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The Notorious DIY Laptop

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January 23, 2011 7:57:38 PM

Ah, the DIY laptop. It's as elusive as it is enticing. I realize the DIY laptop topic has been thrown around quite a few times on this forum, but all those threads seemed to be centered around laptop kits that offer few choices in terms of hardware and are generally more expensive than their pre-made counterparts. My question is whether building a DIY laptop, made completely from scratch (including the case), is possible. Being that I have not seen all that much information on made-from-scratch laptops, I have assumed that it is either far too difficult or impossible. Even if it was difficult, I would have expected that some experienced DIYer would have taken on the feat irregardless of the challenge. After all, more spectacular projects have been accomplished at the hands of a hobbyist. I seems to me that one could build a laptop using a mini itx motherboard, a SSD (to avoid the complexity of protecting a hard drive), a desktop cpu down clocked and down volted to reduce heat, a low profile cpu cooler to save space, low profile ram to save even more space, a repurposed laptop keyboard, a laptop screen of your choice, and some sort of homemade case or repurposed case to hold the components. Likely, the case would have to be made from scratch because a repurposed laptop case would have to be heavily modified in order to properly cool generic desktop parts that were not custom designed for a laptop case's thermals as are OEM laptop components.

I have built quite a few desktops and realize that constructing a laptop from scratch is in a whole other ballpark in terms of difficulty, more akin to constructing a 3D printer using aduino boards. So, why hasn't this been done before and, if it has, why isn't it done more often?

More about : notorious diy laptop

January 25, 2011 9:09:13 PM

No one has anything to say?
January 25, 2011 9:33:03 PM

It's not impossible, but why reinvent the wheel?
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January 26, 2011 3:29:31 AM

It's about 20x harder than building a desktop, so you have about 100th as many people who consider it and even less that try it. Basically, the system for DIY laptops doesn't really exist so you'd have to make your own case, etc. Mounting all this would be a challenge and chances are I'd make something flimsy where the monitor would always fall off and I'd end up overheating my CPU and burning it up. Anyways, that's my guess why nobody's tried it. I wish they had laptop kits though. I'd have built 2 this year if they did.
January 26, 2011 4:51:59 AM

Greg_77 said:
Ah, the DIY laptop. It's as elusive as it is enticing. I realize the DIY laptop topic has been thrown around quite a few times on this forum, but all those threads seemed to be centered around laptop kits that offer few choices in terms of hardware and are generally more expensive than their pre-made counterparts. My question is whether building a DIY laptop, made completely from scratch (including the case), is possible. Being that I have not seen all that much information on made-from-scratch laptops, I have assumed that it is either far too difficult or impossible. Even if it was difficult, I would have expected that some experienced DIYer would have taken on the feat irregardless of the challenge. After all, more spectacular projects have been accomplished at the hands of a hobbyist. I seems to me that one could build a laptop using a mini itx motherboard, a SSD (to avoid the complexity of protecting a hard drive), a desktop cpu down clocked and down volted to reduce heat, a low profile cpu cooler to save space, low profile ram to save even more space, a repurposed laptop keyboard, a laptop screen of your choice, and some sort of homemade case or repurposed case to hold the components. Likely, the case would have to be made from scratch because a repurposed laptop case would have to be heavily modified in order to properly cool generic desktop parts that were not custom designed for a laptop case's thermals as are OEM laptop components.

I have built quite a few desktops and realize that constructing a laptop from scratch is in a whole other ballpark in terms of difficulty, more akin to constructing a 3D printer using aduino boards. So, why hasn't this been done before and, if it has, why isn't it done more often?
If you build it they will come. Seriously though, I can give you a list of reasons why hardware changes have made standardized notebook form factors difficult, but you could just google that, then design around those problems.

Once you have the perfect standard for notebooks figured out, all you need to do is make component manufacturers accept it. Easy!
January 26, 2011 12:26:29 PM

It's not impossible, but being that every manufacturer wants to shape things differently, put things in different spots, add different hardware, etc, and then cram it into the smallest space possible, it dictates that motherboards be shaped to accommodate the shape of the enclosure and it's devices. And with dozens of sizes of laptops with literally infinite combinations of hardware, you will be hard pressed to sell a "standard" to any manufacturer. Even simple things like hard drives and RAM haven't always been standards for notebooks. Just look to about 10-15 years ago. Every other manufacturer had their own RAM modules, and there were a half dozen thicknesses of 2.5" hard drives. Internal cards like modems and audio cards were still on cards, and even then they were all different. The industry is standardizing what can be easily, but core components still need to be made to suit the application.

One could easily build a laptop around something like ITX, Nano ITX, Pico ITX, EBX, or some other form factor like that. Just use a board with single-height IO ports, low-profile cooling solution, and get a board that uses laptop ram that lays flat, and you're off to a good start. Most of those boards will natively support LVDS, so your interface, if you choose to use integrated graphics, is already there. USB headers and miniPCI slots would help things also. Like i said, it's not impossible.
January 26, 2011 5:59:07 PM

mavroxur said:
It's not impossible, but being that every manufacturer wants to shape things differently, put things in different spots, add different hardware, etc, and then cram it into the smallest space possible, it dictates that motherboards be shaped to accommodate the shape of the enclosure and it's devices. And with dozens of sizes of laptops with literally infinite combinations of hardware, you will be hard pressed to sell a "standard" to any manufacturer. Even simple things like hard drives and RAM haven't always been standards for notebooks. Just look to about 10-15 years ago. Every other manufacturer had their own RAM modules, and there were a half dozen thicknesses of 2.5" hard drives. Internal cards like modems and audio cards were still on cards, and even then they were all different. The industry is standardizing what can be easily, but core components still need to be made to suit the application.

One could easily build a laptop around something like ITX, Nano ITX, Pico ITX, EBX, or some other form factor like that. Just use a board with single-height IO ports, low-profile cooling solution, and get a board that uses laptop ram that lays flat, and you're off to a good start. Most of those boards will natively support LVDS, so your interface, if you choose to use integrated graphics, is already there. USB headers and miniPCI slots would help things also. Like i said, it's not impossible.

But a standard could be developed (just like BTX, but hopefully better and more successful). Just like ATX you get nATX, mATX, ATX, EATX boards (maybe the extension would be AMX (M for mobile?) for 10', 13', 15', & 17' cases. And the cases would be analogous to slim (10'), mini (13'), mid (15') and full (17'). There's no reason this couldn't work except that the market is small--which is a pretty good reason. I suppose there's also the inherent increase in damage to a laptop--putting the manufacturer at significantly greater risk of people complaining about things breaking that the manufacturer has no control over--that would cut into profits.

I don't see why it couldn't start with someone defining a standard (say ASUS does it) and makes their laptops to that standard with an easily removable bottom panel. Then has some spots for mounting fans, heatsinks, and an extra 2.5" drive. And an unlocked BIOS is a must--but it would have to have plenty of warnings informing the user that adjusting these settings could destroy hardware components (which most of us reading this would completely ignore). If such laptops existed, they're all overclockers would buy it and Zalman and other manufacters would start making parts. And this would lead to a fully DIY laptop.

The problem is: Can you build a laptop cheaper than you can buy one? Remember the manufacturer would have to increase costs because there would be more returned items and more items that never sell well because a few people bash their reputations on Newegg (I know we've all not bought stuff with 6 total reviews and 3 bad ones).
January 26, 2011 7:19:14 PM

All of you bring up good points. If a laptop motherboard standard was made, à la ATX, it would be far easier to make a DIY notebook. That being said, I can still see no reason why so few people (I have only found one on the internet) have made a laptop using desktop components. If you can cram an XBOX 360 into a laptop form factor, you should be able to do the same with small, low power desktop parts. As mavroxur mentions, you could make a laptop around a mini ITX motherboard. Use a mini ITX motherboard with single height IO ports and the laptop does not even have to be bulky. Down clock a desktop chip and heat could can be eliminated as an issue as well. A custom case can be made as long as you have the proper machinery and skills necessary for such an endeavor. Basically, I would love to make a notebook using standardized components, even if that would require jury rigging desktop components into a homemade case. The only thing stopping me from taking on the project is the fact that so few people have done it before. So, I ask, is their any technical reason why so few people have attempted to make a laptop from scratch?

This is how I would build a notebook:
If I were to make a laptop, I would use an aluminum case (think hand gun case but thinner) and dremel bits and pieces out of the case for air flow and IO ports. The screen would fit in the lid of the case. I would install the motherboard on a metal plate that would rest, upside down, inside the case. The keyboard would fit on top of plate, integrated in such a way so that it is comfortable to type on. The battery would fit in the bottom bay of the case, below the inverted motherboard. I would use an external power supply to avoid overcrowding and overheating the case. Finally, I would use a SSD rather than a mechanical hard drive to avoid the added complexity of protecting a drive. I would not include a CD drive, as I could use a portable drive. I like my plan and see no reason why it wouldn't work. Seems to me the case could look quite polished and well made. Does anyone see any flaws with my plan?
January 26, 2011 7:54:46 PM

The only problem is that manufacturers want to be unique. They don't want to have cookie-cutter laptops. What would be the point of brand loyalty if they all used a generic shape with generic parts? It would be hard for manufacturers to push the envelope of size and speed if parts were all a standard size. The thermals I don't really worry about. You would just use typical mobile CPU's. Graphics could just adopt a typical MXM form factor that already exists. But then manufacturer xxx wants to make a thinner notebook.... and there's where the problem arises. Making things thinner and smaller is typically more expensive. So then, to make everyone happy, you have to make a standard that is as small and thin as current technology will permit. Now your "standard" parts are super expensive. Or you can just choose to ignore the manufacturers that want to push the edge and make them moderately sized. The leading edge manufacturers will just say "screw the standard" and go on their own direction.


I completely agree with making laptop parts standardized, but I completely understand why it has, and probably will never, come to reality. It's completely possible to build a really nice laptop from scratch. You can get ITX boards that will run all the way up to i7's and core 2 quads now. Lots of the high end ITX boards will run 8gb+ RAM and have PCI-e x16 slots. just add a flexible PCI-e riser, lay the card flat next to the itx board, and now you have poor man's graphics solution in a super-flat profile. You can hack a typical LCD monitor and either use it's guts, or get an LVDS to DVI adapter and just use a typical LCD panel with some cable modding. Several companies make 12v ATX power supplies. A simple battery level monitoring solution could be made using a PIC and interfacing it with a GPIO or serial port (which the majority of ITX boards have). Battery technology is cheap, and you could literally cram your laptop with cells if you wanted to. Personally i'd drop the internal optical drive and use that real estate for batteries. Things like battery monitoring could be integrated into the "standard" obviously, but for a DIY it would take a little tinkering to get a seamless working solution. And of course, with an ITX board, you get all the fancy things like support for RAID, so you could raid several 2.5" hard drives if you wanted to. It is an enticing idea, but you start adding up the cost of the parts (like a nice ITX board and CPU) it knocks on the door of just buying a laptop.
January 26, 2011 8:57:37 PM

mavroxur said:
The only problem is that manufacturers want to be unique. They don't want to have cookie-cutter laptops. What would be the point of brand loyalty if they all used a generic shape with generic parts? It would be hard for manufacturers to push the envelope of size and speed if parts were all a standard size. The thermals I don't really worry about. You would just use typical mobile CPU's. Graphics could just adopt a typical MXM form factor that already exists. But then manufacturer xxx wants to make a thinner notebook.... and there's where the problem arises. Making things thinner and smaller is typically more expensive. So then, to make everyone happy, you have to make a standard that is as small and thin as current technology will permit. Now your "standard" parts are super expensive. Or you can just choose to ignore the manufacturers that want to push the edge and make them moderately sized. The leading edge manufacturers will just say "screw the standard" and go on their own direction.


I completely agree with making laptop parts standardized, but I completely understand why it has, and probably will never, come to reality. It's completely possible to build a really nice laptop from scratch. You can get ITX boards that will run all the way up to i7's and core 2 quads now. Lots of the high end ITX boards will run 8gb+ RAM and have PCI-e x16 slots. just add a flexible PCI-e riser, lay the card flat next to the itx board, and now you have poor man's graphics solution in a super-flat profile. You can hack a typical LCD monitor and either use it's guts, or get an LVDS to DVI adapter and just use a typical LCD panel with some cable modding. Several companies make 12v ATX power supplies. A simple battery level monitoring solution could be made using a PIC and interfacing it with a GPIO or serial port (which the majority of ITX boards have). Battery technology is cheap, and you could literally cram your laptop with cells if you wanted to. Personally i'd drop the internal optical drive and use that real estate for batteries. Things like battery monitoring could be integrated into the "standard" obviously, but for a DIY it would take a little tinkering to get a seamless working solution. And of course, with an ITX board, you get all the fancy things like support for RAID, so you could raid several 2.5" hard drives if you wanted to. It is an enticing idea, but you start adding up the cost of the parts (like a nice ITX board and CPU) it knocks on the door of just buying a laptop.


I agree, manufacturers will likely never settle on a single motherboard form factor. Unlike desktops, laptop components are built to fit particular cases. Desktop cases are basically boxes that protect and cool the inner workings of a computer.

What I do not agree on, however, is that making a DIY computer with desktop parts would be more expensive than just buying a laptop. Of course, this cost would only include components as, presumably, you would provide the labor. So,if you exclude labor from the final cost as we often do when building far less labor intensive desktops, I think you could see decent savings. Mini ITX boards only cost around $100 to $150 bucks. A desktop CPU, which you would down clock and down volt, would cost $100 to $250 dollars depending on whether you use a quad core or a dual core CPU. The graphics could be integrated or dedicated, but should cost more than $150 given than higher-end GPUs would turn a laptop into an oven. A power supply should only cost $50. An aluminum case, if you go that route, should cost no more than $50. Ram $100, screen maybe (?) $200 -$500, SSD $200 or more depending on capacity, keyboard + touchpad $50, and speakers should only add a few more bucks if you can't just rip them out of some old desktop speakers, and batteries should only cost $50. The whole build should not top $2000 even if using the very best components that could easily compete with, if not excede, the best specced laptops on the market.
January 27, 2011 12:24:36 PM

I don't know where you're going to get a pre-fabbed aluminum shell for this. And unless you own your own sheet metal press/brake, you will most likely be contracting this out to a metal shop to do for you. Your materials and their labor to bend it to your specs will probably run $150 easily for them to custom fab something. You will run into incidental costs of probably around $150 for misc items like jacks, fans, switches, indicator lights, hinges, misc mounting hardware for the guts (brackets, etc), trim pieces, an AC adapter that can do 12v at like 15 amps or better, a super-low profile HSF for the CPU, etc. And batteries.....don't forget batteries. LiPo cells aren't cheap, and you need a charging circuit for them. Add another $200 roughly for cells and a charging circuit for this beast.
January 27, 2011 11:35:56 PM

Greg_77 said:
What I do not agree on, however, is that making a DIY computer with desktop parts would be more expensive than just buying a laptop. Of course, this cost would only include components as, presumably, you would provide the labor...The whole build should not top $2000 even if using the very best components that could easily compete with, if not excede, the best specced laptops on the market.


It's fun to build something new and original--but that can't compete in price.

Last week, HP had a 17" (1600x900) i7-2730QM (Sandy Bridge) laptop on sale for $905. It had a Radeon 5670 (Mobile, but same performance as desktop 5670 for radeon parts vs. lower performance for Nvidia mobile GPUs (GTX460M v GTX460) and a 9-cell battery for like 6 hours performance. You won't top that for close to $900 with a DIY laptop. In fact, I'd bet that this laptop would beat your $2000 DIY on performance (thanks to graphics), battery life, and utterly destroy it in durability (since I doubt everything would be securely in place and all hinges mounted perfectly in a homemade case). Although your DIY would have a SSD.

If you happen to own a C&C machine, you MIGHT be able to make this work for cost & performance. But otherwise--I doubt it. Good luck though. I'd personally use a mid to low-end ITX build probably with an i3-550 instead of putting a bunch of expensive hardware into something I'd probably break. I might even test it with a LGA 775 setup.
January 28, 2011 12:06:23 AM

mavroxur said:
The only problem is that manufacturers want to be unique. They don't want to have cookie-cutter laptops. What would be the point of brand loyalty if they all used a generic shape with generic parts? It would be hard for manufacturers to push the envelope of size and speed if parts were all a standard size.

They push the envelope of speed just fine with desktops. And if someone needs a smaller form factor...well, that's where the miniITX came from. Besides, manufacturers save money by using standards for their builds instead of tons of proprietary designs. Make a laptop board, and if you need a smaller form factor, make it smaller.

I'm curious, could it be practical access RAM through the PCI-e bus? Because with PCI-e 3.0, the bandwidth is adequate to replace RAM but I'm not sure about the latency--although they're both controlled by the Northbridge (or CPU for newer processors). If that were the case, a motherboard can use the external PCI-e standard. Then a mobo really only needs a CPU socket and a couple ports to cables:
1) 2 External PCI-e connectors: To-be-developed PCI-e RAM mount, low profile or mobile graphics card.
2) 2 SATA connectors: HDD (or SSD), 2nd or Optical
3) 1 internal video hookup for LCD screen (Display Port, DVI, or HDMI so that laptop LCDs can be used with ANY setup in the future).
4) 2 internal USB connectors (function as South Bridge allowing data & power to speakers/mic, case connections)
5) And the back panel mounts (USB, video if integrated w/mobo or an APU)

Then all you need is a standard battery size and power adapter outputs (board, CPU, LCD, fan, molex etc.) (analoguous to ATX PSU's, but the DC adapter would be external) and then manufacturers could start making laptop cases with mounts for a standard battery (extended battery would have to also be an option), keyboard (extended keyboard w/numpad too), speakers, & touchpad.

There--the skeleton for a laptop form factor DIY system. Completely doable--now a manufacturer just needs to do it.
January 28, 2011 12:17:45 AM

Oh, don't forget that laptop CPUs have a TDP of 25W or 35W versus 75W for a desktop i3. So using even an underclocked desktop part is going to hurt you on battery life.

Although, you could use a i5-2500K and lock a low multiplier and leave Turbo Boost On. That would keep you around 50W. Or an S series with a low Bus speed could accomplish the same. But I don't know if you can find a miniITX board that's P67. All Newegg has is H67's.

This is the best I see, which let's you use a notebook Socket "P" processor: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

But really this won't be practical until it's easy to find notebook CPU's and motherboards.
January 28, 2011 12:31:05 AM

You bring up goods points dalauder. You can get very good deals on powerful laptops nowadays. Also, you are right, durability would be a great concern on a homemade laptop, though certainly not a unsurmountable challenge. However, I think you overestimate the price of a DIY laptop. Though I gave $2000 as an estimate, a laptop in that price range would have the very best components Newegg has to offer short of an Intel hexacore processor. If you can somehow repurpose an aluminum gun case or the like, the cost of the case, in terms of materials and machinery, would be relatively insignificant, likely under $100 if you already have a dremel. All the other components, other than the screen, the batteries and miscellaneous chips, would be desktop parts which, for much less than $600, could easily beat the Intel chip and the AMD 5670 (which is not that fast of a graphics chip anyways, though it is energy efficient I suppose). The remaining $300 difference would go to the miscellaneous components such as the batteries and the screen. I would likely get the screen from a broken laptop from ebay to save money.

maxroxur, I feel that an aluminum gun case could be modified to work as a laptop case. As for batteries, I have not looked at the going rate for lipo cells. As for the charging circuit, I might be able to rip that out of an old laptop, as long as that circuit is not integrated on the motherboard or in the battery itself.

The practicality of this project is questionable as you all have made very clear. It is nearly impossible for one man with dremel and some welding equipment to produce a laptop as polished as one from one of the big manufacturers. I realize my computer may end up looking like a piece of scrap metal but, if you have ever seen Ben Hecks laptop form factor Xbox 360 consoles, you know that making a polished laptop case is possible, though I suspect that he has much better equipment and far more skill than I do.

Though I do not believe the laptop would offer a great deal of value performance-wise when compared to a pre-built machine, it does have the advantage of upgradability. Since all the components are standard desktop parts, they can be easily upgraded when need be. That cannot be said for a pre-built laptop. I may be reaching for straws in an attempt to justify the project to myself, but the upgradability-factor seems to me a worthwhile reason to go on with the project. I may go with your idea, delauder, and make a low-end, proof of concept build to see if my idea is even practical.
January 28, 2011 2:27:57 AM

Oh, I was thinking you meant you'd put your budget together and come up with $2000-which seemed really high to me. And the 5670's not very good--but it beats integrated graphics handily, which is what I thought you were intending.

About the screen--I'm not sure if LCDs are widely standardized. Every phone, LCD monitor, or laptop lcd monitor I've taken apart seems to have its own connections...Oh, I just googled it and you'll need an LCD controller to even use a laptop screen. Keep in mind the panels crack easily if not supported since it's just a think sheet of glass.

Were you planning on using a tiny USB keyboad and just rerouting the cord inside the case? Or a wireless keyboard or maybe one with a touchpad like this?: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If you go through with it--make sure to start a new thread to show it off.
January 29, 2011 1:52:09 AM

I have considered the need for a LCD controller. I am hoping that a used laptop from ebay or the like would include a discrete controller rather than an integrated one. As for the keyboard, Lenovo sells a USB desktop keyboard/touchpad combo that is basically a Thinkpad keyboard. I would use one of the motherboards usb headers to connect the keyboard. Certainly, the lcd panel is a valid concern. That, and finding an appropriate battery solution, are probably the most challenging elements of the project.

I still haven't decided whether to go through with the project. I am currently working on repurposing an old laptop to make a Freenas server. It's a pretty simple project as all I am doing is taking apart the machine and adding fans to make it into a well cooled, headless server. Unfortunately, my free time is limited so even this basic project is taking longer than I had expected. Hopefully in the future when I have more free time I can commence on yet another, more time consuming project, which may or may not be a DIY laptop. If I do go through with the plan, I will certainly create a thread to show it off ;) 
March 5, 2011 11:08:47 PM

Most boards are 1 inch thick with connection ports. It is still possible to resolder the ports to short them to half an inch -or relocate them with extended wiring.
Again with monitors, getting the slimmest of all will still get you 1.5-2 inches thick
Consider that water cool this setup is the best idea to keep slim on the coolers.
March 11, 2011 2:57:13 PM

The problem that I have is that nobody makes a laptop with all the features and hardware that I want.

I'm looking for the following:

1920 x 1200 120Hz 17" IPS LCD panel (I'd settle for 1920 x 1080, and settle for non-IPS, but want 120Hz for 3D)
Core i7 2820QM cpu
Nvidia 485M gpu in SLI (I'd settle for just one 485M)
Vertex 3 SSD, 500GB+ (I'd settle for 250 GB+, would consider Crucial SSD)
Blu-Ray player (don't need the burner option)
Wireless N
Bluetooth (don't have to have this but would like it)
Display Port, HDMI, Dual Link DVI-D for display outputs (desired, but not required)
Backlit keyboard
USB 3.0 x 4
SATA III 6GB/s (for the SSD)
3 MPixel or better web cam
Built in speakers and mic

The SSD's aren't out yet, but to date I have not been able to find ANY laptop manufacturer that combines a 17" 120Hz display with an Nvidia 485M gpu. Best I can find is the display with a 460 gpu or the gpu with a 60 Hz display.

Any suggestions for 3D gaming laptop?

March 12, 2011 12:43:22 PM

Nope--you can't find OEMs with that good of graphics. It's tough to do with desktops even.

If you wanted this in a desktop, it would cost you $2000 (3D 24" screen, 2x GTX 480's, 500GB Vertex3, Blu-Ray reader, i7-2600). Obviously, this would perform a bit better in games than the laptop, but that scaling is assumed in the laptop to desktop.
July 6, 2011 4:07:40 AM

Greg_77 said:
No one has anything to say?

I sure do. I just successfully built my proud achievement, my master desktop, chosen a component at a time to meet my rather messed up standards about what makes a great computer. I chose the most monstrous of the line for each component with no worry about size, because it was a tower, and I gave it the best fans, and the mightiest power supply I could find to run all the RAM and all the processor cores. Now, I'm seriously thinking about making a laptop matching in greatness. You spoke about cooling. I've never looked inside a laptop, but gather that there are no fans? Intel will be introducing Ivy Bridge processors, and I hear that these will be mobile versions of the Sandy bridge line. So, why couldn't I find a case from a computer that died, but whose display and keyboard work, and put in a mini board supporting one of these processors? I even thought about making a case of my own out of wood, and finding replacement parts stores that could sell me a keyboard and display. From there, I thought about boring out side holes for graphics and USB ports, etc.

Anyone have any better ideas? The DIY kits are too limited in choices and come preassembled and aren't my idea of true DIY.
July 6, 2011 12:52:46 PM

Moira said:
Anyone have any better ideas? The DIY kits are too limited in choices and come preassembled and aren't my idea of true DIY.
Did you read what we had above? We went over many of the topics you've introduced.

Your primary challenges are a screen and a battery that can connect to the system and power it for at least 30 minutes unplugged. Everything else can be worked out I think--but is very challenging.

Desktop processors typically are rated for 65W to 125W. Laptop CPUs are 15W to 45W. My wife's i7-2630QM laptop uses 25W idle/web browsing when on battery. Few desktops use under 90W. Mine uses 195W idle (that PhysX card is doin' me in). So power draw is not your friend.

Power draw also relates to heat output. Laptops usually have fans in them, some of the slimmer ones might have passive cooling. If you're using 50W idle instead of 25W with significantly underclocked desktop parts, you'll still have to figure out how to dissipate a lot of heat.

You'll need an SSD as your hard drive because any case made by hand will have too much movement for a mechanical drive to last very long.
August 7, 2011 6:36:11 AM

If you *really* don't care about size, you could have an external battery inside, and a PC power supply inside...

Using that method, the monitor and power supply could connect to the 'external' battery.


And then, you could put the LCD inside plexiglass... And I've also heard of using laptop hinges to make it connected...

Theirs this old site that I saw that had a lot of good ideas...
http://trekkiejt.webs.com/
October 30, 2011 10:15:33 PM

Hello I know I'm Late but think about this,

You don't have to use metal. Some materials like PVC Foam work

Via makes fanless embedded AND so does panda board, both are good for netbook creations

but the biggest factor is this the Intel DH61AG, it is slim, it uses socket LGA155, they make 65watt and 35watt processors, plus it uses so-dimm. I'm making a netbook with a panda board and somewhere down the line I'll probably make a laptop. For the LCD I'm using a USB powered one.

I can make a very slim netbook with these parts:
Display- $100
Panda Board- $175
External Battery- $40-$75
SD Card- $0-$10
Hard Drive- $50-$122
PVC Foam- $35
Glues,Screws,Etc.-$30
Converters- $25
Total-$400-$500

or a laptop with these:

Display- $100
Slim Dvd Drive- $50
Intel DH61AG- $125
External Battery- $150 (Needs Extra Power)
Hard Drive-$50
PVC Foam- $35
Glues, Screws, ETC.-$30
Cpu- $70-$200
Ram- $30+
Total- $640 (Cheapest)
October 30, 2011 11:17:24 PM

I'd recently seen some USB powered LCDs--that's a nice workaround for the screen--although constructing a reliably mount may be challenging.

I'm interested to see what you're using for a power supply/battery. Could you include a link?

The battery and LCD were really the only BIG challenges.

Keep in mind that fanless embedded systems are intended to dissipate heat through the case walls (low specific heat steel/aluminum/plastic) and that foam is a great insulator.

The problem with these laptop projects is that it is almost certain that you get a better laptop for less money if you buy OEM. Consider that a typical netbook comes with Windows and only costs $200-$300. A DIY doesn't include Windows and runs you $400-$500.
a c 572 D Laptop
November 10, 2011 11:24:55 PM

Hello gvnmcknz;

It's better to start your own topic than post in one already 10 months old.
November 11, 2011 7:45:42 AM

WR2 said:
Hello gvnmcknz;

It's better to start your own topic than post in one already 10 months old.


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Hi WR2,
Get what you're saying, but prior post was quite recent.

There's not a lot of stuff out there about DIY Laptops / Portables that I can find.

I'll take consideration of your advice though.

Regards,
gvnmcknz
December 4, 2011 11:00:32 AM

It is the potability mechanics that are the real problem. I desk-top just sits there; a laptop has to be carried. The structure has to support very delicate components .
A DIY laptop will only work with the advent of a mechanical case standard that controls the specifics of the screen, battery, Keyboard etc.
January 23, 2012 3:36:22 AM

You could always get an old laptop close to what you want with the right display and keyboard and start from there. Then, maybe put in a newer sata SSD or hybrid drive. Finally, you have to get the right motherboard. You could try to use something like that raspberry pi board (if it will fit) and have a reasonable Linux laptop. You'd have to desolder the I/O connectors and make them remote over little cables to the edge of the box. These include USB and ethernet. everything else might be doable over internal USB (DVD player, etc). Use the existing laptop's bay. I don't think raspberry pi supports sata, so you might have to get a USB to sata converter, etc.... and get a linux driver.

No matter what it's a complicated one-off job. Difficult to mass produce.

I think companies like Dell, etc, could make money selling their boards if they sold a laptop like this.

I think the main reason people don't do this is because you can get a quite powerful laptop already built for under $450.....which is less than building your own would cost you.

-Donald
February 8, 2012 10:38:16 PM

I think it's possible if a generic case can be designed and marketed to fit one or two of the most popular laptop conformations. Just need someone to lead the way with a case. Once you have a case all else can be conformed to fit.
That is of course if there is enough of a market for DIY laptops. It has to begin somewhere, and in my humble opinion it has to be the case.

Rick M.
December 4, 2012 4:07:18 PM

Well you could always make mini case with a smaller board and card (think mac mini)
or you can make it to be more boxy and install better cooling psu and cpu
December 11, 2012 11:45:01 AM

OP, you ever get anything going here? The best I've ever done with laptops is swapping CPUs, RAM, and Storage.
February 6, 2013 2:55:46 PM

i've been thinking about DIY laptop lately, but after some considerations, it doesn't seem to be feasible.
March 14, 2013 6:44:16 AM

I`m just about to finish building my custom laptop. It`s a mini-itx board inside a inspiron 9100 case that has been heavily modified.

The project has been so expensive, it`s not really worth the effort.
May 5, 2014 5:29:57 AM

I just ordered some parts fot my DIY notebook build, the GAH87TN and i3 4330T, i will be testing cooling of system by heatsing from dell studio 1749. As case i am going to use Escom Paradigma notebook, goal is two slots for 2,5" HDD, functional LPT,COM and external PCIE thru flexible riser.
June 18, 2014 2:40:51 AM

Quote:
update: I chose heatsink from acer travelmate 290 because of smaller size and appropriate dimensions, removed some aluminium so it can fit on the mobo. I tested its cooling capabilities on old msi kt3ultra and athlon 800 (42W TDP) and it seems ok, so 35W i3 should be ok, question is, whether worse thermal transfer from core exceed the difference in TDP. In order to make it work, cpu must be delided, problem is, how to attach heatsink to mobo.
!