Pine64, the company behind the Pinebook Pro and the PinePhone, have announced a new device: an e-ink tablet.
The developer-focused hardware company say the upcoming PineNote “is one of, if not the, most powerful e-ink device available on the market”. It could serve as an open-source alternative to pricier e-ink tablets like the Remarkable 2 and the Onyx BOOX.
The PineNote has a 10.1-inch e-ink panel with
a 60Hz refresh rate‡ a resolution of 1404×1872, and the ability to display 16 levels of greyscale. The e-ink panel is covered by scratch resistant and glare reducing hardened glass.
Both regular touch and EMR pen input are supported by the capacity glass layer. Pine64 will sell an EMR stylus designed for the device, though any pen that supports Wacom’s EMR standard and is supported by the Linux kernel could be compatible (they expect a list of compatible devices to appear online closer to the PineNote’s ‘regular’ release).
The device also features a front-light. This should make reading/writing in dim-lit places more bearable. It also has an LED power on/off indicator, a button for previous/next page, and an eraser button.
What’s inside? PineNote is powered by a quad-core RK3566 A55 SoC, has 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, and 128GB eMMC flash storage. It comes equipped with two microphones and two speakers, a USB Type-C port, and 5GHz AC Wi-Fi.
To function as a viable note taking device the PineNote developer community will need to ensure writing latency is as low as possible. The decision to use a glass panel may mean the device doesn’t quite feel as close to ‘real paper’ as on similar devices — but this one is considerably cheaper.
Naturally the PineNote will run Linux — mainline Linux, no less. The exact user experience owners can expect? That’s still up in the air. One hope is that the KDE Plasma desktop (or its mobile kin, as used in the PinePhone retail units) can be adapted to function on the device.
Pine64 stress that the announcement is “just the beginning of our journey with e-ink technology, and it will take a long time and much effort to make the PineNote end-user worthy”. Eventually they hope the device can function as a Linux-powered e-book reader, comic book reader, sketch pad, notepad, and even a device for browsing the web or doing development.
“Don’t think of it as an e-ink notepad or an e-reader,” they say. “It is much more than that. I am looking forward to seeing what people will use it for outside of its core intended purpose.”
The PineNote will be available to buy later this year priced $399 as part of an early adopters batch bundled with a magnetic cover and EMR pen (when the PineNote goes on general sale both the cover and the pen will be sold separately).
However, we shouldn’t get carried away. As with many Pine64 products the hardware announcement is simply the starting point. It’s now up to the Pine64 developer community to create compelling software experiences to enhance the hardware and make the device usable for end-users.
But if any community is up to the challenge (with a proven track record to boot) it’s the Pine one!
‡Pine64 have since stated the 60Hz refresh rate claim was a mistake and they ‘apologize for any misunderstanding’.