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RK3566-based PineNote E-Ink tablet ships at $399

Jan 18, 2022 — by Eric Brown 481 views

Pine64 launched a $399 “PineNote” tablet with 10.1-inch, E-Ink touchscreen, 4GB LPDDR4, and 128GB eMMC that runs Linux on a Rockchip RK3566. The company also recently launched the $399 PinePhone Pro and a PinePhone Keyboard and a PineDIO USB LoRa adapter.

Pine64 announced its PineNote E-ink reader in August and launched its first developer version of its second-gen PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition smartphone in October. The company has now launched the PineNote for developers only, and recently launched a less bleeding-edge version of PinePhone Pro, which is available for the same $399 price with shipments due in late February (see farther below).

Earlier in the month, Pine64 launched its $50 PinePhone Keyboard case, which supports both the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro. There is also a new, $15 PineDio USB LoRa Adapter that works with any USB-connected device. A $20 case model packages the adapter for use with the PinePhone or PinePhone Pro (see farther below).



PineNote (left) and PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition
(click images to enlarge)

In its January update, Pine64 also discussed the recently revealed Rockchip RK3588. However, it offered no timetable for its first products based on the octa-core -A76/-A55 SoC, which includes a 6-TOPS NPU. Pine64 will receive samples in mid-to-late summer, “and rest assured no one else will have them before us,” says Pine64. Yet, a production version of an RK3588 board from Pine64 is unlikely until 2023.

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The company projects that due to the complexity of the RK3588, complete mainline Linux support and working GPU drivers for the powerful new Mali G610MC4 GPU will not be available until the summer of 2023. Meanwhile, Radxa is already selling coupons to get in line to pre-order an RK3588-based Rock 5 SBC, with pre-orders slated for Q2 2022.

 
PineNote

We saw no spec changes on the PineNote since the August announcement. This is actually a second, broader developer launch of the PineNote, which became available to a select few of developers in October when the PinePhone Pro announced its developer launch.

This wider, developer launch is a few weeks late, although in these days of rampant chip shortages, that’s not too shabby. Mainline Linux support and software development is proceeding faster than anticipated thanks to piggybacking on the work done for Pine64’s similarly Rockchip RK3566 based Quartz64 SBCs.

The open-spec tablet is probably the most powerful E-Ink tablet around. Its 1.8GHz, quad -A55 RK3566 SoC is faster than the quad -A53 Allwinner A64 SoC that powered the earlier PineTab tablet. The RK3566 also provides superior Mali-G52 EE graphics and a 0.8-TOPS NPU.

The PineNote’s $399 price includes 4GB LPDDR4 and 128GB eMMC. There is a 10.1-inch, 1404 x 1872 (227 DPI) E-Ink touchscreen with 16 grayscale levels, 60Hz refresh, and a 3:4 aspect ratio. There is a capacitive glass layer for finger input plus a Wacom electromagnetic resonance layer (EMR) pen with an LED, a previous/next page button, and an eraser button.

The tablet ships with 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, 4x mics, 2x speakers, and a USB 2.0 Type-C OTG port that supports charging for the 4000 mAh battery. There is also a gyro for portrait/landscape orientation and a magnetic cover that works with a hall sensor to put the device to sleep.

There is no default OS or UI for the PineNote, which ships only with the bootloader installed. The display driver is not yet complete, and users will need to “install, and likely also build from scratch, your own Linux system,” warns Pine64. An Android factory test image is also available. So far, developers have managed to install Alpine and Debian in various configurations, “with a NixOS port in progress, and more distributions are on the way.”

 
PinePhone Pro

The broader new launch of the PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition is still aimed at developers. Remaining issues include the inability to wake from suspension, poor battery level reporting, nonfunctional cameras, and poor audio call quality. On the other hand, the phone now ships with pre-beta build of Manjaro Linux with Plasma Mobile, as well as a user guide. LuneOS and Gentoo have been ported, and ports of openSUSE and Fedora are in the works.

The hardware has not changed since October. As with the PineNote, the $399 price includes 4GB LPDDR4 and 128GB eMMC. The open-spec phone features a hexa-core -A72 and -A53 RK3399S clocked down to 1.5GHz.

Like the original PinePhone, the Pro has a 6-inch, in-cell IPS capacitive screen with 430 x 720 resolution. The rear- and front-facing cameras have jumped from 5- and 2-megapixels to 13MP (Sony IMX258) and 5MP (OmniVision OV5640).

Pine64 has retained the Quectel EG-25G 4G LTE module, once again with a micro-SIM slot, support for worldwide bands, and a GNSS chips with GPS, GPS-A, and GLONASS. The WiFi/Bluetooth module has advanced to 802.11ac and BT 4.1.

Continuing features include an audio I/O jack with UART support and a USB 3.0 Type-C port that supports DisplayPort functionality along with USB host and 5V/3A input. A microSD slot is optional. Once again, you get privacy switches for the LTE/GPS, WiFi/BT, mic, and camera functions. The Pro appears to have the same sensor lineup: accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, ambient light, and compass. The Pro, weighs a bit more than the original at 215 grams and is about 2mm thicker. It has a 3000mAh battery.

 
PinePhone Keyboard and PineDIO LoRa adapter

Earlier this month the PinePhone Keyboard, which doubles as a protective, fold-down case, went on sale for $50, a discount from the eventual $70 retail price. Although the new PinePhone Keyboard is designed to work with both the PinePhone and the PinePhone Pro, more software work needs to be done before the Pro is supported.



PinePhone Keyboard open (left) and shut
(click images to enlarge)

The programmable, 54-key QWERTY keyboard has its own 6000 mAh battery with USB Type-C for charging. An internal USB header will enable additional hacking. When closed, the keyboard forms a case for the phone that measures 161 x 95 x 21.5mm.

Pine64 also announced the launch of a PineDio USB LoRa Adapter. The $15 USB dongle brings LoRa connectivity to any computer or SBC equipped with a USB port. The device is based on the Semtech SX1262 LoRa module and the CH341 USB bus converter chip.



PineDIO LoRa adapter in PinePhone case (left) and USB versions
(click image to enlarge)

A version designed for the PinePhone and PinePhone Pro called the PineDio LoRa Add-on Case is available for $20. The case model embeds the LoRa radio and antenna in a protective case for the phone. The device connects to the PinePhone using pogo pins on the back of the phone.

The previously revealed PineDio LoRa gateway is still under development. Based on a Pine64 A64-LTS SBC, the gateway has an adapter HAT to hold a RAK2287 module. A developer overview from July may be found at Ralimtek.com

 
Further information

The PineNote is available to developers for $399 at the Pine64 store. More information may be found on this PineNote product page. It appears to be available now in limited quantities, but no coupons are necessary.

The PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition, which also targets developers, is available for pre-order for $399 with shipments due in late February.

The PinePhone Keyboard is available for $50.

The PineDio USB LoRa Adapter and PineDio LoRa Add-on Case are supposed to be available for $15 and $20, respectively, although we did not find the shopping pages.

More information may be found in Pine64’s January update, which also has some news on the PineTime watch and other products.
 

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