Dual Screen Laptop Is A Slick DIY Build

Laptops are great for portable productivity, but ergonomically they can leave something to be desired. They tend to force the user to look down, creating neck strain over extended periods. Rather than invest in expensive massages, [DIY Perks] decided what he really wanted was a dual screen laptop. So he built one! (Video embedded below.)

The build stats with a replacement laptop screen sourced from eBay, a nice full-HD IPS unit with a matching Embedded DisplayPort driver to enable the screen to be driven with the laptop’s existing HDMI port. To power the display, a USB-C Power Delivery board is used, in combination with a high-quality USB-PD compliant battery pack. This provides the 12 V required to run the screen.

To integrate the screen into the laptop, a set of 3D-printed hinges are used to create a folding mechanism, along with a brushed aluminium backing plate. Finished with a set of 3D-printed bezels, the final result is quite attractive from the front, looking almost stock at a glance.

It’s a build that may prove enticing to serious laptop professionals, particularly those that are willing to trade-off productivity against a little added bulk. We’ve seen other great work from [DIY Perks] before too, like these versatile LED panel lights. Video after the break.

[Thanks to yusufkhansu for the tip!]

31 thoughts on “Dual Screen Laptop Is A Slick DIY Build

  1. I’ll be up front, I dislike videos as a technical content delivery medium, so I haven’t watched every second of it, but…

    I cant help but think that the 5V, boosted to 12V is probably stepped back down to 5V on the display driver board, and probably boosted again to the specific LED string voltage for the backlight.

    The USB-PD bit just seemed maybe redundant.

    But, I mean, looks good for a build using hot glue!

    Did like the sugru battery clips.

    1. “I cant help but think that the 5V, boosted to 12V is probably stepped back down to 5V on the display driver board”

      It’s highly likely the laptop itself is taking in and providing 19V, as 19V and 24V are fairly common these days.
      USB-C PD has standard output selections of 5V, 9V, 12V, and 20V

      So the only step up conversion is what USB-C always does, and delivers 12V directly into the display/battery.
      In the screen it’s hard to tell without looking up that exact model, but if that LVDS looking port on it is LVDS, it’s internals are already designed to be as power efficient as possible.

      None of that could be retained if you discarded the USB-C-PD part of the mix, as then you would be left with only 5V and at an amperage possibly not suitable to be converted up and down so many times.

  2. Hmm, fascinating – I have a paper sketch with implementation notes of two off 4K screens side by side (minimal intervening bezel) off an Android system (left) with the other (right) off a windows system with a cross over lvdt/hdmi FPGA so either can ‘grasp’ the others LCD (wider screen overall) for things like comparative OS performance metrics Or very widescreen car with, detachable keyboards ie two off for close collaboration evaluations of two operators doing side by side development and code comparisons. Food for thought…
    Thanks for posting, cheers :-)

  3. interesting project. I love it. But let’s get real.

    Because I think one thing is easily forgotten: a laptop was never intended as a replacement for a desktop computer. That people like to do that for all sorts of reasons is up to them. But it isn’t fair to complain about the side effects of long term use. For something that isn’t intended for long term use. It’s the same as buying a tiny uncomfortable car and them complain that you can’t drive in it for a long time before your leggs, bottom and back start to hurt.

    It starts with an extra screen (a project which I think is brilliant, but that’s not the point), then extra speakers, because well… face it, laptop speakers are crap. Then the keyboard… because let’s face it, keyboard on laptops are crap. Then the CD-rom drive… with it wobbly tray. The lack of USB ports or decent USB ports that fit all the things that you already own. Because well people don’t like to buy new stuff or adapters because some “smart” person decided that we need a new standard.

    If this video was made with a huge smile, showing clear sarcasm or physical comedy the like-factor of this video was completely different. But it seems like it aims to be taken serious, which I think… isn’t fair to all those nice laptop manufacturers, who constantly do there best to make their products paper or even razor thin and tiny. These things are getting so thin that the word paper-cut is scheduled for replacement by the word laptop- (or smartphone) cut within the next decade.

    1. Well there are laptops that try very very hard to be desktop replacement and they are relatively bulky and usually possess a halfway reasonable keyboard (I still use a Model M older than I am by choice so for me that’s high praise for a slimline keyboard). My first desktop replacement style laptop also had fantastic speakers and lots of ports. Ergonomically it was a good as possible in a laptop form and could be used for hours. About the only thing it wasn’t much good for was working un-tethered, Battery life was rubbish.

      Its a neat idea, though for me if you are going to add a second screen to laptop re-engineering the back of the stock screen and adding tougher hinge seems like a winner. Or making the attachment panel grip the laptop screen around the bezel.

    2. “That people like to do that for all sorts of reasons is up to them”

      Unless you’re a contractor working on different clients. Then a laptop is the biggest computer you can use and maintain backpack portability to keep it with you at all times. Any effort to make a laptop form factor device better for the professional who has no choice is good in my opinion.

      I’m eyeing up the Asus zenbook Pro duo at the moment for that reason, it shuffles the keyboard and track pad to the front edge of the laptop then uses the free space between keyboard and main monitor to add a second monitor that’s a little over half the height of the main one.

    3. . Laptops have been desktop replacements since the beginning.
      . They have been and are intended for long time use.
      . There have been laptops with good speakers. I have one.
      . Plenty of laptops with good keyboards, people have spent time and effort to use laptop keyboards with their desktops (mosly from Thinkpads).
      . CD ROM? Are you back in the 90’s? What does that have to do with anything anyway?
      . The laptop with good speakers mentioned above also have 6 USB ports available plus a PCIe connector (only x1 though).

      Are you post an example of the sarcasm you wanted? If so you should make it more obvious (though the CD-ROM complaint is mighty suspicious).

      1. Even though is 2019… CD-ROMs are still supplied with a lot of hardware.
        But there is indeed a hint of sarcasm, you’ve spotted that right.

        Regarding CD-ROMs: as I and most other people do, is discard the disc supplied with the hardware (can be a printer for example) and download the latest driver… that is if it wasn’t loaded automatically already.

        1. Some of the products I’m involved with ship with a mini DVD.
          It needs to be small to fit inside the packaging.
          The manuals and some setup software are on the DVD. It wont work with most slot loaders.
          On the box are two sets of QR codes to give you a direct link to the latest software.

          A very heated debate about customer needs vs company resposibilities vs shipping out of date software takes place every time a new range is introduced.
          Especially as some companies like Dell no longer ship the majority of their laptops or desktops with optical readers.

          Really the product(s) need to get themselves to a point where they or the customer are upgrading them as soon as they open the box. But it still has to be manual as these devices ideally should be on an isolated LAN and have an air gap to the internet so they cannot reach out and self upgrade.
          But customers take short cuts of course which is why you need the software to be kept up to date.

          USB stick with the files would be nice, except for BOM cost vs a DVD and the security issue of USB sticks.
          Essentially a DVD fulfils the company responsibility, even if it’s not practical or indeed the first thing thrown away !!

      2. >” people have spent time and effort to use laptop keyboards with their desktops (mosly from Thinkpads).”

        Scissor switch keyboards are actually superior to both the simple dome switch keyboards and the traditional mechanical keyboards, because they offer precise switching action with a short travel, and low noise. They’re faster to type on, and they’re far less stressing than the traditional mechanical keyboards because they’re usually more compact, requiring less finger movement and lower speeds. Of course there’s lousy laptop keyboards as well, for example the “island” or “chiclet” keyboards which are often manufactured with simple dome switches and have the worst features of all styles of keyboards – they’re just one step up from rubber membrane keyboards.

        People just like the old clackety-clack keyboards because they give you a feeling that you’re really doing something when you’re mashing a big sparsely populated keyboard that makes loud clicks and distinct shocks against your fingers.

        It’s kinda like in the old Apple study from 1985 where they examined the productivity difference between GUI and CLI programs that do the same thing, and found out that the productivity for the CLI program was the same or slightly lower but people reported their productivity as being higher, because typing out text commands was more work. It turns out the people didn’t count what they actually were accomplishing, but how much effort they spent. Likewise, a keyboard which requires effort to type on and makes a racket while doing so, feels more efficient because you get the sense that you’re really doing something. In reality you’re just getting RSI.

          1. A fact is just an opinion backed by rational argumentation and/or empirical data.

            For example, many argue that mechanical keyswitches are better because they don’t need to be depressed fully to actuate the switch, therefore the touch typist doesn’t have to bottom the key and thus avoids striking their fingertips so hard.

            Pseudo-ergonomic arguments like that are used all the time to glorify the mechanical keyboard. In reality, it’s physically difficult for a person to actually stop and reverse moving their finger within the 2 millimeters of travel past the switch actuation point. You will bottom out the key anyways when you’re typing at speed, and bottoming out actually saves you the muscle effort of stopping your finger, so it’s a good thing – all you need is something to cushion the blow… you know, like a rubber pad under the key.

            In reality the best keyboard is that which minimizes the necessary finger movement, gives you a reasonably soft bottom landing, and has a buckling mechanism that ensures a key press is registered reliably once the button starts to move. Being “tactile”, as in, providing loud clacks or snaps to your fingertips doesn’t actually matter – if the key starts to move down under your finger, it should register a key press; that is sufficient tactile information because your muscles and tendons and your fingertips register the change in pressure well before the switch actually clicks.

            Dome keyboards have a long travel and they have unreliable buckling mechanisms, so they feel mushy and require you to strike harder to ensure the keys register correctly. Mechanical keyboards have a long travel and reliable buckling mechanisms, but they’re hard on the landing and on the ears (except some switches which don’t click). Scissor switch keyboards have a short travel, reliable buckling, and a reasonably soft landing, making them the best of the bunch. An added advantage is that the scissor switch keyboard is thinner, so it doesn’t need to stand up from the desk so much and you can keep your wrists straighter.

            As far as the laptop keyboards go, they have the advantage of being compact in layout, which further minimizes the necessary movement and makes it easier to produce certain key combos and special characters, and laptop-style separate keyboards save you a lot of desk space for not needing a whole lunch-tray of a keyboard sitting in front of you.

        1. RSI is about so much more than just the keyboard. But a mechanical won’t cause RSI anymore than the good end of the rubber dome spectrum. I personally prefer the model M style mechanical force profile and travel because they most comfortable for me to use. But you will never get me to switch even to the really nice thinkpad keyboards if I have a choice.

          My comment on desktop replacement was merely pointing out there are a few schools of thought with laptop design
          – the apple/netbook/ultra portable, which rarely has enough IO, always has keyboard troubles
          – the business/middle of the road options which are more of an ephemeral middle ground for those that want portable but need computing power, durabilty and practicality
          – the full on desktop replacement style which often use desktop CPUs, dedicated GPUs, heatsinks that weigh in at more than an entire ultra portable, and are usually so covered in IO you need not even carry a USB hub or the usb-ethernet etc. These are the machines that generally have great ergonomics, sound all the bells and whistles.

    4. Let’s get even more real. What do people actually do.
      Laptops and desktops are about equal in the degree to which people use them as their main information device.

      Granted that doesn’t say how much time people spend on them, but there are a LOT of people who don’t have/use a desktop.
      (Don’t have the space for one, or the money, or ….)

      A lot of people don’t think about the ergonomic problems of laptops until they get
      to experience them first hand. Of course cell phones have even greater ergonomics problems, and there are a lot of heavy users.

    5. – I’d wager a laptop is meant to be a portable desktop replacement… Only thing I really miss on my laptop from my desktop is screen real estate. Would you rather be working in the office, on the couch, a zero-g chair outside, or ?. While I’m some sure prefer an office, it’d usually be my last choice. But to your small car analogy has some truth that applies to laptops – are we talking a little ‘HD’-bs display 11″ laptop, or something with a 10-key on the side, 15″+ 4K display, dedicated graphics, etc. The latter, especially if capable of a fold-out second monitor I’d be happy on most of the time for remote work, and could maybe even see spending a few bucks for.
      – I like the idea of the project, but falls short on one big point for me – the kickstand. So you loose many portability options, and basically only sets up on a desk/table. Workable, but if the extended battery and driver board were moved to be an addition to the bottom of the laptop, and only a lightweight display needed to be affixed to existing monitor, the existing hinges *might* support both displays without too much complaint, if kept at a reasonable angle. Personally I think this would be pretty sweet, especially if power requirements aren’t too high that you could tap into system power via USB or other to ditch the external battery, without cutting existing battery runtime too sharply.

    6. Its very simple.
      When I’m at my desk my laptop is docked and I use external screens a leyboard and a mouse.
      When I’m not in the office I use it as a laptop and retain all my data.
      I’m not going to sit with a laptop on my lap for 7hrs a day, is anyone that stupid ?

      My laptop has 3 USB ports an another 6 on the replicator.
      Who uses CDROM any more? I have dual SSD’s in a RAID1

      Cannot be mobile with a desktop, but a laptop can be both.
      Unless you want bleeding edge graphics.

      If I need a second monitor for my laptop for some reason, I’m probably within reach of a TV with HDMI or a projector.

  4. Neat build. I certainly can justify doing something similar when I’m waiting for my kids 3 hr evening classes, and I’m needing to get work done at a local coffee shop. A 2nd screen would be *great* that once-a-week.

    It’s feasible, not expensive, relatively practical and can be built from reclaimed electronics. Good job.

  5. The top pic should have shown a split view, with front and back – so could see that this isn’t such a useful build as might appear.

    Nice start at project, however.

    Hinges are a weak point on laptops, even with the kick-stand, this will put more stress on the hinges, may make more prone to breakage.

    Makes the whole thing less stable – more prone to somebody accidentally bumping it, potential damage screens and laptop. (May also be more prone to wobble/shake when trains/busses go by, etc.)

    The second screen has no protection when folded (I would not put it in a bag as he does).
    Should at least have included a cover for the second screen (could fold up behind it when not in use, or be detachable, with clip/magnet fastening).

    Even with this stand, the top screen may still be a bit low for good ergonomics.
    Perhaps an external monitor (with a fold over cover) with a fold-up stand not attached to the
    laptop might be a better solution.
    (In a quick search I have not found much in the DIY portable monitor stands.
    Most of the stands I see are for fixed instillation.)

    Could be an interesting design problem to come up with something that is
    portable, light, protects the second monitor when folded up, and gets the monitor up to eye level.

  6. Rather than adding a new screen, I would like to see a semi detachable one. A pair of telescoping arms could carry signals from keyboard section to screen, and allow you to have the screen at a more ergonomic height.

    1. Indeed and surely these days you could easily have the following only slightly more sophisticated detachable methodology:-
      1. Edge slide left or right or top even And on the other side eg presentation at boardroom table for small audience
      2. Power connects via recessed contact for max efficiency of even inductive if you can fit it
      3. Signals short range low power wireless RF encapsulated within suitable sections of the slider (extrusions?) or some reliable slide in without stressing multiple pins/slide contacts might be cheaper.
      4. Software detects which side or orientation from which connector used thus only need two edges on the detachable display with orientation determined when plugged in, obviously with option to amend eg long type vertical display too if desired, heck make it Max ;-)
      5. Ability to have more than one detachable unit connected to heftier laptops that can handle the power and extra signal requirements eg one each side, one on top, one on other side eg for family watching whilst you work or presentation etc
      6. Dual or more audio wireless headphones etc so anyone watching on back side gets their own audio feed without affecting your usage..
      7. Couple of others for later Eg 1 double side camera 😆

      1. Asus T100TAF
        Oops my last post meant for this comment not other one, ugh
        Could then run VNC on this to get to a laptop either from the tablet or detachable keyboard (When its connected & then maybe patch it appear as a USB keyboard) :-)

  7. Interesting but an additional monitor, 27inches or more, stand alone in pole or stand will do the same.

    Also, for “itinerant workers”: can you use a large screen or monitor at your client site?

    By the way, the work he has done is commendable. Simple and feasible for all.

  8. Can’t look at the videos right now … but if the second screen would be a touch input device, you could have a touchpad that unfolds in a dual screen laptop. Probably more stable than those finicky twist joints.

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