PineTab 2 is another attempt at a Linux-based tablet without the 2020 supply crunch

Circuit board for the PineTab 2 prototype
Enlarge / PCB for the prototype PineTab 2, a successor to a tablet that entered production at the worst possible time in 2020.

Pine64

Pine64, maker of ARM-based tinker-friendly devices, makes the PineTab 2, a sequel to its Linux-based tablet that was mostly swallowed up by the pandemic and its dire global production shortages.

The PineTab 2, as described in Pine64’s “December Update”, is based on RockChip’s RK3566. Pine64 based its Quartz64 single-board system on the System-on-a-Chip (SoC) and has raved about it in several blog posts. It’s “a dream-of-a-SoC,” writes Community Director Lukasz Erecinski, a “modern mid-range Cortex-A55 quad-core processor that integrates a Mali-G52 MP2 GPU. And it should be ideal for devices with limited space: It runs cool, has a variety of I/O options, offers solid value for money, and “is really future-proof.” While Linux support was scarce early on, it’s “booming.” development for RK3566, and it is now a prime candidate for mobile operating systems, writes Erecinski.

Inside a PineTab 2 prototype, with a battery and ports far from hidden for a possible replacement.
Enlarge / Inside a PineTab 2 prototype, with a battery and ports far from hidden for a possible replacement.

The PineTab 2 is a complete redesign, claims Erecinski. It has a metal body that is “very sturdy while also being easy to disassemble for upgrades, maintenance, and repairs.” The tablet comes apart with snap tabs, and Pine64 offers replacement parts. The interior is also modular, with the eMMC storage, camera, daughterboard, battery and keyboard connector all being removable “in less than 5 minutes”. The 10.1-inch IPS display with “modern and fairly thin bezels” should also be interchangeable, albeit with more effort.

Pine64’s December Update video – PineTab 2 details start at 7:11.

There are two USB-C ports on this easy-open case, one for USB 3.0 I/O and one for charging (or USB 2.0, if you prefer). There’s a dedicated micro-HDMI port and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera (not the kind of all-in-one media production machine Apple advertises, this tablet) , a microSD slot and a headphone jack. According to Pine64, while a PCIe system is exposed in the PineTab, most NVMe SSDs will not fit. However, all of this is subject to change prior to final production.

As with the original PineTab, this model comes with a removable backlit keyboard cover that comes standard. That makes supporting a desktop operating system for the device far more viable, Erecinski writes. The firmware chipset is the same as in the PineBook Pro, which should help with that. According to Pine64, no standard operating system has been set yet.

The tablet should come with two RAM/storage variants, 4GB/64GB and 8GB/128GB. It’s set to ship “sometime after the Chinese New Year” (January 22 to February 5), although there’s no firm date. No price was announced, but “it will be affordable whichever version you choose.”

The original PineTab eventually shipped, but Erecinski describes it as “a victim of COVID and its aftermath” and its “death” as a decision to focus on the PinePhone. Pine64 later repeated the phone to deliver the PinePhone Pro. As with the PineBook and PinePhone, context is key: this is a device intended for tinkering, experimentation, or use as a truly low-power replacement/alternative device, not a daily driver or workhorse for most people. Buyers should keep an eye out early next year, however.

Offer image by Pine64

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