An electronics hobbyist has designed a “laptop form factor device” that is estimated to run for two years between charges. The self-effacingly named PotatoP combines a mix of low power components, plus a 12,000 mAh battery pack and a modest bank of solar cells. Eventually, Andreas Eriksen, the PotatoP designer, wants to develop this laptop project to offer endless battery life, plus a bigger display.
The inspiration for the PotatoP came from the creator’s annoyance with his existing laptop always running out of battery. For the “small programming projects” it was used for, powerful hardware was unnecessary. It would better suit the user if the laptop design was skewed toward very low power use, as long as the screen was sharp and readable and the keyboard workmanlike.
To execute the above vision, the PotatoP design relies on the SparkFun RedBoard Artemis ATP developer board as its 'motherboard.' This foundational component choice features the Ambiq Apollo3 SoC, which is claimed to “set a new standard in energy efficiency for battery powered devices.” The SoC’s Arm Cortex-M4F runs at up to 96 MHz while consuming less than six micro-Amps per MHz. The SBC also has 384KB RAM and 1MB flash memory, as well as an extensive variety of interfaces / connectivity options considering its size.
Another component that was key to the PotatoP as you see it today is the Sharp Memory in Pixel display LS044Q7DH01. This is a monochrome 320 x 240 pixels display with a 4.4-inch diagonal. Eriksen says that he wishes that Sharp made a bigger version of this display, and is probably open to an alternative as long as it's as thrifty with power consumption. The display has no backlight, which will help with power efficiency. However, this 4.4-inch display is claimed to be “surprisingly readable,” in well lit conditions. Lastly, we must say the diminutive display gives this PotatoP device a unique style.
While there are obvious sacrifices made in the display and processing power, it's good to see that the PotatoP creator couldn’t stomach a substandard typing experience. Thus, he sacrificed an old Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 to integrate it into the PotatoP.
For software, the PotatoP is running a Lisp environment (uLisp). PotatoP creator Eriksen says that using Lisp to create necessary application software is another part of the fun of using this homemade computer.
Lastly, the PotatoP, with its already impressive battery life already measured in years, is being tuned so that it may never require a charging cable. The creator has been busy working on system optimizations to reduce power consumption, which you can read about in the development project logs. If software tweaks alone can’t extend the battery life to infinity as things stand (with the help of solar), Eriksen is pondering over adding more solar cells to achieve this goal.
Stay on the Cutting Edge
Join the experts who read Tom's Hardware for the inside track on enthusiast PC tech news — and have for over 25 years. We'll send breaking news and in-depth reviews of CPUs, GPUs, AI, maker hardware and more straight to your inbox.
Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.
Add a second solar panel on the left side and you have an off-grid computer!Reply
Why not use a Kindle Paperwhite display?Reply
Can it run Crysis?Reply
I'm sure the Doom port is well underway.
e-ink, for text based work would be awesome! Only wish the form factor could come down in footprint, and as long as there is an easy way to push content on and off, This would be great. I think anything over 1 week active battery life is overkill, but awesome to see people making custom devices! WOudl be interested in the BOM to make something similar.Dr3ams said:Why not use a Kindle Paperwhite display?
384K of memory. That seems a bit small, (my Amiga 500 came with 512K). Is that enough to do modern Coding? I would also think using the back of the display for the solar panels might be a good way to go. You could upgrade to a larger display with the larger Solar Panels. The display he is using is cell phone sized. That would be fine for me... 20 years ago. ( Losing your close up vision happens in a matter of months and is very shocking). My issues aside, Good For this Guy to make his own Laptop. Very Cool!Reply
This reminds me of the WikiReader (offline text Wikipedia in a pocket device) and earlier Palm/EPOC32 OS PDA (Palm III series, Psion Series 5) or even the popular early 1980's Tandy TRS-80 Model 100/200 with a proper keyboard that run on AA/AAA batteries. The key is non-backlit LCD and no (heavy) GUI.Reply
SparkFun has a ultra low power Wi-Fi module that coincidentally uses the same ARM Cortex-M4F cores as the PotatoP itself. I doubt the PotatoP can handle even a WAP browser, but obviously that's not the point of the project/concept.