Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your laptop tight
Okay I'm done.
It turns out I kinda forgot the MNT reform exists. That kinda throws my last post for a loop. That's not an insult to anything but my mid-term memory.Which is nothing to say of the device itself. It's actually hella cool. And it turns out that Crowd Supply might have a few left in stock if you're ordering Stateside.
Quick pros and cons
- You won't find a more open and free-as-in-freedom-AND-beer computer you'll find in the modern day. Modern meaning: 64-bit capable, built on modern hardware, processing speeds with multiple cores in the 1.1+ GHz range, and compliant with current standards regarding power delivery, peripheral interfaces, resolutions, and OS compatibility.
- You can order it DIY and build it all yourself (apparently not that hard), or order one premade.
- The product itself is designed and tested by a small group of people. I like supporting smaller, more niche companies. Not as a hipster aspect, but because it draws a cleaner line between my exchange of funds and the direct benefit of a given commercial enterprise.
- It's expensive as hell for a machine that's got the processing power of a Raspberry Pi.
- It's an incredibly niche machine that makes a statement, not necessarily a daily driver for -anyone- but the most devoted (masochistic?) of Linux/Unix FOSS users.
- The device itself isn't necessarily designed for any other ideology than a FOSS fanatic.
- I'd consider the Reform a much more difficult asset to liquidate in a pinch, compared to other more mainstream devices like my Surface - or even a Framework (which at least is a normal x64 laptop using traditional parts and interfaces). This is a weird device for weird people, not something you'd be able to pawn off to some local on eBay or Facebook Marketplace without taking a significant hit below MSRP.
The MNT Reform, Kurzgesagt Edition
If computers were shot glasses, this would be a handblown shot glass with inlays and unique marbling that you'd buy at a Bavarian brewery's gift section; as opposed to your Average Joe Computer, which is more like one of those plastic Solo shot glasses that come in packs at Walmart. This device is designed to be free, open, and capable of being maintained and modified long into the future, at the expense of being immediately scrutable and sensible for the average person's daily usage.
I bet you read it in their voice.
My major concern
The entire laptop is powered by an SOC that fits into a SODIMM slot sitting on the custom mainboard of the device. The CPU, RAM, and all associated gubbins live on a single chip, a la the Raspberry Pi Compute modules and etc.
This is cool because it means that, unlike the Framework, you don't neccessarily have to buy an entire new mainboard if you want to change up the capabilities of your device.
But, it also means that you're stuck with whatever offerings for SOCs that MNT chooses to offer, or some ballsy third party decides to machine and manufacture for a niche device that's only had two main production runs so far (to my knowledge; that's a spitball).
TLDR, that means that you're stuck with a weakass compute power and no way to upgrade because options don't exist, even thought the pathways to adoption and implementation hardware-wise are very thoughtfully considered and laid out by MNT from the get-go. I do consider that lack of customizability as a hard hit against the Reform's market viability for general use, but it's something I hope gets resolved over time.
How does this fit into my previous post?
Well, this is honestly a machine that I might consider. Not because it's necessarily fun or convenient to use, but because (barring any hardware failures), this is a machine I'd consider tanky enough, documented enough, and simple enough for me to utilize and maintain over the course of many years. I could utilize it as-is, and I wouldn't necessarily have to worry a whole lot about whether or not it could still do its job in 5-10 years. That's really attractive to me, especially as I consider the next few years in the US as being potentially unstable and convoluted more than they usually might be. I figure somebody in my time and place wouldn't necessaily have a lot to worry about, but I'd rather not have to worry about being able to use my device in the event that Microsoft broadcasts a kill signal to any machine running their OS and fitting a specific device pattern.
Tinfoil hat pedantics aside, it's just a darn snazzy looking device. I'd be proud to tote that thing around.
The MNT Reform reminds me more of a portable Commodore 64, or one of the OG IBM Thinkpads, than it does a modern device. Because it's cleaner, dumber, easier to understand, and most importantly designed to be repairable and persistent. I would imagine that after some time getting used to how the whole thing works, I'd be just as comfortable configuring the low-level hardware of the platform as I would be using it as a normal computing device.
So for Donut's possible Third Quarter Machine Shakeup, I might wind up grabbing one.