It seems that we have gotten past the obsession with dongles that gave rise to small HDMI PC sticks. Thanks to the popularity of set-top and smart TV boxes as well as the revival of the Mac Mini, we’re back to being fascinated with small boxes that act as full-blown desktops, sans the discrete graphics card. Comparing Purism’s latest product to the Apple Mac Mini probably isn’t too far-fetched but the Librem Mini does have the advantage not only in power but in the promise of control, security, and privacy.
It’s definitely a lot larger than the 2018 Mac Mini and looks more like an Intel NUC. That isn’t exactly a disadvantage as the little 5 in x 5 in x 1.5 in box packs quite a wallop, starting with an Intel Core i7-8565U. OK, yes it is an older 8th-gen processor but it makes up for it with a lot of other expansions and features.
Although the base offering only has 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage, the Librem Mini can handle up to 64 GB of DDR4 memory and any SATA III or M.2 SSD drive. There are a plethora of ports as well, from Gigabit Ethernet to USB-C. Curiously, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are optional add-ons.
The Librem Mini‘s real appeal will be its focus on privacy and security. In addition to running the company’s PureOS Linux distribution and supporting its own Librem Key security key, Purism explains that the Intel processor’s Management Engine has been disabled and neutralized as well.
The price to pay for that, however, might be a bit too high for some to stomach, starting at $699 for that base configuration. Although the company has successfully launched and distributed its privacy-centric line of Librem Linux laptops, Purism hit a snag and some controversy over how it has handled the Librem phone that is, by now, delayed
indefinitely due to internal problems initially and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
UPDATE: Purism has reached out to clarify that shipments of the next Librem 5 batches are not indefinitely delayed. But due to earlier delays and now the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dogwood batch that should have shipped in January won’t be coming until end of April. The rest of the Evergreen pre-orders will have to wait until the middle of August, presuming things go back to normal in the next few months.