PiPad: Build your own Raspberry Pi tablet

You can't buy a PiPad, but you can turn your Raspberry Pi into a tablet with some odds and ends and elbow grease.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Makers love Raspberry Pi mini-board Linux computers. There's almost nothing you can't do with them. You can use them as a server, a universal language translator, and, even as a supercomputer. Now, believe it or not, someone's made the inexpensive Linux board for the heart of a tablet: the PiPad.

PiPad: The first homebrew tablet with a Raspberry Pi for its heart has been created.

Michael Castor, the Product Curator and Evangelist for MakerMedia, decided to make a PiPad using a $40 Raspberry Pi Model B, Revision 2.0 for its core. This credit-card sized system board uses the Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC). This in turn uses an ARM1176JZF-S 700MHZ processor. Yes, it's not fast. It also includes an on-board HF-capable VideoCore IV GPU capable of High-Definition video playback and has 512 megabytes of RAM. An SD card is used for booting and long term storage.

Castor's design goal was to create a "simplistic, functional design … I enjoy fun, hidden features. … I thought about hollowing out a book and putting it in there (like Penny’s book computer from Inspector Gadget) but decided to go with a stand-alone tablet form-factor. Since I wanted to let the PiPad keep me company on flights, the enclosure had to look as factory as possible, while remaining accessible and usable. The last thing I want is for it to freak out the TSA or the old lady sitting next to me."

He then built the case out of plywood with a Carbon Fiber Sheet for the board's back. For an interface, he used a 10″ Capacitive Touch Screen from Chalk-Elec.com. But, while "I had a great experience with this company … (I) have heard mixed reviews from others." He also used an Adesso WKB-1000BA Bluetooth 3.0 Mini Keyboard. To connect with the rest of the world, the PiPad uses a Monoprice 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter.

He then designed the system with Vectric’s Aspire CAD/CAM package. Next, he built it by hand and exacto knife. As is always the case with such things, it didn't work perfectly at first. The screen proved wonky because the board was touching other components. After some surgery on the board, it worked just fine.

So, can you make the equivalent of an Apple iPad or a Nexus 7 with a Raspberry Pi? Nope. But, you can still create your own tablet, your own way, if you follow Caster's instructions. Good luck and good building.

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