Linux was born at a time when PCs were bulky, stationary machines. Now we’re in the era of Apple iPads. Our Android phones have touchscreens, and so do our game consoles. Many of us long to use our favorite open source operating system on a form factor we’ve come to love.
Fortunately, all is not lost. If you want to acquire a touchscreen device that runs Linux, you can! The options aren’t yet plentiful, but they’re growing. Here are some of the current and upcoming Linux tablet projects to keep on your radar.
Planet Gemini is more a smartphone than a tablet. That said, it’s also more of a PDA than a smartphone. It’s an un-apologetically niche product built for a more technical user. Honestly, you’re more likely to appreciate this Linux-powered device more for being pocketable than for having a touchscreen.
The Gemini has a physical keyboard and a clamshell form factor. When you close it up, there are no outward facing screens or dialing buttons. Still, the Gemini can serve as your phone, as you have the option to order either a 4G-enabled or a Wi-Fi-only version.
The Gemini’s main OS is Android, but it comes with an unlocked bootloader and is able to run other operating systems. You can install Debian Linux, for example. You can also opt for another Linux-based smartphone OS, such as Sailfish.
Want to go the conventional route? Look no further than Emperor Linux. This reseller takes existing hardware lines, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad and the Panasonic Toughbook, and installs Linux.
For a couple grand, you can get a capable PC with a screen that will let you enjoy or develop the Linux touch-based experience. Depending on how powerful or durable you want your machine to be, you can easily spend thousands more.
Will your device turn heads? Not likely. These are machines that look more at home in an office or at a work site than on your couch. But if your priority is getting work done, and you have a larger budget, than this may be your best option.
3. RasPad (Raspberry Pi Tablet)
The RasPad is crowdfunded device that offers everything there is to love about the Raspberry Pi, but in a tablet form factor. That makes this a great product for makers and tinkerers. Judging by pledge prices, it’s also likely to be relatively affordable.
If you’ve used a Raspberry Pi, you know the platform is what you want it to be. People have already tinkered with ways to make their Raspberry Pi portable.
Buying a RasPad can save you the time and effort of building your own product. That’s not to say you won’t have any DIY fun. For example, you can make your own Chrome OS or Android device by installing the right operating system.
In an educational or industrial environment, you can hook the tablet up to a robot for use as a control panel. For something more casual, try pairing a gamepad and turning your Raspberry Pi into a mobile gaming device.
4. Librem 11
Librem is a privacy focused company that only ships Linux-powered PC. Similar to System76, it even provides its own Linux-based operating system. Librem’s PureOS has such strong free and open source software cred that it’s earned an endorsement from the Free Software Foundation.
Librem doesn’t sell a laptop with a touchscreen, but the upcoming Librem 11 may become the closest we have to a modern Linux-powered slate. When the device isn’t docked into a keyboard, it’s akin to carrying around an iPad, only with a more fully-featured desktop interface.
PureOS uses the GNOME desktop environment, which feels intended for tablets as much as traditional PCs. This will offer a chance to see what happens when a developer truly puts that to the test. And if you don’t like GNOME, you will have the option to install something else.
Development on the Librem 11 is currently taking a backseat to the Librem 5 smartphone, a touchscreen-based Linux project that many are even more excited about.
5. Youyota (Sailfish OS 2-in-1 Tablet)
The Youyota tablet is a spiritual successor to the short-lived Jolla Tablet that both launched and reached end-of-life in 2015. This newer iteration has an official license from Jolla and an identical form factor. Primary improvements include a bigger battery and increased storage space.
Unfortunately, despite being funded over 250% on Indiegogo, this project has hit a snag. The development team has found that several components are more expensive than anticipated.
Having already exceeded the expected release date by a year, the final product may never arrive. If you love Sailfish OS, all you can do is keep your fingers crossed.
Want to Make Your Own Linux Tablet?
— fail0verflow (@fail0verflow) February 17, 2018
If you already have a touchscreen lying around, it may be tempting to install Linux yourself. This will save you some money, assuming everything works out enough to do what you want to do.
Here are a few options:
- Install Linux on your own Windows tablet or convertible notebook.
- Run Linux on an Android device. You can use a tool dedicated to running Linux on a non-rooted device, such as KBOX. Or you could fire up Linux in an emulator, like Limbo.
- You can run Linux on some consoles such as the Nintendo Switch.
Linux Tablets Have Been a Long Time Coming
Linux tablet projects have come and gone over the years. The KDE community once excited many Linux users with the prospect of a Plasma-powered tablet. Devices such as the Aquaris M10 running Ubuntu and the Jolla Tablet actually came to fruition, but their lives were short.
Still, the dream survives. Thanks to crowdfunding and cheaper open components such the Raspberry Pi, it’s easier for people to take matters into their own hands.
If, on the other hand, you just want a solid Linux PC, even better. There are many great computers that come with Linux!
Image Credit: Gemini PDA/Planetcom