Mnt reform next, questions and expectations

Hi all,

Happy New Year everyone.

I have seen the latest posts from @minute on RSS regarding the mnt reform next in last year’s Christmas posts and the device looks amazingly great. Therefore, I was wondering if you have already decided what will be all the specifications of the product.

Of course, I am not asking to reveal these specifications before the product crowdfunding phase. Still, I was wondering if you (@minute and the team) were looking for suggestions from the community and whether it also makes sense to have a thread with these suggestions unless you have already decided.

Best regards

3 Likes

I will go first and will see if others have suggestions:

Ports:

  1. 2.5 / 10 Gbit Ethernet port, I know this is not easy, but in the longer term, it is nice to have since everyone is heading in this direction, and internet speed is increasing. (this largely depends on the CPU used)

  2. minimum three USB 3 ports, no need for USB 2 since I see more and more peripherals that work only with USB 3

  3. minimum two USB C ports as well, since we are seeing more and more need for these and the EU is heading for USB C charging ports.

  4. USB C charging plug, similar to what MacBooks do (not a fan of it but the idea here is good.)

  5. one HDMI port, and one audio jack, two SD card readers, including a micro card reader directly, since a lot of us have a micro SD card, and in some situations, you spend hours looking for an adapter :unamused:

  6. Internal USB 3 ports would be nice, but not necessary, or not soldered

It would be nice to have all of these ports on the back of the laptop and not on the sides, (similar to old laptops, where printer / serial ports were massive, they were located on the back) and there was space for CD reader on the sides. These days, CD readers do not exist anymore, giving us more space to have a notebook or a cup of coffee on the sides, if we put all ports in the back. I know also that this suggestion means a complete redesign of the motherboard especially if you wanted to use the existing mnt reform one, but could be worth it.

Hardware/circuits:

  1. Some kind of security internal hardware, like an internal nitro key circuit. I do understand that this defies the purpose of the key (unless you are using it for simple stuff like signing commits), also having it separately means that we need to sacrifice one of the USB ports which I am not too fan of, it would be nice to have this circuit and it is protected by a pin, or enabled by a button or a fingerprint.

  2. integrated camera and microphone and powered via a switch.

  3. it would be nice to have WiFi integrated, ath9k is good but I think it is slow by today’s standard, I know it is hard to find a blob-free WiFi module, but it would be worth investigating.

  4. two PCI express, would be also nice to provide some space for a 4/5G module with antennas embedded internally. The user would choose the module and install it.

  5. RAM 16 / 32 GB, no need for less since the more is the merrier in this context.

  6. Last crazy suggestion, GPIO pins in the right back side would be nice that are hidden by a slightly small door, this is good in embedded development especially if we do not want to dismantle the entire device to access them, or a subset of them allowing to have accessibility to i2c, UART, and SPI.

I know most of the above suggestions are oriented from the engineering/developers’ point of view, however, these are only additional to the existing ones and should not affect any user who is using it for different purposes.

Thanks, everyone, it would be nice to hear opinions on these and have another set of suggestions.

1 Like

Is anyone at liberty to link to, or quote, the post to which this thread relates?

1 Like

Looks pretty neat. I wonder if the electronics will be in the upper half as I understand they are in the Pocket? I thought that was quite an innovative way of packaging the components and hopefully prevents the base from getting too hot.

Keyboard: will this be the same unit as used in the full reform? If it is not expected to be backward compatible, perhaps the Cherry ULP might replace the Kailh Choc? This would allow a thinner package comparable to better membrane keyboards whilst still maintaining the discrete switches Reform customers expect. Also - as a German product - Cherry switches would increase the domestic EU content of the Reform.

Using a Reform Standalone keyboard as my daily driver i really hope “Reform next” will sport the same keyboard. :slight_smile:

@user123 this list is pretty exhaustive - from my point of view it’s this is pretty ambitious to get all that stuff into a smaller form factor than “Reform classic”. Additionally i asume that the available ports a pretty much limited by what the compute modules offer.

I have no comparision what the proposed RK3588 will offer compared to the i.MX8MQ/A311D. But i guess we will have a nice table with the pros and cons later. :slight_smile:

I agree, the idea to put all the ideas on the table and then will see which could be realized and which could not.

2 Likes

Just saw Jeff Geerling’s review on the MNT reform. This reminded me of a few things:

  1. Nice comment from Jeff, It would be really good to have buttons for the touchpad, these are practical, especially for those who are used to it.

Regarding the WiFi, there is WiFi 6 from Nordic, it is open source if I remember right, and it could be a nice solution for the reform next

Another thing is this module that contains GNSS and LTE, it could be integrated directly to the motherboard. It is also from Nordic:

Edit: I understand the original will continue being supported. So you have no fear about the keyboard being orphaned.

Part of me would be willing to see MNT sacrifice original keyboard compatibility in the Next for the sake of further reductions in depth. Doing so will provide more distinction between the two models, and thus reason to continue developing the original. And at any rate, the most notable part of the original input setup - trackball - has been scrapped with the move to trackpad-only.

Perhaps it should instead sport a Thinkpad style pointing stick?

To save anyone else from having to search: I assume this is it (here).

Reform Next is an addition to the Reform lineup.

1 Like

To expand on my last post, I think the Next, as presented, will totally cannibalise the original Reform. If I may put my “fantasy laptop constructor” hat on for a moment, I think another solution would be to adapt an off-the-peg OEM laptop chassis to house the Reform guts. This would provide a beginner friendly reform that lacks the intimidating physical characteristics of the original, and equally importantly, the intimidating price. Hopefully that would help to get more people on the Reform platform. Without kicking away the reasons for the original Reform to exist.

@Squizzler (not start a debate :smile: ) but I think we are missing the point in here.

  1. The reason engineers/makers who want to buy the reform and have not done it yet, is not related to the price or the thickness of the laptop.

In my opinion, the main reason is mostly related to the specs, and that’s why I did not buy it yet.

  1. The price of the current reform laptop is dirt cheap, it is technically impossible to reduce the price lower than this, I have no idea how they are affording the current price. if you try to run your own business and create a product with low funding and zero investment, there is a 99.99 percent that it will fail, therefore no surprise the team is celebrating each order. It requires a massive amount of experience because you want to do things right the first time and minimize the time spent in research to reduce costs, yet once it is ready you want the price to be competitive.

  2. OEM manufacturers can reduce the price only because of the massive number of orders.

  3. We can not have a beginner-friendlier laptop, people would not go for this is mainly because of the OS, people who are used to OS X and Windows would not enjoy this device, because their expectations from a laptop are completely different than engineers/makers / hobbyist, etc…

  4. I do not think the thickness is an issue, people in the industry see all kinds of weird shape laptops (Panasonic used to have rugged design as well). And in a lot of places, it is still the case. Of course, if it is thinner it is better, but I do not think sales would jump off, because otherwise by this time we would have ordered the Framework laptop.

7 Likes

I don’t mind a debate! My concern is simply how the Next will fit into the range with to the original Reform they say will remain in production. Perhaps as “Macbook Air” to the “Pro”? It needs to be simple to consumers to know which one to go for.

Personally I think the original form factor should remain the premium model in future. How would you differentiate them, so that the deeper trackball equipped model is still a valid choice?

All this said, the Next is some way in the future and we may see how MNT intends the “original” to evolve long before the new model arrives!

Lukas already said that they are willing to further refine the “Reform classic” and that they are trying to share parts when appropiate.

I pretty much agree with @user123 that all of them, Reform classic, Pocket Reform and Reform next could adress different audiences/use cases due to differing specs while staying strong to MNTs core ideas of hackability, fixability and open source.

5 Likes

We absolutely agree on this point, although I may not have said it quite so eloquently as yourself. But in the spirit of this thread (as I understand it), I have put my own suggestions out there, FWIW. Over to you now: how would you achieve the above and differentiate models within the Reform range?

Thats hard to answer cause i’m not familiar enough on how PCB design works and what constraints apply to the overall design of such a piece of hardware.

The Pocket differentiates itself by the form factor, maybe the Next can head more into “mobile usage” by trade in the ethernet port for less height, weight and usb-c connectivity. But this is just a wild guess - i assume Lukas already has an idea in which direction the Next will be heading, otherwise they would not have started the design process.

1 Like

I’m quite busy at the moment with the MNT Pocket Reform first batch production (and getting our MNT Reform refresh, upgrades and peripherals available on Crowd Supply), so apologies that I haven’t chimed in here earlier. I’m really happy about the lively discussion and input here though, so thanks for that!

The basics of the Reform Next industrial design and a lot of the specs are already quite solidified, and we’ll do a longer post about this soon.

About Reform vs Reform Next positioning:

  • Classic Reform has never been a high volume product and will probably always stay niche. Which is fine. It appeals to a certain group of users that are technically more advanced or want some degree of DIY, customization/personalization, people that might even become co-creators in the open source spirit. It can be seen as an avant-garde device or a flexible lab from which developments for other devices are spun off.
  • Reform Next is one such spinoff. It is for people who are less DIY focused, and who are looking for a sweet spot between right-to-repair/customization/open source/autonomy and practicability/portability/“it should pass as a pro/business device in meetings”. We will try to make it easier to use for people who are not mega Linux experts by default.

Reform Next is also more of a competitor to Framework, but has some USPs that stem from Reform:

  • Mechanical keyboard
  • 18650 LiFePO4 batteries (yep)
  • Open Hardware with all the effects this has (no venture capital backed company will be able to match this, I think)
  • Fanless
  • No planned platform decay like app/part store business models, bundled MS Windows etc

Both Reform and Reform Next will steadily improve in terms of price/performance, as they will both receive next-gen processors etc (Pocket Reform too, of course).

16 Likes

I admire that MNT are thinking in terms of parking their tanks on Framework’s lawn!

As far as Framework is concerned, I showed interest in it, and participated in the forum, but was disappointed at the time that they did not go all the way with their input customisability, particularly the 16" model. This seemed ideal to use the Cherry ULP switches mentioned above to allow hand-built keyboards, and whose omission from the 13 can be excused because the cherry switch postdates that. However the consensus seems to be that there is no room there for discrete switches, so that users are stuck with whatever can justify the requisite production quantity.

Regarding input, and I know the current prototype has not gone this route, I think that a thinner keyboard module incorporating the cherry switch would allow the depth of the laptop to be more competitive yet still be materially better than Framework input.

Staying with input, has a “trackpoint” pointing stick been considered? Many Framework users on their forum have regretted its omission and, whilst some are attempting to modify Frameworks with the Thinkpad keyboard, it may be worth considering as a way to target another set of Framework malcontents from the start!

My comments not notwithstanding, whatever emerges from the prototyping stage - with the two previous designs to build on - is shaping up to be a blockbuster for yourselves. Presumably the way that it is produced and distributed will have to change from previous models to keep up with demand?

1 Like

Including corebooted intel/amd? with stuff like intel me disabled?

There are no plans for Intel or AMD x86 processors in Reforms.

4 Likes