The PineTab-V is a tablet with a 10.1 inch HD display, at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, a detachable keyboard, and a $160 starting price. And it’s also one of the first tablets you can buy that’s powered by a RISC-V processor.
That makes a tablet with otherwise budget specs pretty exciting… for developers. For the rest of us it’s not actually all that useful yet, because when Pine64 first introduced the tablet in April the company noted that it couldn’t even boot a command-line Linux environment yet. But things have come a long way since then: it’s now possible to boot a Yocto Linux image with a hardware-accelerated KDE Plasma desktop environment.
The Pine64 has the same StarFive JH7110 quad-core processor as Pine64’s Star64 single-board computer, so a developer who goes by the username Fishwaldo, has ported software that was initially designed for the Star64 to work with the PineTab-V.
In a Mastodon post, Fishwaldo notes that the KDE Plasma image “is now available for testing,” but that there’s “still lots to fix up.” But it looks like Fishwaldo is working through that to do list, as several items on the PineTab-V Image issues GitHub page have already been checked off.
It’s still early days for running mobile Linux software on tablets with RISC-V processors, and you probably still aren’t going to want to buy a PineTab-V unless you’re a developer or enthusiastic beta tester. But it seems like the tablet is already a lot more usable today than it was when Pine64 first introduced the hardware a few months ago.
And that’s pretty much par for the case with Pine64 hardware. The company has a track record of releasing inexpensive hardware without much software support. Instead, the idea is to attract a community of independent developers interested in porting free and open source software to run on the company’s laptops, tablets, phones, and single-board computers. Up until recently most of those devices had been powered by ARM-based processors, but Pine64 has been expanding its product lineup to include devices featuring RISC-V processors, which have been gaining momentum in the past few years due to a combination of their open instruction set architecture and RISC-V International’s permissive, royalty-free licensing model.