If you're a Linux fanatic or open-source advocate looking for a decent laptop, you actually have some solid options at the moment, at least a lot better than buying a Windows laptop, installing Linux on it, and waiting for it .

Dell has offered Ubuntu editions of some of its XPS laptops and other PCs for years, and Lenovo sells a respectable collection of Linux desktops and laptops. System76 sells a selection of Linux-compatible laptops that come pre-installed with Ubuntu or their own Pop!_OS distribution. The Easy-to-Fix Framework Laptop doesn't come with Linux but can be configured without an operating system, and the framework promises strong multi-distribution Linux support.

But all of these laptops have one thing in common with ordinary Windows PCs: they rely on closed-source hardware and often the proprietary software and drivers needed to make them work. For some people, this is an acceptable compromise. They prefer closed hardware because it works well and is compatible with standard software, development tools, and APIs that keep the computing world running. For others it is anathema: unless you can see the source code for these "binary blobs", they are inherently unreliable and should be used sparingly or not at all.

The MNT Reform is a laptop for the latter group. It's a well-documented device, developed openly, and funded by the masses, who care more about openness than any other aspect of the computing experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this results in a laptop that's ideologically pure but functionally compromised.

We'll talk about the Reforma as a real physical object in a moment, but to understand why that is, it helps to understand the mindset of the people who designed it. For them, the Reform's lack of a microphone and webcam is a selling point for privacy. Its weak ARM Cortex-A53-based processor was chosen because it was "simpler" and "much easier to understand than conventional laptops".

From the time I've spent searching the MNT community forums, it's fair to say that this is the branch of the open source community, things like TPM modules, the Intel Management Engine or is naturally skeptical about Apple's T2 chip - these are, so the thought goes, unfathomable black boxes, the opposite of outlets. You can't verify that they're doing what they say because the source code isn't publicly available and could contain security flaws at best, or deliberate security backdoors at worst.

I say all of this not to mock or dismiss (or confirm) these concerns, but to show how different the concerns of MNT Reform's target audience are from those of general computer buyers.

These are the questions you would normally ask in a laptop review: How fast is it? Is loud? It is too hard? How does the keyboard feel? Is the screen good? How is the battery life? I too can judge the Reformation by these criteria! But all of my comments must be filtered through the self-imposed limitations of the reform project and the priorities of the people who funded it.

At the same time, this isn't a $35 Raspberry Pi board, it doesn't benefit from being so cheap that its quirks and flaws are forgivable. The Reform base model (shipping late April 2022 as of this writing) is a $1,299 DIY kit that you must assemble entirely yourself and add a touchpad or trackball module to the die, starting at $59 assembled Reforma is $1,550 plus shipping, nearly $200 more. Neither version includes a Wi-Fi module, antenna, or internal SSD.

To MNT's credit, the assembly process is fully documented (PDF) and you can do it all with a small Phillips screwdriver. Our test unit came pre-assembled, but the process seems so simple that anyone with any interest in the reform likely has the skills to put it together.

But that's still the same price as a very nice, high-end MacBook or PC laptop (or a bunch of mostly OK PC laptops). This type of price comparison misses the point of the reform, which is to be as open and transparent as possible and not to be a replacement for an XPS 13 or MacBook Air.