The Proteus Device from XXLSEC is a handheld computer with a 5 inch touchscreen display and a secure, Linux-based operating system called PriveOS.

At first glance, it looks a lot like a smartphone. But the Proteus Device does not have a cellular modem and it’s not designed to make phone calls.

What it does have that you won’t find on most phones, is an Ethernet port.

XXLSEC is a company that focuses on security by providing “clean software” with no proprietary binary blobs and “clean hardware” that’s based on “transparent components and design schematics.”

As such, you can find a detailed breakdown of the hardware used in the Proteus Device at github, but here’s an overview:

  • 5 inch, 1280 x 720 pixel IPS touchscreen
  • i.MX6 processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of eMMC storage
  • 3,500 mAh battery
  • 10/100 wired etherent
  • Optional WiFi (SDIO interface)
  • micro USB port (for charging only)

The handheld computer measures 160mm x 78mm x 15mm and weighs 276 grams. It’s thicker than a typical smartphone, but did I mention that this thing has an Ethernet port?

The Proteus Device has an aluminum body and a set of status LED lights to indicate WiFi activity, Ethernet activity, charging status, and other information at a glance.

Its PriveOS operating system features a Linux 5.4 kernel and it’s said to include security-focused features including encrypted communications tools.

While the hardware is a bit on the slow side when compared to some other handheld Linux devices like the Librem 5 smartphone, the Proteus Device isn’t a phone, so it’s not like there’s really a lot of competition in the space.

There’s no price listed on the XXLSEC website, but apparently the Proteus Device is already available for purchase — you just need to contact the company for a quote. According to a reddit post, the price “depends on project and volume. But it’s not that bad, after all it’s immediately available and hosts some pretty unique supply chain cleanness (made in Finland hardware & kernel), resilience and feature values..”

Update: XXLSEC has added a FAQ to the github page confirming that this Proteus Device is indeed a thing you can buy, although it’s a niche product aimed at developers, and stock is limited and you need to contact the company for pricing and shipping options.

While it ships without any mobile apps, it boots a Linux 5.4 kernl with QT 5.12 and some sample UI apps — it’s aimed at developers and engineers who may want to build their own custom applications.

As for file transfer, it’s true it does not support USB transfers. But you can use WiFi or Ethernet to move files or use the undocumented microSD card holder on the PCB.

The company also makes it clear that this isn’t a consumer device and XXLSEC doesn’t expect to sell millions — if you’re happy installing Linux on your smartphone, then this probably isn’t the device for you anyway. 


via /r/linux_devices, @xxlsec, and LinuxGizmos


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20 replies on “Proteus Device is a secure, Linux-based handheld (not a smartphone)”

  1. I work in a small company, developing lots of custom automation systems, often using Raspberries to connect one piece of hardware to another. This, properly priced, is something that would really help me make projects happen faster, while looking much better than you can ever hope for with RasPi.

  2. I’m more of consumer UMPC fan though (physical keyboard, built-in mouse, LTE, etc.) so I’m not their target audience. Still a cool UMPC though. I hope they sell a lot.

  3. A very neat idea, but I’m afraid they couldn’t convince me to buy something like this. I already have my old Note 4 running linux.

    I’m expecting the price on this to be silly because they say “made in Finland hardware”. If this was made in China, with a low volume order, I would expect a cost of around $150 per unit. They would probably ask over $250 for something like this. I’d rather buy a used smartphone and setup linux on my own.

  4. Clicked on this because of the photo and title. I’m not sure who the target market is for this after reading the article. I doubt enterprise customers would go for this.

    I was hoping for a consumer device when I clicked on the article. For me, I’d like it to have LTE (just data, no voice). Even with their custom OS, I’d need a physical keyboard and some sort of mouse pointer for the terminal and general usage. SSH terminals and custom keyboards on Android still aren’t good enough to bother using outside of emergencies. I doubt the experience on this is any better.

    1. Back in the day, I worked with a company called Dynamism to bring the Sharp Zaurus clamshells to the US. I received a call that Motorola wanted 50 devices for use in their warehouse (pre Lenovo buyout) and asked if I could help support them. I have no idea how they were being used and I was never contracted, but you never know what type of enterprise application a company can have for something.

      1. Oh man, I remember Dynamism. I was too broke at the time to justify ordering anything from them, but I was so intrigued by the Japanese handhelds and mini-laptops they imported!

      2. I got a Viliv N5 with 3G from Dynamism. Well through their Amazon Prime inventory.

        Too bad there hasn’t been an equivalent modern replacement for the N5. The MicroPC is close but it doesn’t have LTE.

        1. The Planet Computers Gemini and Cosmo are exactly what you’re looking for.

          1. I don’t know why people keep recommending the Planet Computers devices when someone mentions wanting a desktop Linux distro UMPC with LTE. These really need a mouse to make a desktop OS usable especially Linux distros. Windows 10 with a touchscreen only is somewhat usable but that doesn’t run on the these devices.

            Plus, getting a desktop Linux distro on these isn’t exactly that easy. I believe the Cosmo recently had a way to somewhat easily install Debian a week a go. Definitely a work in progress though. Also, I wonder if newer versions of distros with newer kernels will ever be available. You know, the whole mess that is ARM where Linux support is abandoned by vendors immediately on product release and all that.

            Anyway, a desktop Linux distro on a the Gemini and Cosmo is an exercise in frustration without a built-in mouse. Maybe they can try to emulate a touchpad with the touchscreen but I haven’t seen that.

  5. No usb for data and no micro SD. How do transfer files in/out apart from through ethernet?

    1. The device seems to be mostly intended for secure communications, so it’s not really expected to do much file transferring.

      It’s a really niche product that would be a nice geek’s toy, but it’s hard to see a place for it if you’re a remotely normal user.

    2. Well, ethernet I guess. It’s entirely possible to take an ethernet cable, plug one end into one PC, and plug the other end into the other PC, and transfer large amounts of data between them. Linux distros have a lot of utilities for that (rsync is a popular option) but probably fewer for making one computer appear as removable storage to another computer.
      I’m not going to pretend it’ll be immediately clear how to do it though.

  6. I would rather have a small laptop… but that would not fit in my pocket.

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