Completed DIY "laptop" / portable PC

mbrown278

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Jun 20, 2018
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Out of interest, what thickness is your screen? I may consider trying to do it your way in future - struggling to find a 17" USB C monitor with holes for VESA mounting, so I'm using a 15.6 inch 60hz portable monitor which is 11mm thick and then a couple of mm for the sheet metal supporting it, but I think size wise I could go to 17 in the future. I'd need to figure out the controller board etc but your thread has been useful in getting my head around that if I did go for it
 
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timginter

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Still wish I'd got an SFX unit, and also glad I hadn't - my mind still can't decide
I went with GxR-ONE because of battery, but now I'm sure I don't miss it I actually ordered the Corsair I linked for prototype v2 ;) Everywhere out of stock, though, ETA mid-May.

I finished a rough draft of 2 new designs - everything in the bottom box, one with SFX PSU and the other with modded server PSU: https://www.tinkercad.com/embed/h6Y1FxaMTHG
Colours are the same as in my first posts. GPU dimensions are for RTX 3080, though. GPU and CPU fans would be exhaust, 3 fans in the front as intake.
Modded server PSU is a bit narrower, I thought that design will be smaller, but looks like I'd need same size plates to accommodate standoffs.
Feels like it would actually make a neat custom case, then just bolt the screen on top of that.

Out of interest, what thickness is your screen? I may consider trying to do it your way in future - struggling to find a 17" USB C monitor with holes for VESA mounting, so I'm using a 15.6 inch 60hz portable monitor which is 11mm thick and then a couple of mm for the sheet metal supporting it, but I think size wise I could go to 17 in the future. I'd need to figure out the controller board etc but your thread has been useful in getting my head around that if I did go for it
The screen is 4mm thick, the controller board is 77x55x16mm. It's probably less convenient with extra cabling and having to mount separate controls (brightness, etc.), but there's already space for it and a 17'' DIY screen is much cheaper than a 15'' USB-C one
 
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timginter

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I ordered two 425 x 300 x 1.5mm and one 425 x 300 x 2mm aluminium sheets for Prototype V2: https://www.tinkercad.com/embed/0A6wNi00cOB

402mm is minimum to fit 17'' screen. 425 x 300mm should fit up to RTX 3080 with Corsair CP-9020186-UK SF750 or modded server PSU and GxR-ONE.

Played around with different hardware layouts, with a modded server PSU and GxR-ONE I was able to cut dimensions down to 402 x 280mm for RTX 3070 or RX 6800XT, probably 410 x 280mm realistically.

GPU still mounted to top plate, but motherboard to the bottom and vent holes in the top plate for CPU exhaust like in your build, @ruleh - in the end, I was just making things difficult for myself wanting GPU and CPU exhaust through the bottom
 
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ruleh

Trash Compacter
Jan 19, 2021
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Looking nice!
Seems so much cleaner without the battery and stuff.
It even has (unintended?) space for sata drives on top of the psu. :D

Are you going to place the keyboard closer to the front compared to the earlier designs?

Also isn't assembling it, with the motherboard and gpu connected to different plates, going to be a bit of pain?
 

timginter

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Apr 21, 2019
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Looking nice!
Seems so much cleaner without the battery and stuff.
It even has (unintended?) space for sata drives on top of the psu. :D
Thanks. True, a thin drive would probably fit there :D 1TB M.2 SSD is enough for me, though

Are you going to place the keyboard closer to the front compared to the earlier designs?
Keyboard is free standing, wireless, I didn't secure it in the end. I just move it where it's comfortable, depending how I have the rig on my lap.

Also isn't assembling it, with the motherboard and gpu connected to different plates, going to be a bit of pain?
Exactly my thoughts, I was actually thinking about "hanging" the mobo from the top plate on standoffs + steel threaded rods so I can unscrew the bottom lid without hassle. PSU already has to be on the bottom plate, though, to fit the LCD controller.
I'll have to see how much faff it will be if they were bolted to opposites plates, it may just be the GPU cable to disconnect before taking the plates apart
 

ruleh

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Jan 19, 2021
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Keyboard is free standing, wireless, I didn't secure it in the end. I just move it where it's comfortable, depending how I have the rig on my lap.
What about during transport?
Exactly my thoughts, I was actually thinking about "hanging" the mobo from the top plate on standoffs + steel threaded rods so I can unscrew the bottom lid without hassle. PSU already has to be on the bottom plate, though, to fit the LCD controller.
I'll have to see how much faff it will be if they were bolted to opposites plates, it may just be the GPU cable to disconnect before taking the plates apart
What length riser cable are using for the gpu?
Surely not 30cm. :D
 

timginter

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What about during transport?
Rubber feet on the keyboard prevent it from sliding when I move the rig "opened". When I close the lid I just put the keyboard on top.

What length riser cable are using for the gpu?
Surely not 30cm. :D
I have a 10cm riser I'll test first. Looks like a 5cm should be enough, too. I have to wait for new aluminium plates to arrive, though, prototype ones are just 382 x 260mm, won't be enough space for the new layout.

I'm starting prototype v2 with 425 x 300mm plates and see how much I can shave off for the final build.
From drawings, with either 750W SFX PSU or GxR-ONE and a modded server PSU, I should be able to get it down to 400 x 280mm for RTX 3070 or RX 6800XT. 400 x 300mm should fit up to RTX 3080.
 
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timginter

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I tinkered around with the final build: https://www.tinkercad.com/embed/h4zX6h5VIB3. Simplicity is key.
Kettle lead in the front is not ideal, but a small tradeoff for a simple design. Bottom box can easily be rotated 180 degrees for kettle lead in the back, motherboard IO in the front for easy access and no need for a front USB panel (may be awkward for external monitors, though).

17'' portable USB-C monitor. Thanks @mbrown278 for the link.
400 x 280mm aluminium sheets for RTX 3070 or RX 6800XT. 400 x 300mm aluminium sheets for RTX 3080.
600W or 750W , 120 x 100 x 63mm SFX PSU. I went with 750W - future-proof and quiet fan with lower load. price difference between 600W wasn't that big.

Bottom box is 70mm tall including two 1.5mm thick aluminium plates. Legs are an extra 10mm.

This has been a great topic and big thanks to everyone for help! In the end I found I don't miss the battery at all and redesigned the rig for an SFX PSU and a USB-C monitor. I'm going through firsts posts, parts and design, and updating everything according to the new drawings.
The Corsair SFX PSU is out of stock and will be delivered mid-May, that will give me enough time for a prototype V2 using my modded server PSU and GxR-ONE for a reality-check before ordering another set of aluminium plates for the final build.

I'm still waiting for the BMS, I'll do the DIY UPS in a separate topic as a hobby project.
 
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timginter

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425 x 300mm aluminium plates arrived - that was quick!

I need to find 65mm M4 female-female standoffs (hopefully aluminium or steel) to not faff around with threaded rods. USB-C monitor and SFX PSU should arrive around mid-may, then I can test the final build from: https://www.tinkercad.com/embed/h4zX6h5VIB3

Found a nice box the rig could work with - https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001728011368.html, ideally the 65mm version (and cut out the bottom to fit ATX PSU), but I have to see how much I can shrink internal dimensions with prototype V2. Then I can order one of the boxes to tinker with.
I really like the open aluminium design, though, so I'm not too bothered with squeezing everything in a 59mm internal height box.

With a set height from 65mm standoffs, I can always attach thin aluminium sheets to the standoffs around the sides to block interference a bit (hopefully just front and back so sides still tay open for good airflow). CPU and GPU fans to exhaust, some 60x25 Noctua fans as intake - might even work. A DIY enclosed case like that should solve interference and give me total freedom of where to cut holes for IO and fans, 0.9mm aluminium sides will be easy enough to cut
 

timginter

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Monitor and SF750 came. Just waiting for 5cm PCIe riser and these hinges - having hinge screws along the short edge of the aluminium plate will not leave nuts in the way of IO ports. They'll handle torque from opening/closing the lid better, too.

Started with hardware layout:


With an SFX PSU, aluminium plates can be as small as 395 x 275mm! Monitor cables would stick out, so probably 400mm width and 90 degrees USB-C / Mini-HDMI cables.

It would mean motherboard flush with the aluminium plate and all IO sticking out, though. WiFi antennae stick out around almost 3cm, not sure if that's too easy to accidentally knock them, or any USB dongles, into something. Two ideas here:

1. go with 400 x 275mm plates and make some sort of a guard/handle - it would go between standoffs in the corners and be long enough to go around the folded WiFi antennae.​

2. go with 400 x 300mm plates, but cut them out to expose motherboard's IO

I tested hardware with motherboard flush with the plate and IO sticking out as for option 1 and there's no interference! Bloody finally! Even the keyboard didn't have any problems no matter where I put it!

I did a bit more testing and looks like it's the exposed wires on the riser, where it plugs into the GPU. I managed to cover almost everything in aluminium except a small part just above those wires and still had WiFi. When I tried the plates any closer to that plug, WiFi dropped:


Thought about using liquid tape on those wires and wrapping them in copper tape in revenge... that may only get rid of interference, though - I don't know if WiFi antennae or USB dongles sandwiched between two aluminium plates would still have signal issues, and I don't want to go through the hassle to test it. Caused me enough grief ;) It's funny that all good quality risers use shielded cables, but all have those wires on the connector exposed...

With option 1 interference doesn't matter - I actually was able to test it. Option 2 should also work, at least in theory. Just need to decide which to go with - if making a strong guard/handle attached to risers will be easy enough, I'll go with option 1. Otherwise, it's option 2
 

kesar

Efficiency Noob
Apr 29, 2021
5
1
Its a very impressive build - I'm really interested myself. Great work! Just for reference, what's the "laptops" volume? I also like the fact that it's in a laptop form - making it a future proof laptop. Looking forward to updates and pics of the final product :)
 

timginter

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Its a very impressive build - I'm really interested myself. Great work! Just for reference, what's the "laptops" volume? I also like the fact that it's in a laptop form - making it a future proof laptop. Looking forward to updates and pics of the final product :)
Thanks :) If not for the damn WiFi interference it would have been an easy build, especially now with the SFX PSU.
Including all of the 400x280 plates and the USB-C monitor when folded, total volume is a bit less than 9 litres (40x28x8).

I marked out vent holes on both 425x300 aluminium plates (CPU cooler on top, GPU and PSU on bottom):


and thought - screw it. I'm not drilling so many vent holes twice :D I ordered the 400x280mm plates, I'll mount everything when they come and I'll think of a guard/handle for the GPU and mobo IO.

Drilling holes for hardware is really smooth now - put hardware on the plate, mark with a pencil where screw holes are, drill through with 4mm drill bit (for M3 screws) and smooth out the jagged edges with 6mm drill bit afterwards.
Goes really quick, can't believe how difficult I made it for myself when I started all this :D
 

timginter

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Big milestone - 400 x 280mm plates came! Yesterday I finished the final build, took me pretty much the whole day to mark, drill, smooth, mount and connect everything! I'm hoping to not drill another hole at least for some time...

Started with the usual - rounded the corners and blunted the edges of the plates - they are quite sharp, had lost of little cuts from handling the plates earlier. Clamped all plates together, marked 10mm from each corner and drilled 5mm holes through all plates.

Laid the hardware on the plates. Marked, drilled and mounted the GPU as point of reference. Then marked, drilled and mounted the motherboard. Marked where the PSU should go and traced hardware with a pencil to mark where I'll need the vent holes.
Later I attached to the bottom plate only one of the two extra standoffs, in front of SATA connectors (not using them anyway):


I'm using two of the PSU's fan screws to secure it to the bottom aluminium plate:


Unmounted all the hardware, criss-crossed the grids for vents, marked vent holes with a drill bit (sort of pilot holes) then drilled with 6mm bit and smoothed edges with an 8mm bit (LOOOTS of drilling, some wine helped, though):

Actually marked the damn GPU vents wrong :D Should have been from the further edge, not the closer... I'll extend GPU vents at some point, but definitely not any time soon :D Original GPU fans blow air on the GPU, with so much clearance from bottom plate, vents off-centre don't make a difference.

Put all together, connected, tidied up cables, added the front USB header and Noctua 6mm fan (drawing shows 2, but temps are good so didn't see the point of ordering an extra one). Portable monitor worked great - back can be unscrewed to easily mark VESA holes. Holes in hinges are M3, but drilled hrough one in each hinge with a 4.5mm bit and "counter-sunk" them with a 6.5mm bit to screw directly into the M4 standoff:



Everything connected to the motherboard is on the bottom plate to make disassembly easier. If I pop out the GPU riser and unplug PCIe cable at the GPU, I can unscrew the legs and lift the bottom easily
 
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timginter

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There are a few minor things I still want to do, but design is really unlikely to change from this final build:
  • these hinges are not great. sometimes the adjustment screw catches when opening/closing and hinges can loosen a bit, but if you tighten the adjustment screw as much as possible and then mark, drill holes and attach the monitor plate, they keep the torque setting better. For around £9 more I ordered these hinges (HYC-TA model) instead, I'll just swap them when they arrive and update the parts list if they work OK,
  • sometimes, when I move or knock the WiFi antennae at an odd angle, there's still some WiFi interference. Not sure why, I didn't stick out mobo's IO totally, they are recessed around 5mm, but there's no interference with other wireless devices any more. At some point I'll try liquid tape and then copper tape on the riser part connecting to GPU, just out of curiosity,
  • add longer screws in the holes above the monitor - when I close the lid I want it resting on those screws, raised, instead of on the screen frame,
  • swap monitor cables for shorter ones with 90-degree angled connectors. Original monitor cables stick out quite a bit,
  • swap 24pin PSU cable to a shorter one - 50cm is a pain to wrap inside,
  • maybe find a better wireless keyboard - Microsoft All-In-One is great, keys are really smooth, but some keys do not work together if held more than 2 at the same time, e.g. when you're holding [shift]+[w], [a] key works fine, but [d] key doesn't register - you can sprint/walk forward and strafe/turn left, but not right. Bit of a pain in some games

Thanks again to everyone in this thread - 6 months, a lot of discussion, a lot of designs, some swearing and a lot of tinkering - it's been great. Finally a proper, portable "lapdesk" that packs a punch and the best things is that everything can be changed or improved. Any questions or suggestions - all welcome.

I'll still post updates on the minor changes above and do the 12V 600W DC-ATX plug-in UPS in a separate thread, when the mosfet diode arrives.
 

ignsvn

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There are a few minor things I still want to do, but design is really unlikely to change from this final build:
  • maybe find a better wireless keyboard - Microsoft All-In-One is great, keys are really smooth, but some keys do not work together if held more than 2 at the same time, e.g. when you're holding [shift]+[w], [a] key works fine, but [d] key doesn't register - you can sprint/walk forward and strafe/turn left, but not right. Bit of a pain in some games
Assuming you prefer thin wireless mech keyboards, nowadays there is this

https://www.keychron.com/pages/keychron-k3-wireless-mechanical-keyboard, but they don't specify the NKRO. Perhaps email them to find out more. Sometimes the NKRO might different between wired VS wireless.

Non wireless, thin, with NKRO https://www.coolermaster.com/catalog/peripheral/keyboards/sk630
 
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timginter

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Assuming you prefer thin wireless mech keyboards, nowadays there is this

https://www.keychron.com/pages/keychron-k3-wireless-mechanical-keyboard, but they don't specify the NKRO. Perhaps email them to find out more. Sometimes the NKRO might different between wired VS wireless.

Non wireless, thin, with NKRO https://www.coolermaster.com/catalog/peripheral/keyboards/sk630
Nice, thanks for the links. They look good, a bit pricey, though.
I played around with different keys and won't have to change the keyboard - luckily backslash works combined with W or S, A or D and Space at the same time. In British layout backslash key is between Z and Left Shift and on the MS All-In-One shift is half-width to make room for it - I just rebound sprint/walk to backslash and use that instead - easy transition, very close to full-width Shift.

Slowly ticking stuff off the list:
  • added two 20mm M3 screws in the holes above the monitor - with self-locking nut at the very end they work great - closed lid rests on those screws instead of the monitor. Any sticking out GPU screws will not scratch the monitor, either.
  • found some really cool, flat cables for the monitor - this Mini-HDMI cable and this HDMI connector. For power, this (30cm, S2-T2 type) ADT-Link USB-C cable. The Mini-HDMI cable came today and works perfectly - the ribbon is so flat it fits between the monitor and its aluminium plate. Really neat cabling. The USB-C will take some time to ship, I'll post a photo when both are done.
  • I tried NETGEAR AC1200 Wifi USB Adapter, no problem with interference, but the speed is sometimes really bad, sometimes down to 5 out of 72 Mbps, jumps between 5 and 40 Mbps without moving the rig. I already have 3 mesh routers in my house so not an issue with coverage. I ordered 30cm RP-SMA RG316 Right Angle WiFi Antenna Extension Cable and I'll tinker with the original antennae - should fit on bluetack on the sides of the monitor ;) Should also give me the option to update the WiFi card if I wanted to.
 
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timginter

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Few quick updates from the list and some weekend tinkering:
Waiting now for the monitor and cables, I'll take some final build photos when everything arrives.

I had leftover hinges and aluminium plates from the prototypes - I hacked together a low-space VESA monitor stand - will be handy with the 60Hz monitor for work :D




 
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timginter

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Last piece of the puzzle, 20cm ADT-Link Up-Angle Male HDMI to Down-Angle Male HDMI cable (A2-A3R model), finally came! Final, complete build as per parts list in the first posts.

In the meantime I found Bingfu Dual Band WiFi 2.4GHz 5GHz 5.8GHz 6dBi MIMO RP-SMA Male Aerial Antenna (2-Pack) - great, cheap antennae, bottom one (biggest impact on WiFi signal) is facing away from the GPU and folded monitor cable - no interference. No idea why, length is similar to the ugly COVVY one, but with these I have no problems even when antennae are folded.

  • these hinges are not great. sometimes the adjustment screw catches when opening/closing and hinges can loosen a bit, but if you tighten the adjustment screw as much as possible and then mark, drill holes and attach the monitor plate, they keep the torque setting better. For around £9 more I ordered these hinges (HYC-TA model) instead, I'll just swap them when they arrive and update the parts list if they work OK,
  • sometimes, when I move or knock the WiFi antennae at an odd angle, there's still some WiFi interference. Not sure why, I didn't stick out mobo's IO totally, they are recessed around 5mm, but there's no interference with other wireless devices any more. At some point I'll try liquid tape and then copper tape on the riser part connecting to GPU, just out of curiosity,
  • add longer screws in the holes above the monitor - when I close the lid I want it resting on those screws, raised, instead of on the screen frame,
  • swap monitor cables for shorter ones with 90-degree angled connectors. Original monitor cables stick out quite a bit,
  • swap 24pin PSU cable to a shorter one - 50cm is a pain to wrap inside,
  • maybe find a better wireless keyboard - Microsoft All-In-One is great, keys are really smooth, but some keys do not work together if held more than 2 at the same time, e.g. when you're holding [shift]+[w], [a] key works fine, but [d] key doesn't register - you can sprint/walk forward and strafe/turn left, but not right. Bit of a pain in some games
Everything with an impact from the list above ticked off - new hinges are great, perfectly hold torque. New antennae solved interference once and for all. 144Hz 1080p screen is great - much prefer the smoothness to higher resolution. It's slightly thicker, but lid still rests on 20mm M3 screws in the corners and screen has enough clearance even for any sticking out screws. Both monitor cables from ADT - great quality as always, couldn't find a "reversed" USB-A to USB-C so the cable has to be twisted instead of neatly folded and had to cut off the shrink wrap at the monitor side so I could bend the cable and route it between the monitor and its aluminium plate. Couldn't find a shorter Type4 Corsair 24-pin cable, but the long one doesn't bother me that much. Binding sprint to "\" works great on a UK layout.

Thanks everyone for a great thread, this Frankenstein is exactly what I was looking for ;)


I already had a 3 metre kettle lead so didn't buy an angled one as per parts list. Works just as good, though.


Once you go 144Hz you can't go back ;)


Some professional bluetack engineering on the 60mm fan ;)


I bought a 30cm USB-A to USB-C cable instead of 40cm - with 40cm the cable will connect straight down from behind the monitor to any other USB port on the mobo and not block the LAN port. I can swap USB ports, but the cable is angled then and doesn't look as nice. I'm not using the LAN port now anyway.
 
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