PinePhone Pro released: specs, pricing and very first impressions

PinePhone Pro released: specs, pricing and very first impressions

It was not three years ago that the PinePhone was announced. With entry-level, but relatively modern specifications, video output through Type-C, and full openness to custom software and mainline Linux, the device grew to be possibly even more popular than expected. Name it, and most Linux enthusiast will either know it, or own one themselves.

While its humble specifications did not put it directly on the same league as Purism's Librem 5, the community grew large enough to test most pieces of modern open-source software to its form factor.

However, today PINE64 finally announced the long awaited PinePhone Pro, a similar Linux phone in shape, but with considerably more powerful technical specifications. And, needless to say, just as much mainline kernel in it.

The technical specifications can be seen in comparison with the normal PinePhone.

PinePhone (2018) PinePhone Pro (2021)
SoC AllWinner A64 Rockchip RK3399S
CPU 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.1GHz 2x Cortex-A72 + 4x Cortex-A53 @ 1.5GHz
GPU ARM Mali 400 MP2 @ 400MHz ARM Mali T860 quad-core @ 500Mhz
Storage 16GB / 32GB eMMC 128GB eMMC
Display 5.95" 1440x720 LCD 5.95" 1440x720 LCD IPS (different panel!), Gorilla Glass 4
Imaging 5MP OmniVision OV5640 13MP Sony IMX258 main camera (w/ Gorilla Glass layer), 5MP OmniVision OV5640 front camera
Modem Quectel EC25-G LTE modem Quectel EG25-G LTE modem with GPS
Wireless Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0 (Realtek RTL8723CS) Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth V4.1 (AMPAK AP6255)
microSD Yes, bootable same
Pogo pins Yes, exposing I2C bus same (and compatible)
USB Type-C 2.0 (data, DP video output for convergence) Type-C 3.0 (data, 5V/3A quick charging, Power Delivery/PD, DP video output for convergence)
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Compass, Ambient light same
Hardware kill-switches Cameras, mic, Wi-Fi, Speaker, LTE/GNSS Cameras, mic/Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, modem/GPS, UART on headphone jack
Others Flash / Torch, Vibration motor, notification LED same
Battery ~2800mAh (Samsung J7 compatible) 3000mAh (Samsung J7 compatible)
Dimensions 160.5 x 76.6 x 9.2 mm 160.8 x 76.6 x 11.1mm
Weight ~185g ~215g
Price $149-$199 $399
UnixBench 1314 ~2500

But even more interestingly, it looks like the motherboard is technically compatible with the old model. This means that, while strongly warned against, it could be possible to upgrade the old to the new model by swapping the mainboard and main camera module. But even if this was possible – something we are not sure about – this would imply dealing with e.g. thermal issues, needing a patched Device Tree binding with the new DSI panel, and similar.

The Rockchip RK3399 chip and PinePhone Pro mainboard (Martijn Braam)

The choice of a laptop SoC brought to the need for better thermals, and using the same Lithium battery format at the same time means that the chipset has been slightly throttled compared to the PineBook Pro ($199) running on the same chip. The Pro model is also slightly heavier and thicker, going from 9 to 11 mm, maybe also because of better thermal management.

The Pro is 2mm thicker than the vanilla PinePhone

While we did not get to see one device in person, here are some first impressions from a developer, Martijn Braam, who already owns one:

  • The PinePhone Pro exterior looks almost identical to the PinePhone, thickness aside
  • The Sony IMX258 camera module is promising, and is going to be supported by Linux very soon
  • The display, while having same size and resolution as the older, has much better quality and viewing angles than that mounted on the standard PinePhone
  • The device is, expectedly, considerably faster than the old model
Martijn also released a video hands-on showing the PinePhone Pro in all its charm

Pricing is set to $399, over twice the $149 tag of the standard model, plus any shipping and import taxes. This, however, is justified by the higher-end hardware and low availability of components (which also had considerable impact on the Librem 5 price).

The PinePhone Pro is available for pre-order starting from today, and development units will start shipping already in December. After these, the so-called Explorer Edition, that is the first commercially available, will be shipped from early 2022 onwards. For more information, you can read more on their official website.