Linutop is a company based out of Paris that specializes in small form factor energy efficient embedded type PC’s. They have a variety of devices with no moving parts and utilize open source software based on Ubuntu for the platform. They were kind enough to send me a Linutop 2 to review.
We’ll start off with the un-boxing, the Linutop 2 arrived in a timely manner after the order process considering it was being shipped from Europe to the US but I did have a little issue with the post office requiring my signature since I wasn’t home. I was anxious to get my hands on the device and had to wait an extra day for it to get back to the post office which was a bit of a bummer. I knew the device was small, but the package it came in was smaller than I expected, inside the box full of packing peanuts was another box with the Linutop neatly tucked away in more layers of foam. Once I removed the device I was truly amazed by the size as impressed by the build quality. The enclosure is well built and strong, sort of reminded me of a small inverter or amplifier you’d use in a car. You could probably stand on it without causing any damage to the device.
If I was prepared I would have had been ready to go, but unfortunately I had given my USB keyboard away and did not have another one on hand (I still live in the stone age with PS/2) After a quick trip to the store I got a USB keyboard and was ready to go. After plugging the device in and powering up, I was surprised at how quickly the Linutop OS booted.
The Linutop OS is based off of Ubuntu and after installing to a thumb drive has a few options of how you can configure the device. Secure (on reboot set to default), and two forms of persistent; all changes stay after reboot and only user data stays after reboot. The configuration application is pretty neat, putting what you need to configure the device in a few tabbed pages without being overwhelming. Linutop OS comes pre-installed with popular software such as Firefox, VLC, the Libre Office, Pidgin and lots of other small utilities. It also has gnome-terminal and additional software can be installed easily through the usual Ubuntu methods.
The specifications are rather impressive for the small form factor, and everything works right out of the box. Anyone could jump right in and use the device, even those not too familiar with Linux. I have two sets of grandparents, one technically savvy and the other set only just upgraded to a flat screen and DVD player. I have no doubts that if I got a device like this for the latter, with a little instruction I am confident they’d be able to browse the web, e-mail and chat with family and friends, all be it very slowly.
After considering how I could utilize the device I thought I’d give it a shot as a energy efficient PC for a while, which is the companies main niche. As a desktop replacement it is a little underpowered on it’s own but for light usage it would would. The device struggled to play high definition streaming video’s but it did manage to play lower quality just fine (it could be a resolution thing.) When using it to access a VirtualMachine through SSH tunneled RDP it handled the higher quality better and with the power of the VM server it was more responsive and I was surprised when I heard sound through the little on-board speaker.
Linutop PC’s are used around the world as kiosks, digital signage and terminals in hotels, restaurants, banks, museums and public areas replacing power hungry hard to manage devices with a low maintenance energy efficient device; what’s not to like about that?