Modern smartphones are basically pocket-sized computers. The key things that set them apart from laptop or desktop computers tend to be their size, shape, and software. But the distinction gets blurry when you’ve got a smartphone that runs the same operating as laptop and desktop computers.
And that’s exactly the case for Purism’s Librem 5, a smartphone designed to run the same PureOS GNU/Linux distribution as the company’s laptop and desktop computers. In fact, you can use the phone like a desktop by connecting an external display, mouse, and keyboard. And now Purism is selling a $339 Lapdock Kit that makes it easy to use the phone as a laptop.
In a nutshell, the Lapdock Kit includes a NexDock 360 laptop dock, a magnetic smartphone mount that clips onto the side of the dock, and a short USB Type-C cable that makes it easy to connect a smartphone to the dock without getting any wires tangled.
The NexDock 360 looks like an ordinary laptop, but it doesn’t have its own memory, storage, processor, or operating system. It relies on the Librem 5 (or other devices) for those things.
What it does have is a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel IPS touchscreen display, a 360-degree hinge, a 44 Wh battery, four speakers, a backlit keyboard, a trackpad, and ports including:
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C (input)
- 1 x mini HDMI 1.4a (input)
- 1 x USB Type-C charging port
- 1 x USB 3.0 Type-C data port
- 1 x 3.5mm audio jack
- 1 x microSDXC card reader
When you plug in the Librem 5 you can drag and drop applications from your phone’s screen to the larger lapdock display and they’ll resize and change their layout to better fit the larger screen. Some applications will show additional columns or more menu items on the big screen. But they’re the same apps that run in phone mode. You just have more space to use those apps on the Lapdock display.
If you don’t need the magnetic mount or short USB-C cable, you could also just buy a NexDock 360 directly from Nex Computer for $299. But the $40 extra that Purism charges for a mount and USB cable isn’t too bad. And it’s nice to know that the folks at Purism have selected the NexDock 360 for their kit because of it’s out-of-the-box compatibility with the Librem 5 (although you do need to enable support for the touchscreen from the phone’s Mobile Settings app if you plan to use the NexDock 360’s touch panel).
Now if only it were easier to recommend the Librem 5 itself. The phone presented an interesting value proposition when it first went the company first launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 that let folks reserve a phone for $599. But it took several years for the phone to begin shipping and it’s seen several price hikes since then, while continuing to remain in short supply.
At this point if you don’t already have a Librem 5 you’ll need to spend $1299 to get your hands on one and wait around a year for delivery (unless you’re willing to pay $1999 for a made-in-the-USA model that ships within 10 days).
Fortunately the Librem 5 isn’t the only phone around that can run a nearly mainline Linux software. Pine64’s PinePhone and PinePhone Pro sell for $150 and $400, respectively. And both of those phones are in stock, currently shipping, and able to work with laptop and desktop docks like those made by Nex Computer.