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: 2 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 ;>

This topic was modified 2 weeks ago

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

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 [build link]  


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itsage
(@itsage)
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Joined: 4 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.

 

external graphics card builds
best laptops for external GPU
eGPU enclosure buyer's guide

 
2020 14" MSI Prestige 14 EVO [11th,4C,G] + RTX 3080 @ 32Gbps-TB4 (AORUS Gaming Box) + Win10 2004 [build link]  


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timginter
(@timginter)
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Joined: 2 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!

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

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 [build link]  


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timginter
(@timginter)
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Joined: 2 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

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

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 [build link]  


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joevt
(@joevt)
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Joined: 3 years ago
 

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

 

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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timginter
(@timginter)
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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

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

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 [build link]  


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joevt
(@joevt)
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Joined: 3 years ago
 

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

 

Mac mini (2018), Mac Pro (Early 2008), MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015), GA-Z170X-Gaming 7, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB GDDR5, Sonnet Echo Express III-D, Trebleet Thunderbolt 3 to NVMe M.2 case


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timginter
(@timginter)
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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.

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

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 [build link]  


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timginter
(@timginter)
Eminent Member
Joined: 2 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

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

 
2018 14" Clevo N141ZU [8th,4C,U] + GTX 1060 @ 32Gbps-M2 (ADT-Link R43SG) + Win10 [build link]  


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