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Linux Tablets: What are Your Options?

There are plenty of Linux-based laptops available. There are also mini-PCs preloaded with Linux.

A few Linux-based smartphones are also present in the market.

How about tablets? Are there some good Linux-based tablets? The answer is not straightforward.

Many Linux-only system manufacturers focus on creating desktop computers. This is primarily due to the fact that the Linux experience on touch devices is no where close to what Android and iOS provide.

Does this mean you cannot use Linux on a tablet? Not really. There are a few options available for the early adapters and DIY tinkerers. Let’s see what options do you have in the name of Linux tablets.

Ubuntu Touch

ubuntu touch
Ubuntu Touch OS on BQ tablets

Alright! This is not a gadget but an operating system. But this does give you option to install a touch-friendly version of Ubuntu on some old Android tablet.

Mind the word ‘some’. Officially, Ubuntu Touch supports on Nexus 7, Lenovo M10, Xperia Z4 and BQ Aquaris tablets. You may even try to install Ubuntu Touch on some other tablet of yours. It may not work 100% but could still be pretty much useable.

Ubuntu Touch was a project by Ubuntu team but they discontinued it in 2017. UBports has taken the responsibility of continuing this project and they are doing a good job at it with their limited resources.

All in all, if you have an experimental temperament and want to give another life to your old Android tablet, Ubuntu Touch could be your weekend project.

Pine Tab

pinetab
PineTab

Pine64 started with its single board computer Pine A64 as a Raspberry Pi alternative. It launched several Pine-branded products over the time. This list includes low cast PineTime smartwatch, Pinebook laptop, PinePhone smartphone and PineTab tablet.

These Pine devices are often inexpensive and allow the user full control on the gadget. This tinkering attitude has helped it gathered a huge fan following of open source DIY enthusiasts.

The PineTab basically uses the same component as the Pine64 single board computers with touchscreen and keyboard. It’s not the prettiest looking gadget out there but then, it does not intend to be one.

The specifications are basic with an HD IPS capacitive touchscreen, Allwinner A64 chipset, Quad-core CPU and 2 GB RAM.

It’s not something that can compete with an iPad or Galaxy Tab but it allows you to install a distribution of your choice and configure it as you want.

Please keep in mind that Pine has limited stock, so consider yourself lucky if you can see this device available for purchase.

PineNote

pinenote
PineNote

Another Pine device that is slightly different from the PineTab you saw in the previous section.

The PineTab is a Linux tablet for browsing internet, using applications and playing games. The PineNote is for taking notes and reading books and documents.

It has a Eink display that you may have seen on e-book readers like Kindle. Apart from letting you experience an e-book reader, PineNote also allows you to take note with a Wacom Pen.

PineNote has Quad-core Rockchip, multi-touch Eink panel, 4 GB RAm and 128 GB eMMC storage. It is also one of the rare few gadgets that has a higher than usual price tag of $399.

Please keep in mind that PineNote is in early developments and is accepting orders only from developers.

JingPad

jingpad keyboard angle
JingPad on my desk

Perhaps one of the rare few projects that aim to provide a ‘consumer level Linux tablet’. They have premium, custom hardware on the high end side. It has 11″ 2K AMOLED displaym 8 GB RAM, Unisoc Tiger T7510 Octa Core processor along with magnetic keyboard.

Altogether, things look quite good on the paper, at least from the hardware perspective. Premium hardware comes at premium pricing, of course. The device could cost between $600-$800.

JingPad also has its own Linux based, touch-friendly operating system called JingOS. The operating system is still under heavy development and should be ready by end of first quarter of 2022.

Want to know more about JingPad? Read my experience with JingPad and JingOS in this detailed review.

RasPad

raspad
RasPad

RasPad is a kit for Raspberry Pi devices to turn it into a functional touch based device. Unlike the regular tabs, this is not a flat device but has a wedge shaped body. This makes it easier to use at desks.

RasPad is created specially for Raspberry Pi devices and you can use most of its ports easily. There is a dedicated RasPad OS but you are free to use the regular Raspbian OS or Ubuntu or any other Raspberry Pi operating system. Do consider touch friendliness while choosing the OS.

Please keep in mind that Raspberry Pi device is NOT included in the kit. You’ll have to buy it separately.

What’s your choice?

I know we are still far from a good alternative Linux tablet that could compete with at least the Android tablets in the market. But at least we have some options available and that’s a silver lining.

Do you already own any of the above listed devices? How is your experience with it?

If you had to choose only one of them, which is your choice for the ideal Linux tablet?

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  • A very good way tomrun limux in a tablet is alsona chuwi tablets 2 in 1 , i use chuwi ubook with linux and is really great.

  • Some time ago I was able to install arch on one of those Chinese tablets with an Intel SOC. was a teclast x89 or something like that. The main issue was to be able to boot. Had to use some different boot loader because of the boot architecture. Something about the 32bit vs 64, but can’t remember. Other issue was with the odd touch issue where the x axis was flipped. Also was able to fix that

  • I had the JingPad and must say despite it looking premium build quality is poor. The LED panel cracked after a few weeks and made it unusable. Also the companies after-sales service is a joke – foeget about the one year warranty they promote. I gave up on getting the screen replaced after a while. Don’t get scammed – don’t buy it.

    • In addition to your experience, I’ve noticed in-depth reviews questioning the manufacturer’s claim of this the device being a “Linux tablet”. It’s an Android tablet with super old dated Linux packages. To be a Linux tablet, it has to have a relatively recent repository access such that it’s closer to mainline Linux. With this, it means that anyone getting this tablet will not be able to run recent Linux applications on it, unless they can compile it somehow using the old Android kernel. Not keeping high hopes, judging by the aftersales service. I really hope it will get better, because it would be great to have such device, but it will be even more difficult as the processor is a closed-source SOC.