Raspberry Pi as a Laptop
Raspberry Pi may have all the connectors you need to build a computer, but it’s still just a board. To complete your setup, you need all the other accessories like a keyboard, mouse, and monitor, which may already be lying around your home. Setting up your Raspberry Pi as a desktop is quite simple; after connecting all the accessories to your Raspberry Pi board and loading the operating system to the microSD card, you can start using your Raspberry Pi computer. But if you want to cut all the wires and build a portable laptop from the tiny Raspberry Pi board, it would require a totally different setup.
Laptops have great advantages when it comes to convenience and portability. That’s why hardcore and creative DIY enthusiasts took the challenge of turning the Raspberry Pi into a laptop. Computer manufacturers like Kano have already marketed laptops with a Raspberry Pi board at its core. Other laptops built from Raspberry Pi like CrowPi, Pi-top 3, and Lap-Pi are also on par with mainstream Chromeboxes and netbooks when it comes to performance and price.
How To Turn Raspberry Pi Into a Laptop
Turning Raspberry Pi into a laptop would take learning to a whole new level. It’s not as simple as connecting peripherals here and there. It would take accessories and proficient knowledge on electronics, coding, and computers to build a working Raspberry Pi laptop. Furthermore, you need additional connectors and electronic tools like the multimeter to test if the voltages and current going around the board and its components are correct. You can probably tell by now that it’s quite complicated but not impossible if you have the passion and creativity.
If you feel inconvenient going through the intricate assembly, you can just buy Raspberry Pi-powered laptop kits like a Kano computer and the playful Lego Raspberry Pibook. These kits have all the components you need to build a laptop, and you have to connect all these together and enclose them in a case, which is also already included. But glory is found in difficulty, so if you want to get your hands dirty on assembling your own Raspberry Pi laptop, here are the basic things you need aside from the Raspberry Pi board:
If you have some cash to spare, you can buy a brand new IPS display and connector for your DIY Raspberry Pi laptop. But if you have old laptops or tablets just sitting in the corner that still have working displays, you can go green by recycling the display. You most likely need a Raspberry Pi HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) with an IPS display connector. You just need to connect the HAT to the 40-pin GPIO header on the Pi board, and you can straightaway connect your display to the board.
You can get your fingers tapping on a Bluetooth keyboard for your Pi laptop, but you should get a Raspberry Pi with Bluetooth capabilities like the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ or the most recent Raspberry Pi 4 B. Otherwise, you can source the keyboard out from your old laptop as long as you know the connectors and the driver you need.
There’s not a lot of touchpads you can buy individually. DIY makers usually salvage trackpads from old laptops. These, however, are still using a PS2 connector, so if you want to do the same thing, you would need to do some soldering to make the touchpad work with the Pi’s interface. If you have advanced electronic skills, you can do what other makers have already done; use an Arduino microcontroller, or other similar boards, to convert the trackpad’s PS/2 to USB. If you want to make things easier, you can buy a wireless keyboard with a built-in touchpad instead.
Power banks are a good choice for a power supply for DIY laptops because they’re already enclosed in a casing. You just need to solder some wires, add a switch, and you already have a battery pack. If you don’t have a power bank, you can glue your AAA batteries together, connect a switch, and put them in case. There are many other means to create a battery pack as long as you know your way around electronics.
You can use any sturdy and lightweight material for your casing. Makers usually opt for a heat-resistant plastic casing, but you can also choose metal or wood. That would all depend on your style and creativity.
The system will generate heat. Thus, a cooling system is absolutely necessary. To keep the air flowing within and prevent damages to the components, you need to add cooling fans and heatsinks. You can either buy new fans and heatsinks, or you can rummage your old laptops or even desktops for working heatsinks and fans.
Setting up your Raspberry Pi laptop does not connect all the components together and organize them inside a case. Aside from your skills in electronics, you need coding skills too. You need to install the drivers for the components and some coding to make them work with the board.
These are the essential components in building a Raspberry Pi laptop. You can add other fancy features if you want your laptop to be unique. You have all the freedom to design your own laptop so you can include anything that would suit your needs and style. If you have all the components and the skills required, then the possibilities are endless in building your very own Raspberry Pi laptop.