Evolve III Maestro E-book Part 1: Hardware

Netbooks are still a thing? Who knew.

Recently I learned of what seemed like a great deal… a laptop running windows for just $80. Now, I’m an avid Linux user and tend to go back to windows only when necessary, but I figured if it can run Windows, it can likely run Linux. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a portable windows install for Ham radio.

A warning: I’ve learned that there are in fact 2 models. Most of the information here was gathered based on Model: “Maestro-EBook11” but it seems there is also a “Maestro-EBook11v2”. Audio may not work out of the box on Linux on the v2.

A few quick googles to confirm it could at least attempt it, and I picked one up, with the intent to make it dual boot.

Value

So what does $80 get you? Not much, but at the same time quite a bit.

  • 11.6 inch frame. Compact enough to take almost anywhere.
  • Reasonably sturdy. Better than I’d expect for $60, but still a bit flimsy and no comparison to a Thinkpad.
  • 1.1Ghz processor that can burst to 2.1Ghz. You cannot swap the processor.
  • 4GB DDR4. You cannot upgrade or add ram.
  • 64GB onboard storage. Once again, soldered on so you’re stuck with this.
  • Intel HD 500. Ok for browsing, Streaming, but not going to get you anywhere gaming.
  • HDMI out, 2 USBs, and a micro SD slot.
  • A sim card slot and cellular modem. This is removable and can actually be replaced with an SSD. I used this SSD with success.

So we have some serious limitations. But if you want a portable for browsing, maybe sshing into things, uploading to radios in the field, it’ll work.

So that’s in for now. Check out part 2 for some details on installing Linux, dual booting, and more.

You can find this laptop yourself, which has dropped to $59.99 at the time of this writing, here.

Adding storage

As mentioned, the 64GB disk is soldered onto the mainboard. This doesn’t mean you are completely out of luck to add or upgrade storage though.

If you are not going to use the cellular capability, you can remove the card and replace it with an SSD. I have tested this 256GB module with success.

Opening the case is a simple process. On the bottom of the case are 9 Phillips screws. Unscrew each and set them aside in a safe location. Once done, you can gently pry the case open at the seam, which is below the various IO ports.
Once open you’ll see something like this.

Laptop internals with SSD added.

Note that while a 2280 SSD does fit, there is no retaining screw to secure it. The retaining screw for the much smaller cellular module is positioned about halfway along the installed SSD. The SSD is held in place by the closed case once replaced. I have tested moving the base Windows install to this SSD, and it is bootable and faster than the built in storage.

Power

The power adapter is 3.5×1.35mm 12v. There are a number of options available for replacement and it is a fairly common adapter type, sometimes used for cameras. Some great info on input power can be found here.

Other resources and useful information

To access the bios on the Evolve III Maestro: hold down delete during power on (when the Maestro logo shows).

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