Using A Desktop From My Lap

I've looked around for similar posts but haven't found anything very conclusive. Basically I want to build a desktop I can use on my lap. To elaborate:

I would like to be able to sit on the couch and watch TV with a monitor/keyboard/trackpad setup that something like a laptop. Why? It frees up space around my house, cheaper than a laptop, and it gives me fewer reasons to leave the couch or computer(YES!). It's a lazy man's dream, please help me realize it.

I'm guessing the easiest way to do this would be to have the tower of the desktop on the ground next to the couch and mount a screen into some kind of shell design(can be plywood for all I care) that sits on my lap with something like this beneath it. It would also be super cool if it closed easily like a laptop.

Any ideas? Does this sound like an awful idea? I'm not very familiar with computer hardware or design, but I know it's second nature to some of you and it doesn't seem like this would be all that difficult to rig up(crossing fingers). Thanks in advance for your input, would make some serious mistakes without you guys.

Also, I don't know if I posted this in the right place, sorry.
10 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about using desktop
  1. What about plugging the PC into a big TV and then using a wireless KB/Mouse to control it from the couch with some sort of lap desk?
  2. That would be a lot of fun, unfortunately the TV is often in use so I gave up that fight long ago.
  3. the idea is entirely possible although impractical.

    in theory it is possible to gut an old laptop and tether it to a pc, using the internals for a a keyboard, mouse and tracpad. however, this might require quite a bit of work and research to actually make it work and getting drivers to work might be a bit of a nightmare.

    there are also "portable monitors" that plug in via usb which can be mounted in a frame but they have low resolutions.

    you can also buy replacement lcd panels for laptops but you will have to know how to make them work.


    is there anything wrong with buying a nettop or cheap laptop? surely they will be much cheaper in the long run then any jury-rigged design.

    just a thought.
  4. I would agree, by the time you purchase a screen and the materials for the project, buying a laptop would probably be about the same price.
  5. The problem with a netbook for me is that I like to game and run some performance intensive programs. I could drop $1000 on a new laptop and it would probably get the job done, but seeing as how I'd like to keep the computer for at least 3 years, I'm worried I'll run into heat issues, monitor problems, and also won't really be able to do too much in the way of upgrading to keep it relatively current. I'd also probably need to get a 3 year warranty which would take my $1000 laptop closer to the $1300 mark. Everyone also seems to say that gaming on laptops isn't really the best idea due to heating issues and that you end up paying something like $400 for the same performance you'd get in a desktop. You guys undoubtably know more than I do about this so if I'm way off, please tell me.

    What I was thinking was basically just getting a decent 17-20 inch monitor and mounting it on an inch wide wood panel hinged(so it can fold for easy storage next to the couch) to a piece below to hold the keyboard and track pad(or some kind of space minded mouse), then just have the desktop on the floor next to the couch. Wireless mouse and keyboard plus two long cables(desktop to monitor, monitor to AC) and that'd provide some decent mobility around the living room without having cables everywhere wouldn't it? It sounds simple to me, I'm just not sure if I'm totally overlooking something serious so I'm checking with people much smarter than I(you guys).

    Thanks for the help guys, please tell me if this idea is totally retarded.
  6. Best answer
    the trouble i see with your concept is that it will likely be way to heavy for lap use and may be top heavy. the only way i can see this working comfortably would be to use a design similar to the trays/tables which can slide under the couch and pull up next to you with a monitor somehow mounted on the far side. this would be far more practical and comfortable. you could even somehow mount a pc in this enclosure so the only thing you will have to drag around is a single cord (mount the surge protector to the desk while you are at it. this gives some degree of portability if not exactly what you want.

    as far as laptops go, even my $800 asus laptop i purchased last year can run games adequately. while it might not have the performance of a desktop you can take it anywhere. since quite a few laptop screens are lower resolution the performance numbers drop is not as noticible. the nice thing about a true laptop is that you really can take it anywhere. whether to get a laptop or desktop will depend on if you need it to be portable (outside the house) or if you just need to move it around one room. i never get the warranties as most internal parts already have a warranty (and the laptops normally come with a 1 year warranty anyways).

    now, if you are dead-set on making your own laptop style device it is possible of course. i would suggest a vesa mount compatible monitor so that you can take the base off and drill or buy a vesa mounting plate so that you can attach this to the wood frame. i would not try and secure the monitor by the bezel only as this is asking for trouble. you will now have to find some way of compensating for the weight of the monitor and any wood/metal used in this "lid" construction. if you do not then when you let go of the base it will tilt back. i suppose you have the option of weighting it but then it would be too heavy for lap use but i suppose you could use it on a desk. if you need to use a desk you might as well just mount a normal monitor to it somehow and use a wireless kb/m.

    just some thoughts.
  7. Best answer selected by omerta777.
  8. That's pretty much what I was thinking Ssddx. I don't really need to take the machine beyond the house so I figured why not do this and save money/add performance. Couple questions if you don't mind:

    How long is a part generally under warranty for? Are extended warranties from the laptop manufacturer really not that important?

    How safe is running performance stuff on a laptop really? I thought most laptops suffer from heat issues when running games, and even if it's controlled it'll shorten the life of the machine pretty drastically?

    How much cash am I paying to get the same performance out of a laptop as I would a desktop?

    My big fears about buying a laptop are

    A) Having a problem that will cost me a lot of money to fix. Running into a $300 problem would be a BIG problem for me.

    B) Being unable to run stuff on moderate settings in a couple years. I don't need things to run ultra fast and ultra high, but I'd like to have a machine that can handle everything pretty well for a few years.

    Unfortunately my budget is right at, or under $1000, if I could afford a $1500 laptop I wouldn't worry about performance at all.

  9. a laptop should come with a 1 year warranty. usually you can tell if a laptop is going to be a lemon early on so you could purchase an extended warranty at that point. to be honesnt the only warranties on computer parts i have ever used is on hard drives and ram which are easy to get to in a laptop (while everything else is pretty much "dont touch").

    yes you will pay more for a laptop with better performance. 15-25% if i had to guess and even then performance numbers might not be equal. laptops are made for portability and low power so the parts used tend to be more power efficient models which lack the brunt of desktop variants. some gaming laptops have decent performance but battery life is next to nothing.

    in general laptop parts can tolerate the same heat tower components can. you might not think it but the cpu and gpu on a tower can get just as hot. as long as you do not exceed any threshholds you should be fine (the pc will shut down if you did). you might not want to run the cooling fan at 100% all the time either, a cooling fan base might be an idea.

    remember, you can end up with an expensive problem with a tower too not just laptops. the issue with laptops though is that most of the parts you might not want to mess with unless you know what you are doing (except the ram and hdd which are easy).


    if you require performance and intend to be very demanding on a system then a tower is probably the way to go. while it may lack portability you can definitely save money on parts, easily replace parts if you need to and worry less about heat. remember though, a laptop is an all in one unit (touchpad, keyboard, pc, speakers and monitor) and you will need to purchase all of these components seperately if using a tower.

    perhaps the best idea for in home portability (on one floor of course) is to have some sort of cart or rolling desk. i will leave the specifics up to you but it would need to hold a tower in the bottom along with a place to mount the power strip. you then have the option of vesa mounting a monitor to a plate on the side (or you can even attach an arm) or sitting the monitor on top and securing it. the keyboard and mouse/trackpad can be entirely wireless and seperate. you can roll this around wherever you may like, provided you can plug an extension cord in someplace. not ideal, but it is practical. i would suggest building the tower yourself but that is your choice.

    in general you will probably spend about $100-200 on a monitor, $50+ on speakers or headset, $50-150 on a decent mouse and keyboard and the rest on the pc. this leaves about $600-800 for a tower give or take.

    i did not include any sort of cart in the budget. this would have to be factored in as well. even if you build a cart it is sure to run at least $50 in material costs alone if you build it cheaply and more if you build a fine piece of furniture. (i just built an aquarium stand out of nice plywood, 2x4s and moulding and it was at least $200 in materials)

    again.....just some ideas
  10. If you're just playing Warcraft, go pick yourself up a used/refurbished Alienware M11x... it's nice for 11'', and although they don't have the best performance for a gaming laptop, they are outstanding for the size. Being that they're a discontinued model from AW, you'll have to find a refurbished or used model. They shouldn't run you any more than 1,000; some people even sell M14xR1 and R2 laptops for that price used!

    So if you can put up with a heavy 14'' laptop (not too heavy, but heavier, and not the best battery life; you need to plug it in for it to kick into overdrive anyway), get the M14xR2 used/refurbished. It's also discontinued for the new Alienware 14 (R3 model), but it was only released in 2012. I do all of my gaming, photo/video editing (Photoshop, Sony Vegas, etc.) and gaming on it. It'd run Warcraft pretty well. I don't know if you mean the RTS or the MMO (World of Warcraft). Either should run the RTS fine, but the M14xR2 may be a better choice for the MMO.

    I know you wanted to build something yourself, but... who can resist this? I have a slightly higher-up model myself, but this one is the best for 1k and is great for the purpose.
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