The MNT Pocket Reform is a tiny, Linux-friendly laptop computer with a 7 inch display, a modular design that makes it repairable and upgradeable and an open source design that also makes it customizable.
First announced last year, the Pocket Reform is now up for pre-order for $899 and up through a crowdfunding campaign at Crowd Supply. It’s expected to begin shipping to backers in October.
The computer has a 7 inch, 1920 x 1200 pixel LCD display, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of eMMC storage plus a microSD card reader and an M.2 2280 slot for an optional PCIe NVMe SSD.
But those are the sort of specs you’d find in any mini-laptop. Here are a few of the things that make the Pocket Reform unusual.
- The keyboard features an ortholinear design (the keys aren’t staggered, but instead arranged in a grid), mechanical key switches and RGB backlighting.
- There’s a 15mm optical trackball sandwiched between four buttons rather than a touchpad.
- The KiCAD project files for the mainboard, keyboard, and other components are available for anyone who wants to build their own or modify the designs.
- The processor and memory are on a removable module.
The modular design makes it easy to replace a broken module or upgrade to a higher-performance module in the future (assuming MNT follows through with plans to release new modules in the future, but this is something the company has done before for its 12.5 inch MNT Reform laptop).
At launch, there’s only one module available: it features an NXP i.MX8M Plus quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor with Vivant GC7000UL graphics and 8GB of DDR4 memory. But MNT hopes to offer support for other modules in the future, possibly including:
- Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 (with a Broadcomm BCM2711 processor)
- Pine64 SoQuartz (with a Rockchip RK3566 processor)
- NXP Layerscape LS1028A
- AMD/Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA
And since the design is completely open source, folks with the know-how can also design their own custom processor modules to work with the Pocket Reform.
The mini-laptop has an aluminum body and the lid is attached to a hinge that bends up to a 180 degree angle.
The MNT Pocket Reform keyboard is designed for touch-typing and features 60 evenly-space, uniformly-sized keys with injection-molded keycaps and a choice of Kailh Choch White or Choc Pro Red switches. The only keyboard layout available so far is QWERTY-US, but there’s support for using characters from other languages and regions using a Hyper key, and a custom engraving option will be available after crowdfunding for folks who want to change the keyboard layout.
The keyboard supports programmable per-key RGB backlighting effects which are handled by a Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller.
- 1 x micro HDMI
- 2 x USB 3.0 Type-C (including one with USB Power Delivery for charging)
- 1 x GbE Ethernet (ix industrial with support for an optional RJ45 adapter)
- 1 x microSD card reader
The computer has a mono speaker, but no headphone jack. You’ll need to use a USB-C port of Bluetooth for headphones.
Wireless capabilities include a Qualcomm QCA93777-3 chipset with support for WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 4.0 and support for an optional cellular modem thanks to an M.2 slot.
The Pocket Reform has an 8,000 mAh battery and gets around 4 hours of battery life. That’s not stellar for an $899 laptop, but you could always bring your own USB power bank if you need additional run time. That will make what’s already a kind of chunky little laptop a bit heavier though.
MNT says the Pocket Reform measures 200 x 126 x 45mm (7.9″ x 5″ x 1.8″) and weighs 1.1kg (about 2.4 pounds). That makes it thicker than most full-sized laptops and heavier than some as well. But it’s still a lot more portable than the original MNT Reform laptop, which weighs in at 4.2 pounds. And it’s kind of missing the point to compare either of these devices to mainstream laptops.
What you’re looking at here isn’t meant to be a mainstream device. It’s a purpose-built, custom-designed portable computer with a modular, repairable, upgradeable design and open source hardware and software (the default operating system is based on Debian GNU/Linux with either the GNOME 4 or Sway desktop environment, but there’s nothing stopping users from porting other software to run on the device).
But if you are comparing the Pocket Reform to mainstream laptops, it’s hard to get around the fact that this little PC doesn’t have a great price-to-performance ratio. The i.MX8M Plus processor is a few years old and not exactly a speed demon, although it was likely chosen because NXP provides reasonably good documentation and MNT already uses the chip for its 12.5 inch laptop.
Prices during crowdfunding start at $899 for a black Pocket Reform or $969 for a model with a purple case. You can add another $400 to the price for a “Hyper” model which also includes a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD, a printed and signed handbook, and a poster. It’d probably be cheaper to supply your own SSD, so that upcharge is most likely for folks who want to pay to support the folks who designed, tested, and are building this thing.
Optional accessories include a 5G antenna, RJ45 adapter cable, and USB-C wall charger.
You can find more details or back the campaign at the Pocket Reform page at Crowd Supply.
nice keyboard, but to expensive to fat and not decrease cpu/memory/internet speed
Aaaannndd their campaign’s already 101% funded!
When are these startups going to learn that you need to have a keyboard curved upwards, not lying flat? Typing that way is hard on the wrists, it’s unnatural.
good point, its probably got to be boxy for extra space to fit upgrades, idk
I am no strange to niche devices, my collection includes an OQO, Viliv N5, 2x Open Pandora’s, and I was a preorderer for the Dragonbox Pyra for 10 years and recently canceled and got a refund, because it has been 10 years.
This is right up my alley, but the cost is just too much
Ah I saw Brad’s comment below. I also have a Cosmo Communicator (terrible device with half baked, abandoned software), an fxtec Pro1, and a preorder of the fxtec pro1x which is looking more and more like an unusable hardware disaster.
Unless I’ve misunderstood something, it comes with a DAC but a mono speaker…why not stereo?
I like everything about this concept except the price! I don’t think my eyes would enjoy Linux on a 7 inch 1920×1200 display, but it looks like a well thought out piece of hardware that would be fun to tinker with. I hope they find a market for it.
This is likely DOA.
In what sense? I actually have pretty high confidence that they’ll deliver a working product, based on their history with the original MNT Reform laptop.
I also have pretty high confidence that it’s very much a niche device aimed at open hardware/free and open source software enthusiasts.
I’d put my money on the PotatoP!
The crowdfunding campaign’s pricing comparison is a little shady though.
They seem to have picked the retail price for the PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition + keyboard rather than the Community price, which is $200 lower. You can currently pick up a GPD Pocket 3 for around $685. And the Cosmo Communicator originally had a retail price of $799, but is now availabl for $744.
So even when you compare the MNT Pocket Reform with other similarly-sized mini-laptops or handhelds that can run Linux, it’s a bit on the pricey side. But it is also unique in its level of modularity, so it makes more sense to focus on that than the pricing.
the price for the Cosmo Communicator is more than $100 higher than the original retail price for that model.
It’s not just a little shady, since they’re deliberately comparing to things that are more expensive so they don’t look as crazy. They picked the highest price for the PinePhone Pro despite the fact that their processor is similar to the base PinePhone, which is quite a lot cheaper. The rest of their hardware is better and I’d rather have this (if the prices were equal), but they’re still trying to make their difference look small. Similarly when they compare to X86 mini-laptops, they could have chosen any of the cheap models that have similar or better specs to the thing they’re putting out, but they jumped for one of the expensive choices instead, a model that has a lot of capabilities that their product doesn’t. Not only did they overstate the prices, but they had to cherry-pick comparisons to avoid looking less unrealistic.
As for GPD, the price in their table seems to be for i7-1195 model, while other specs are specified for N6000 model.