Planet Computers makes smartphones that look like pocket computers thanks to their QWERTY keyboards that are (just barely) big enough for touch typing. And they function like pocket computers thanks to support for both Android and Linux software.

Now the UK-based company is branching out by launching a line of compact desktop computers. The PlanetPC XR series mini PCs feature ARM-based processors from Rockchip, color touchscreen displays on the front, and Ubuntu Linux software. They’re expected to ship in September, 2023 and they’re up for pre-order from the Planet Computers website or you can reserve one for a lower price by backing the PlanetPC XR Indiegogo crowdfunding campaignUpdate: after raising less than 1/100th of the crowdfunding goal, it’s unclear whether the PlanetPC XR1 or XR2 will ever actually be released.

PlanetPC XR2

Pre-order prices start at $610 for a PlanetPC XR1 with a Rockchip RK3566 quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage or $769 for PlanetPC XR2 with a RK3588 octa-core processor and the same amount of storage.

Early Bird backers of the crowdfunding campaign can reserve the same units for $461 and $656, respectively.

Planet Computers also offers the XR1 with up to a 2TB SSD or a 14TB hard drive, while the XR2 is available with up to 32GB of RAM, 256GB of flash storage, and up to a 2TB SSD.

PlanetPC XR2

Both models features 1424 x 280 pixel color touchscreen displays on the front that can be used to display system info or controls, but the computers are designed to connect to an external display or two.

There’s also an RGB light strip with 16 LED lights along the bottom front panel to display status information, built-in stereo speakers and a microphone for use with voice assistants, voice calls, or other applications without the need for external hardware, and two Gigabit Ethernet ports as well as support for WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

But there are a few things that set the XR1 and XR2 apart. Not only does the XR2 have a substantially more powerful processor, but it also has additional ports. Here’s a run-down of some key features for both models:

PlanetPC XR1PlanetPC XR2
ProcessorRockchip RK3568
4 x ARM Cortex-A55 @ 2 GHz
Rockchip RK3588
4 x Cortex-A76 @ 2.4 GHz
4 x Cortex-A55 @ 1.8 GHz
GraphicsMali-G52 2EEMali-G610 MP4
NPU0.8 TOPS6 TOPS
RAM & Storage4GB / 32GB4GB / 32GB
8GB / 64GB
16GB / 128GB
32GB / 256GB (IGG exclusive)
Additional Storage512GB to 2TB M.2 SSD
2TB SATA HDD
10TB or 14TB SATA HDD
256GB to 2TB M.2 SSD
Ports1 x HDMI out (4K)
2 x Gigabit Ethernet
2 x USB 3.0 Type-A
1 x USB 2.0 Type-C
3 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x microSD card reader
1 x 3.5mm audio line out
1 x 3.5mm mic in
2 x HDMI out (4K & 8K)
1 x HDMI in (4K)
1 x VGA
2 x Gigabit Ethernet
4 x USB 3.0 Type-A
1 x USB 3.0 Type-C
1 x USB 2.0 Type-C
1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x microSD card reader
1 x 3.5mm audio line out
1 x 3.5mm mic in
1 x 3.5mm audio line in
WirelessWiFi 6
Bluetooth 5.0
4G / 5G card (optional)
OSUbuntu Linux
Dimensions290 x 260 x 60mm

Planet Computers has run a number of successful crowdfunding campaigns in the past few years for products including the Gemini PDA, Cosmo Communicator, and Astro Slide. And by “successful,” I mean that the company has achieved its fundraising goals and shipped hardware to at least some of its backers (although others are still waiting for rewards from the latest campaign which launched nearly 3 years ago).

But I’d still say that it’s best to think of the PlanetPC XR1 and XR2 as enthusiast-class computers for folks that are willing to tinker to get the best possible experience out of these Linux PCs with ARM-based processors.

That’s because while Planet Computers has a history of delivering highly unusual hardware, the company has a bit more of a mixed record with actually providing customer service and support. Planet Computers is positioning the XR series mini PCs as “zero-configuration” systems, which means that they should run Ubuntu out of the box. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to run every Ubuntu application you throw at them, and it’s unclear how well they’ll handle alternate operating systems.

The good news is that by tapping Rockchip’s processors, Planet Computers can piggyback on the work of developers who have already ported a variety of GNU/Linux software to work with other devices featuring RK3588 and RK3566 processors. But by the same token, unless you really like the look of the XR series or want the touchscreen and light bar, you might be able to save some money by just picking up a single-board computer with the same chip and building your own mini PC.

Update: Charbax caught up with Planet Computers at Mobile World Congress, and got a look at the new PlanetPC XR series mini PCs.

 

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  1. The XR has failed to meet the crowdfunding minimum needed. Too many unhappy customers having given money to Planet Computing for their last Astroslide handheld, two or more years ago, and have not received anything. So there was a certain amount of warning others off of not putting money into a project that could likely fail, as Planet had failed to deliver to so many customers they had taken money from on the last project.
    It is a great shame, I agree the handhelds are great devices. But the issue I have with Planet is that they would never follow through with supporting the software updates to bring it to the minimum spec the device was sold as going to have. I bought the Gemini, but rather than sort out the issues with that, or even keep it usable with security updates, 18 months down the line, Planet launch a new crowdfunding project, and all their effort goes into promising the earth on that project. They did exactly the same again with the Cosmo. After the initial sale of half-baked devices being delivered, they launch a new crowdfunding product, leaving the older half-baked products they’ve already had an income on behind. With the Astro it looks like they came unstuck and could only deliver a limited number of devices. Everyone else is left unable to get their money back. Don’t believe me, just look on the crowdfunding website.
    It is a great shame that they don’t seem able to deliver to their existing customers, as the product potential was great. And I’d love to use a device like this as a second on the road machine. But with the lack of security updates, linux support that never was quite delivered, the device is just a novelty now. I wish they would learn how to run a viable business.

  2. I’m going to chip in here and defend Planet….
    I’ve had a Gemini since day one, about, 07, 08 years. I am very happy with it. Build quality is still excellent, it looks good now as the day I bought it. THe keyboard is excellent. The only issue with the Gemini was Android, which is woeful. Android is utterly unsuitable for actual work and is only partiually useful for anything else.
    Personally, the negative comments here about PC are very unfair.

  3. Why? Give me AMD or Intel, but ARM? That really limits the uses of this machine, and I just can’t justify the price . I suppose there is a very niche target market that may adore it though.

  4. From my experience of buying the Gemini from them and being promised the specification advertised, there seems to be a pattern forming with this company. They deliver a half baked product, promise that updates are coming, launch a new crowdfunding campaign, and leave all the other products sold previously left half finished. Read the comments on the various crowdfunding pages and you’ll see how many disappointed customers they have taken money from.

  5. I like the mini PC trend, but this one seems overpriced. I also don’t like that there is no audio jack on the front. I hook up speakers to the rear jack and plug in a headset on occasion in the front jack of my computer. I don’t like having to reach around back to unplug the speakers, plug in the headset, and then do the reverse just to have an occasional voice chat.

  6. I think this company may be misunderstanding what they get high prices for. They can ask for lots of money when they’re making phones or mobile devices because they’re making something that you can’t get from anywhere else. There are few phones with slide-out keyboards, and those that I can think of are also hard to get and expensive, so they can get higher prices accepted by some people who really want one. They’re now entering the market of commodity ARM-based SBCs. Even though their product is an SBC in a box, it doesn’t make it any less standard. They can’t get the same margin on that because there’s nothing their 3588-based box does that I couldn’t get by buying a much cheaper board, and a case and a screen that doesn’t work for desktop use are not worth the mark up.

    1. Indeed and since you can get almost the same feature set from the Firefly EC-A3588Q with 4GB RAM and 32GB flash starting at “probably closer to $400” (see CNX-Software’s article on it), the Firefly box would seem to be better value anyway…?

  7. If they go with compute module connectors for the mainboard and offered the RK3566 and RK3588 as compute modules, there may be compelling reason to back it. As it currently stands though, it does not appear worth investing for those prices.

    1. I don’t think making it compatible with modules would change that prospect very much. It’s still a rather expensive setup for a box with a thin screen and some lights, not to mention that most of the ports for the 3588 chip wouldn’t be compatible with any other module (HDMI input and 8K aren’t common on other chips these days), so you’d still have either limited choice or labels saying not to use certain ports depending on your module.

      1. Couldn’t agree more carl; even if there aren’t many other current ARM SOCs with the RK3588’s features, it might help make it more futureproof if future SOCs do have those features and thus there’s an upgrade path.

        1. The problem is module compatibility. Right now, most modules are using the Raspberry Pi CM4 format, but that doesn’t have specific connections for all the ports, meaning that the 3588 SoMs have had to add additional pins for those. If a new chip comes along that is better, but its peripherals are in any different, the interface board probably wouldn’t support those new peripherals and might have trouble if their connections interfered with the ones designed for the 3588’s.
          The module approach makes sense to me for some types of hardware, such as a device with a lot of peripherals built into it. A laptop with a module compatibility system makes sense, because there are few ARM-based laptops and upgrading is better than waiting for someone to make a new design around a new chip. This product doesn’t meet that level for me since it’s basically just a box, and there’s little incentive to getting a new module into the box when I could just buy an SBC designed around the new chip for about the same price as the module. Unlike with a traditional computer where all the parts are separate, one designed around an SoM is still effectively buying a whole new computer when you buy a module, so at that point it’s less upgrading and more buying another one.

          1. The manufacturers just add more B2B connectors – like on the Radxa CM3 and next month’s CM5 (which has a RK3588S on board).

      2. BE AWARE. Planet computers have very poor record of delivering on products and their customer service is non existent. I would stay a mile away of their products. They are financially not very sound (see company house UK). They use money from products they don’t ship to prepaying customers to fund new projects. You might be waiting for years to get a product that will be way outdated by the time you receive it.
        Hopefully they won’t scam too many buyers this time round.

  8. I’m not sure who would buy this instead of spending the same amount of money on a much more capable desktop or mini-pc that gives you assured choice in operating systems. Heck, even a hardcore linux fanatic might have a better time with a mac mini.
    I wouldn’t complain about a more specialized home server/router product shaped like this that used the touchscreen to tell you about hard drive errors and/or do some wi-fi configuration, but this isn’t that.

    1. I wouldn’t say they are scammers, but saying they run successful campaigns in the past is a bit of a stretch. I backed the Astro myself too and still waiting for it. I expect it will arrive (so I don’t think I got “scammed”) but maybe not before next year, so something like 3 years + later than I hoped. I think they clearly lack staff and resources, so tend to over-promise. You can back their campaign if you’re in no hurry and feel charitable for some reason…

      1. Good point. I’ve updated that already-loose definition of “success” to note that while some backers have received their rewards, others are still waiting nearly three years after the Astro Slide campaign was fully funded.

      2. The problem is not the fact theat they have massive delay.
        The problem is that communication with backers is full of arrogance and cynically outright misrepresentation. They do not act like trustworthy people => thus scammers.

    2. I backed their Gemini PDA back in 2018 and received it in a reasonable timeframe. I don’t think they are scamming on that project, but I don’t know about the succeeding projects though

  9. I like the idea behind this. The little screen is neat, the IO is great. I haven’t met a Linux distro yet that enjoys Mali GPUs, other than Android. I’d prefer to see a PCI-e gpu option. That price is also just a bit wild, but if this product ever exists, it’ll be interesting to see it reviewed.

  10. SBC’s are far worse when it comes to software support, most linux distro’s ported to these platforms barely run well, simply aren’t even stable and lack open source drivers for the all of the hardware.

    Also none of the SBC’s are Arm system ready certified so all require a linux distro tailored to each system and if no-one bothers to maintain if for your SBC then wave good bye to that OS.

    You can’t just download Ubuntu, Fedora from their site and have it run like an x86 PC, that what the Arm SR program solves.

    I hope Planet have actually made an Arm system ready PC given the much higher costs of this.