[Ben Heck] builds his smallest 360 laptop ever

[Ben Heck] is no stranger to building Xbox 360 laptops. Over the years he’s built dozens, but for this week’s episode of The Ben Heck Show he’s throwing down the gauntlet and building the smallest Xbox laptop ever.

The latest and greatest Xbox laptop build is based around the newest and smallest  $199 4 Gig Xbox. A few compromises had to be made to turn this console into a laptop, though: The power that would have gone to a Kinect was repurposed to power the very thin 15.6″ LED LCD, while the port that would power a hard drive was used to drive a perfboard stereo amplifier. You can check out the official [Ben Heck] blog post here.

The final build is extremely compact and much smaller than [Ben Heck]‘s previous Xbox laptop builds. At just 2.125″ thick and 16 ” wide and 9 ” long, it’s quite possibly the smallest Xbox that’s possible to build. Without a new hardware revision from Microsoft (which seems unlikely at this point), this is probably the smallest an Xbox 360 laptop can be. We tip our hat to [Ben], and wish him luck in the next season of The Ben Heck Show.

39 thoughts on “[Ben Heck] builds his smallest 360 laptop ever

  1. I understand the whole idea of hack something, but really? Whats the point of having the world thickest laptop which hardware wise is equivelent to a 2003 era PowerMac G5?

    1. I’m not motivated enough to watch all 15 minutes, but I didnt see a battery included. Which makes it hard to call this a laptop. Also why didnt they use a laptop size optical drive instead of a desktop optical drive?

      1. The Xbox 360 DVD drive is keyed to the motherboard. AFAIK there is no way to use any but a handful of specific DVD drive models, even in a modded 360.

        I would absolutely love for someone to prove me wrong though.

      2. dubloe

        you’re exactly right. you’d have to write a custom firmware for another drive, and that would probably get you banned from xbox live.

    2. Simply cause it is entertaining to watch Ben Heck build something like this, even though it is underpowered for the volume it occupies. Also it can be done therefore should be done.

      1. Regarding the optical drive, each Xbox 360 is paired to its optical drive (as explained by Ben in the video) and it is extremely difficult afaik to replace it.

      2. Plenty of sites online mention that you can write the drive key to a drive of a different make/model. It isnt much of a hack if you’re just making a crappy case for it, compared to forcing a different drive to work with it. This video was pretty much look at me, I have a cnc-laser cutter and mill, look what I whipped up in a afternoon.

      3. @matt:

        …and a 3D printer and a CNC machine :P

        nitpicking: “the meter shows power” NO. It shows current draw :P

        Also, all that cool work laser cutting, 3d printing custom parts and CNC the metal bottom… and a “perf-board” to build the amplifier? Ben needs a PC board milling machine now :P

      4. @matt
        “Plenty of sites online mention that you can write the drive key to a drive of a different make/model”

        You might want to check those sites again. Slim 360s have more security than just the DVD key. Simply swapping the drive with a new key would not work. You might want to look up what fcrt.bin is for and how it manages the authentication between the newer 360s and their optical drives. I wish people wouldn’t shoot down others’ decisions without having a basic understanding.

      5. “while the port that would power a hard drive was used to drive a perfboard stereo amplifier”

        So you’ve just sacrificed the HDD for audio?

        Worst.Substitution.Ever.

        That means

        No backward compatibility (as no HDDx partition to play them from)
        No extra HD Textures (which need installed onto the internal HDD)
        Accelerated wear and tear on the ODD as games cannot be installed to HDD. Yes, you can install onto USB MUs but with an upper limit of 16GB, you would have to keep a box of memory sticks at hand.

        If he’s actually using this for gaming, he’ll be replacing the ODD laser every 6-7 months.

    3. 1. A PowerMac couldnt play any games the xbox360 can
      2. Its portable so you dont have to lug a tv around to play xbox (duh)

      1. No a PowerMac can’t play any games a 360 can. But a 360 cant play any games that anyone would want to. IE: call of duty on a gamepad, at low resolution and settings, full of 12 – 14 years screaming obsecenities at you over xbox live voip.

  2. I would have chosen the hard drive instead the dvd, so the “laptop” could be even smaller. It would need a RGH hack, though, to load the games.
    By the way, are those tiny fans enough to cool the processor? Some temperature measurements under stress are necessary in my opinion.

    1. Yeah, but he plans on selling these, doesn’t Microsoft at least send cease and desist notices for selling modded consoles? Especially in such a public way?

  3. Something doesn’t seem right. The firmware shown is an entire generation older than the current one. A new 360 wouldn’t have that setup would it?

  4. I like it. I imagine the tiny fans will do the job. They are probably just quite loud. For the effort involved I wish he would have finished the edges a little better through. The layered look takes away from an otherwise professional looking build.

  5. Other than space I don’t understand why he’s giving up the Hard Disk to drive the Audio amp. The xbox can give out 5V-500ma through one of the usb ports.

  6. “while the port that would power a hard drive was used to drive a perfboard stereo amplifier”

    So you’ve just sacrificed the HDD for audio?

    Worst.Substitution.Ever.

    That means

    No backward compatibility (as no HDDx partition to play them from)
    No extra HD Textures (which need installed onto the internal HDD)
    Accelerated wear and tear on the ODD as games cannot be installed to HDD. Yes, you can install onto USB MUs but with an upper limit of 16GB, you would have to keep a box of memory sticks at hand.

    If he’s actually using this for gaming, he’ll be replacing the ODD laser every 6-7 months.

  7. Fir the most part I like Ben Heck’s stuff, just out of curiosity though, could one of the forward facing USB ports have been used to power the amp?

    Also the sides look a little rough, is that the finished product or is there more aesthetic finishing going to happen?

    1. You can pull the power from anywhere you want really, there are literally dozens of places you can solder to the board in order to get 5v. The main reason he did this substitution (so he claims) is to cut down on overall power consumption so he doesn’t overtax the power supply, the only reason he used the power from the hard drive connector was that it was easy to get to since he wasn’t using a hard drive.

  8. This is a clamshell, not a laptop.

    It uses mains power, has no keyboard, uses external controller. This, like his other systems, are just a re-housed console motherboard and an attached screen which clamshells onto the top of the flat section. It isn’t a portable, it isn’t a laptop, it is just a rehoused console and screen! $2000? lol

    *nothing to see here* as the saying goes.

    1. Well, your suggestions seem impractical. A battery capable of running the unit for more than an hour or so would at least double the weight of the entire unit. While it is possible, it negates the portability too much.

      He has added keyboards in the past, and it’s relatively trivial to do so. The only thing you would have to sacrifice is a little height, and probably some extra support in the center, but it is almost completely pointless to have a full size keyboard… unless you dropped an extra hundred dollars on a XIM or something.

      As for external controller, I don’t know what you want there. As I said you can use a XIM3 to be able to use a keyboard and mouse, but the mouse would still be external, and if you want a touchpad for gaming you’re just a masochist.

      I agree $2000 is a bit much for a bare bones like this, but he’s popular enough that there’s enough demand that he can do it.

  9. A lot of people saying this isn’t a laptop. If it’s designed to operate on your lap, then it’s a laptop. I can take the battery outta my laptop and operate it from the mains, it’d still be described as a laptop, I could strap a big ass battery to my desktop and strap the whole thing to my back and it’d not be a laptop. /preachy.

    1. okay you try and wriggle with that thing on your lap see how long the discs last. unless he got round the crappy drives i really wouldn’t play it. and a gaming laptop does every thing this does and more AND its still cheaper?

  10. That’s like saying a pole-dancer in a seedy joint is a “laptop” as “If it’s designed to operate on your lap, then it’s a laptop.”, lol

    Also, this unit is not a laptop on that definition as to play a game or use the system means you need to use the separate controller so the unit would not be on your lap but on a table.

    So, on many levels this is not a “laptop”. It is a clamshell with just a rehoused console board and attached screen made to fold down on it; nothing more or less.

    1. She’d be a laptop, or lap, dancer. “A laptop” is shortened from “laptop computer” this is a “laptop Xbox” which can also be shortened to laptop. It is also as you point out a clamshell.

      Using a controller doesn’t preclude him from using it on his lap.

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