Prototype Monolith Laptop by colorzeppelin (24" screen, desktop components & mechanical keyboard)

ColorZepppelin

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ColorZeppelin Computers
Apr 8, 2016
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Greetings wonderful people here on SFF,

My name is Chris and I've been developing a laptop concept (admittedly slowly).
The main idea is for a truly portable laptop with desktop parts, that doesn't break the bank and can be transported by plane (as carry-on luggage) just like you would a normal laptop.



General Specs
1. It should also have a large screen and as the maximum size permitted as carry-on, legaly, is around 23-24 inches in a 16:9 type (not ultrawide). LINK
2. It should have external power brick(s) as a regular internal power supply sets off alarms at an airport. I have experienced this with my Silverstone SFF 450W.
3. Desktop components. ITX motherboard and any GPU. At the moment my favorite motherboard is THIS on account of it being powered externally
4. Mechanical Keyboard!
5. Weight under 10kg, Volume under 10L.

Pricing (assumptions)
I can see this laptop being priced similarly to what it might cost you to get the same components in a desktop. We are being told that a laptop with a GTX1060 will cost 1300 €$£. I'd like to imagine a 1000 €$£ best value for money where there's an Ryzen5, RX580 and an IPS screen.

Users
I expect users to be students traveling to and from University/College, workers like myself who have had to travel and need a serious PC that they can upgrade and repair easily and cheaply.

Problems!
LVDS: The connection between an itx LVDS (like on thin-ITX) and the screen panel will be a problem as I don't think the LVDS operates when a dicreet card is connected. In that case it gets more complex and the laptop might have to include the PCB for the screen, which is then powered externally or via USB-C?, and connected to the Graphics card instead of the LVDS.
Thin or Thick?: In the above renders I was considering a thin-ITX, and the GPU having a displaced/parallel heatsink to bring the thickness down which would look great. Now I'm considering the thicker option which could accommodate a ITX with low profile cooler and a normal double slot GPU which would make upgrading easier for users.

So....
I'm here on these forums looking for people who are interested in building this little beast. I'm looking to engineer the chassis and then 3D print a prototype.


Thanks for reading and here's an image that sums up this project and how I feel this product segment doesn't exist. A product between those two and their respective PC's.




 
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EdZ

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May 11, 2015
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Getting in under 10L is going to be a real challenge. a 24" screen is 53cmx30cm for the panel alone, so that gives you a maximum 6.3cm depth for the entire case.
 
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Aibohphobia

aka James
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Feb 22, 2015
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Welcome lurker!

It's an interesting idea but a few thoughts:

4. Maybe the screen could lift to be on eye level as this is a major complaint with laptops.

That will require a more complex hinge and I would be very careful before attempting something like that. Hinge failures are common enough on normal laptops but with a desktops-sized screen there will be much more stress on them.

I can see this laptop being priced similarly to what it might cost you to get the same components in a desktop.

Almost certainly not going to happen. You're looking at a custom chassis, custom (or at least non-standard) cooling for the CPU and GPU (in the thin design), high-wattage external bricks, internal DC-DC unit, custom (or heavily modified) LCD, etc.

I think there is a market for this even if it's more expensive, just look at Sager and Clevo. So while you should aim to keep costs down, I'd avoid telling potential customers that it'll be just as cheap as building a normal desktop. It's better to underpromise and overdeliver.

Thin or Thick?: In the above renders I was considering a thin-ITX, and the GPU having a displaced/parallel heatsink to bring the thickness down which would look great. Now I'm considering the thicker option which could accommodate a ITX with low profile cooler and a normal double slot GPU which would make upgrading easier for users.

Thin-ITX has the advantage of height and simplified power delivery to the board, but it really limits options. Combined with the custom GPU cooling I'd start to question whether it's worth the extra weight and size versus a normal laptop.

Supporting Mini-ITX boards, even if you limited it to really short heatsinks like the SilverStone AR04 would still require a lower assembly thickness of at least ~40mm though.

I guess you'll have to figure out your target audience to decide on which route to go. If you're aiming for someone who wants even more power than a Sager or Clevo but doesn't mind that it's still somewhat limited in upgrades, then Thin-ITX. For more complete upgradability in something that's somewhat portable, then Mini-ITX.
 

Phuncz

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Very interesting project. You're in the right place if space efficiency is of the utmost importance.

One of the most difficult things will be the cooling, as making that somewhat universal for a GPU will be quite the challenge. I'd look into the ways passive cases solve this with heatpipes. If volume needs to be saved, I'd primarily nix the 2,5" support, as M.2 is rapidly gaining in $ per GB. You could use the extra space for an integrated mechanical keyboard for instance.
 
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hardcore_gamer

electronbender
Aug 10, 2016
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Cool project. Although I believe a 17 inch screen with <2 inches in thickness is what I consider as the limit for a practical laptop. This will be similar in size to Sager NP9873A1-M. However, that laptop isn't upgradable and costs $4K. It'd be awesome if you can create something like that with desktop components.

Edit: You should look at eDP options for connecting the display. It'd be easier to interface with a discrete graphics card using an adapter.
 
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GuilleAcoustic

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A PIO type motherboard ? No need for a riser with this.



About the power brick, an SMPS AC-DC PSU like this one is only 100x100x36 and provides 300W under 24V...



Why just not make a wallet like PIO chassis ? Maybe with a vesa mount for the LCD, inside the cover.
 
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Kmpkt

Innovation through Miniaturization
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Feb 1, 2016
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Not to burst your bubble, but Sager literally just released a laptop like this. Linus reviewed it yesterday as a Vessel stream and it will be on YouTube's Linus Tech Tips channel within a week (once the Vessel 7 day exclusive is up). Basically they've put two desktop class 1080s (MXM boards) in SLI configuration with an LGA socketed 6700K into a beefy but portable laptop that weighs in around 12 pounds. In real-world tests, there was no perceivable decrease in performance over the same parts in a desktop enclosure and thermals were actually surprisingly good.
 

Kmpkt

Innovation through Miniaturization
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Kmpkt

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I was actually thinking of anchoring a mount to the inside of the case so that once you took the non-monitor parts out, the monitor would use the case as a base of sorts.
 
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GuilleAcoustic

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I was actually thinking of anchoring a mount to the inside of the case so that once you took the non-monitor parts out, the monitor would use the case as a base of sorts.

That was my idea with the vesa mount. Saw plenty of industrial toughened boxes like that.



This luggable design is ideal since it is easier to route USB through the hinges.

Or you can make the keyboard cover detachable like the IBM 5155 portable computer:

 
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iFreilicht

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Feb 28, 2015
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I like the idea, but as Abio said, there are enormous challenges to overcome, especially if you're not an engineer by profession already.

Personally, I believe a much more viable product would be what you have here without all the PC components. So pretty much a display with an integrated travel case for keyboard and mouse. This could be made quite thin, is not overly complicated, and would hugely improve on the current state of transportability of larger monitors. Your potential customer base would get much larger, you wouldn't compete with any pc case anymore, and it'd be much easier to satisfy customer needs, because all you really have to do is make sure most keyboards fit inside and the panel is good.
 
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CC Ricers

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Nov 1, 2015
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Here is the portable workstation that GuilleAcoustic referred to with the image. It folds up nicely into a low-profile suitcase-box. They even have a 23" screen model but for me that's pushing it for portability. But they also have an interesting triple-monitor model that you could use for ideas.

My personal thought is to just disassemble a monitor, integrate an enclosure for it into a slim Steam Machine-like case with stand, and carry the keyboard separately. Plug it in as usual when you want to use it.
 
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ColorZepppelin

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ColorZeppelin Computers
Apr 8, 2016
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Thanks everyone for your replies. Genuine apologies for late reply. Still very much undecided between the Thick or Thin options.
Based in Czech Republic in case anyone sees this thread and finds the project interesting for cooperation.


That will require a more complex hinge and I would be very careful before attempting something like that.

I was thinking instead of some large flip-out feet like keyboards have to raise the back up a bit. No intention of using rails and complex hinges.

Edit: You should look at eDP options for connecting the display. It'd be easier to interface with a discrete graphics card using an adapter.

Thanks a bunch, will need to look into that quite a bit. No idea how that will work since eDP monitors seem to only exist for laptops, no 24".

My personal thought is to just disassemble a monitor, integrate an enclosure for it into a slim Steam Machine-like case with stand, and carry the keyboard separately. Plug it in as usual when you want to use it.

My original project ways back. Gave it up because I was more excited with the idea of a cool oversized thin laptop.

@ColorZepppelin Is this project still active ?

Yes active but unfortunately moving slowly I am sorry to say.

A PIO type motherboard ? No need for a riser with this.

PIO's are great, still a good option. Would require internal AC-DC board.

So pretty much a display with an integrated travel case for keyboard and mouse

Not a bad option, would be great paired with a S4 Mini :p
 
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Phuncz

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It was bound to happen that people got busy with an AIO case themselves and I'd really love to see more of them, commercially and project-wise.