Using Raspberry Pi and a 3D printed case, this guy's made a slick mini-laptop

It's not cost-effective, but this engineer has laid out all that's need to build your own handheld computer.

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Croatia-based engineer Igor Brkić has built a Raspberry Pi-based handheld laptop in a 3D-printed enclosure that's become an object of envy among a hacker crowd that's spoilt for choice when it comes to Pi-based mini laptops. 

Brkić built the chunky little device, dubbed the hgTerm, out of a need for something more compact than a laptop that he could use when debugging and flashing embedded devices in the field. And, of course, playing "games and stuff".   

Those requirements mean he needed something with decent battery life, just enough processing power, a high-resolution screen, good audio, a physical keyboard, and a display that can open to 270 degrees. 

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He settled on a four-inch display made for the Raspberry Pi, a Bluetooth keyboard, which sits on a 5,000mAh Xiaomi powerbank stripped of its casing, and a Raspberry Pi 3B that he trimmed of unnecessary parts, such as the USB port, the Ethernet port, HDMI, and camera and display connectors. 

He also cut the board's GPIO pins to 60 percent of their original height to make it compact enough for the project. 

The reason for trimming the Raspberry Pi is that the board is located in the laptop's lid, in a narrow space behind the display, which is a non-touch Hyperpixel display from Pimoroni

Squeezed between the display and Raspberry Pi there's also a real-time clock, an Arduino Pro Mini, a USB to serial cable, and a power-management board. So, rather than plugging external devices into a USB port on the side of a keyboard, they're connected to a port on the edge of the display.  

The 3D printed enclosure has double hinges, allowing the screen to be positioned as a standard laptop or flipped over into stand mode.   

Brkić has posted links to all the software necessary for the device's components, as well as the designs for 3D enclosure.   

"I'm very happy with the results. The device is quite thick and heavy (mostly due to the huge battery) but fits nicely in the hand. And the keyboard is much more usable than a standard smartphone on-screen keyboard," concludes Brkić. 

He's also posted a video of a talk he recently gave explaining the challenges of making the device. The thing took two months to build, much of it spent prototyping the enclosure. He admits the cost of components doesn't make it cost-efficient but says it was fun to do. 

hgtermraspberrypi.jpg

Igor Brkić needed decent battery life, just enough processing power, a high-resolution screen, good audio, a physical keyboard, and a display that can open to 270 degrees. 

Image: Igor Brkić

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