Mini-ITX board transformed into a Mini-ITX Laptop with a battery and 32GB of memory

A shot of the MITX Laptop running 3DS emulation on its dual screens.
(Image credit: APU_enthusiast on SmallFormFactor.net)

If you've ever wanted to see a Mini ITX motherboard converted into a working laptop, you're in luck— SFF.Network member APU_enthusiast posted a completed build project highlighting just that, and FanlessTech brought it to our attention because it is also passively cooled. Unlike active cooling (fans + heatsink or radiator), passive cooling relies entirely on a heatsink and natural air dissipation to get the job done, so generous breathing room is typically nice to have.

The actual build specs are fairly modest but still within usable ranges for basic computing and lightweight gaming/emulation. ASRock's N100DC-ITX board is used alongside 32 GB of Mushkin Essentials DDR4 RAM clocked at 3200 MT/s and is connected to a 1TB Mushkin Pilot-E NVMe Gen 3 drive. 

Image of the Mini ITX laptop project and two immediate siblings posted in the original SFF.net thread.

(Image credit: APU_enthusiast on SmallFormFactor.net)

The CPU in use is the Intel N100, which is integrated into the ASRock N100DC-ITX motherboard and offers 4 cores and 4 threads of Intel's Alder Lake architecture. It also uses the Intel UHD graphics engine, which will limit it significantly compared to current-gen Intel iGPUs.

Those caveats stated, it's still impressive to get all of this up and running off of a battery inside a custom enclosure that turns it into a dual-screened laptop. It can at least emulate Nintendo 3DS games, so can it really be that bad? Sure, something like Ayaneo Flip DS can emulate Switch in a yet-smaller form factor, but people make these projects for fun, not practicality.

APU Enthusiast

(Image credit: SFF.Network / APU_enthusiast)

Besides being a fully functioning Mini ITX laptop project, the use of dual screens here is particularly creative. As showcased in the images above and the original gallery, the bottom screen can either be used to further enhance emulation/media consumption or repurposed as a full touchscreen keyboard. Considering the design is being demoed with 3DS emulation, it seems this dual-screen choice was likely shaped by that workload. 

asdf

(Image credit: SFF.Network / APU_enthusiast)

Overall, it's hard to really critique this project since it pretty much achieves everything it sets out to. The final result looks almost clean enough to be a consumer laptop (in a retro-futuristic 90s way, but still), though, of course, it can't be expected to perform like a high-end gaming laptop.

APU Enthusiast

(Image credit: SFF.Network / APU_enthusiast)

The success of this project also makes us wonder how performant a "proper" Mini ITX laptop project could be, leveraging active cooling and newer board/CPU combinations like ASRock's Core i9-capable MITX board. While chances are any such projects will require sizable external power bricks, the proof of concept for Mini ITX laptops is already here! Another SFF.Network guy already did it with "Thin ITX", too.

  • Notton
    I have no doubt that the builder had a ton of fun designing, printing and assembling that. I know I would.

    IMO, this could have been made more compact, if they used a fanless n100 mini-PC/SBC.
    I doubt it would increase cost all that more either.

    Alternatively, use a fanless n100 laptop, and modify the hinges so a portable screen can be sandwiched in the clam shell.
    Reply
  • ezst036
    My thought is that a little less compaction would go a long way about this custom build.

    What if the right hand side were extended out by a half inch, and right angle cables were used? The entire cable assembly could be "hidden" inside of a bezel and the only visible cable could then be the power cable, making this almost entirely just like a real laptop. (except way thicker as seen in the photos)

    My thoughts have strayed in directions like this over the years many times since I've been desperate now for decades, for an entirely build your own laptop due to the market's utter failure to deliver on one. You know, beyond one single provider here, one single provider there, another there. They're always one-offs, and they eventually go out of business leaving you with a lump not unlike just going out and getting a Dell.

    ITX is not a laptop form factor. There has been a complete and utter failure to develop a laptop form factor and pc cases to go with it. Ideally, I'd buy a laptop form factor motherboard from Asus, a Lian-Li laptop case, with an MSI LCD/OLED display, which, of course, none of which exist.
    Reply
  • coromonadalix
    would have been better to use some usb and hdmi cable made with flex pcb / flat cable they could be placed in the hinge ....
    Reply
  • atomicWAR
    I think it would be as great setup to emulate the DS and 3DS/2DS systems. I really love seeing modders create neat projects like this. I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.
    Reply
  • LabRat 891
    Nice but, not at all the direction the form factor and hardware allows.
    Still, this'll get other Makers 'creative juices' flowing.

    ITX is begging to be put into a large Pelican-style case or briefcase, as a true (modular+mobile) desktop replacement.
    Reply
  • Jameschannelfan
    I wonder if we could bring more processing power, if we sacrifice some of the size. Add a nice gpu to try to boost the textures of the emulator. (Or for any other game that could run on that dingus)
    Reply