Planning and building a DIY "laptop" from PC parts + eGPU
 
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Planning and building a DIY "laptop" from PC parts + eGPU  

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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

I'm planning on building a DIY "laptop", but using PC parts. All looks good, actually.

 

I moved the project to an SFF forum

 

Context:

Last time I bought a "custom" laptop was my Clevo N141ZU, the choice is not much greater since then. I found a few sites which offer laptops with replaceable desktop CPUs but either they have undervolted intel CPUs, or they have a dGPU which I do not see the point of paying for if I don't need it always in the laptop and have an RTX 2070 eGPU. Most laptops with desktop CPUs I found use an old Clevo chassis and you usually can't order them without RAM or SSD, paying more for something I don't need.

I've been following the new releases in tech and thought to start a hobby project - if the new Xbox and PS5 run something similar to "Van Gogh" (Zen2 + RDNA2), that chip would make a killer for a laptop (if cooling is not an issue). We will probably wait quite some time until new AMD chips trickle down to "custom" laptops, they'll probably be offered at high prices as premium/gaming products and even then we'll be forced to use whatever parts the reseller offers.

My Clevo is fine for what I need it to be and with an RTX 2070 eGPU it's OK for gaming, but I'm tired of buying a £1000 laptop every few years (where a part of that price is an SSD and RAM which I already have) with a very limited choice if I want a decent CPU but no dGPU. I thought I'll try building an as thin as possible horizontal workbench, add a laptop screen on a hinge and some peripherals on top. Worst-case-scenario I'll end up with a funky PC ;>

https://egpu.io/forums/desktop-computing/planning-and-building-a-diy-laptop-from-pc-parts-egpu
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Zotac RTX 2070 8GB Mini
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 950 2GB STRIX OC
https://egpu.io/forums/psu-cables/dell-da-2-to-any-output-adapter

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M.2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // 5cm NVME extender used to create pluggable NVME port [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
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Joined: 5 years ago
 

@timginter, I would recommend a small ITX case with built-in PSU for an APU system that can later be customized for laptop. Since you don't need Thunderbolt for eGPU, the main PCIe slot or M.2 slot can be used for the external graphics card. Take a look at my Ryzen 4 2400G with the InWin Chopin  [build link]. A USB-C portable monitor would make a nice starting point too. You can run it with a single USB-C cable from the motherboard.

 

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2021 13" ASUS ROG Flow X13 (RTX3050Ti) [R5K,8C,H] + RTX 3080 @ 64Gbps-XG (XG Mobile) + Win10 20H2 [build link]  


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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 
Posted by: @itsage

@timginter, I would recommend a small ITX case with built-in PSU for an APU system that can later be customized for laptop. Since you don't need Thunderbolt for eGPU, the main PCIe slot or M.2 slot can be used for the external graphics card. Take a look at my Ryzen 4 2400G with the InWin Chopin  [build link]. A USB-C portable monitor would make a nice starting point too. You can run it with a single USB-C cable from the motherboard.

Thanks, looks like a good case to start with. If I get a battery to work with the motherboard I can always ditch the PSU to make the build lighter. Your build looks great, thanks for the link!

https://egpu.io/forums/desktop-computing/planning-and-building-a-diy-laptop-from-pc-parts-egpu
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Zotac RTX 2070 8GB Mini
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 950 2GB STRIX OC
https://egpu.io/forums/psu-cables/dell-da-2-to-any-output-adapter

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M.2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // 5cm NVME extender used to create pluggable NVME port [build link]  


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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

Found this today: Mini-Box PicoPSU-150-xt, reviews seems OK. With a 12V 12.5A 150W AC/DC Power Adapter and 4pin to 8pin adapter cable this PSU may actually work. I'm assuming 10W for RAM (2x 8GB), 5W for SSD, 20W for APU and 70W for the motherboard. Leaves a bit of spare wattage.

If I use 3 or 4 Li-Ion cells, boost to [voltage at max load] x [number of cells] and buck if needed, I might actually make it work with a battery...

Leaked Cezanne roadmaps talk about unveil at CES 2021 in early January, I'll probably wait for early reviews and first updates. Maybe have the build by April/May next year, design everything on paper in the meantime

https://egpu.io/forums/desktop-computing/planning-and-building-a-diy-laptop-from-pc-parts-egpu
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Zotac RTX 2070 8GB Mini
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 950 2GB STRIX OC
https://egpu.io/forums/psu-cables/dell-da-2-to-any-output-adapter

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M.2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // 5cm NVME extender used to create pluggable NVME port [build link]  


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joevt
(@joevt)
Noble Member
Joined: 4 years ago
 

smallformfactor.net may have ideas. Also search for SFF on YouTube.

 

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Radeon Pro W5700, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

Thanks, joevt, I'll have a read through the forums.

I'm actually not looking specifically for SFF parts - ATX motherboards are already similar dimensions to a 16'' laptop, my requirements are more about height and weight. MSI x570 Tomahawk is 3cm high, but a whopping 1.4kg so I'm looking for something else.

I'll probably have to go for Micro-ATX or Mini-ITX to get a short but light motherboard. Should be OK if I'm aiming for 16GB RAM, a 16x for graphics card, an M.2 drive, one additional SSD and potentially WiFi expansion card if the motherboard doesn't have it. Then I can use any spare space for cooling and battery cells

https://egpu.io/forums/desktop-computing/planning-and-building-a-diy-laptop-from-pc-parts-egpu
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Zotac RTX 2070 8GB Mini
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 950 2GB STRIX OC
https://egpu.io/forums/psu-cables/dell-da-2-to-any-output-adapter

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M.2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // 5cm NVME extender used to create pluggable NVME port [build link]  


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joevt
(@joevt)
Noble Member
Joined: 4 years ago
 

@timginter, They may have ideas for enclosure, cooling, and power to match your height constraints.

 

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Radeon Pro W5700, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

I played around in TinkerCAD with the design, I drafted a trapezoid shape 11cm high at the back and 2cm high at the front - like my laptop on a laptop stand, but there is no sensible way I can squeeze a good motherboard with RAM into such a small form factor - either the IO board, or the cooler, or the RAM will be too hight at some point of that design. I would have been limited to a very narrow range of mini-ITX boards and very low profile ram - beats the whole purpose of easily upgradeable parts.

I drafted a different design and looks promising, but have to think it through - motherboard on the back of the screen (when "laptop" is closed, motherboard would be facing up). Bottom of the laptop doesn't have to be flat, I can use it to house batteries and maybe extra storage. Opens A LOT of options, and with a 16'' screen I should fit most motherboards on the back!

Also, ditched the idea of Zen3 + RDNA2 - that's not planed by AMD until late 2022. Besides, with a design like above, I won't be as limited in cooling options as a "traditional" laptop.

Updated the main post, really looking forward to designing this on paper before Zen3 desktop APUs launch. I'll probably move it to a small form factor forum and update progress summary here if anyone is interested.

https://egpu.io/forums/desktop-computing/planning-and-building-a-diy-laptop-from-pc-parts-egpu
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Zotac RTX 2070 8GB Mini
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 950 2GB STRIX OC
https://egpu.io/forums/psu-cables/dell-da-2-to-any-output-adapter

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M.2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // 5cm NVME extender used to create pluggable NVME port [build link]  


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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

I moved the project to an SFF forum here - all looks good, actually. Finished the design and started to order parts for the chassis and some hardware/peripherals. I'm actually surprised how well all the pieces fell together - fingers crossed the build will go just as smooth

https://egpu.io/forums/desktop-computing/planning-and-building-a-diy-laptop-from-pc-parts-egpu
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Zotac RTX 2070 8GB Mini
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 950 2GB STRIX OC
https://egpu.io/forums/psu-cables/dell-da-2-to-any-output-adapter

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M.2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // 5cm NVME extender used to create pluggable NVME port [build link]  


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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 3 years ago
 

Forgot to update this thread - had the "lapdesk" finished for a few months now and it's brilliant Grin Not having had a PC for almost 20 years shocked me with how much customisation PCs have, from BIOS to choice of hardware. I was really surprised how big of an impact RAM speeds have, from gaming to just using the OS - something I could never have overclocked in a laptop. Just like I would have never went back to a tower PC after having my first laptop, now I can't see myself going back to a laptop. I still have a laptop for work, but everything heavier I do on the "lapdesk".

Current spec is Ryzen 5 3500X, RTX 2070, 2x8GB 3600Mhz CL16 RAM, 1TB M.2 SATA SSD. Chassis can house any AMD processor up to 65W (because of low profile cooler) and a GPU up to a size of founders RTX 3070 Ti / RX 6800XT. RTX 3080 possible with 400 x 300mm aluminium sheets. My goal is a Ryzen 7 5800 non-X or undervolted Ryzen 7 5800X, and an RTX 3070 Ti, but with current prices I'm not in a hurry to upgrade.

The rig is around 4.5kg, but is more portable than a laptop with egpu - moving my GPU with R3G and a Dell DA-2 power supply was a proper pain and a spaghetti of cables. With an SFX PSU all the cabling I'm carrying is a 3m kettle lead.

I'm using the "lapdesk" a lot for VR - I can set everything up anywhere I want. For non-VR games the 17'' 144Hz monitor is great. The compact MS wireless keyboard and the Logitech M570 trackball work like a charm anywhere.

Final cost was around £850 without a CPU and GPU. £62 of the cost is the chassis. I bought a used Ryzen 5 3500X from ebay for testing and it's go good I stuck to it. I already had an RTX 2070. Detailed parts list is in this post on SFF forum.

 

TinkerCAD drawing:

https://www.tinkercad.com/embed/h4zX6h5VIB3

 

Sexy photos:

complete front
complete right psu

 

complete screen
complete back
This post was modified 2 months ago

https://egpu.io/forums/desktop-computing/planning-and-building-a-diy-laptop-from-pc-parts-egpu
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Zotac RTX 2070 8GB Mini
Clevo N141ZU + Win10 + M.2 ADT R3G + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 1060 6GB STRIX OC
Lenovo x230 + Win8.1 + EC PE4C V3.0 + Asus GTX 950 2GB STRIX OC
https://egpu.io/forums/psu-cables/dell-da-2-to-any-output-adapter

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M.2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 // 5cm NVME extender used to create pluggable NVME port [build link]  


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