On 31/01/2011 21:51, Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote:
i'm contacting people on all of the ARM linux distribution lists to
find out if anyone is interested in bringing about the creation of a
decent, useful and useable ARM-based Laptop. i've been researching
CPUs and how to go about this with a minimum of risk and cost,
learning from the experiences of the openpandora for example. all of
the enquiries that i've made, for about a year, all point towards a
minimum spec of at least a 1ghz CPU, 1gb of RAM and a 12in screen
(below those specs is too little, and above them is too costly). does
such a machine exist? in one word: no. there are plenty of machines
with 1024x600 screens (the toshiba AC100, the Genesi-USA Ekiga and the
AlwaysInnovating Touchbook) - i wish them every success in their niche
markets that are catered for by 1024x600 screens.
Genesi Efika MX can take a 1280x720 screen. I've had Genesi confirm this
and I'll be fitting it as soon as my Efika MX is back (sent off for a
for everyone else, who wants to see full documents and full web
*without* having to press page-up, page-down, there literally is not a
single ARM-based (or MIPS-based) product in existence, commercially
available, anywhere in the world, despite a lot of talk from ARM, and
also from the major ARM licensees, and despite the production cost of
ARM-based and MIPS-based laptops being lower than that of an
equivalent intel-based system.
You'd be forgiven for not noticing the difference. Genesi Efika MX and
Toshiba AC100 both cost me as much as a similarly specced Atom netbook.
They just have 2-4x the battery life and 1/2 the weight and thickness,
no moving parts (especially fans), etc.
so the question i have, for the people on this list is: given that
nobody else is taking any initiative, would _you_ like to be part of a
project that takes the initiative to create a low-cost, high-end
ARM-based laptop? like the OpenPandora, except... done with far less
risk and a lot less cost. one absolute key part in reducing risk and
cost is to utilise existing casework from a no-brand OEM laptop. all
that's then required is to create the motherboard to fit. more info
a rough guide i've received from a chinese embedded systems designer
is that a design using a Samsung S5PV210 will be about $USD 10,000,
and a design using a TI DM3730 or DM3725 will be about $20,000 (TI's
CPUs are a bit more complex, and the DM37xx series is newer than
Samsung's S5 range)... but that's *it*. that's all it costs, to
create the motherboard for fitting into an existing 12in laptop
chassis. excluding a DVD or Hard Drive, the BOM (Bill of Materials)
will come to somewhere around $150, which translates loosely into $240
to $300 after tax, customs, shipping etc. etc.
i'm still investigating ways to get that price down even further, and
i'm really really interested to hear from people who may know of other
CPUs. i've just heard today about the ZMS-08 for example, and
creativelabs have a SoM (system-on-module) which sounds like a perfect
fit: the only bug-bear being the proprietary libraries and
creativelab's fear over being swamped by developer wannabes asking for
help on how to program one of the most complex Cell Processor Units in
existence outside of IBM's and other obscure labs. the proprietary
libraries aren't so much the problem as the lack of documentation on
the Cell Processor.
so - please do discuss amongst yourselves, or feel free to contact me
directly. i'm maintaining a list of links to all the other forums
this is going out on, at the bottom of http://lkcl.net/laptop.html
if you would like to recommend an alternative CPU please do review
and/or edit http://libreplanet.org/wiki/Group:Hardware/Processors
first (either the page itself or the discussion page).
Funnily enough, I was thinking about something very similar to this just
yesterday. My thoughts are as follows:
I was was actually pondering using an existing Clevo chassis. I thought
about using an M860TU because that has a 1920x1200 (15.4in) screen
available, but this is unfortunately only available with a fluorescent
backlight. That means inverters for the backlight and high power
consumption. So now I am pondering using a slightly newer yet very
similar W860CU. That is available with a 1920x1080 LED backlit panel
(15.6in). It wouldn't make much sense to use a higher drain screen when
low power is a key part of the appeal.
Looking at my M860TU, any suitably small motherboard could be made to
fit with a bit of cutting and gluing, and I expect a W860CU would be
similar. There is loads of space available in these machines, and they
were designed to be easy to work on rather than compact. This makes them
lend themselves well to prototyping.
I cannot emphasise enough that the key here is to get something that is
already well supported by the:
That pretty much rules out the Nvidia Tegra. Shame, really, it had the
potential to be good, but nvidia are too jelous about their drivers to
be worth bothering with, and their support isn't good enough to offset
that as soon as you are off the straight and narrow.
The closest I have been able to get to finding a decent solution is the
Pandaboard (OMAP4 - Cortex A9 / PowerVR SGX). It has a PowerVR GPU which
is reasonably well understood, there is working XV video acceleration,
and decently working OpenGL ES drivers. With some luck we might get full
OpenGL drivers for it, too, since it is a GPU core virtually identical
to what Intel use (Intel GMA). With Tegra we are unlikely to _ever_ get
full fat OpenGL, and decent driver support for Linux will probably take
The one thing that is currently missing is a LVDS module, but somebody
on the list was recently saying that a HDMI->LVDS module will be
available imminently. That pretty much leaves just the battery charging
circuit and the power brick, which can hopefully be integrated into all
that space that will be empty in the machine without a big fat
motherboard, heatsinks, fans, etc, so the power lead can just be a
simple 2-wire mains one. Nice and portable (well as portable as a W860CU).
Now, I recognize that 1920x1080 isn't what most people are expecting or
wanting out of an ARM laptop, and neither is a 15.6in size, but I like
my pixel density and pixel count. 13in would be better, but that panel
is rare and expensive and the only chassis that takes it is the Sony
Vaio Z (at £2500, not even worth considering).
Now, obviously, even made using off-the-shelf-ish parts like this
(you'll have to work hard to get a Clevo chassis without a motherboard),
but the costs would likely be in the 3-4x what you were hoping for.
Pandaboard is $174.
A Clevo W860CU is not far from 10x that (OK, that includes the
motherboard, CPU, an expensive GPU, RAM, disk, etc, but it'd be
difficult to persuade a distributor to sell you a bare chassis with a
battery and screen).
The upshot, however, is that you would likely get 20+ hours of battery
life out of it.
The other thing I consider to be a big problem is the amount of RAM
available. Pandaboard comes with 1GB of RAM, which is on the small size
if we're really serious about this. I'd like to see at least 2GB, but
I'm not sure if this is viable with a Pandaboard. I haven't seen any ARM
boards with > 1GB of RAM:
Genesi Efika MX: 512MB
Toshiba AC100: 512MB
Compulab offerings top out at 1GB
Ideally what I want is something like a Pandaboard with a DDR3 SODIMM.
But if something like this were available off the shelf, and based on
something very well supported by the community already, I'd happily pay
a considerable premium for it.