The Improved Luggable PC

There are exactly two types of personal computers available today. If you need a lot of horsepower, a powerful GPU, or a full-power CPU, you’re going to end up with a desktop. If you need something portable, you’re getting a laptop with a wimpy CPU and an underpowered GPU. Historically, there has been a third type of PC, the luggable. The luggable is a desktop PC crammed into a case that makes it slightly more portable than a desktop and a monitor.  You cannot buy a luggable PC case right now. They simply do not exist as a commercial product you can shove your own hardware into. This is a form factor an entire industry forgot.

Now there’s a DIY luggable PC. This project from [Roger] packs a standard ATX motherboard, a full-size GPU, a full-size power supply, and everything else that makes a desktop PC powerful into a case that can be stored in an overhead bin.

[Roger] has been working on this project for a while, and it was featured on Hackaday back when it looked like a RepRap Mendel. There have been some significant improvements over the earlier iterations of this project, including a very, very cool hinge mechanism that allows the display to fold in when the computer isn’t being used. It’s a mechanical wonder that prevents scratches. Neat. The rest of the case is constructed out of 2020 aluminum extrusion, and about a one kilogram spool of filament.

Since this is a portable case, there are a few compromises. There are no 5.25″ bays, no 3.5″ bays, and few 2.5″ bays. M.2 SSDs and USB-powered CD drives exist, so this isn’t a big deal.

This is a truly fantastic case in a form factor you can’t buy anywhere else. If you have a spare monitor and a bit of extrusion sitting around, this is one to build yourself.

The DIY Luggable PC

If you haven’t gone laptop shopping recently, you’re in for a big shock when you do. Recent consumer laptops are thin, powerful, surprisingly inexpensive, and Apple’s latest MacBook Pros even have a fantastic ‘Touch Bar’ – a touch-sensitive OLED display where the function keys should be. The greatest laptops ever made are available right now, and they don’t cost much, either.

Unfortunately, the laptop as a platform is inherently a compromise. If you want a discrete CPU, or if you simply want to choose your own parts, you’re relegated to a desktop build. The middle ground between extensibility and portability isn’t really covered by case manufacturers, and even the rare ‘LAN party’ cases rarely have a handle.

[Roger] is taking steps to solve this problem. He’s designed a 3D printable luggable PC. Yes, now you can have a GTX 1080 and a 22-core Xeon in a form factor you can carry around. It’ll fit in the overhead bin on your next flight, and yes, the monitor is included.

The construction of this DIY luggable PC should be familiar to anyone who built a 3D printer in 2011. It’s made out of threaded rods, with brackets for an LCD panel, ATX power supply, motherboard, and SSDs. Since this is effectively a modular system, you can load this case up with hardware. The included monitor in [Roger]’s build is taken from an old laptop and driven through an eBay “LCD Controller Board”.

While a luggable PC might be a very niche use case, it is still one that’s vastly underserved. I recently built a new battlestation, and after searching for a case like this for a few months, I eventually gave up, caved in, and bought whatever Linus told me to buy. You simply cannot buy an ATX case that has a monitor bolted to the side, and [Roger]’s build is the first DIY solution we’ve seen.

All the files to replicate this project are linked to on the [Roger]’s Hackaday.io project, and this would be an excellent basis for a community-based project to build an Open Hardware luggable PC enclosure. A few days ago, [Roger] brought this PC out to the Hackaday LA January meetup. He brought to the meetup on the train, providing more than enough evidence this is a truly portable PC. Check out the pics from the meetup below.

LEGO Computer Case

With over 40,000 pieces in his possession, [Mike] is definitely a huge fan of LEGO. Given that he’s also very much a fan of technology, it’s no surprise that he has built more than one type of LEGO computer case. He wrote in to tell us that he’s finished work on a well-rounded system designed for everyone.

[Mike] is no stranger to interesting case builds. In the last couple of years, he’s also made a functioning wind tunnel case and a bio computer that uses generated heat to warm soil for wheat grass plants. In the course of planning the LEGO computer, he thought a lot about heat and airflow, ultimately deciding on a top-down cooling path.

He’s quoting custom LEGO computer builds, providing the choice between an i3, i5, or i7 with either 8 or 16 gigs of RAM. They will run Linux or Windows 7/8 and are 10-compatible. There are a few choices for the top of the case: classic LEGO brick, the industrial look with diagonal slats, and a colored, tiled top. These systems are completely upgradeable and are held firmly together with great engineering and the occasional support rod.

Dashboard PC Case Build Utilizes Honda Civic Gauge Cluster

The last thing you’d expect to see adorned on a computer case is an Indiglo gauge cluster straight out of a Honda Civic…. but that is exactly what [Envador] has created. He was driving around town one evening when a car past him. The blue glow of the passing car’s dash board was extremely noticeable and caught his attention in a positive way. Any computer nerd would, of course, immediately think “hey, that would make a cool computer case“. [Envador] then set out on a mission to make it happen.

Clearly, the focus of the case is the gauge cluster. It was taken out of a Honda Civic found in a junkyard. And it just wouldn’t be cool enough to just have the gauges light up, they definitely had to display some sort of info from the computer. CPU, RAM and hard drive usage seemed like pretty good parameters to display. [Envador] expected that each of the 3 gauges would accept a pulsed signal to move the needle. After tearing down the gauge panel he found only the tachometer worked that way. The other two gauges worked by some unknown means. Instead of messing around with figuring those two out, the mechanical components of the rogue gauges were replaced with those of two aftermarket tachometers. The stock needles and indiglo backlighting were kept.

To move the now-3 tachometer needles, [Envador] used a product called PCTach that connects to the PC via serial cable. It works with accompanying software to monitor PC information and output the necessary signals to make the tachometers move according to the PC’s performance. The computer case, itself, was fabricated from smoked acrylic behind which sits the gauge cluster. A matching backlit keyboard finishes off the look nicely.

Fan-tastic Box Fan Computer Fan

Sure, it’s a great idea to keep your computer components cool…. but why? PC components consume energy and in doing so they generate heat. That heat can reduce overall system performance or even damage specific parts. You’ve certainly noticed those huge aluminum finned heatsinks covering critical components in your PC. They are there for a reason, to keep things cool. Most PC’s have at least one fan, if not several, usually only a few inches in diameter. If a small fan does an okay job at cooling a PC, how would a large fan do….. we’re talking a really large fan? [Envador] wanted to find out and made a PC case with the largest fan possible.

Looking at the photo it is pretty obvious that PC case frame is fabricated from standard PVC piping. The side of the case is hinged to allow access to the internal components. That huge set of blades started out as an off-the-shelf box fan. It was taken apart and mounted directly to the PVC case door. It wouldn’t make too much sense to have side panels on this case since the fan is so large. So, instead of solid sides [Envador] used chrome-plated plastic grills that are usually reserved for fluorescent ceiling lights. Perforated metal strapping holds all the drives, power supply and mother board in place.

Unfortunately, [Envador] doesn’t give any before/after temperature data but states that the PC tops out at 95°F and he hasn’t had any problems with computer performance.

Behold! The Most Insane Crowdfunding Campaign Ever

Hold on to your hats, because this is a good one. It’s a tale of disregarding the laws of physics, cancelled crowdfunding campaigns, and a menagerie of blogs who take press releases at face value.

Meet Silent Power (Google translation). It’s a remarkably small and fairly powerful miniature gaming computer being put together by a team in Germany. The specs are pretty good for a completely custom computer: an i7 4785T, GTX 760, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD. Not a terrible machine for something that will eventually sell for about $930 USD, but what really puts this project in the limelight is the innovative cooling system and small size. The entire machine is only 16x10x7 cm, accented with a very interesting “copper foam” heat sink on top. Sounds pretty cool, huh? It does, until you start to think about the implementation a bit. Then it’s a descent into madness and a dark pit of despair.

There are a lot of things that are completely wrong with this project, and in true Hackaday fashion, we’re going to tear this one apart, figuring out why this project will never exist.

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Genetic Engineering Produces Desk/Computer Hybrid

Desk Holds Computer Internally

Computers and Desks go together like peanut butter and jelly. After many years of modding computer cases with windows, lights and the like, [Cameron] decided it was time to try something new and combine his next custom case with a desk.

The main desk is from Ikea. The computer case portion is made from wood. No one wants to lose leg room, this case was made to be shallow and wide so it would be out of the way when bolted underneath the desk’s work surface. If any serious maintenance has to be done the case can be easily unbolted and lowered for easy access. Speaker grill cloth is used on the front of the case for 2 reasons; hide the case and keep out the dust.

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