Build a portable (laptop-like) computer?

In summary, building a portable computer, also known as a laptop, allows for easy transportation and use on-the-go. This type of computer typically includes a built-in keyboard, display screen, and battery, making it a convenient and compact device for individuals who need to work or access the internet while traveling or away from a traditional desk setup. The process of building a laptop involves selecting and purchasing individual components, such as a processor, memory, and storage, and assembling them into a compact and functional unit. Specialized tools and knowledge may be required to successfully build a portable computer, but it can ultimately provide a customizable and portable solution for computing needs.
  • #1
NTL2009
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TL;DR Summary
I use a laptop as my 'desktop' computer, as I like the option of portability, and the built in UPS. But the all-in-one limits my options, and one bad component probably means the whole thing is toast. I'm in the market for a new one, so...
I only need it to be portable, not sleek and slim. I'm frustrated trying to find a laptop with the combination of features I want, and dislike being stuck with those choices for its life.

I'm thinking of buying one of those Intel NUC boxes ( https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08SQS48C5/?tag=pfamazon01-20 ), then I can choose my monitor size/shape, choose a backlit keyboard that I like, and add a small amplifier/speakers, build/mod a case for it, and I'm set(*). And change any of those if I decide on something else. My secondary laptop looks to have a bad inverter board for the backlit screen (works with external monitor), but not sure I can fix it anyhow (so my primary will become my secondary, and I need a new primary). If it was modular, I'd just slip in a new monitor.

(*) Except for portable power. It seems this should be easy, but I'm missing it. Most power banks don't have pass through capability (like a laptop I want to be able to charge it and run it at the same time), they either charge or supply power, but not both at the same time. And often, they shut down to conserve losses from the switching supply if the current demand drops (like when a computer is put to sleep). Also, the NUC (like many laptops) runs on 19V, as does the monitor I just bought (I assume this is pretty common these days). So a power bank that delivered 19V would save another conversion. I probably need ~ 3~4 Amps peak at 19V. 2~4 hour run time at ~ 20 Watts average would probably suit my needs for occasional portable use. That's ~ 60 Watt-Hours, and at the Lion cell level of ~ 3.7 nominal, about 16,200 mAh worth of cells . Or steal the circuits out of an old laptop, and use a laptop battery pack?

I'm just not finding good solutions, though I am finding others who want to power an Intel NUC this way. It almost seems like I need to roll my own - maybe get Lion battery pack and charger for RC planes, use a converter to get slightly less than 19V after an isolation diode drop, and let it run all the time. If I lose AC power, the battery 18.9V will come into play, with no glitch in output.

Something like this is getting close, more than enough Watt-Hours, but the 2A @ 12V isn't going to hack a 3~4 Amp peak at 19V.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WLD32RP/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Or, I just keep looking for a laptop with everything I want at a decent price. I'm frustrated because it's so hard to search on every feature that I want. Maybe there is a better search/database out there?

TIA--
 
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  • #2
I'm not sure what you are asking; what form factor do you want? Because a laptop and a mini PC are very different things.

However, for a "built-in UPS" you could always use an actual UPS. I assume you're trying to avoid unnecessary ac-dc conversions, but at least we know they exist/work.
 
  • #3
Picture a "bulky" laptop. The Intel NUC is just 4"x4"x1.5". I hate trackpads, and almost 4" of the base of my laptop is taken up with that (and the electronics below it of course). So A NUC up front, and the keyboard closer to me would be about the same size. Thicker than a laptop, but I'm OK with that.

After dinner I'll try to come up with some sketches.
 
  • #4
Protectli makes SFF PCs intended as firewalls/routers. They have a battery/UPS for $40 that sits between the wall wart and the computer. Good for 4 hours or so. They fit your space and power requirements. The downside is that these are not very powerful CPUs and the video is an IGU so also weak.

I've run one as a firewall for 3 years. No trouble at all.
 
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Optionally, you could purchase a laptop with the processing/graphics card specs you want, and its complementary dock, to which you keep plugged in all the goodies that the laptop doesn't have : ergo keyboard, trackball, printer, DVD-writer, 50" 4k display, etc. etc. etc.

On the other hand...

FX76EIIH2WEYBXD[1].jpg
 
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  • #6
Vanadium 50 said:
Protectli makes SFF PCs intended as firewalls/routers. They have a battery/UPS for $40 that sits between the wall wart and the computer. Good for 4 hours or so. They fit your space and power requirements. The downside is that these are not very powerful CPUs and the video is an IGU so also weak.

I've run one as a firewall for 3 years. No trouble at all.
Thanks, very interesting, I hadn't seen those. That UPS does seem like a good fit and a good price, though it doesn't seem to be well sourced in the US, I can buy direct though, shipping is only another $7 or so.

https://protectli.com/product/uninterruptible-power-supply/

Even if I used a boost converter to take the 12V to 19V (to drive an Intel NUC and monitor), it looks better than other things I've found.
 
  • #7
hmmm27 said:
Optionally, you could purchase a laptop with the processing/graphics card specs you want, and its complementary dock, to which you keep plugged in all the goodies that the laptop doesn't have : ergo keyboard, trackball, printer, DVD-writer, 50" 4k display, etc. etc. etc.

OTOH...

View attachment 277593

Well, the laptop with a dock is what I've done for the past 10 years. As I said, it's a little hard to spec one out just as I want (backlit numeric keyboard, 17" IPS monitor - but I might accept a 15", integrated graphics and i5 for lower power consumption/heat than a graphics card and i7, charge/video/audio through USB-C for one cable docking, RJ-45 conn for troubleshooting the network ) , and then I'm stuck with that config, and one bad component takes it all down, and may be difficult to repair.

Actually, the steam-punk approach is just what I'm thinking of, though I wouldn't get quite so artsy with it. Though I might have fun making a decent wooden case. The brass horn speakers are a nice touch though!
 

Related to Build a portable (laptop-like) computer?

1. How do I choose the right components for my portable computer?

Choosing the right components for your portable computer depends on your specific needs and budget. Some important factors to consider include the processor, RAM, storage capacity, and graphics card. It is also important to make sure that the components are compatible with each other and with the operating system you plan to use.

2. Can I build a portable computer without any prior technical knowledge?

While it is possible to build a portable computer without any prior technical knowledge, it is recommended to have at least a basic understanding of computer hardware and how it works. There are also many online resources and tutorials available to guide you through the process.

3. How do I ensure that my portable computer is durable and long-lasting?

To ensure durability and longevity of your portable computer, it is important to choose high-quality components from reputable brands. You should also properly handle and maintain your computer, such as keeping it clean and avoiding extreme temperatures. Investing in a sturdy laptop case or bag can also help protect your computer while on-the-go.

4. Can I upgrade my portable computer in the future?

Yes, most portable computers are designed to be easily upgradable. However, it is important to research and choose components that are compatible with your current setup. It is also recommended to consult a professional if you are unsure about the upgrade process.

5. How can I make my portable computer more energy-efficient?

To make your portable computer more energy-efficient, you can choose components that have a lower power consumption, such as a low-wattage processor and energy-efficient RAM. You can also adjust your computer's power settings and turn off unnecessary features, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, when not in use. Additionally, using a high-quality battery and keeping it properly charged can also help prolong its lifespan and reduce energy consumption.

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