What is a GPD Pocket?
The GPD Pocket (link) is a little 7” laptop with a HiDPI (retina) screen. It’s a quad core atom with 8Gb ram and 128Gb eMMC. Basically it’s a modern form of the Nokia n810/n900. In essence: a very capable handheld computer/laptop thingy.
This post is all about my experiences with the machine.
I bought the GPD Pocket because I wanted a little computer/device to handle some of my day to day needs while mobile. Things like day trading crypto tokens that I refuse to do from my daily driver phone. Things I want to be secure first and easy second.
I was going to buy a Google Pixel, Apple iPhone or similar device but the GPD Pocket stands out among the wash of mobile devices. It’s a real computer that just happens to be small. I get far better software, longer term support and it really is a mini-computer that doesn’t suck.
That’s why: It doesn’t suck and does things better than your typical mobile device.
Before going any further I should call out a great Reddit sub and community with a ton of great info.
https://www.reddit.com/r/GPDPocket/ is a great starting point if you want more information. I used this sub heavily to find information, especially for Linux support.
Things I like
- The screen, OMG the screen is BEAUTIFUL
- Cheaper than a flagship Android phone or tablet
- Cheaper than an iDevice
- Keyboard is a chiclet and not bad despite appearances
- Aluminum case
- Screen folds back far enough to be useful
- Internal eMMC is fast enough to be useful, no weird IO hangs
- Dual boots Windows + Xubuntu with minimal hassles
- WiFi works better than expected
- Will be supported longer than a flagship Android phone
- Multi-processing doesn’t suck
Things I don’t like
- The mouse buttons/nib are in the center of the keyboard making it a pain to use at times
- The width is a little much for my hands when using the keyboards as a thumboard
- The BIOS could use a bit of work, especially the non-Ubuntu forms
- The TPM doesn’t seem to want to clear cleanly from Windows
- No backlight for the keyboard
- Included Type C cable for charging is far SHORTER than it needs to be
- Screen is ‘sideways’ and the BIOS/Boot Loaders are all rotated 90 degrees
Some accessories I picked up to go with the GPD Pocket
- Tactical Tailor Zipper Utility Pouch (link)
- Great little carry pouch for the GPD Pocket + Accessories
- Anker PowerCore 13000 (link)
- On the go power
- Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse (link)
- Having a ‘real’ mouse is too useful
- Tenba Tools 12” Protective Wrap (link)
- A cheap, easy way to protect the GPD Pocket in a tactical pouch
The following sections are a brief overview of how I setup my GPD Pocket. My needs are minimal and I’m treating the machine as guaranteed to be stolen. I assume transience with the setup.
Browser based, VPN, full disk crypto, Yubikeys, Crypto hardware wallets, etc. rules my approach.
I flashed a few different BIOS images to this machine during my setup / testing phase. I ultimately settled on the Pocket BIOS for Ubuntu 20170628 (link, search for the text). It’s fully unlocked and gives a lot more in the way of options. Namely Admin/User passwords. Something I wanted from the outset and not present in the other BIOS images.
Be careful though. There are some gotchas / details (link) you’ll need to mind.
I setup my device with both Windows 10 Pro and Xubuntu in a dual boot configuration. I also setup refind (link) for a nice boot manager.
Windows 10 Pro
I setup Windows 10 Pro (I nuked the default Win 10 Home) as a way to ensure I have Windows if I ever need it. I noticed the BIOS updates tend to do best from Windows so I kept a form of it around on a 32Gb partition, just in case.
The only problem I had was getting drivers setup. Their drivers package (link) has 2 folders when extracted. You’ll need to run the installers in both folders to get the full set of drivers installed. Once that’s done all of the hardware should ‘just work’.
The device does have a TPM so I went ahead and turned on Bitlocker (another reason to use Win 10 Pro). I know it’s not bullet proof but it’s a big step forward from ‘nothing’.
After getting Windows situated I setup Xubuntu 16.04 from here (link). The main reddit sub for the GPD Pocket was quite helpful and the image at the link ‘just works’. Xubuntu also does really good with HiDPI screens.
I did have to manually partition the eMMC to setup full disk crypto, boot partition and whatnot but it wasn’t too bad. Pretty typical for full disk crypto in a dual boot environment. Thankfully Windows setup an ESP for me and I could leverage that along the way for refind/grub.
I’ve settled into the machine nicely and it feels like I’m sitting at a real laptop (keyboard aside). I’m using my Yubikey, Ledger Nano S, Trezor, VPN, PGP based password manager and a bunch of other stuff without hassle.
Things just seem to work and aren’t nearly as fiddly as I would have expected. I’m definitely glad I went with a GPD Pocket for a transient environment over a phone or 7” Android tablet or iPad Mini. I get the full utility of a ‘real’ computer and all of the supported hardware/software that you’d expect.
I’d recommend one of these if you’re ever looking for a solid, portable UMPC or tablet.