part of the RockPro64 lineage: it features the same SOC, same memory, and we expect it to be completely compatible with the single board computer that we had rolled out last year.”

From the Pinebook Pro to the Open Source IP Camera “CUBE”, a retro gaming case, and an updated Rock64 and H64 – PINE64 has more to tell you about… Watch the full interview with Lukasz Erecinski on my YouTube channel:

The Pinebook Pro has a 14″ IPS LCD screen at full 1080p resolution, plus support for digital video output via USB-C. By default, the Pinebook Pro comes with 64 GB of eMMC storage, has a 10,000 mAh battery, and like we’ve come to expect from PINE64, the Pinebook Pro is built to be hackable.

The folks at PINE64 are freaking awesome and know how to show their community love. As a way to thank their community, they’re doing something more: If you are a registered user in the PINE64 forum, PINE64 will upgrade the eMMC in your Pinebook Pro to a whopping 128 GB eMMC, no extra charge!

The original 11.6″ Pinebook (2017)

The original Pinebook–as awesome as it is in its own right–feels cheap. It’s plastic. It’s white. It looks and feels a bit like a toy. The Pinebook Pro however feels solid with its magnesium alloy (aluminium) body, which also has a much higher-end look to it with an attractive matte black finish. It’s super thin, which really gives it that look of a much higher-priced laptop.

As was the case with the original Pinebook, the Pinebook Pro features minimal branding. Take that as you will, but I think it gives the Pinebook Pro a very refined look. I can’t stand the apple on the back of a Macbook, and I loathe the bevelled Dell logo on the back of my i7, so I greatly respect this choice by PINE64 to keep the chassis clean, allowing me to either go for that sleek, professional look, or plaster it in stickers to my heart’s content.

The Pinebook Pro has enough power to handle HD video beautifully, and to top off the viewing experience, it has built-in Bluetooth 4.2 to connect your headphones or other Bluetooth device.

Digging deeper into the system, like the RockPro64, we’ve got a Rockchip RK3399 Hexacore SOC, which contains the Dual Cortex-A72 + Quad Cortex-A53 64-bit CPU. The Pinebook Pro has 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM.

The Pinebook Pro also features a PCIe x4 slot which will allow the addition of a m.2 NVMe SSD.

We also find a MicroSD card slot, audio output, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, 802.11ac WiFi, a 2 MP forward-facing webcam plus built in speakers and a microphone in the Pinebook Pro.

PINE64 have included a barrel jack for charging, which I personally prefer. However, they’ve again heard the cry of the community and made it so you can also charge the Pinebook Pro via the USB-C port.

According to Erecinski, the original Pinebook is not going anywhere. He also shares that PINE64 will be offering an optional upgrade kit for users to be able to upgrade their standard Pinebook to a more Pro-like model.

PINE64 is working on ways to bring down the cost of shipping for the Pinebook Pro, and in the process they hope those improvements will trickle down to the regular Pinebook line as well.

Erecinski says the target release for the Pinebook Pro is the second half of 2019. “The first prototype is here. We’ve got three prototypes. They will go to three key projects that we’re working with.” That is to say, developers of the coming operating systems for the Pinebook Pro. “We want to have at least two or three operating systems in place for when it rolls out,” says Erecinski. “We’re also going to have a scheme where other developers will get their units a bit earlier, ahead of users so they can port their OS to the Pinebook Pro as well.”

Pinebook Pro System Specifications

  • 14″ 1080p IPS LCD panel
  • 64GB of eMMC storage
  • Black magnesium alloy body
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Digital video output via USB-C
  • Audio aux out / UART
  • USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports
  • 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM
  • Charging via barrel port or USB-C
  • Rockchip RK3399 Hexacore SOC
  • 2mpx front-facing camera
  • Microphone
  • Speakers
  • Slim and slick design with minimal branding
  • PCIe x4 that can take a m.2 NVMe SSD
  • Price: aiming at $199

The Echo Dot 3 after a few weeks usage.

Surely it comes as no surprise after reading my previous article about the Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot 3, that the Google Home Mini is sitting, unplugged, on a table in my studio. Yet the Amazon Echo Dot 3 sits on a milk can in my kitchen at home, getting daily use.

After serveral weeks of day-to-day interaction with Alexa, here is an update on how I feel about it.

Christmas Music Was Awesome

This past Christmas season, our house was filled with all kinds of Christmas music. When one type got tired, we’d just say “Alexa, play Christmas music from the 1940s” and were surprised it would oblige perfectly. Even my mother in law, when visiting for Christmas dinner, was dancing with my niece in the kitchen to some crooner Christmas music thanks to Alexa.

I Plugged The Power Bar Into The Christmas Tree

It was kind of neat to be able to say “Alexa, turn on the Christmas tree.” It only took 5 minutes to configure, and worked perfectly.

We Got Tired of Saying “Alexa” – So We Changed Its Name

Our Amazon Echo Dot 3 now responds to the name “Computer”. It felt right, being a Trekkie family. “Computer – what’s the weather forecast?” and “Computer – what’s the date, the date?!” are commonly heard in our home now. It makes the Echo Dot 3 more fun. I didn’t have to open the app or figure it out: I just said “Alexa, change your name to Computer” and it responded with “Okay, you can call me Computer on this device in a few seconds.”

I tried doing the same on the Google Home Mini, and it made some joke about the tides, positioning of the moon, being February 29th, and so-on. It was a long winded way of the Google Home Mini saying “I can’t change my name” and rather than being funny, it just reiterated the feeling that Amazon’s product is far superior. When they finally add the feature to change the name of the Google Home Mini, I’m going to change it to Alexa just to be ironic.

Note: The Amazon Echo Dot 3 does not allow you to change the name to anything you like. These are the options they provide: Alexa, Amazon, Echo, Computer.

I Made Alexa’s Voice British

Alexa’s voice sounds kinda cliche and overdone. I wanted it to sound more sophisticated. So I changed the region code to the UK within the app. Immediately, it started speaking with a nice British accent, and the jokes it told were obviously more UK-centric humor. I liked that. The one caveat was that unfortunately, now it no longer gave accurate responses to local requests. “What time does Starbucks open” would give me a result for thousands of miles away.

The novelty wore off and functionality overruled the pleasantry of the British accent, so the region was reset to Canadian English. I wish you could change the accent without changing the region.

SHOCK OF SHOCKS – The Echo Dot 3 Connects to ANY Bluetooth Speaker

At one point, I was wanting the music to fill the house more than the little (yet impressive) speaker could do. I opened the Device Settings for the Echo Dot device in my Alexa app, and there is an option for “Bluetooth Devices”. Clicking that I was easily able to pair a new device. My TV’s soundbar (which I had switched to Bluetooth Pairing mode) was shown, and I was able to easily connect it. Now, any time I want “bigger” sound, I just say “Computer, connect to my speaker”.

I have since also connected a second Bluetooth speaker; my little portable one. Now I can connect to that and move the sound from Alexa to any room in the house, wirelessly and easily.

Alexa Plays My Music Library – And It’s SO Easy

Having done a quick search for how to add my own music to Alexa, as I didn’t want to have to pay $8 per month to have access to Amazon Music Premium, I was disappointed at first to see that while the Google Home Mini apparently supports uploading your own music and playing it back on your device, Alexa does not. Amazon did have that service, but they canceled it last year.

But uploading my music redundantly to a server in the cloud is just that: redundant. I already have a media server: Plex Media Server. It already has all my music on it, and whenever I rip new CDs (like all the ones we bought for Christmas gifts) they automatically go into the Plex media library. It’s organized the way I want it, and the files are tagged the way we like. We have playlists, categories, and so-on. So why re-create that on an online service anyways?

I began to think Google’s way of doing it is stupid.

I changed my search query to plex media server alexa, and low and behold, a skill!

I opened my Alexa app on my phone, jumped over to skills, and added it promptly! During that process it asked for my Plex credentials to connect Alexa to my account. That was it! Too easy.

“Computer, open Plex” was then greeted with a disappointing response. Something about my server ‘Unraid’ could not be accessed because I need to enable remote access. Okay, it knows the name of my server – so that means something is working. I brought up Plex in my web browser and went to Settings -> Server -> Remote Access, and clicked “Enable Remote Access.” Could it be that simple?

“Computer, open Plex.” was now greeted with “What would you like to do? You can say things like ‘suggest something to watch’ or ‘play some music’.”

I bought my wife a 6-CD set called Classical 101, which I ripped last week, so it should be on plex. “Computer – ask Plex to play the album Classical 101” and sure enough, we’re now enjoying the set playing from the Echo Dot 3 in the kitchen!

There is a wonderful cheat-sheet of Plex commands for Alexa provided at

My Current View

It’s been less than a month since I tested both the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot 3. I am really impressed with all I’m able to do with the Echo Dot, and I actually find I’m using it for day-to-day tasks more and more. When I cook dinner, it is so great to be able to say “Computer, remind me to flip the chicken in 20 minutes”. I’ll look at that, and other features like the impressive shopping list functionality in my next post.

The Amazon Echo Dot 3 has me feeling really happy with the purchase. On the contrary, the Google Home Mini, I’ll probably use pretty much only for development, just so I can write skills to share with our community. But I don’t like it, having used both. I’ve actually contemplated buying another Echo Dot 3 for the studio, and maybe even one for work.

33 Years Later… Still Hidden Secrets Discovered in NES “The Legend Of Zelda”

SKELUX has discovered and posted a video unveiling Minus Worlds found in The Legend of Zelda, which was released on Famicom in 1986 and Nintendo Entertainment System the following year.

Hard to believe that after 33 years there are still hidden secrets in this classic title, but it appears to be true! Judge for yourself – here is the video.