MNT's Highly-Open Reform Laptop Gets a Major Speed Boost From New RCORE SOM Upgrade

With eight cores and up to 32GB of RAM, the RCORE turns the open-hardware MNT Reform from a curiosity into a serious contender.

Gareth Halfacree
1 month agoHW101

MNT's Lukas Hartmann has shown off a new system-on-module (SOM) that serves as a drop-in upgrade for the MNT Reform open-hardware laptop — delivering a user experience much closer to that of closed-source machines in its class.

"[The] MNT Reform RCORE with RK3588 is now the most powerful octa-core Processor Module option for MNT Reform," Hartmann writes of the new system-on-module, which is designed to be fully compatible with existing MNT Reform laptops. "If you desire the maximum in CPU and GPU performance as well as RAM, this is your module."

The MNT Reform is set to receive a much-needed speed-boost, thanks to a new Rockchip RK3588-based SOM. (📹: Lukas Hartmann)

One of the biggest issues with the original MNT Reform, a laptop whose hardware and software alike are released under open source licenses, was its performance. While the chunky chassis, with its transparent underside and optional 3D-printed trackball assembly, was a clear design choice, the system-on-module that powered it was harder to excuse, with the NXP i.MX8MQ being paired with just 4GB of RAM and delivering a sub-optimal experience for anything more than lightweight work and single-tab web browsing.

Like the original SOM, the RCORE is an open-hardware design — but the quad-core NXP i.MX8MQ is gone, swapped out for the octa-core Rockchip RK3588. This offers four high-performance Arm Cortex-A76 cores running at up to 2.4GHz, four lower-power Cortex-A55 cores running at up to 1.8GHz, and an Arm Mali-G610 MP4 graphics processor with full OpenGL 3.1 support. To this, the buyer can choose 16GB or 32TGB of RAM along with 128GB or 256GB of on-board eMMC storage.

To prove its chops, Hartmann has published a video showing the module in an MNT Reform laptop delivering a smooth desktop experience — everything from running Firefox across two displays with software H.264 decoding to WebGL samples running in Chromium, Valve's Half-Life running under hardware acceleration, and the RawTherapee photo processing engine and LOST DAW digital audio workstation.

Existing MNT Reform owners interested in upgrading the systems can pre-order the module from the MNT Shop, priced at €500 (around $532) for the 16GB/128GB version and €750 (around $798) for the 32GB/256GB version. Both come with a custom aluminum heatsink for passive cooling and an adapter to get the MNT Reform's display working with an HDMI output.

The module's KiCad sources are available under the Strongly Reciprocal variant of the CERN Open Hardware License Version 2 on the MNT source repository — though, Hartmann admits, using the module requires binary-blob proprietary DDR and GPU firmware.

For those who do not already have an MNT Reform, a fully-assembled version with the RK3588 SOM starts at €1,400 (around $1,489) on the MNT Shop — with production currently under-way and shipping expected to begin in three months' time.

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