[VIM3 Project] Your Very Own Mobile Internet Device

Hello this is the first update on this forum for this longrunning project. In summary this endeavour has sought to make a portable Linux device like a smartphone roughly in size but with PC style capabilities.

The launch of the Raspberry Pi 4 came and went without offering any power savings so the project continued on without it using some alternative platforms. On the dual goal of being able to play PC games, it is only until recently that the 8GB Pi 4 had that potential. Unfortunately there is not enough overhead for Linux gaming even on most low end x86 PC platforms so there is little hope current Pi versions will make for a good PC gaming experience.

If you read the development notes you will see some experiments with portable PC stick hardware running games such as Kerbal Space Program on Linux but those devices were a dead end as far as power savings go. Both in terms of lack of power saving features and in idle and load power draw.

Currently there does not seem to be a small x86 device that has working suspend/sleep/standby mode in Linux which renders the dual goal of a Linux smartphone device that can play modern PC games unattainable.

The VIM3 SBC does have a working suspend mode as well as a wide 5-20v input. This allows for much more battery power and energy without the corresponding wiring complexity and loss of efficiency that you would have in a device that required “stepping down” the voltage to 5V. “Stepping up” from traditional smartphone and tablet batteries comes with it’s own challenges as well. Namely, the effective current limit, maximum available power and conversion inefficiency from such low voltage batteries.

On the gaming front all hope for portable gaming is not lost. I have uploaded a bonus version of Retroarch with VIM3 support to the releases area as well. This release is intended for and works well for the older console systems.

Maybe one day we can get a device with 8GB+ RAM that can play PC games and go to sleep. Until then keep building!

Mobile Internet Device Wiki


I thought I would slip in and give an update just short of a year. A few patches may be still to come anyway.

The goal of a PC gaming phone-like portable has been largely attained. The Lattepanda Alpha SBC specifically has 8GB RAM and can suspend to save power. With a MID based on it you can do the kinds of things you would do on a smartphone as well as play PC games with a gamepad on the go, keyboard/mouse while docked or perhaps even with the touchscreen. The Lattepanda Delta can suspend and has 4GB RAM and is a cheaper alternative. Recent PC games can be played successfully but I would recommend something like a Steam Deck for cutting edge games. If using Android apps is something you would require in a personal mobile device then the large RAM of the Alpha is something that should make emulation possible. When finished you can put the device to sleep and put it in your rather large pocket.

There is something to be said for a smaller more manageable mobile device that is more the size of a smartphone. Even if that means gaming capability is compromised. The VIM 3 is smaller than the Lattepanda Alpha/Delta and has different USB functionality making for a smaller and simpler overall MID. This is more of a device that you can put in your pocket and hopefully not have it break. You can put a plastic shell around it like a commercial device but you will find that one large enough to give good protection makes the MID too large. I do not consider this a big deal since one of the goals of the project is to put more control into the hands of the user and this includes the realm of repairability. In other words if it breaks you can fix it.

Thus 2 parallel ARM and x86 codebases are being maintained for now. Extensive troubleshooting has been undertaken to fix some long standing hardware
stability problems on both MID platforms as well. Addditionally, all main wiki pages have received an update. Finally, another bonus compiled version of the latest Retroarch source has been added that focuses on PS1 emulation.

A special message for Khadas forum users. I thought I would post this here even though the project uses several different types of SBC now. The devices based on the VIM 3 are even smaller and more functional now. The notes on the wiki could be particularly useful if you are getting started with VIM 3. If you want you can also be amused by the power hog x86 devices the project is using compared to VIM 3. It has been a hard road with the VIM 3 but the superior design over other ARM based SBC units came through in the end.

I am not sure where it is going to go from here but I look forward to using the devices now that the dream has come true.

1 Like