The MNT Reform is a laptop designed for folks who want to be able to understand, modify, and truly understand every aspect of their computer. It’s designed to run free and open source software, but the laptop is also open hardware — the design schematics, firmware, and most hardware components are available. And if you want to swap out parts, replace the batteries, or even replace the processor with a different chip in the future, you can modify the designs to make that possible.

The developers and designers behind the MNT Reform laptop have been working on the project for a few years, and now they’ve launched a MNT Reform crowdfunding campaign.

You can make a pledge of $1300 or more for a fully-assembled MNT Reform laptop, or pledge $999 for a kit that comes with case parts, printed circuit boards, and other key components, but which requires some assembly.

Want to 3D Print your own case? There’s a $550 option that includes a motherboard with a system-on-a-module featuring memory, storage, a processor, ports, a power supply, and heat sink.

One thing to keep in mind about the MNT Reform is that it’s first and foremost designed for folks who want a customizable, open source laptop. Equipped with an NXP i.MX8MQ quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, Vivante GC700Lite graphics and 4GB of RAM, this thing isn’t exactly a powerhouse.

But it has things that you won’t get from most modern Intel or AMD-powered laptops. The MNT Reform is powered by 8 x 18650 cell batteries which are user replaceable. The processor and RAM are on a 200-pin SODIMM-sized model that can be swapped out for other components (should they become available in the future, or should you design your own). And the computer comes with a choice of a trackpad or trackball.

For privacy, the computer has no camera or microphone — although you could add your own if you need those features. The optional WiFi module is a removable PCIe card. And while there’s an M.2 slot for PCIe NVMe solid state storage, you can also boot from a removable SD card if you want to keep your data on a card that you can eject from the computer when you’re not using it.

The MNT Reform also has a backlit mechanical keyboard, a 12.5 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS display, a 128 x 32 pixel OLED screen above the keyboard for viewing system status messages, and ports that include:

  • 3 x USB 3.0 Type-A (external)
  • 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A (internal)
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI
  • 3.5mm audio
  • mini PCIe 2.0
  • M.2/NGFFF societ (PCIe 2.0)

The laptop comes with Debian Linux, but it should support alternate operating systems that support NXP’s processors. It supports productivity, development, and creative software including LibreOffice, Inkscape, Blender, Ardour, Emacs, Vim, and Firefox.

Other features include stereo 1W speakers, a passive heatsink (the system is fanless), and drivers that are mostly free of proprietary code — the DDR4 memory controller needs a non-ARM blob to boot, and the HDMI port requires an optional blob to function, but you can disable the port if you don’t want to rely on that).

The MNT Reform has a black aluminum body and the system measures 11.4″ x 8.1″ x 1.6″ and weighs about 4.2 pounds. It has hinges that let you open the display to just over a 180-degree angle.

The developers say you should be able to get about 5 hours of battery life on a charge.

You can find more details at the Crowd Supply crowdfunding campaign, or in the MNT Reform crowdfunding launch announcement.

If everything goes according to plan, the MNT Reform should begin shipping to backers in December. But there’s always a chance that not everything will go according to plan. There’s a global pandemic going on, after all… and the crowdfunding campaign was originally supposed to launch in February. So, as with any crowdfunding campaign, it makes sense to expect delays and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

via @mntmn


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9 replies on “Crowdfunding begins for the MNT Reform modular, open hardware laptop”

  1. Take a look at the price of this machine and think about how much your phone or laptop would cost if it weren’t subsidized by ads, lack of privacy and the leveraging of scale.

    1. The key words are “leveraging of scale”. Whatever cost saving from subsidizing by ads, is just penny pinching. The biggest price of this machine, which can’t be quantified, is that is forces you to run Debian Linux on an ARM platform.

  2. I love the ideology behind this machine, but $1300 for a laptop that only gets five hours of battery life is rough.

    1. A laptop that is less powerful than my 4 year old smartphone and less powerful than the last 2 generations of the raspberry pi. It only runs Debian Linux.

    1. Benchmarks aren’t very abundant yet, but I did some Googling and found an Antutu score of 38,000

      Being a benchmark for Android devices, Antutu isn’t the most helpful benchmark for something like this because its not very clear how optimized their Android build is. However if it was accurate, that would put this somewhere between the Rasp Pi 3, and Rasp Pi 4 (probably closer to the 3).

      This is going to be a very low end SOC.

      1. Seems like kind of a tough sell, then. A Raspberry Pi 3a can do a lot of what this board can do, at less than 1/20 the price. This gives you a few more connectivity options, sure, but it seems like building a kit around the RPi makes more sense.

        1. The M.2 connector is the biggest benefit here. The Rpi3 and Rpi4 face a huge bottleneck when it comes to storage solutions.

          With the Rpi3, you can choose between MicroSD or USB 2.0 for storage. Both of them are insufficient in speed for most general computer use.

          The Rpi4 could replace 50% of personal computers in the world if it had a faster storage interface like SATA or PCIe

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