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11.6-inch HD tablet runs Ubuntu on Intel Core M

Apr 6, 2015 — by Eric Brown — 32,416 views

[Updated Apr. 7] — Cube’s $399, Ubuntu-based “i7-CM” tablet has an Intel Core M CPU and an 11.6-inch HD display. Meanwhile, at least two other Ubuntu tablets are under development.

A Chinese company called Cube, owned by Ele Technology, has begun selling an Ubuntu Linux-based version of its Windows-based i7 tablet. As first reported by CNGadget, and picked up by Liliputing, the i7-CM starts at just $399 at AliExpress, compared to $581 for the Windows version. The 11.6-inch tablet is notable for running on one of Intel’s new 14nm fabricated Core M processors. Meanwhile, at least two other Ubuntu tablets are also in the works, an MJ Tech tablet from MJ Technology, and a revamped version of the Demski Group’s UT One tablet (see farther below).

Cube i7-CM tablet
(click image to enlarge)

A limited number of Cube’s $399-and-up i7-CM tablets are now on sale in China, with the price rising to an unspecified figure at a later date. This appears to be essentially the same device as Cube’s recently released Windows-based i7 tablet, but at a lower price, and with 3G cellular instead of the 4G LTE. The tablet ships with Ubuntu preloaded, along with an unlicensed trial version of Windows 8.1. This may well be the touch-enabled, Chinese-targeted Ubuntu Kylin, rather than the not yet finalized “Ubuntu Touch for Tablets” code.

Cube i7-CM (center), with keyboard option and HDMI-attached monitor
(click image to enlarge)

Aside from its Ubuntu build, the i7-CM tablet is primarily notable for its spanking new Intel Core M CPU. This tablet and 2-and-1 focused processor debuted last September, several months before the unveiling of Intel’s similarly 14nm fabricated 5th Generation Core (“Broadwell”) line of CPUs. The Core M is claimed to offer 50 percent faster compute performance and 40 percent faster graphics performance compared to the 4th generation (“Haswell”) Core processor.

The Cube i7-CM ships with the dual-core Core-M 5Y10c model, which has an 800MHz base frequency, but can bolt to 2GHz in turbo mode, according to Intel. (Cube says its tablet runs at 1.5GHz to 2GHz.) The chip features 4MB of L2 cache, Intel HD Graphics 5300 graphics, and a low 4.5W TDP (3.5W using Intel’s Scenario Design Power calculation).

Cube i7-CM detail views, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The Cube i7-CM’s 11.6-inch IPS display features 1920 x 1080 resolution and multi-touch support. The tablet is further equipped with 4GB of DDR3L RAM, a microSD slot, and 64GB to 128GB of onboard SATA 3 SSD storage. In addition to the 3G service, provided with a micro-SIM slot, you get 802.11n/b/g WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connections.

The tablet offers both a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a front-facing 2-megapixel camera. Other features include micro-HDMI, micro-USB 3.0 OTG, and 3.5mm audio connections, as well as a mic, speakers, and a 7.4V 5000mAh battery. The 29 x 180 x 9.5mm, 840-gram tablet is available with a clip-on Bluetooth keyboard accessory

Up next for Ubuntu: MJ Tech and UT One tablets

We’re still waiting for Canonical and its Ubuntu Project to announce the first official Ubuntu Touch based tablets to go along with the first Ubuntu smartphone, BQ’s Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition. This may possibly come as soon as April 23 when Ubuntu 15.04 “Vivid Vervet” is released. Now available in beta, the Linux 3.19.3 based Ubuntu 15.04 is primarily notable for switching from Canonical’s homegrown Upstart init system to system.

The Cube i7-CM is not the only Ubuntu tablet in the works. Phoronix recently tipped a quad-core Intel Atom based MJ Tech tablet from MJ Technology that runs Ubuntu.

MJ Tech tablet
(click image to enlarge; source: Phoronix)

Like the Cube tablet, the MJ Tech does not appear to have the endorsement of Canonical. It’s likely, however that they are both using a version of the Ubuntu Touch UI layer, which was first released in beta with tablet-specific extension a year ago with Ubuntu 14.04.

According to Phoronix, the MJ Tech tablet will be available in 8.9-inch ($349) and 10.1-inch ($399) options, both of which feature 1920 x 1200, IPS multitouch technology. The tablet runs an unnamed version of Ubuntu on a quad-core, 2.4GHz Intel Atom SoC. According to Phoronix, the photos suggest it’s currently running Ubuntu Unity 7 instead of the fully touch enabled Unity 8, which “seems to raise more questions than answers.”

The MJ Tech tablet is further equipped with 4GB of RAM, a microSD slot, and 64GB to 128GB SSD storage, says the story. Other features include three USB ports, an HDMI port, and an audio jack. No ship date has been announced, although Phoronix says it’s likely to arrive later this month or in May.

UT One

At least one other Ubuntu tablet is under development. According to Andrew Demski, CEO of the Demski Group, his company is still working on the previously tipped UT One Ubuntu tablet, which was delayed in favor of first releasing a “budget 3G Android tablet,” according to Demski. No ship date was provided for the UT One, which was previously tipped as running on a quad-core Intel Atom Z3735D SoC and providing a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 IPS screen.

According to lead developer Andrew Bernstein, those specs have been revamped, as the U.S.-based company has “gone back to the drawing board” to reduce pricing while keeping performance “very competitive.” The tablet will continue to ship with 3G support. The UT One uses the official beta version of Ubuntu Touch for Tablets, and won’t ship until the code goes final, he added.

Finally, a UbiTab tablet running Ubuntu has emerged in recent months, but it may never see daylight. In December, UbuTab failed to meet its Indiegogo flexible funding goals. The Ubuntu tablet is available for pre-sale now on an UbuTab Shop site. However, the project appears to be a scam, according to this Reddit thread.

A few tablets running Ubuntu have shipped over the years, long before the Ubuntu project set out on its Ubuntu Touch project. Ubuntu tablets include the NorhTec Gecko Info Pad and the Ekoore ET10TA10. However, without native touch support, the touch technology was fairly primitive.

Further information

The Cube i7-CM is available now at AliExpress, starting at $399. More information on the almost identical Windows based i7 version of the tablet may be found at the Cube i7 product page.

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0 responses to “11.6-inch HD tablet runs Ubuntu on Intel Core M”

  1. Paul says:

    Great. Heaven knows we need more choice & competition in the OS world, be it tablets PCs or other devices.

  2. neurosick says:

    Good News.. CUBE make very respectable tablet quality! I’m very satisfied of my Cube U30GT2!

  3. Orionds says:

    Great. Add a usb keyboard folder and mouse, we have the full desktop experience with the full-blown apps – with touch – on the go. This will mean great things for work, education and entertainment – more choice beyond Android and iOS.

  4. Brock says:

    I read both articles you posted that talked about the Cube. Neither says Ubuntu touch, both just say Ubuntu. Since all the pictures I have seen only show the desktop I am concerned. I really want the convergence that has been promised, Is the touch/desktop confirmed?

    • neurosick says:

      Brock.. I found no infos about that, but it’s not really complicated to port the recent ubuntu touch to a cube tablet. even further on a intel i7. I already work to port ubuntu touch on the 10.1 inch CUBE U30GT2. Not really complicated, but the hard part is to create the most compatible hardware to fully optimize resources… and this is ubuntu after all! everything is possible 🙂

    • Orionds says:

      It seems, judging from the manufacturer and user response, there is definitely interest in Ubuntu on phones and tablets, mainly based on the potential of convergence as well as all the different things that can be done using Ubuntu.

      So far, other platforms are more fractured in that desktop apps and mobile apps are separate entities. The closest among them is Android with Chrome OS and now their integration of Android apps into the Chrome browser.

      Ubuntu has the “promise” of full-blown desktop applications and now power 3D games as well as mobile capability – all in one package – which makes it tempting for manufacturer and user alike. It’s no surprise, then, that different manufacturers are actively coming out with their own Ubuntu devices apart from official Ubuntu support to be the first off the block and break the tape at the finish line ahead of other competitors.

    • Me says:

      Running the full desktop is more interesting, as it shows full compatibility with mainline graphic stack (mesa, xorg, wayland)
      Why so much focus on ubuntu?
      There are some very interesting DE’s that leverage the wayland protocol.
      Enlightenment, Papyros, Plasma active, SailfishOS and Tizen(Enlightenment based) just to name a few.
      Plus intel doesnt support Mir, only wayland. So does Red Hat.
      Canonical is painting itself into a lonely corner.

  5. Meuir says:

    Poor design, crap from china. Enjoy.

  6. Marek says:

    Only one USB port ? I’m not buying it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    How is its battery life? Does it have Bluetooth? Best of all, can you open it if you dare? Or did they copycat Apple with glueing it together? (and expose dime/hour workers to toxic fumes like Foxconn and the hexane)

  8. LuluPearl says:

    I have to admit I got excited enough to want one. Whats compelling, is the potential to have the full desktop version of Ubuntu on a Tablet. The Cube makes clear that could happen. I have trouble seeing that the Cube is the right ride. More juice would be least 8GB RAM. I also have trouble believing the Cube is fit for purpose for any Ubuntu user. It starts with the Microsoft home button. So is this somebody’s mistake and is an Ubuntu tablet really the goal? There’s also no technical documentation…what’s really inside? If I cant hold and try one, docs need to be available.

  9. MJ Technology says:

    Pre-orders for the MJ Technology 8.9″ & 10.1″ Ubuntu based Tablet in the next few hours to be followed by a crowd-fund campaign with numerous videos on January 18th, 2016.

    Once we have collected the money to start production in 30 days we will start producing the tablet
    we plan to have it in everyone’s hand that makes a pre-order or pledge in June 2016.

    The wait is over you will soon be able to own this great piece of tech, We will post the crowd-fund page here once we launch and pre-orders can also be made via our website in the next few hours

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