Question How to build a laptop?

Sep 18, 2019
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Looking for advice on how to build a fairly large laptop for cad work, to show to clients I know some of what I am doing, light gaming, and a lot of travel. Building a case for me would be easier than some other machines I've built.

CASE: CNC aluminum sheets, 3D print, laser engrave if bored, spray paint

MOBO: got any recommendations? Looking at the micro and mini ATX Z390's at the moment. A mobo with sodimm memory and a pcix16 slot would be best if I could also find a PSU that is shorter than a 2.5" tall SFX PSU.

CPU: watching for next generation, ideally a 9700k if the price went down, water cooling preferable, 47mm, 37mm, and similar fans will be considered if I must use a SFX PSU but if I can find a thinner PSU, then the motherboard and cpu cooling will be the next tallest thing to save space with.

RAM: 2x16GB is plenty, some renders/simulations could make me want 4x16GB which is why I am leaning micro ATX despite larger size for future proofing. Looking for a MOBO that takes sodimm memory so I have the option of 2x32GB in a low profile system and I will take the speed penalty.

SSD: 1TB M.2 SSD should be plenty without taking up much space, nice thing of a second M.2 is I can add some more later or anything I might be missing, not considering 2.5" or 3.5" drives.

GPU: RTX 2080 ideally with a PCI extension cable, I can not justify the cost of a RTX 5000 or similar, no dual GPU's, considering water cooling block. Having a single slot gpu would be awesome but not the end of the world.

COOL: at least one 30x120x240 radiator, complete aluminum system for weight saving, Ideally cram an extra 1x120x120 radiator if I have the space, will try to use the case for additional cooling.

PSU: a 500-600w 2.5" tall SFX PSU was my first thought, it does mean the laptop will be a bit thick, anyone know of a thinner PSU solution? I'd gladly glue some generic water cooling blocks on if heat were an issue. To give perspective to what I mean by thin size, my laptop's power brick is 1.5" tall and I am looking for something similar.

CD drive: probably not

LCD/LED: The simplest way by the looks of it is to order a replacement screen for a laptop with a 30pin connector, order a controller with a 30pin connector and HDMI port, link all this to the GPU. I'll have to do my homework to make sure the refresh rate and resolution of the screen and controller are at least 1080p but any thoughts? Cannibalism seems pretty common but it would also be pretty random what kind of controller I would get.

Audio: Not a clue, there are sound cards for sale but I am struggling to find a guide on what to order or if this is included on generic screen controllers.

BAT: 18650's plus BSM or lipo's if I can't find the space, been working with battery's for a while now, probably won't turn the machine into a fireball but I am leaning away from even having batteries because I'll typically have a power outlet where I go.

Automation: This is my sense of humor, cherry stepper motors geared up with 3D printed planetary gears and hobby servos to lock their positions when not in motion and to save power. I'd use an arduino and cheap drivers to order four legs to lift the machine .5"-.75" above the ground for air circulation as well as unfold some screens and open some venting ports. Maybe unfold additional radiators. I would consider short stroke pistons if they and their switches weren't so expensive as to force me to take this joke experiment seriously.
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
In other words - a custom DIY CAD laptop.

What CAD software and other applications do you plan to run?

The custom laptop's components must support the software and probably at "best". (Versus minimal, or recommended.)

Physical size and weight requirements/constraints?

Budget?

Traveling: a custom rig is very likely to garner lots of extra scrutiny at the airport....
 
Sep 18, 2019
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In other words - a custom DIY CAD laptop.
Yes, I like the sound of that

What CAD software and other applications do you plan to run?
Inventor Professional, Fusion 360, AutoCAD, Rhino and miscellaneous programs like craftware for slicing 3D prints, Unity, and Blender on occasion

Physical size and weight requirements/constraints?

Budget?
My current laptop is a 15.6" screen 15"x10.5"x1.75" and I have a carry case that could handle a fairly larger machine. Thinking 20.5"x13"x3.5" is my upper limit but I'd like to make it smaller. Weight, I'm eyeballing it, hopefully the aluminum pays for itself.

2-2.5k but I like starting high and then downgrading, I can just as easily make my budget 1k if I choose a $140 CPU and $160 GPU and similar to all components.

Traveling: a custom rig is very likely to garner lots of extra scrutiny at the airport....
lol I'll try to stick to driving
 
Sep 18, 2019
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Primary question:
Does this need to run on battery?

If not, just a mini-ITX in a fancy case.
If yes, then you'll need actual laptop parts, which means you might as well just buy a laptop.
No battery requirement, I normally work from office to office, guess I'll sideline the battery idea for now
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
Fair enough.

Here is my thought based on your comment:

" to show to clients I know some of what I am doing, '

Do you wish to highlight your CAD skills or your custom laptop skills?

Overall, I will second @USAFRet with respect to just buying a laptop.

I think that a custom, DIY laptop will likely prove unreliable and problematic.

Using an easily purchased, commercial laptop will avoid any number of issues plus provide you with more options if the custom laptop fails while you are on the road.

Not a technical answer and certainly subjective on my part. You are the one taking the associated risks.

Consider Occam's Razor....
 
Sep 18, 2019
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just a mini-ITX in a fancy case.
Yes, probably a better name to call this idea than a laptop, I gather it creates the wrong picture in most people.

Do you wish to highlight your CAD skills or your custom laptop skills?
Yes to different degrees, recently built some batteries for an electric motorcycle and bike (wiring, fixtures, case, etc etc) and my clients indirectly informed me they were surprised I did the work. A small 'oof' as they say but I have a lot of fun designing my machines anyways.

I think that a custom, DIY laptop will likely prove unreliable and problematic.

Using an easily purchased, commercial laptop will avoid any number of issues plus provide you with more options if the custom laptop fails while you are on the road.

Not a technical answer and certainly subjective on my part. You are the one taking the associated risks.

Consider Occam's Razor....
Those are wise words, thanks, I really appreciate the advice especially in the very polite way you're giving it. I'll really consider a commercial laptop. I do not intend on any impulsive purchases.
 

USAFRet

Titan
Moderator
Mar 16, 2013
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There are any number of build logs for briefcase based PC's.
 
Sep 18, 2019
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Very cool on the briefcase pc's!

Thanks for sharing that! It brings me a lot of reassurance about being relaxed with my mobo choice because it looks like he didn't go with a mini itx and it still fit reasonably.

It looks like I should reconsider cannibalizing a monitor and its controller, interesting!

It is a bit light on the details that he used for audio but I have been looking through some msi manuals and it looks like most of them will have a JFP2 with a pair of dupont 2.54mm connection points labeled SPK+ and SPK- where I can connect at least some rudimentary speaker. Lacking the sense on how to add a left and right speaker so I guess I'll have to keep reading.

PSU is interesting, looks to be what is called an AT PSU rather than an ATX or SFX and the top is missing to save space and spread cooling? I'm still digging around for a PSU that's smaller than a SF 600W PSU that is 2.5" tall, I just found out there are pico/nano/mini ITX adapters for power bricks like the HDPLEX's 400W converter which is a neat option but would greatly limit the size of hardware even assuming I got a power brick strong enough like a 780W EUROCOM ac/dc adapter and paired it with HDPLEX's 800W monster which is over kill to say the least. Optimally looking for a trustworthy server PSU that is limited by the height of a 40mm (1.6") tall fan but most look unreliable and there isn't a lot of info on their adapters beyond 6 pins. Something else are FLEX PSU's which kind of check my requirements but I haven't heard anyone mention using them which makes me suspicious.

Oh, and ditch the liquid cooling concept.
They are NOT meant to be moved around like this.
Hear me out, would it help if I mounted the electronics above the tubes (I'd build the computer upside down relative to the briefcase build so that leaks don't go onto the electronics) and make sure the tubes were hardline PETG and had some form of fixture to the case spaced every 3" so as to minimize vibrations? Long story short, like vehicles using coolant and petrol should not leak under proper design and maintenance. I trust you have more experience with water cooling so if you say it is not safe, I'll reconsider some 47mm/37mm fans as my go to cooling, really not the end of the world, would even save me a pretty penny on the water cooling block for the gpu :)
 
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Sep 18, 2019
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View: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/657807089307379507?nic=1


Threw this general layout together in a few min to see if I'm on the right track, the current size is 11.25"x15.25"x1.75" but will probably go a little larger. Space in the bottom left for cooling, if I add an extra 60mm for a thin radiator on either end, water cooling would keep the case almost room temp. Really considering if I should go blower fan instead, so searching for a heat sink that is wide rather than tall. Noise will be a bit unfortunate but one step at a time.

Also, did you guys know there are 40mm wide radiators for sale? Both very intriguing and hilarious lol
 
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Sep 18, 2019
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How about off-the-shelf all-in-one PC?
Got any recommendations? Generally, if I can build something better or sufficient for myself and I'm not in a rush, I'll build it myself. But I'm not foolish enough to turn down a good deal if I see one.

You'll get larger screen, probably touch support
I can certainly consider an ~18" screen as a step up from 15.6" but I cannot go larger than that due to the size of my computer bag. Touch screens are always fun but I am not in the habit of using them.

not the fanciest GPU...
While a 2080 would be fantastic and the upper limit largest card I want to plan my case around, it's not a set in stone idea. There are plenty of cheaper GPU's I'd be happy to consider because my current gpu, a Nvidia Quadro K3100M 4GB GDDR5, was a darling in my first 3 years (dying or struggling with new programs now and I am not confident in swapping it out). The matter of a high end PC GPU being compared to weaker PC GPU's and integrated laptop GPU's and even including external GPU's is a very complex subject. I'm willing to kind of skip that headache and just over kill to a point if it gives me a ~10 year solution far beyond most commercial warranties.
 

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