A new RISC-V concept laptop design is in the works, known as the Balthazar Personal Computing Device. This laptop design is designed from the ground up to be a completely open-source laptop, that is cheap to buy and can be directly upgraded by the user themself. The laptop is not being sold directly by its creators. Instead, it’s a concept design people or companies can use to build real versions of the device.
The goal of the Balthazar laptop is to give users complete control over their computing experience with a device that is capable of using hardware and software that is built with open and secure standards and is inexpensive to make. The Balthazar laptop project wants to lead by example, showing hardware manufacturers that an open-source future is the way to go, abandoning the closed hardware architectures so many manufacturers use today.
As a result, the Balthazar laptop is one of the most unique concept designs to date and goes much further than other projects similar to it, such as the Framework laptop. From head to toe, the entire device is built with open-standards and is designed to be user-maintained and upgradeable at a very low cost (though the exact cost has not been specified). The laptop also abandons any intention of using Windows operating systems, being entirely dedicated to running Linux operating systems designed for RISC-V hardware.
Since the laptop is focused more on function than form, it is anything but sleek or aesthetically pleasing. The device features a chunky 13.3-inch form factor, with a very thick body, featuring a white, and green color aesthetic.
If anything the laptop’s design language is reminiscent of rugged business laptops such as the Dell Latitude 7330 (opens in new tab)Rugged Extreme (opens in new tab) Laptop. It features a rugged outer casing using either polycarbonate, aluminum composite or recyclable plastic, hot-swappable bays for the battery and storage drives, a waterproof Cherry MX low-profile keyboard, fanless cooling and Tempest-shielded internal cabling.
Currently, the concept design specifications include a specialized SoC based on the RISC-V and ISA CPU architectures, this SoC runs on a SoM (or System on a Module) card that is replaceable and upgradeable. RAM is also housed on this card.
For the GPU the design team is looking at using the ARM Cortex A7x, but the team is waiting on open documentation that will enable open-source drivers and software to be written for the GPU. Alternatively, the team is looking into using Nvidia GPU options, that could be used in conjunction with open-source documentation from Nvidia’s side.
For storage, the concept is designed to use a SATA SSD that can be installed and taken out very quickly thanks to a user-accessible bay on the side of the laptop. Alternatively, the laptop also features an eSATA connector for external storage connectivity. Sadly you can’t use modern storage solutions like M.2 NVMe drives.
Other specifications include a 13.3-inch, 16:10 full HD screen with an LED backlight, a 10,000+ mAh recyclable battery, a removable camera module and an ergonomic keyboard. For wired connectivity, it has USB ports, an OTG port, an HDMI port, a GPIO port and 3.5mm audio.
The operating systems the Balthazar laptop is designed to run include 64-bit versions of NixOS, Trisquel GNU, Guix, Debian, and Ubuntu variants for RISC-V.
When Will It Be Ready
Unfortunately, there is no due date for the Balthazar laptop design to be complete, but the good news is the team is already working on its first prototype and is actively working towards the finalized system. For more details be sure to check out the projects news feed here.