Pine64 announces $399 e-reader with Linux and pen support

Pine64 announces $399 e-reader with Linux and pen support

Hong Kong-based Pine64 has been selling single-board computers for years, but it might be best known for the PinePhone and PineBook Pro, 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.

“You’ve been asking us to create an e-ink device for years, and indeed we actually looked to make one as early as 2017,” the company wrote in a blog post. “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 internals

PineNote engineering prototype

The PineNote is intended to be one of the best e-ink devices available, with an ARM-based quad-core Rockchip RK3566 chipset, 4GB RAM, 128GB of eMMC flash storage, two microphones, two speakers, a USB Type-C port for charging and data, and 2.4/5GHz AC Wi-Fi. The inner frame is being built with a magnesium alloy, plus a “grippy” plastic on the back. Pine64 says the device will be just over 7mm in depth, beating out the 8.4mm Kindle Oasis 3 and 8.6mm Nook GlowLight Plus.

The e-ink panel measures 10.1 inches across, with an aspect ratio of 3:4 and a resolution of 1404×1872 (227 DPI). Pine64 says it can display 16 levels of grayscale at a refresh rate of 60Hz, and there will be a frontlight with adjustable colors (from cool white to warm amber). The higher refresh rate should make it a smoother experience than just about every other e-ink reader, but that also depends on software optimization.

PineNote with magnetic cover and EMR pen

PineNote with magnetic cover and EMR pen

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. The interface will either be KDE Plasma or Plasma Mobile. That should allow it to run any software compiled for ARM Linux, and perhaps Android applications through Anbox or WayDroid.

Pine64 will also sell EMR pens and magnetic covers for the PineNote, but the e-reader will support any Wacom EMR pen. The price tag is set for $399, and Pine64 hopes to start shipping it to early adopters “later this year” for software development.

About author

Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's also the host of the Tech Tales podcast, which explores the history of the technology industry. Follow him on Twitter at @corbindavenport.