The Finest Linux Tablet You Can Build

For the last few years now, we’ve all had access to tiny, affordable Systems on a Module. These wunderchips are complete Linux systems with WiFi, a halfway decent GPU, and enough memory to run a real system. This is the perfect platform to base a tablet build on, the only problem is that someone has to actually do it. The DLT One is the ‘Damn Linux Tablet’ from [Prof. Fartsparkle]. It’s the answer to the question of when someone is going to build a tablet computer around one of these cheap Systems on a Chip that are floating around.

With many modules to choose from, the first task is actually choosing one of these Linux modules. [Fartsparkle] ended up with the Nvidia Jetson Nano, an impressive little board that has one distinct advantage: it’s drop-in compatable with the Raspberry Pi Compute Module, the Raspberry Pi-on-an-SODIMM. Given a single chassis, [Prof. Fartsparkle] can simply upgrade his tablet by getting a newer version of the Jetson Nano (or the Compute Module).

The current state of the board is basically an SODIMM socket on a board, with breakouts for Ethernet, a power jack, USB, and HDMI. That’s all there is to it, and design on the tablet chassis is ongoing.

Future updates for this tablet build will include USB-C PD, an mPCI-E connector that would allow for M.2 storage, LTE in some form or another and a dock that would allow you to turn this into a Surface-like laptop. It’s an amazing build, and one of the best entries we’ve seen in this year’s Hackaday Prize.

45 thoughts on “The Finest Linux Tablet You Can Build

  1. The boards so far are just a training exercise to get accustomed to the hardware. Next up will be the actual PCB that will sit in the tablet :)
    Including a first test for the modular peripherals that connect via FFC.

  2. “drop-in compatable with the Raspberry Pi Compute Module” is unfortunately not the case. While they both use a DIMM connector, the Jetson uses DDR3 and the Raspberry Pi DDR2.

    1. The RAM is on the SODIMM board for at least the RaspberryPi CM, and I assume the Jetson too. I don’t think they share the same pinout though, so that part would be a challenge.

      1. No as in, the CM uses a DDR2 SODIMM and Jetson DDR3 SODIMM, different generation DDR SODIMMs have a key in a different location, so the pi module physically can’t be inserted in a Jetson socket and vice versa

        1. As far as I’m aware they purely use the SODIMM socket (for non-RAM purposes) to interface external peripherals, so the type of RAM shouldn’t matter, however like Rob R says above, the pinout is unlikely to be the same

          1. The type of RAM dictates they keying of the connector so you don’t accidentally put DDR3 RAM into DDR4 sockets. Hence you wont even be able to put the RPI CM into the DRAM socket for the Jetson Nano.
            Had a off by one error above, RPI is DDR3 keying and the Jetson is DDR4 keying.

    2. Yes – a quick check of photographs of a Jetson Nano CM and a Raspberry Pi CM shows that they are different sizes and have different edge connectors, so can’t be drop in replacements for each other in the true sense of ‘drop in’.

    1. I don’t think so, at least not under L4T. The Jetson Nano is a direct decent of the SoC used in the Nintendo Switch, the and some other unreleased battery powered Shield devices (as well as the Shield TV) so the hardware can manage some low power states. But AFAIK, L4T is not intended for mobile devices and is instead aimed at enabling deep learning frameworks to enable AI at the edge. This platform really isn’t intended for an application like a tablet.

  3. Okay, so the banner photo is just a couple of renderings…

    But I look forward to having a Linux tablet, my tablets are Android or Apple, it would be nice to have one without Google or Apple bloat/spy ware.

  4. I am not sure what happened to my previous comment…
    so, I am trying again.

    I was really excited about this, until the page showed the banner photo is just a couple of renderings.

    I have a number of tablets, mostly Android, one Apple, I look forward to owning one that does not have bloat/spy ware on it.

    1. It’s really early in the project, so this shows of course what I’m planning mechanical wise. The renderings are not too far off though, they are from the actual CAD design that I’m working on. The sides wont be that flat though of course but will have connectors and buttons.
      The front will also be likely full glass like most tablets instead of just the touchscreen in the middle.

      1. Don’t take it personally. The system deletes all replies when a parent comment is deleted. If you find yourself replying to something inflamatory, hateful, or otherwise drastically off-topic, there’s a good chance that it’ll get deleted when we clean out the parent.

        TL;DR: don’t bother feeding the trolls. Hit the “report comment” button and move on.

    2. You could always look for an Android tablet with an unlock (ed|able) bootloader and a working AOSP build.

      Your comment is above this one, timestamped six minutes before

  5. Get these things on the Ebays and take my money!!!!

    It’s been a long time over due for someone to make one of these…

    Depending on the price, it’ll be between these as a tablet or a librem in the near future (if the guy would “mass produce” these things…

    Even if he mass produced them as “hardware upgradable android tablets” with android pre-installed (or a choice of distro preinstalled), then I can see this becoming a thing… especially if his layout becomes a “standard”.

    ISA/PCI/PCIE/etc meant having custom tower PCs,
    MXM and socketable CPUs meant semi-customizable laptop PCs (lesser so these years ._.),
    Now, this tablet concept could be the future of “customizable Tablet PCs”?

  6. Oh, good! I was pretty excited by the EOMA68 concept, until I realized how thermally and I/O-constrained it was. The slightly more open thermal envelope of the SODIMM form factor might take that concept into more useful places.

  7. Errrrr. error. The Jetson is not drop in compatible with a compute module, got both right here in front of me. They’re different DDR generation sodimms and they keys are in different places accordingly, capabilities are also different.

  8. I have been waiting for a tablet workstation that can handle real 3D CAD and CAM. I’ve been waiting for years but the closest thing anyone makes to that is a Surface Pro, which isnt good enough.

    I know this is crazy because I am probably the only person that wants this but I want an actual dedicated graphics card tablet that can handle that- and I would have a Surface Pro except I have not heard of anyone putting Linux on one yet.

    If someone would just make a serious Linux tablet with a real dedicated graphics card that can handle design work I will throw several thousand dollars at them

    1. I’ve heard some time ago that someone had got Linux running on the Nintendo Switch…
      Though, I doubt the NVidia’s GPU capability in that thing would be as powerful as the Surface Pro.
      Also, I doubt anyone will be maintaining such a distro long after the Proof of Concept.

    2. What do you use for CAD/CAM in linux? I mean from my experience, the offerings are rather limited and can be quite a hassle. I would love some new suggestions to try out so i can get rid of the neutered windows partition (no networking drivers) on my machine.

      I have a different linux pc controlling my cnc router and a tablet like this would be awesome for passing Gcode to the controller but i still see cad and cam design a while away. Maybe with the next itteration of Freecad (0.19 i think) we will get a step closer.

    1. I would say its a chicken egg problem. The few devices that even allow Linux are plagued by driver issues before you can actually think about UX and UI.
      I don’t see DLT as a tablet for those who are currently happily using Android and iOS but more for people who have a specific application that they want to run where Android and iOS is just too restrictive or too controlling.

      1. “more for people who have a specific application that they want to run where Android and iOS is just too restrictive or too controlling”

        that last bit is on the money! i don’t need a third party working themselves into my workflow in such a way that if they decide to rework their api then i have to go back to the beginning and start all over again. God forbid they decide to end some project that i have decided to use *cough google cough* and now im left holding the bag trying to find a solution because of the economics of some third party.

        This project is almost about to push me over the edge on signing up for just so i can follow and receive updates. I have a couple projects where this form-factor and capabilities would be perfect. I hope that you find a way through to completion on this project.

      2. A standardized open hardware Linux tablet platform that everyone can easily target could solve this problem. I feel like it would have to be able to emulate android apps for anyone to start using it though.

    1. I don’t plan to but it will be very easy to do that yourself :)
      Most I/Os will be broken out so you can add whatever you want, even into the finished unit. Just gotta be thin enough.

  9. While I commend the effort it is still cheaper to use an off the shelf tablet instead of building from components.

    What I’d love to see is an open sourced OS that can replace the Android google bloatware and spyware infesting our tablets and phones.

  10. Absolutely amazing project! I am working on something very similar with the exception of a required MIPI-CSI interface. Until now I was planning on using the Pi CM3 as all the SoM needs to manage is the touchscreen, Cam, a few leds, and a local web application (nothing computationally expensive). What ECAD software are you using? Most IO boards online seem to be in OrCad (expensive) or a few in KiCad that doesn’t have everything I need and Gepetto seems to be lacking as well. I see in your box diagram you have battery management, will that be in your upcoming layout?

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