Why Are People Lining up to Buy the World's Slowest Laptop?

The MNT Reform promises to be a completely open-source, customizable, hackable and completely transparent device

Whenever you buy a laptop or a smartphone, you look for the best specifications. The highest RAM and fastest processors are usually the basic criteria for selection.

However, PC enthusiasts seem to be flocking crowdfunding platform Crowdsupply to back an ongoing campaign for what could be the "world's slowest laptop," which makes us wonder there must be something special about it, otherwise, in the world of technology, slow and inefficient devices and good sales don't get along too well.

A hacker's dream machine

MNT Reform
MNT Reform laptop MNT Research GmbH

Meet the MNT Reform, a unique new laptop that promises to be open, customizable, hackable and completely transparent, and it is also the only notebook in existence to fully comply with Open Source Hardware Association standards. Now, this must give you an idea of why it's one of the most sought after devices out there.

So far, 113 backers have committed more than $131,339, as on May 16, which is well over the initial goal of $115,000 set by the manufacturer, and with 33 days left for the campaign closure.

The description of the MNT Reform itself reads "The open-source DIY laptop for hacking, customization, and privacy" and the project was launched by Germany-based MNT Research GmbH, which says is spent the last 18 months trying to build a laptop that supported the open-source philosophy while being as functional and practical as possible.


All that time and effort resulted in a laptop that costs $999, or tough around £820, and comes as a kit, in the same spirit as some of the first microcomputers. But if you don't want to pay a premium for the assembly, you can DIY the MNT Reform by buying and assembling the individual boards, display panel, and case parts yourself.

The fully assembled model retails for around $1,300 and comes with an SD card with Debian GNU/Linux 11 on board, a printed operated handbook, and an international power supply (110/230 V), but without Wi-Fi. For an additional $200, you can get a 1 TB SSD, Wi-Fi, a mPCIe Wi-Fi card, and a custom Black Piñatex Leather Sleeve which is 100% vegan and designed in Berlin by fashion designer Greta Melnik.

What makes the MNT Reform different?

The MNT Reform may look outdated but is unlike any of the modern mobile personal computers that are becoming more and more opaque, vendor controlled, and hard to repair. It is completely open-source, customizable, and transparent with no secret schematics and the batteries and components are fully swappable, unlike the Intel Management Engine or the Apple T2 security chip.

What's more, the Reform laptop doesn't even have any built-in surveillance technologies, cameras, or microphones, so you can be confident that it will never spy on you. It is not built around Intel technology, but NXP/Freescale i.MX8M with 64-but ARM Cortex-A53 cores, which is a much simpler architecture than conventional laptops. The CPU and RAM are on an exchangeable SO-DIMM sized module.


The MNT Reform feature 4GB of DDR4 RAM, a quad-cc ore ARM Cortex A53 CPU, similar to the one in the Raspberry Pi 3, a 12.5-inch full HD display, five USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a mechanical keyboard with Kailh Choc Brown Switches, dimmable backlight, and open firmware. The GPU is Vivante GC7000Lite with mainline Linux drivers and OpenGL 2.1, ES 2.0.

Bear in mind, the MNT Reform is not an average person's laptop and its core target audience will probably be fully aware of its limitations. But for average users looking to preserve their privacy, a business laptop with Windows Hello, password manager, solid antivirus software and a leading VPN should work just fine.