MNT Research Unveils the Near-Final MNT Pocket Reform, a 7" Aggressively-Open Modular Netbook

Compatible with SOMs built for the full-size MNT Reform, the Pocket Reform could prove the ultimate netbook revival.

Gareth Halfacree
3 months agoRetro Tech / HW101

MNT Research has unveiled the near-finalized design of its Pocket Reform, an aggressively open take on the classic netbook designed for compatibility with its earlier and larger Reform laptop — yet, impressively, sacrificing little in the quest for miniaturization.

The latest revision of the MNT Reform laptop landed with backers last year, offering a device, which was wholly open — from the operating system it runs to the design files for the PCBs and chassis. A blend of modernity and retrofuturism, the device includes an unusual mechanical keyboard, option of trackball or touch-pad pointing device, and modular innards in which the key components are held on a replaceable module.

Since the release of the MNT Reform, the company has been teasing a more pocketable variant dubbed — unsurprisingly — the Pocket Reform. Designed in a clamshell form factor like a traditional laptop, the Pocket Reform uses a far smaller yet Full HD 7" display panel with a compact 60-key ortholinear mechanical keyboard. There's no touchpad option this time around, with a trackball your only option — in order to reduce the amount of bezel required around the screen to ensure full coverage with the lid down.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Pocket Reform is that its resemblance to its full-sized forebear is more than skin deep. Despite its dramatically reduced footprint, the carrier board inside the Pocket Reform is designed to be entirely compatible with systems-on-modules (SOMs) developed for the full-size Reform - including the original NXP i.MX8M Plus part with a choice of classic 4GB or new 8GB RAM capacities, a higher-performance NXP Layerscape part with up to 16GB of RAM, a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 in custom-designed adapter board, a PINE64 SOQuartz, or an FPGA module with Xilinx Kintex-7 on-board — allowing you to run soft-core processors including RISC-V.

There have been some sacrifices made in the design, however. A key selling point of the full-size Reform is its use of LiFePo4 batteries, safer and more environmentally-friendly than traditional lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries but with a correspondingly lower energy capacity. Without the room for eight 18650 cells to ensure a decent runtime, though, the Pocket Reform switches to two lithium-ion cells with a total 8,000mAh capacity.

MNT Reform has confirmed plans to launch two variants of the design: a robust aluminum version with bead-blasted finish anodized in purple or black; and a more environmentally-conscious version created in recycled PLA. Those who would customize the design, meanwhile, will be given STL files to print a case of their own.

More details are available on the MNT Research blog, but the company is still keeping two pieces of information close to its chest: pricing and availability.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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