PineNote is an Open Source Linux E-Reader with Pen Support

PineNote

PINE Microsystems has announced the PineNote, an e-ink tablet powered by the same SoC as found in the Quartz64 single-board computer.

Hong Kong-based electronics manufacturer Pine64 has been selling single-board computers for years, but it might be best known for the PinePhone and PineTime, some of the best ARM-powered Linux devices available right now. Now the company is branching out into e-readers, with the announcement of the PineNote – an e-ink Linux tablet with pen support and a price tag of $399.

Big brands heavily subsidize their e-readers via book sales and even if we sold an open e-reader at cost (or a loss), we still couldn’t possibly match popular devices’ price tag. Thankfully, the technology landscape and what is achievable using e-ink has significantly changed since 2017. Since the announcement of Rockchip’s RK3566 we knew our opportunity to create an open e-ink device had arrived. Early this year we made the decision to create the PineNote.

PineNote

Anyone who wishes e-readers used larger displays will be pleased to hear the PineNote uses a 10.3-inch 1404×1872 (227 DPI) E-ink panel with a 3:4 aspect ratio. It is capable of showing 16 levels of grayscale, but Pine64 also added a capacitive glass layer and a Wacom electromagnetic resonance layer (EMR) on top of it for pen input.

The screen itself is touch-sensitive and supports operation with a stylus, so the Pine64 PineNote can be used for both reading and drawing.

The PineNote is powered by the Rockchip RK3566 ARM chipset. The CPU is clocked at 1.8 GHz, and uses the full complement of eMMC, plus 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. Wireless connectivity is taken care of by 5Ghz AC Wi-Fi. The PineNote is also fitted with two microphones and two speakers, but no webcam. Charging the onboard 4000mAH LiPo battery is via USB-C.

PineNote with a stylus and case

The manufacturer assures that it will be the most powerful e-reader available on the market.

As I see it, the PineNote will eventually not only make for a great device to read books, comic books, sketching, taking notes and productivity in LibreOffice, but also for browsing the web or listening to internet radio or podcasts.

Lukasz Erecinski, Pine64 community manager

Speaking of software, PINE64 expects that the PineNote will ship with a custom Linux kernel out of the box, but work is underway to port the display driver to mainline Linux. Initial batches will probably ship with Manjaro and will use either the KDE version of the Plasma desktop or Plasma Mobile for the user interface.

The internal body and framework of the E-ink tablet from Pine64 is made of a strong magnesium alloy while the external back is made of plastic that is designed to be “grippy”. The entire assembly comes in at just over 7mm thick, which is approx. 1mm thinner than the Kindle Oasis 3, if you ever held one of those.

PINE64 plans to make the PineNote available to early adopters later this year for $399, but  comes with a stylus and case.

You can find more details in the PINE64 August 2021 update blog post.

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