Completed DIY "laptop" / portable PC

timginter

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Apr 21, 2019
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I swapped the BlackRidge back for Noctua. BlackRidge without a backplate and with the aluminum plate resting on top of it bent my motherboard :/ All still works luckily.

I tested a 10cm riser and GPU facing the opposite way as the mobo - still interference blocking out wireless. I'm waiting for a few other parts to test some ideas, really odd nothing works, though.

Something that worked for me was reversing the gpu and cpu fan direction so they exhaust all the hot air out of the case.
It might be worth a try.
Thanks! I flipped the fan to exhaust on Noctua cooler and after 2h of gameplay this morning in bed, with vents on the blanket, max temperatures were 74 degrees. Big difference!
 

timginter

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Apr 21, 2019
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Have you tried enabling spread spectrum in BIOS, btw?
Can't find it on my mobo unfortunately

I did some more testing - 3 different PSUs, 3 different PCIe risers, different hardware layouts - none of these matter, WiFi and wireless devices are blocked by interference between aluminium plates.
I tried aluminium foil in different configurations with some successes, though:

1) large aluminium foil sheet under the whole mobo (between the mobo and the riser. a sheet of paper between aluminium foil and mobo to prevent shorts):

This made no difference

2) sheet from 1) and an extra sheet going from underneath the mobo sheet up on the GPU:

This worked 100% of the time. With the GPU sheet folded like in second photo it was really easy to short the GPU (either on PCB or PCIe connector) and freeze the system, though.

3) only GPU sheet:

This worked sometimes, but not reliable - when WiFi antennae were "shielded" from the direction of the GPU is seems to have worked, but couldn't get it to work consistently with the top aluminium plate. The way aluminium foil is folded, it was also too easy to short the PCB or PCIe connector and freeze the rig.

1) didn't work at all, 3) worked sometimes, but 2) worked always - looks like it's more the GPU or GPU+riser connection. Shame I don't have any other GPU to test it.
I'll take everything apart again sometime soon. I'm suspecting the naked connectors on the riser "plug", where it connects to GPU. All risers seem to have them going around on the outside, totally exposed (the part on the top-right of the photo):
 
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ruleh

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Jan 19, 2021
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What pcie version is the system running at?
Maybe changing it might reduce (or increase) the interference.
 

timginter

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What pcie version is the system running at?
Maybe changing it might reduce (or increase) the interference.
Thanks. It was set to "Auto", I changed it to "Gen 3", didn't seem to have an impact on interference.

It's really odd that a design like yours with a 10cm riser also didn't work
 

ruleh

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Jan 19, 2021
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Thanks. It was set to "Auto", I changed it to "Gen 3", didn't seem to have an impact on interference.

It's really odd that a design like yours with a 10cm riser also didn't work
If it has "Gen 2", that might also be worth a try. Though if 3 didn't work I doubt that 2 will. Also messing with the number of pcie lanes used for the gpu might do something.
If the motherboard came with an io shield or something, using it might shield the wifi from a bit of interference. Though it seems unlikely to work given the amount of empty unshielded space around it.

I use a 15cm riser but I don't know if the setup creates any interference or not. I haven't seen any wifi problems (other than the usual) but the antenna is a good meter away from the system, so who knows?

I wonder if it can also cause wifi problems for other devices, if so up to what distance? There might be some use for this. :)
 

timginter

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Apr 21, 2019
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If it has "Gen 2", that might also be worth a try. Though if 3 didn't work I doubt that 2 will. Also messing with the number of pcie lanes used for the gpu might do something.
If the motherboard came with an io shield or something, using it might shield the wifi from a bit of interference. Though it seems unlikely to work given the amount of empty unshielded space around it.
I was thinking along similar lines, tried the original IO shield but it didn't help. I'd probably have to totally shield IO, top-to-bottom to see any effect.

I use a 15cm riser but I don't know if the setup creates any interference or not. I haven't seen any wifi problems (other than the usual) but the antenna is a good meter away from the system, so who knows?
I wonder if most PCs have that problem, but it's not visible because it's contained inside the case. IOs are shielded, on the outside.

How is your antenna 1 meter away? Do you use a USB/extension?

I wonder if it can also cause wifi problems for other devices, if so up to what distance? There might be some use for this. :)
It does, mobile phone signal and other wireless devices, but only between aluminium plates :) The range is very small
 

ruleh

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Jan 19, 2021
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I was thinking along similar lines, tried the original IO shield but it didn't help. I'd probably have to totally shield IO, top-to-bottom to see any effect.
Yes, you probably have to make your own io shield for the entire length and height of the (bottom) box. Not sure if shielding the sides is necessary.
I wonder if most PCs have that problem, but it's not visible because it's contained inside the case. IOs are shielded, on the outside.
Seems likely. Even laptops with plastic covers seem to have some sort of conductive paint or a metal foil on them, probably for emi reasons.
How is your antenna 1 meter away? Do you use a USB/extension?
I use a "Gigaset USB Adapter 108" for wifi which has a ~1.5m cable for some reason.
It does, mobile phone signal and other wireless devices, but only between aluminium plates :) The range is very small
In that case, if all attempts at shielding fail, moving all the wireless stuff away from there into the top box might be an option.
 

timginter

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Yes, you probably have to make your own io shield for the entire length and height of the (bottom) box. Not sure if shielding the sides is necessary.
Yeah, I tested a bit more and shielding from the direction of the GPU is the important one. I'll experiment with a top-bottom shield curving around the middle of the chassis - should also shield USB ports for other wireless devices

Even laptops with plastic covers seem to have some sort of conductive paint or a metal foil on them, probably for emi reasons.
The more I read and test the more it feels common. I tried my hardware with 2 laptop lids (around 0.9mm aluminium) - above and below - same WiFi problems. Explains why laptops have WiFi antennae around the screen and IO sticking out on the sides or back ;)

I use a "Gigaset USB Adapter 108" for wifi which has a ~1.5m cable for some reason.

In that case, if all attempts at shielding fail, moving all the wireless stuff away from there into the top box might be an option.
Thanks! I had a look at PCIe WiFi antennae extensions and USB extensions, found 2x USB 3.0 + 2x USB 2.0 front panel!

I'm not that bothered with the WiFi for now - I'll check a DIY IO shield first. If that doesn't work then extensions and antennae mounted behind the screen.

The front panel is perfect for my motherboard, though! USB 3.0 instead of 3.1 but I'll survive ;) Mounted on the front (probably on one of the mobo standoffs) will give great access and ports for wireless keyboard, headphones and trackball
 

timginter

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Apr 21, 2019
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2x USB 3.0 + 2x USB 2.0 front panel came today - straight under the knife.

Had to cut the panel to fit in front of the mobo:


Marked holes, drilled and mounted:


Works like a charm. Wireless keyboard, wireless headphones and wireless trackball - no interference. And I don't have to dive behind the rig to plug something in
 

mbrown278

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Jun 20, 2018
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Really interesting build - I wish I had seen it whilst I was building my own - I have just finished doing something similar which can be found here: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/non-portable-almost-non-laptop-build.14544/

The only thing I thought (in addition to what is already listed) with your wifi problem is the bare aluminium plate. I don't know if it does affect it, but cases are very rarely bare metal. The bare aluminium could be reflecting signals (as well as potentially creating a faraday cage). I wondered whether a painted aluminimum sheet would block the signals/reflect them less or reduce your problem? That is an absolute novice guess though so feel free to completely ignore me! :p

Good luck with the build!
 
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timginter

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Apr 21, 2019
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Really interesting build - I wish I had seen it whilst I was building my own - I have just finished doing something similar which can be found here: https://smallformfactor.net/forum/threads/non-portable-almost-non-laptop-build.14544/
It's a shame I missed your build, thanks for the post. The renders and design are great! I have a few questions, but I'll ask in your thread :)

The only thing I thought (in addition to what is already listed) with your wifi problem is the bare aluminium plate. I don't know if it does affect it, but cases are very rarely bare metal. The bare aluminium could be reflecting signals (as well as potentially creating a faraday cage). I wondered whether a painted aluminimum sheet would block the signals/reflect them less or reduce your problem? That is an absolute novice guess though so feel free to completely ignore me! :p

Good luck with the build!
Thanks :)

I was experimenting along the same lines - I used two laptop lids, but WiFi problems were still there. I suspect every PC/laptop may have those issues, but you can't really feel them with an enclosed case and IO shield / front panels - all interference is kept inside.
If that's right, not sure there's any point in trying to solve what PC and laptop companies didn't ;)

I was thinking about a horizontal case, e.g. SILVERSTONE FORTRESS SST-FTZ01B-E and just screw a screen on top, but there's a lot of unused space and just the case weighs more than my whole rig now :D Also anything higher than 8cm wasn't that comfortable to use.

I'm not that bothered by interference now I know what's causing them. I could move the mobo back, but I'd rather have IO tucked inside.
The front panel solved keyboard and wireless headphones issues; longer WiFi antennae work ok, too.

I'll try to find a way to shield antennae from GPU but at least I can use the rig now
 
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mbrown278

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Jun 20, 2018
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It's a shame I missed your build, thanks for the post. The renders and design are great! I have a few questions, but I'll ask in your thread :)


Thanks :)

I was experimenting along the same lines - I used two laptop lids, but WiFi problems were still there. I suspect every PC/laptop may have those issues, but you can't really feel them with an enclosed case and IO shield / front panels - all interference is kept inside.
If that's right, not sure there's any point in trying to solve what PC and laptop companies didn't ;)

I was thinking about a horizontal case, e.g. SILVERSTONE FORTRESS SST-FTZ01B-E and just screw a screen on top, but there's a lot of unused space and just the case weighs more than my whole rig now :D Also anything higher than 8cm wasn't that comfortable to use.

I'm not that bothered by interference now I know what's causing them. I could move the mobo back, but I'd rather have IO tucked inside.
The front panel solved keyboard and wireless headphones issues; longer WiFi antennae work ok, too.

I'll try to find a way to shield antennae from GPU but at least I can use the rig now
I also considered using a slim case and then screw some hinges on top and a panel to vesa mount a monitor (like in my build), but like you say, slim cases aren't that slim and weigh a ton, have loads of wasted space and from a wooden mock up I did to get the sizing of mine, I found the thickness to be too much. One I did consider was the s4 mini for doing this, but thought the amount of panel holes on both sides could be too much f a hazard for stuff falling in whilst using it as I was intending too.

I did however find this:
546-1441-34BK3
1441-34BK3
Chassis - Steel

It is an enclosure which I did buy when I got a bit frustrated at how my build was going but I cancelled my order and decided to keep going. The enclosure is 43 x 30 x 5cm. I was going to cut out the bottom panel, leaving about 2cm around the edge and was going to get a piece laser cut with the necessary cutouts etc and rivet that onto the underside of the enclosure. I was then going to keep everything inside like your build (so the IO etc isn't visible), then bolt the hinges and sheet o metal to the top for vesa mounting a monitor (like in my build). I am sure this is the simplest and probably cheapest way to do this laptop idea, but I had gone so far with mine and funds are drying up to keep buying enclosures and getting stuff laser cut. Although the enclosure is slightly bigger in length, it would have allowed more options for a PSU (I have an 850w flex atx unit which would have fitted perfectly), or the 800w HDPlex, and I probably could have prevented the need for an external brick (which I don't really mind - I quite like it as it feels more like a laptop).
 

timginter

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Apr 21, 2019
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I also considered using a slim case and then screw some hinges on top and a panel to vesa mount a monitor (like in my build), but like you say, slim cases aren't that slim and weigh a ton, have loads of wasted space and from a wooden mock up I did to get the sizing of mine, I found the thickness to be too much. One I did consider was the s4 mini for doing this, but thought the amount of panel holes on both sides could be too much f a hazard for stuff falling in whilst using it as I was intending too.

I did however find this:
546-1441-34BK3
1441-34BK3
Chassis - Steel

It is an enclosure which I did buy when I got a bit frustrated at how my build was going but I cancelled my order and decided to keep going. The enclosure is 43 x 30 x 5cm. I was going to cut out the bottom panel, leaving about 2cm around the edge and was going to get a piece laser cut with the necessary cutouts etc and rivet that onto the underside of the enclosure. I was then going to keep everything inside like your build (so the IO etc isn't visible), then bolt the hinges and sheet o metal to the top for vesa mounting a monitor (like in my build). I am sure this is the simplest and probably cheapest way to do this laptop idea, but I had gone so far with mine and funds are drying up to keep buying enclosures and getting stuff laser cut.
Thanks. S4 Mini seems really odd dimensions, narrow but tall. That box, the walnut version is brilliant! Shame they don't do the walnut one in 6cm height. Really big otherwise, though.

My prototype looks horrible ;) but it gave me the luxury to have a "case" for my hardware, not the other way around. Almost worked, just the damn GPU interference... Looking at your build, what you posted in your thread and at the problems I had with mine - I'm sure I wouldn't go with anything but 2 cheap aluminium plates. Any box would still need hardware standoffs, custom cut outs, fitted IO shields depending on hardware... With a PC case, either using a bigger one and filling the unnecessary space or changing hardware to fit a smaller case. Or designing own, which I understand is quite pricey. It's a simple problem, shame there's not a simple and sensibly priced solution.

Although the enclosure is slightly bigger in length, it would have allowed more options for a PSU (I have an 850w flex atx unit which would have fitted perfectly), or the 800w HDPlex, and I probably could have prevented the need for an external brick (which I don't really mind - I quite like it as it feels more like a laptop).
True, I like that laptop feeling, too - keeps the rig as light and small as possible. Shame ATX PSUs are not smaller - it would be great to have it in the case without making it unnecessarily big and have just a simple kettle lead to connect everything.
 

timginter

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I updated the first posts, parts list and the drawing... then I accidentally deleted the wrong drawing so I'll have to recreate it later from older copies :/

Anyway, you gave me a few ideas, @mbrown278, mainly to integrate the PSU into the build and use a 3m kettle lead for the rig instead of lugging a battery and an external PSU :D

I tried a few designs on paper, but only one ended up practical and won't limit the motherboard nor the GPU size:
  • bottom box for GPU, front header and modded server PSU - same aluminium plate dimensions, adjustable height with standoffs and steel threaded rods, so even if I sell my kidney an RTX 3090 at 6.5cm height won't be a problem
  • top box for motherboard. even full ATX should be lighter than high-end GPU + PSU + front header so the rig should be relatively balanced

I'll think the drawing through and update both - integrated PSU without battery and another with battery and external PSU. In the meantime I can mount my PSU behind the screen to check how the weight will feel.

I'm using the prototype quite a lot lately, I don't miss the battery - I turned "hybrid sleep" on and I can always put the rig to sleep, unplug, replug somewhere else and power on. With the SSD I have and CL16 3600Mhz RAM booting takes less than 10 seconds, waking from hybrid sleep even faster.
I'll tinker with making a UPS to power the rig from an RC battery anyway since I already have most of the parts - just waiting for the BMS to come
 
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timginter

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TinkerCAD is having some issues, lot of freezes. Finally recreated the rough drawing for setup with battery and created a new one without a battery but with an internal PSU.

Strapped the PSU behind the screen - prototype prototype ;) Works like a charm:


Whole rig is around 5kg now, but the added weight in not noticeable when using it. It's A LOT easier to move around since I don't have to balance the PSU and all the cables on top. Feels a lot neater, too - one kettle lead to (un)plug and the modded server PSU hidden away.

I'll have to properly lay out the setup with GPU + PSU in the bottom box, and check if all cabling actually works in practice, maybe some cardboard mocks. Looks really promising, though. Should solve my GPU interference problems, too!
 
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timginter

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WiFi saga continues... after a few days of using the rig without problems, with the longer antenna, today it stopped working again... drives me crazy.

Finished another mod - state of the art pure gold 4D gaming X Pro, i.e. original IO shield with copper tape to seal it around the case:


With the original antennae - actually works, unlike unshielded:


Oddly, when antennae were folded, WiFi didn't work:

That really surprised me. I tried to find a what point WiFi was cutting out and then it stopped working totally, even with the antennae unfolded... Really pissed me off, gave it a proper smack and now everything works, even with antennae folded... seriously, WTF.

It's good news, though - it means that without the interference WiFi antennae should be OK sandwiched between aluminium plates.

I'm still playing around with the layout on the prototype, at the moment having the motherboard behind the screen is the only solution to avoid interference. If I'm able to fit the GPU, motherboard and the modded PSU in the bottom box with decent airflow, it would make for a much neater rig and something which I could make into a proper custom case later.
 
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mbrown278

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jun 20, 2018
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WiFi saga continues... after a few days of using the rig without problems, with the longer antenna, today it stopped working again... drives me crazy.

Finished another mod - state of the art pure gold 4D gaming X Pro, i.e. original IO shield with copper tape to seal it around the case:


With the original antennae - actually works, unlike unshielded:


Oddly, when antennae were folded, WiFi didn't work:

That really surprised me. I tried to find a what point WiFi was cutting out and then it stopped working totally, even with the antennae unfolded... Really pissed me off, gave it a proper smack and now everything works, even with antennae folded... seriously, WTF.

It's good news, though - it means that without the interference WiFi antennae should be OK sandwiched between aluminium plates.

I'm still playing around with the layout on the prototype, at the moment having the motherboard behind the screen is the only solution to avoid interference. If I'm able to fit the GPU, motherboard and the modded PSU in the bottom box with decent airflow, it would make for a much neater rig and something which I could make into a proper custom case later.
Awesome solution - I'll have to give everything a wack when something doesn't work in future :)

Could you use something like this to re-route the aerial/extend it to another location if needed? https://maxedbuy.co.uk/en/detail/972209-atpwonz-5m-antenna-extension-cable.html

This one is 5m so a bit long but it panel mounts so you could mount it to a panel elsewhere if that would help. a shorter one would obviously work better though :)

Good luck!
 
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timginter

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Awesome solution - I'll have to give everything a wack when something doesn't work in future :)
I shouldn't have, but I just had enough... if there was some consistency I could find a proper solution, feels like I'm just guessing and hoping. I just want to USE the damn thing! :D

Could you use something like this to re-route the aerial/extend it to another location if needed? https://maxedbuy.co.uk/en/detail/972209-atpwonz-5m-antenna-extension-cable.html
I was thinking along these lines - PCIe WiFi antennae extensions. I wanted to solve the cause, but with the front header I have somewhere to plug in other wireless devices without interference. WiFi is the only one left affected for now.

I'm experimenting with a few rough layouts in TinkerCAD: https://www.tinkercad.com/embed/h6Y1FxaMTHG
Now I'm not thinking about a battery, I could use an ATX PSU like Corsair CP-9020186-UK SF750 or something similar - they are just 100 x 125 x 63mm and even 600W should provide more than enough for future-proofing
 
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mbrown278

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Jun 20, 2018
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I shouldn't have, but I just had enough... if there was some consistency I could find a proper solution, feels like I'm just guessing and hoping. I just want to USE the damn thing! :D


I was thinking along these lines - PCIe WiFi antennae extensions. I wanted to solve the cause, but with the front header I have somewhere to plug in other wireless devices without interference. WiFi is the only one left affected for now.

I'm experimenting with a few rough layouts in TinkerCAD: https://www.tinkercad.com/embed/h6Y1FxaMTHG
Now I'm not thinking about a battery, I could use an ATX PSU like Corsair CP-9020186-UK SF750 or something similar - they are just 100 x 125 x 63mm and even 600W should provide more than enough for future-proofing
I've almost taken a circular saw to mine in frustration on a number of times so I completely understand!

ATX PSU would probably be the most cost effective, SFX for a balance between cost and size, Pico or DC-ATX PSU for wiring everywhere, small, expensive, and probably end up with an external power brick, and may not end up with enough power. So what did I use, DC-ATX unit :)
I am having to limit my internals slightly with this choice, but I had designed about 10 laptop style cases and changed the power supply back and forth out of uncertainty. Still wish I'd got an SFX unit, and also glad I hadn't - my mind still can't decide
 
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