Friday, January 29, 2016

Building an ITX laptop - Episode 1

I want a laptop that's future proof.  If someone walked up to me and told me that, I'd tell them it's impossible, and buy something cheap so you can save money for the next cheap laptop.  This is because there's no reasonable upgrade path on laptops.  (sometimes you get one or two upgrades...  but that's not a common thing.)

Now, what if a laptop took a standard motherboard?  If that were the case, you could swap out the motherboard as technology moved along.  There's a very tiny motherboard standard that really suits itself to portable installations.  ITX motherboards are the core of the shoebox size computer market.  Some of those ITX cases are even the size of a small book.

People have been strapping monitors to PC cases for decades. And LCD's are now ubiquitous.

Really, that just leaves the power supply as the big issue.  There's no good off the shelf power solution for a portable ITX machine.  And i'm not just looking for "portable."  I want some decent runtime, and maybe even actually to put this in my lap.

I've been thinking about this project since the early 2000's.  I've even bought parts from time to time to support the plan.  (I've got a folder with Ti's simple switchers in 3.3, 5, 12, -5 and -12v..)

This leaves us needing to make a few decisions.

  1. Electrical:  ATX power supply, battery charging, battery, display power supply, power reporting to the OS.
  2. PC components: keyboard, monitor, motherboard, mouse, wifi.
  3. Case design: Can it all fit?  Can it call be cooled?  Can it all be easily accessed?  Does it look good?
Next time, we'll start in on the PC components.