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Posted (edited) · Original PosterOP

Hey guys,

 

I've always wanted to make a custom laptop, something that I could just swap out and upgrade on a whim.  Seeing as how SBCs have become increasingly popular and powerful, I was wondering if people would be interested in a "laptop shell", and the SBC within can be easily swapped as required. Something like a pitop, except it should accommodate any SBC of your choice.

 

Since I wanted to make something for myself, I was thinking if I could get some feedback from the community if this is something that you guys would be interested in? I would be excited to start a build log here, and eventually maybe a kickstarter or something.

 

Features I've been working on implementing:

 

1. Support for most SBCs (dimensions)

I did some research, and figured that the rough dimensions the "shell" should support are 120mm X 60 mm, that covers the 85th percentile of all boards in SBC DB.

Figure_1.png.0147d84b16560e8c432f82175ed9cfd9.png


2. Support for most SBCs (ports)

The connectivity between the "shell" and the SBC should be as universal as possible..

  • Display will be via HDMI (audio supported)
  • Power to SBC can be via USB or soldered points (5V)
  • Keyboard and touchpad (via USB)

 

3. Relatively long battery life

I'm aiming to build in a 75Wh battery, which should net me about 9 hours of average to high load usage, and still within the 100Wh carry on limit.

 

4. Audio via speakers

 

5. In-built fan to cool down SBC

 

6. 2 2.5" bays

After more thought I thought it'd be cool to have 2.5" bays in the chassis! Since support to boot from SSDs have been enabled for RPI 4, I thought this was a good feature to have.

 

Thanks for reading through the idea!

Edited by pachele
Jun 11 2020 edit, added 2.5" drive bay support
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Definitely not BT for the inputs, but also not 2 USB ports - so needs a USB hub built in...


F@H
Desktop: i7-5960X 4.4GHz, Noctua NH-D14, ASUS Rampage V, 32GB, RTX2080S, 2TB NVMe SSD, 2x16TB HDD RAID0, Corsair HX1200, Thermaltake Overseer RX1, Samsung 4K curved 49" TV, 23" secondary

Mobile SFF rig: i9-9900K, Noctua NH-L9i, Asrock Z390 Phantom ITX-AC, 32GB, GTX1070, 2x1TB NVMe SSD RAID0, 2x5TB 2.5" HDD RAID0, Athena 500W Flex (Noctua fan), Custom 4.7l 3D printed case

 

Dell XPS 2 in 1 2019, 32GB, 1TB, 4K

 

GPD Win 2

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On 5/26/2020 at 6:55 PM, pachele said:

Hey guys,

 

I've always wanted to make a custom laptop, something that I could just swap out and upgrade on a whim.  Seeing as how SBCs have become increasingly popular and powerful, I was wondering if people would be interested in a "laptop shell", and the SBC within can be easily swapped as required. Something like a pitop, except it should accommodate any SBC of your choice.

 

Since I wanted to make something for myself, I was thinking if I could get some feedback from the community if this is something that you guys would be interested in? I would be excited to start a build log here, and eventually maybe a kickstarter or something.

 

Features I've been working on implementing:

 

1. Support for most SBCs (dimensions)

I did some research, and figured that the rough dimensions the "shell" should support are 120mm X 60 mm, that covers the 85th percentile of all boards in SBC DB.

Figure_1.png.0147d84b16560e8c432f82175ed9cfd9.png


2. Support for most SBCs (ports)

The connectivity between the "shell" and the SBC should be as universal as possible..

  • Display will be via HDMI from SBC (audio supported)
  • Power to SBC can be via USB or soldered points (5V)
  • Keyboard and touchpad (USB/BT?)

 

3. Relatively long battery life

I'm aiming to build in a 75Wh battery, which should net me about 9 hours of average to high load usage, and still within the 100Wh carry on limit.

 

4. Audio via speakers

 

5. In-built fan to cool down SBC

 

Unconfirmed features:

 

1. BT or USB for keyboard and touchpad?

Whether bluetooth or USB, i intend for the keyboard and touchpad to be integrated into the shell, but I haven't really decided what the interface should be. Bluetooth might be easier for SBCs with BT already on board, but it's a slight drain on battery. On the other hand, USB is simple and easy to understand but may require 2 USB ports on the SBC itself.

 

 

Thanks for reading through the idea!

Please do not use Bluetooth for input. They're not stable enough and will not work well when outside OS. Use USB

And as far as I can tell most SBDs have a display output right? then why use HDMI rather than onboard output....

BTW I think if there's really a dongle needed, it should be a i-dont-know-what connector to eDP.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
On 5/26/2020 at 8:02 PM, Kilrah said:

Definitely not BT for the inputs, but also not 2 USB ports - so needs a USB hub built in...

On 6/6/2020 at 8:46 AM, PegionFish said:

Please do not use Bluetooth for input. They're not stable enough and will not work well when outside OS. Use USB

Thanks @PegionFish! I hadn't considered the point of bluetooth not working well outside of an OS.

@KilrahI was trying to avoid USB hubs, but since BT is out, I guess there isn't a better alternative.

 

I found some guides for reconfiguring a laptop keyboard and touchpad, seems doable, but I'll likely try this out in the 2nd prototype, as I wanna focus on proving that the idea works out first and showing you guys something.

But if anyone has any experience with re-configuring laptop touchpads to USB, pls pm me! I'd love to pick your brain!

 

On 6/6/2020 at 8:46 AM, PegionFish said:

And as far as I can tell most SBDs have a display output right? then why use HDMI rather than onboard output....

BTW I think if there's really a dongle needed, it should be a i-dont-know-what connector to eDP.

From the research I did, most SBCs have mini/HDMI out, which was why I chose it. Other display outputs like DSI are also really popular, but not as popular as plain old HDMI. E.g. Nvidia's Jetson Nano, some banana Pis and Orange Pis lack DSI, and primarily have HDMI.

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On 5/26/2020 at 5:55 AM, pachele said:

-snip-

I am not sure you have a strong business case here. Have you conducted any voice of customer surveys or market research? 

 

Laptops are already a mature and established market. Now, your value proposition is to make laptops modular such that you can swap out the "core" but what is the market for that? Additionally, most SBCs are limited when it comes to performance. How do you intend to execute the modular feature such that a variety of SBCs can be accommodated while minimizing configurations?

 

From a business standpoint, I am not quite sure what you are trying to accomplish.

 

HOWEVER, if you want to build this as your own thing to be cool and different, go for it. 


Hi! If you ever need some structural, mechanical or electrical design/build help on your new rig, send me a PM and ill try and help you out!

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Posted · Original PosterOP
On 6/11/2020 at 8:38 PM, kkpatel87 said:

I am not sure you have a strong business case here. Have you conducted any voice of customer surveys or market research? 

 

Hey, yea, you really hit the nail on the head. This thread was made for me to gauge "customer sentiment" towards the idea, as I worked on it more, since this forum is full of tech loving people :)

 

On 6/11/2020 at 8:38 PM, kkpatel87 said:

Laptops are already a mature and established market. Now, your value proposition is to make laptops modular such that you can swap out the "core" but what is the market for that? Additionally, most SBCs are limited when it comes to performance.

Personally, I would love something like this, I've searched for customize-able laptops but they were always about me customizing the specs, not so much about me being able to swap out parts. And they were really costly to boot.

 

What I'm going for is something that could be reused like in a desktop PC (I normally reuse the PSU, case, storage drives, and i think most people do the same, mainly upgrading CPU, mobo, ram, GPU), so I felt the "chassis" surrounding the SBC would be analogous to the PSU, case and storage drives that ordinarily last far longer than the 'core' of the system. So that's essentially the value proposition, allowing people to have the option to really upgrade their laptops as time goes on, rather than just adding a stick of ram or increasing the size of the drives.

 

And yea I definitely agree that SBCs are relatively under-powered now compared to chip coming from Intel and AMD, but I think that they are definitely crossing into the threshold where people can do work with them. Raspberry Pi 4s getting an 8Gb version, and the AMD V1000 are (I hope) a sign of things to come.

 

On 6/11/2020 at 8:38 PM, kkpatel87 said:

How do you intend to execute the modular feature such that a variety of SBCs can be accommodated while minimizing configurations?

In my current design, I designed a slotted rail system, that allows 2 mounting nuts to be moved to any location within the 12cm*6cm space, so the SBCs can be mounted via the mounting holes. After I draw the CAD I'll attach some screenshots so that it's clearer. As for the ports, I'm trying to utilize ports that are the most common, based off SBC DBs databases.

 

Thanks for the comment man, I had a good time thinking through the points you raised.

 

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I have a hard time believing this can work, SBC's are available in so many shapes, sizes and port layouts... even the Pi changed with the Pi 4. Gonna have to plan to swappable connectors so you can accomodate HDMI to microHDMI to miniDP, USB-A or USB-C, USB power but also 12V, port extenders to go to the back or something... and you can be sure that the next cool SBC that comes out and you totally want won't fit by 2mm...

Unless you make the stuff so massive it's uninteresting it's going to be hard to guarantee any upgradability.

 

BTW I snatched a used pi-top 2.0, will be interesting to see...


F@H
Desktop: i7-5960X 4.4GHz, Noctua NH-D14, ASUS Rampage V, 32GB, RTX2080S, 2TB NVMe SSD, 2x16TB HDD RAID0, Corsair HX1200, Thermaltake Overseer RX1, Samsung 4K curved 49" TV, 23" secondary

Mobile SFF rig: i9-9900K, Noctua NH-L9i, Asrock Z390 Phantom ITX-AC, 32GB, GTX1070, 2x1TB NVMe SSD RAID0, 2x5TB 2.5" HDD RAID0, Athena 500W Flex (Noctua fan), Custom 4.7l 3D printed case

 

Dell XPS 2 in 1 2019, 32GB, 1TB, 4K

 

GPD Win 2

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Posted · Original PosterOP
9 hours ago, Kilrah said:

I have a hard time believing this can work, SBC's are available in so many shapes, sizes and port layouts... even the Pi changed with the Pi 4. Gonna have to plan to swappable connectors so you can accomodate HDMI to microHDMI to miniDP, USB-A or USB-C, USB power but also 12V, port extenders to go to the back or something... and you can be sure that the next cool SBC that comes out and you totally want won't fit by 2mm...

Unless you make the stuff so massive it's uninteresting it's going to be hard to guarantee any upgradability.

 

BTW I snatched a used pi-top 2.0, will be interesting to see...

Yea! The swappable connections were something I was considering seeing how longevity of the shell is a key point of this, like you mentioned I wanted something that can be swapped out, when let's say, USB 4.0 rolls around. Something that looks like this.

 

But yea, size is a big issue right now, as I'm working through the design. When I get the CAD out for something I think is reasonable, hopefully it'll trigger more discussion.

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Build it in a way that i will fit an Alpha Panda, and a Low profile GPU and I would definitely Want to buy it!

 

Honestly I want a laptop that's fully modular. Id be happy if someone made a case about 2 inches (just the bottom half containing the components) that would work with desktop components. Still haven't found any professionals making that sort of thing yet though. 

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