Linux kit replacement Juno has a new gadget available for pre-order: a $425 x86-64 tablet with a choice of Linux distributions. In the UK this is £449 including VAT.
The promised device looks decent. It will have a quad-core “Jasper Lake” Celeron N5100, a 1920 x 1200 10.1-inch touchscreen, 8GB of non-upgradable RAM, and a choice of SSD capacities: 256GB, 512GB, or a terabyte. The CPU runs at a not-so-fast 1.1 GHz, but can be turbo-boosted up to 2.8 GHz. You only get the basic tablet, the stylus is optional.
You can get third party keyboard cases and more. This is a common form factor and there are several similar devices, such as the Chuwi Hi10 Go with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash, for about $ 239, or the Dere D10, about $ 500, but with a removable magnetic keyboard and an RJ-45 socket will come.
These are the first two devices we encountered during our search; There are undoubtedly more. For the record, this wolf bought an older Chuwi tablet a few years back, the Arm-based Hi9 Air, and it was excellent value for money for its features.
What is interesting about this, of course, and why The Reg The FOSS desk is writing about it, it runs Linux. Specifically, it comes with Mobian, a mobile-focused remix of Debian that comes with GNOME and Wayland-based Phosh touch GUI. We’ve talked about Phosh before when reviewing PostmarketOS. The Mobian wiki has more information about the project.
Two things are important. One is that the lower end of the x86 performance and power usage scale matches the lower end of conventional Arm-based devices. Several manufacturers have tried to sell low-cost Intel-based tablets running Windows 8, and some of them can be picked up for a song after a while. (This, of course, is a sign of their commercial success, or lack thereof.) The reason is that most had so little storage that it was difficult to even upgrade the OS to a newer version. Another thing is that mainstream, mainstream Linux can now usefully support such devices: drivers and touch interfaces are available.
It’s worth noting that these cheap, generic devices, which have been coming out of OEMs in China for a few years now, are better equipped than Arm/Android-style devices. There are Juno tablets, Chewy tablets and Dere tablets both of them USB-3 and USB-C ports, as well as mini-HDMI and a slot for more storage. You can connect them to a ready-made external hub and have a full-sized screen, keyboard, mouse and speakers. Unlike almost all Android tablets, this device can be turned into a full desktop computer, or on the go, with a few standard accessories and cables, you can interface it to anything.
As I explained when I reviewed Armbian earlier this year, third-party OS support on an Arm device is trivial. For example, there is no standard software on the Arm market, but there is an x86 kit. An Intel tablet is simply a low-end computer, so it’s almost infinitely versatile.
Tablet sales this year are the same as they were five years ago, and are already declining in 2015. It’s a shame because we predicted Linux tablets would arrive in 2010, but a decade ago things didn’t look so promising.
However, Arm pills are very limited in nature. They’re nothing more than tablets, and even projects like Armbian and postmarketOS are limited by what the hardware can do. x86 tablets have no such limitations. You can’t run Windows in a VM on a Celeron with 8 gigs of RAM, but WINE works just fine. ®