Group: Hardware/research/laptop/Pinebook PRO
This page research if it's possible to replace a Libreboot Thinkpad with a Pinebook PRO and how much freedom issue the Pinebook PRO has.
- Internal WiFi / Bluetooth  => Use another WiFi / Bluetooth adapter on another bus (USB, PCIe, etc).
- dptx.bin: The internal display works without it but the external displays won't work without it.
There might be other too like video decoding offload (which can be avoided by decoding videos with the CPU) but if they are they are not very visible: users will probably not notice any lack of functionality.
An adapter  exists to enable to connect NGFF A/E key WiFi cards.
Thinkpenguin also seems to have some potentially compatible cards that use the ath9k driver:
- The TPE-M2NCRD is an "E keyed card" and looks shorter
- The TPE-M2NCRD2 TPE-M2NCRD2 is an "A & E keyed card" and looks longer
I don't know if the length match or if you an E only keyed cards works with an A/E NGFF adapter.
Alternatively it's possible to use external USB WiFi cards, but they will be limited to 2.4GHz and there is a tradeoff to make between the range and the key size.
Some more research might be needed to understand if it's possible to easily mount an USB WiFi card inside that laptop.
- 128M flash chip: can be used for the bootloader: This way you could encrypt fully the other storage which have internal nonfree firmwares.
- Removable eMMC (64G or 128G available at the time of writing)
- MicroSD (SD3.0, MMC 4.5, up to 50MB/s)
- Adding an NVMe is also possible but this has some downsides:
- This occupies the PCIe connector. It might be a better idea to try to find a way to connect an ath9k compatible card on that connector.
- The NVMe has an internal nonfree firmware and probably has DMA access to your RAM
According to the person who worked to add support for it in Guix, some time ago it still required some patches to boot as without them it didn't boot. There are now new patchsets and new kernel releases available so they need to be tested to understand if it's possible to boot and use a Pinebook PRO without any kernel patches.
If / when that will be the case we'd have more guarantee of being able to continue using it: kernel patches require maintenance, and distributions don't always have the time to maintain them, whereas if they are integrated in Linux, they'd support that laptop automatically.
Other differences with a Libreboot Thinkpad
|Libreboot Thinkpad||Pinebook PRO|
See distribution compatibility for more infos.
|Embedded controller firmware||Nonfree
|Unsure if it's free software.
probably handles similar things.
|RAM||4G, 8G possible with specific RAM DIMMs.||4G soldered|
|Ethernet||Integrated||Through USB adapter|
|Display||Mate, good enough for working.||Mate, more recent / better?|
- It of course depends on people's skills, flash programmer speeds and so on but it's not uncommon to spend ~8h to disassemble and reassemble a Thinkpad T400 when doing it the first time, while it probably takes less than 10 minutes for a Thinkpad X200. Doing that is needed to install Libreboot or reinstall it if the computer doesn't boot anymore.