The VAIO WIth A Pi Inside

Raspberry Pi laptops are not an uncommon sight, as many hardware enthusiasts have shoehorned the tiny board behind LCD panels into home-made cases.

[Frank Adams] has created one of the best Pi laptops we’ve ever seen, (for which we suggest you skip straight to the PDF). He’s removed the guts from an aged Sony VAIO laptop and replaced it with the fruity computer, alongside a Teensy to handle VAIO keyboard, buttons, and LED I/O via the Pi USB port. An M.NT68676 video board interfaces the VAIO display to the Pi HDMI, and a USB to SATA cable is connected to a 240Gb solid state hard drive. The laptop’s Wi-Fi antenna is routed to the Pi via a soldered on co-axial connector, and there is also a real-time clock board. There are a few rough edges such as a USB cable that could be brought inboard, but it’s otherwise well-integrated into the case. His write-up is a very comprehensive PDF, that should serve as a good primer to anyone else considering such a laptop conversion.

The result is a laptop that looks for all the world like a commercially produced machine, yet that is also a Raspberry Pi. In a strange way, a Sony laptop is an apt homecoming for the board from Cambridge, because other than red soldermask or very early Chinese-made models, all Raspberry Pi boards are made in a Sony factory in Wales. Whatever the donor laptop though, this is definitely a step above the run-of-the-mill Pi laptops. To see its competition, take a look at this very ugly machine with a bare LCD panel, or this laser-cut sandwich laptop.

39 thoughts on “The VAIO WIth A Pi Inside

    1. I’ve got the perfect portable battery bank for that,
      Maplin (The UK radioshack) stopped selling them though (I guess due to people maxing them out all the time so they cook themselves: Usually the 5V SMPS fet, sometimes the constant-current charge circuit’s BJT).
      can’t remember what it was called though (I’ll find out the source site if ya’ll want, hopefully people can request said company for resale on the ‘bay'(s)).

      It can supply up to 3A at 5v (With added heatsinks to the PCB and a current limit adjustment: 5A),
      It charges at 2A (1.85A when I tested mine)

      The best feature of it all is, this battery pack still spits out 5V when unplugged from the “mains” supply (OK from the USB port of the laptop/PC) whereas nearly every other one switches off and thus not a UPS… Added bonus, since it has a mechanical switch that is either on or off at any given time, then if you want to draw 0.087uA forever then it lets you do that (Until the battery self discharges)

      1. I don’t think people called that a laptop. That term came later with smaller computers that could be used in ones lap.
        Nowadays people call portable machines laptop even if they can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be used in the lap. Legs and genitals are easily damaged.

        That computer (IMO far from a monster*) was really high-tech in its day. Hope you got to play with it. :)

        (* reserve that for 5kg+ draggables)

        1. Ahh, but I did use that thing on my lap… and yes, by today’s standards it is definitely a monster. One thing you didn’t do with it though is balance it on one arm and type with the other. Lack of battery aside, doing so would give you one serious case of tennis elbow!

          Don’t drop one on your toe, the laptop will be fine but your toe will require amputation.

    1. Very true. The Pi has the momentum though, and it’s Pi projects we have submitted to us. Please, do it with another board, write it up and put it online, submit it to our tips line, and we’d love to see it and feature it!

  1. I wanted to build something like this, but with an ancient Thinkpad as a base. Then I realized I needed a portable LCD with Trackpoint-enabled keyboard more than a Pi-based laptop, so I’ll make use of this project as a good reference. :D

  2. I’ve wanted to do this for some time with an old broken MacBook Pro but finding a video board to interface with the display has been the only thing holding me back. Does anyone know of one on the market for a 2009 MacBook Pro?

    1. Have you opened the case up and looked for the LCD model #? You can generally find controller boards on ebay, either pre-flashed for your model or a generic that the seller will flash for you.

    1. man. that’s a bit harsh calling it a hilarious waste. Can’t you say that nice and with numbers? What’s the USB 2.0 vs. SATA vs SSD throughput and what’s the most he could get out of? I mean sure, everyone can google that, but there’s a difference between constructive criticism and whatever your comment was.

      1. Well, it certainly won’t be useless… the SSD will drain less power and not suffer seek time issues unlike a HDD.

        However, the USB controller on a Raspberry Pi barely keeps up with the 480Mbps that USB 2.0 demands of it. A far cry from the 3Gbps that SATA is capable of. The biggest impact will be on the CPU due to USB requiring far more of the CPU than native SATA does.

  3. The Pi is pressed at Sony ya say?
    Remembering George Hotz fiasco and how $ony pushed other lives to worthlessness!

    There lay 3x RPis (RPii?) around the house. It was about time to upgrade to a competitor. Anybody gotta list of non-sony manufactured ARM uPCs?

    1. That’s a little unfair, there are good reasons to support it because of where it’s manufactured. The plant is in South Wales, not the most economically successful part of the UK because sadly our governments look very much towards London and the South East. Think rust belt, if you are an American. As I understand it they made CRT TVs there, until CRT production stopped, then were left with a plant with no product. They now offer contract manufacturing, have your production run made on a Sony line, and that’s what the Pi uses. So in my book that’s a good thing, whoever has the logo on the building, it keeps jobs somewhere they’re really needed.

  4. As an aside, the “ugly laptop” linked at the end of the article, was inspired by (oddly enough) the Amstrad PPC640. Not because I’ve owned one (I haven’t) but because I like the idea of the screen folding down under a keyboard that makes up the lid. Standard clamshell worked out to be a tad easier to build up, though…

    I wish one of you Hackaday writers would publish an update to that story, as well — I tried sending it in and got met with silence — but I don’t mind trying again… it’s now got one of those Atom-based MiniPCs from eBay on its back, along with a new USB hub… while I prefer Linux Mint, Xubuntu 16.04 is what was willing to install and run (to whomever thought it brilliant to put a 32bit UEFI on a 64bit box, you know that scene in “Firefly” where Shepherd Book talks about going to the “special hell”…? Yeah, that.). I can attest that 16.10 and 17.10 most certainly do not work on my hardware, unfortunately… but I *finally* got the internal WiFi/BT and sound working by upgrading the kernel to v.4.12…

    I might rebuild it again, this Christmas, if I can get the funds together. I want to give it a sort of steampunk look if I can — partially because I like steampunk, and partially because that will give it a resemblance to a typewriter, which is quite apt given that I’m using it to write a novel now…

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.