Not much of a ‘puter, but for the price…
There is still much annoyance over the Superbook’s lack of deliveries, as can be seen in the Kickstarter Updates comments for them. Someone pointed out NexDock. which appears to be getting some things more right. For one, they are working on a version 2 and the version 1 shipped.
While I am not backing/ordering the NexDock, I think they get closer to right. It’s charged via USB-C (one less connector style and unique charger), has HDMI-imput (easier for video-only display), Micro SDXC reader, speakers and mic. And the keyboard appears to be a true backlit thing or at least a much better done ‘around the keys’ lighting setup. The downside (which probably is really an upside – eventually) is that rather than have an Android application provide a window-ish overlay, it counts on the phones to support “desktop mode” and so far that’s some Samsung and Huawei. And as things are going, I do not expect to see Huawei around, at least in the USA. Hopefully as other makers go to ever-newer versions of Android and support ever better (one hopes) features, the Desktop Mode will become common. That would make things much closer to the ideal, at the very least.
So where does that leave me? My current Huawei gets charging wrong (the Honor 8 tries to charge the Superbook – and changing the setting doesn’t work as it flips back to doing it wrong almost immediately. Huawei says they aren’t going to issue a fix. I won’t miss Huawei. Whatever my next phone will be, it wouldn’t be another Huawei even if they weren’t suspect.) I have used the Superbook as an external keyboard & display for a laptop, but that’s rather silly in my particular case.
There are, however, a couple interesting possibilities. The thing is a battery, display, keyboard, and allegedly a trackpad (4-point). It’s almost a laptop – just add computer. And there are some ‘just a computer’ things that can be added.
One is the Raspberry Pi (the 3 B+ looks very interesting) which is fairly capable, for a $35 (closer to $60 when decked out as I think it needs) but while small and able to run a version of Debian linux, would be a bit bulky and still require external power. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s more something I’d use to just park the thing someplace and a have a small computer there.
The other is a “Compute Stick” (as Intel calls it. There are other makes) which looks a lot like a USB memory stick, but is CPU, RAM, storage, wifi, bluetooth, HDMI (so you can plug it into your TV or monitor), and USB ports. I’ve ordered a cheap one to see how it goes. For $40, I get an Intel Atom, 1 GB RAM, ports, and I can add a 128 GB micro SD card. Oh, and it runs a modified Ubuntu. And by good fortune, NewEgg recently had great deal on a 128 GB micro-SD card, which should arrive in a few days.
I plan to bring the Compute Stick up on a TV or spare monitor, with a USB keyboard plugged in and do setup. Then I’ll try it on the Superbook and if it thing become useful. Even if not, I can still use the Compute Stick on a monitor or TV. There are Bluetooth keyboards with trackpads that would make using a TV less goofy.
I suspect I will eventually also get the Raspberry Pi as it does seem a bit more capable and is quite expandable. And again, it can be a small computer somewhere with stuff lying around. Neither the Stick nor the Pi will be as capable as a proper laptop, but for light things either should be adequate.
For someone who started with an 8-bit machine with a whopping 256 Bytes (I did NOT omit a prefix) RAM, the idea of $40 adding a CPU & RAM & such to stuff “lying around” is still a bit weird. But it’s a wonderful version of weird that sure beats the Great Depression experience of my grandparents.