The MNT Reform line of laptops are modular machines designed around open hardware principles. Not only do they run open source software, but the hardware designs are all available for anyone that wants to 3D print their own case, redesign the printed circuit board, or make any other changes.
But the models the company has launched so far aren’t exactly the thinnest or fastest mobile computers around. So the team has begun working on a new model currently known as the MNT Reform Next. It’s a slimmer computer with a faster ARM-based processor and support for up to 32GB of RAM, among other things.
MNT Reform founder Lukas Hartmann says that MNT is still in the early stages of designing the new laptop, but the idea is to basically combine some of the features of the original MNT Reform and the recently introduced MNT Pocket Reform.
The new laptop will be “thinner and powered by a next-gen processor such as RK3588,” which is a Rockchip processor that features four ARM Cortex-A76 CPU cores, four ARM Cortex-A55 cores, Mali-G610 MC4 graphics and a neural processing unit with up to 6 TOPS of AI performance.
But it’s worth keeping in mind that MNT’s laptops tend to feature modular designs, which means that the processor will most likely be on a removable, replaceable module, which means that you may be able to choose between several different processor options and/or buy a MNT Reform Next with a RK3588 chip and upgrade to a newer processor in a few years. You should also be able to use any of the existing processor modules MNT offers.
Hartmann says the goal is to design a laptop that’s less chunky than the original MNT Reform, while still keeping compatibility with some of the components used in the original. That means the team won’t necessarily have to redesign things like the keyboard, display, or hinge… and it also means that spare parts for one laptop would work with the other, which could make it easier for MNT to offer long-term support for both.
The motherboard though, is expected to be much smaller than the one in the original Reform, and is “an evolution of the Pocket Reform” board. And some parts will need to be different in the new model: since there’s not room in the case for 18650 Lithium Ion batteries, Hartmann says the MNT Reform Next will use “pouch cells” instead. But the battery will still be user replaceable.
Despite the new laptop’s slimmer profile, the team still plans to use a mechanical keyboard with Kailh Choc switches. It’s not clear if there will be room for a trackball or if the new laptop will have a more typical touchpad.
In related news, MNT is now taking pre-orders for a new Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 adapter that lets you use the CM4 (or similar compute modules) with the MNT computers. Note that the Raspberry Pi CM4 itself is not included in the price, so you’ll need to buy that separately. But you can pay extra to get the adapter bundled with a Banana Pi CM4 which is a similar module that has an Amlogic A311D processor.