Slider in your hand, Debian in your pocket
In the world of smartphones, we have pretty much only two device choices when it comes to operating systems: iPhone and Android. However, Planet Computers has found a niche with past devices such as Gemini and Cosmo Communicator. Now it’s back, this time with the Astro Slide 5G, and it packs updated specs and the ability to run popular Linux distros, instead of (or even alongside) Android 11 if you prefer. .
We managed to get some time on the company’s stand at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and it’s a fun little device that serves a very different purpose compared to other devices powered by similar chipsets. . Officially, it is planned to support Sailfish OS, Debian and Kali Linux.
Astro Slide 5G: Specifications
|specification||5G Astro Slide|
|To display||6.53 inches, 2340 x 1080 pixels|
|Processor||MediaTek Dimensity 800 (4x Cortex-A76 + 4x Cortex-A55)|
|GPUs||ARM Mali-G57 MC4|
|RAM||8 GB LPDDR4x|
|Storage room||128 GB|
|Cameras||48MP rear, 13MP front|
|Ports||2 x USB-C, 3.5m audio, microSD card slot|
|Wireless||5G (global), WiFi 5, Bluetooth 5.1, NFC, FM radio, GPS, GLONASS|
|loading||10W Wireless + Fast Charge (Wired)|
|Biometrics||Fingerprint sensor (on the side of the phone)|
|Keyboard||Backlit, sliding, mechanical, with support for 24 language layouts|
|Dimensions||164mm x 76.6mm x 15mm|
Astro Slide 5G: Design and first impressions
The Astro Slide 5G is aimed at a very different user than most. It doesn’t have the highest specs and the bezels on the front are quite large. Not to mention the bulky look of the phone, which can certainly put off some users.
However, this is all because the company focuses on both the QWERTY keyboard and the phone software. You can get an Astro Slide 5G that runs Android out of the box, but you can also get Ubuntu Touch, Sailfish OS, or other popular Linux distributions. Plus, they can be dual-booted so you don’t have to lock yourself into a particular platform if you have different needs. We were able to play with two devices – one with Android 11 and one with Ubuntu Touch.
The Astro Slide 5G is quite chunky thanks to its odd form factor. Not only does it have a screen that needs to be able to slide and press against the phone’s body, there’s also a pair of USB-C ports – one at the top and one at the bottom. I asked the reasoning behind this, and was told that often power users want to be able to have a dedicated USB-C port for data transfer while charging at the same time. For example, charging while also using a USB-C to Ethernet adapter for wired network access. Since you can run Linux distros on your phone, it makes sense that device owners might have power user requirements like these.
The closing hinge is sturdy and solid, although I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable rattling it back and forth constantly. It feels like while it can definitely take a beating, the plastic can break if used too harshly. I was afraid of breaking the phone trying to open and close it, because I felt like I was very close to accidentally breaking something I shouldn’t have.
All in all, this phone is aimed at a very specific type of user. I found typing on the QWERTY keyboard comfortable and could see myself getting used to it. I’ve also been shown how useful it can be when managing Excel spreadsheets, documents, etc., and I can see what a useful device it can be for business people.
It’s bulky, and it’s certainly a different phone to most form factors, but from my usage I can see what a useful device this is sought after by those in this particular niche. It’s the company’s third phone, and it’s a marked improvement over its past releases.
Astro Slide 5G: Price and availability
The Astro Slide 5G is available for pre-order now on the company’s website and via Indiegogo. It retails for £853.20 including VAT. it will ship in April 2022 and there are many different keyboards for many different regions. You can check out the company’s website below if you’re interested.