Reform processor upgrade choice

I got my new reform earlier this week and i’ve got it setup to the 95% point. My machine needs are fairly modest, the biggest chunks are arduino, KiCad, Mixx, and some audio something to replace the subset of Ableton Live! I used.

…and web browsing, by far the piggiest load.

I’ve got the imx8mq cpu, that’s what Crowd Supply had in stock, and it’s barely adequate to handle my web needs: protonmail, (streaming music site), etc. Everything works, but the machine repeatedly crawls to a halt when is playing music, protonmail is loaded, and i browse this forum. Sound, trackball, and time of day clock freeze. waiting 30 minutes, they don’t come back. Reset time.

With 4gb ram I guess that’s what i get. i’m old so i have a habit of frugality, I don’t think my habits wontonly consuming resources.

Two questions: Is the A311 cpu on [CM4 Processor Module Upgrade] likely to improve my situation?

Is there something I can do to improve performance in the meantime? speed is less important to me than reliability, eg not locking up. Different browser (using firefox)?

The A311D was a noticeable improvement for me.

I used native (non-Electron) and CLI apps as much as possible, otherwise.

You’d also do well, IMO, if you’re running on an NVMe, to set up a generous swap file or partition.


Thank you.

And thanks for reminding me about swap – I’d created the partition and forgot to swapon. I’m sure it will improve things.

Yeah, I also got pretty regular freezes without swap. Running out of memory will do that!

Might want to add an entry to your fstab while you’re at it.

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The A311D should be a serious bump in regards to CPU speed: Amlogic A311D vs NXP i.MX 8M Quad

Given the extensive usage of JS everywhere around the web nowadays this should be a great update compared to the iMX8MQ.

The RK3588 would be the top notch of what the Reform can handle nowadays: NXP i.MX 8M Quad vs Rockchip RK3588

But that comes with a price tag plus you would need a separate Wifi module.

(edit: fixed first link)

lol, it was dumb of me to forget swap! it’s immediately faster too. Making a lot of dumb mistakes here. And so it goes. I formatted with three partitions, boot / and swap. Swapon and fstab.

swapiness is 60, i added to sysctl.conf. If you suggest a better value I’ll make the change.

Very happy overall so far. Adapting to the keyboard is a bit of work. Will remap some keys, mainly DEL into LEFTSHIFT, my long fingers never get to the shift key.

I wasn’t sure about the trackball but i’m now very happy with it.


Thanks rwa. the rk3588 is a bit out of my price range right now and not in stock. Though the swap seems to solve the reliability problem, the A311D may be worth the modest price. But I’ll wait to get more familiar before messing with hardware.

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Another downside of the faster modules is the increased power draw - especially for “the beast” RK3588 (not so much for the A311D).

The i.MX 8M plus that is used in the Pocket Reform might be a nice “middle ground”. Compared to i.MX 8MQ it has a slightly faster CPU, 8GB of RAM but a slower GPU (see: NXP i.MX 8M Quad vs NXP i.MX 8M Plus).
But afaik this module is only used in the Pocket and not sold separately.

Anyway - plenty of options already available. :slight_smile:

The Reform with the imx8mq was my only computer for over a year, so I’ve used it for all my programming, document editing, email, web, video etc stuff. I can attest that unless you throw some heavier applications or javascript web apps at it, it did all the tasks i wanted it to just fine. For other things (like compiling the linux kernel) I just had to wait a bit longer (around 6 hours in case of compiling linux). Watching 1080p video worked fine thanks to hardware decoding and this is I guess the one thing I miss about the imx8mq. I was able to watch a full-hd video while in the background all my cores were busy doing stuff. I now upgraded to the a311d and while it can decode video in software just fine (because its simply quite a bit faster) I get the usual video lags that I was used to from my intel laptop that I had before. But with an SSD and some swap (I had 8 gigs without any custom swappiness setting) the imx8mq worked just fine. If you want to upgrade but don’t need crazy performance, maybe wait for people to buy the rk3588 and then get their a311d for much cheaper. Some users on IRC already announced that they might sell their a311d if they buy the rk3588.


josch, ooh yes, these are all good points.

Most of my problems were due to neglecting swap. I’m not compiling kernels so don’t need screaming performance. I have noticed that video on the imx8mq is fine. I may not upgrade cpu at all and certainly not right now. And your advice to wait til the rk3588 is out is a good one!

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This is a limitation and one that is more noticeable on the Librem 5, for example. However, I have never felt this way on the Reform because of the following:

  1. I have a 1tb NVME drive with a 10gb swap that is active and used. The NVME is fast and I have never experienced any real slowdowns while using my Reform.
  2. I use Sway as it is lightweight and doesn’t have a bunch of resource expensive overhead.

I have 6 workspaces with things on it.

  1. Brave with 20 tabs
  2. Brave with 4 tabs, Signal, Nheko, and Dino
  3. Thunderbird
  4. VS Codium
  5. Terminal, Lollypop
  6. LibreOffice Writer with a 24+ page document open and being added on.

I do not experience slow downs, and i feel that this is because the NVME based swap is fast and keeps up with the CPU nicely.

I do enable Brave’s memory saver which cached website and shuts them down when not used after a specified amount of time. Most browsers I think support this or you can find an extension that does something similar.

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It used to be sold separately, but has officially been discontinue.

I ordered one a while ago. Just last week I have gotten notice that it is supposed to ship within the next week.

On the software side, work is being done to have it support the mnt reform.

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We are also already publishing system images for the big reform with imx8mp in CI pipeline results for some non-main branches:

You’d need the file called reform-system-imx8mp.img.gz.

While it is possible to buy 8m plus boards from various sources, where would you get the adapter board from if not from MNT?

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the BPI cm4 was a huge boost for me, but it has some drawbacks. USB2 only, only 1 display at a time, NVME slot doesn’t work. I’ve lived with those drawbacks for the big speed boost, but with the RCORE coming out that is way faster, and fixes all those issues I’d wait for that.