Chonky Palmtop Will Slide Into Your Heart

You probably know what a cyberdeck is by now, but you’ll find that people’s definitions differ. Some use the term rather loosely, applying it to things that are luggable at best. But we think you’ll agree that the “Chonky Palmtop” created by [Daniel Norris] AKA [a8ksh4] is without a doubt, quite cyberdeckian.

One of the hallmarks of a cyberdeck is that it folds up, often like a laptop in the screen-over-keyboard sense. Not only does chonky palmtop do that, but the split keyboard (more on that later) has this impressive pivot geometry and really satisfying slider mechanism thing going on. The whole thing folds up into a little brick, which [Daniel] says is about the size of an old Asus EEE laptop. (Remember those bad boys? Those were the days.)

Inside the brick is some stuff you might expect, like a Raspberry Pi 4 and a 7″ touchscreen. [a8ksh4] also packed in an AmpRipper 3000 LiPo charger, which is especially good for high voltage projects. Speaking of, there is a voltage button to check the battery level, which is then displayed on a trio of 7-segment displays that are smack dab in the middle below the screen.

Now about that split keyboard — that’s a Corne, which is kind of a happy medium between a lot of keys and too few, and 42 is probably enough keys for most people. Considering the overall size, we think that is a great amount of keys.

Not that you can tell by the keycaps on those Chocs, but [a8ksh4] is rocking the Miryoku layout and firmware. Slide past the break to watch chonky palmtop unfurl, boot into Ubuntu, and close back up in a brief demo video.

41 thoughts on “Chonky Palmtop Will Slide Into Your Heart

    1. Yeah first one I’ve seen that looks really daily driveable, there have been others with good ergonomics, decent screen, battery size, portable form factor but this is the first one that seems to do it all really quite well.

      I’d go as far as to say this form factor and method is something more professional mass produced laptops might want to emulate – not everyone wants a thin delicate Mac-air like thing, or the big chunky file folder shape that the bigger laptops go to, add the time to polish the slightly rough edges ready for mass production and it looks like you end up with a decently portable and decently ergonomic package.

      1. The huge limit on this one, like a lot of cyberdecks, is the small 7″ screen. 10″ and larger is so much more practical. You’ll get really familiar with the F11 (full-screen) key daily driving a 7″ display.

        I totally agree on the more chunky and more serviceable laptops. The thinkpads have been pretty good, it’s easy to pop off the back, swap components, and there’s enough room inside to stuff in extra stuff if you want.

        1. Really depends on what you use it for doesn’t it, I’d never want to go back from my giant monitor for a great deal of what I do, being able to easily have 3,4,5 references up at once and a working window all at the same time is really nice.

          But there are many folks that use their smartphone for everything, and when roaming myself the best I have is 4:3 at 10″, which isn’t really much different to this in usable screen, and really the only thing that makes that screen sometimes awkward is the resolution is sometimes too low for an application that doesn’t handle scaling well – assumes 16:9 or more pixels vertically etc. In general its just fine, not as nice to use as the giant monitor, but perfectly fine really.

      2. >>>this form factor and method is something more professional mass produced laptops might want to emulate – not everyone wants a thin delicate Mac-air like thing, or the big chunky file folder shape that the bigger laptops go to…

        There’s an old Hackaday thread that advocates for something similar:

        I had an eeePC back in 2008-ish, and recently bought a GPD micro-PC. I love it! It’s not my “main work computer” but I use it daily. It (just barely) fits in the pocket of my cargo pants. Having a proper hardware keyboard, even a small one, is just so much nicer than fighting with autocorrect when trying to type on a smartphone’s touchscreen. The clamshell design means the screen doesn’t get scratched when I stuff it in my pocket or backpack. And it has a real serial port and a real ethernet port! Linux mint installed with no problems, but IIRC there was also a nice little script contributed from a user that added a few nice tweaks to make it more friendly out of the box.

        Kudos to [Daniel] for making _exactly_ the computer that he wanted. This is why hacking is great!

        1. Absolutely, though I think this bests your very interesting gpd thing, as the keyboard looks like it will be substantially more ergonomic, to the point I suspect you could use it as your only PC, at least for a prolonged period.

          Where that gpd thing, which really does look very much like something I’ve wanted for a while, not quite perfectly in line with my desires, but close enough I’m tempted is still very much the occasional pull out when you need it type device – no way my giant hands are going to enjoy using it really.

          I am 100% with on you on loathing smartphone keyboards, touchscreens in general don’t make good keyboards, but the tiny little smartphone ones are by far the worst. So if the GPD had onboard LTE or something and so could play phone as well then I’d replace my phone instantly, even though that would likely mean having to carry a battery bank as well… Tiny physical keys are so much better than no haptic feedback at all, and keys approaching large enough to use are better still!

          1. Unfortunately the microPC doesn’t have onboard LTE. I’ve looked into using a USB LTE dongle but this would require getting a second “data-only” mobile plan, which doesn’t make financial sense where I live. For now I am using my (dumb) phone as a hotspot. The phone stays in my pocket unless someone calls me, and the microPC gets used on the bus, at the cafe etc.

            I still haven’t found the perfect solution for the ~1% of communication that still happens via phone or SMS. Nothing beats a real phone for these situations, but the converse is that for everything else, the phone (whether smart or dumb) is not the best tool for the job – a computer is better.

          2. Looking at its specs and a few images of its internals online I think you should be able to fit an LTE onboard, at the cost of the primary SSD, which I’m not sure I’d be happy with, as that pushes you towards using SD card, and SD card really are useless IMO for computers, usable enough though that maybe it is worth it.

            Not sure if you could find space inside for the antenna, but the antenna can be pretty damn small so probably achievable. If you can I think despite my loathing of SD cards it would be my preferred method to a USB one – those stick out!

            Computers can in theory at least take phone calls on most of the mobile networking cards, so maybe its worth playing around with – PAYG?

          3. Have you seen pinephone with its dedicated keyboard? Could fit your needs: linux ready, keyboard, lte and if you add docking adator also ethernet port.

          4. Yeah the pinephone is interesting, but what I really want is something with a keyboard at bit bigger, even if it means sacrificing direct access to few keys so that you can really type on it (with large hands) – which means a device that is bigger than any phone – Doesn’t have to be a real keyboard size, but I would like to be able to just about touch type on it, even if its a bit cramped and awkward, rather than the phone keyboard where you can only pick at it with the thumb.

            Still way prefer the keyboard picked at with a thumb over a touch screen, a little haptic feedback goes a long way to making it nicer to use, but I really want that just about pocket sized device – think big pockets with a more usable keyboard – so something like this, but thinned down a tiny bit as I suspect its just a touch too thick to go in the pockets of my usual shorts… But its got something that looks like a keyboard, won’t be all that bad to learn to use.

            Maybe a phone could do the job with some of the more alternative keyboard options that have been discussed on HAD before – like Morse encoded letters sent on release or some of the other dense chording options – which folks do get up to reasonable speed on, maybe can even get faster than than the 104 key standard keyboard they probably learnt on and grew up with, if you put in lots of work to learn it. As ultimately I don’t want the speed at which I can type to massively slow down the work flow – as soon as you are several lines/functions/paragraphs ahead in what you have thought out to what you have managed to type you start making mistakes or loosing the chain of thought as you have to stop to let the keyboard catch up.

        2. “Kudos to [Daniel] for making _exactly_ the computer that he wanted. This is why hacking is great!”

          i just don’t get it. for 17 years now i’ve had a laptop that suspends when i close its shell and wakes within 2 seconds…5 seconds to reassociate with wifi. that’s the sine qua non of portable clamshell computing.

          i simply don’t understand how a device that doesn’t have that feature is going to be _exactly_ what anyone wants in a portable clamshell. or how anyone is even going to use a device without that functionality outside of the house more than once or twice at the hackerspace to demo it to their friends.

          1. And with the Pi4 in its lowest power mode to fully booted may be a tiny weeny bit slower, but there isn’t much in it, you can with the GPIO make it wake on lid open if you like (though then the Pi wouldn’t be in its very lowest power mode, as GPIO is off for that). A cold start isn’t exactly glacial either, as long as the system disk is reasonably performant.

            You don’t even have to power it down at all if you really want to be even quicker – could just turn off the peripherals and screen as ultimately an idling Pi is pretty low power draw, not ideal perhaps but its more than low enough power draw – heck idling it is drawing similar amounts to some of my admittedly old laptops while suspended!

            So really nothing you are moaning about is much of a problem, this certainly could be better, but its not terrible and what you categorically do not get with mainstream laptops is that form factor with the touchscreen (though they are starting to get common) and rather ergonomic looking keyboard – certainly better than any laptop of similarly small size I’ve seen – they are all normal straight line for the entire two handed row of keys which means massive deviation of the wrist and really uncomfortable typing position.

          2. Seriously Greg the CM4 with onboard eeprom and the Pi4 with NVME via USB3 both boot from cold really dang fast, in the case of the CM4 its way faster than the monitor at my desk wakes up, does its little HDMI handshake and finally displays anything… And that is to fully ready to use, connected and ready to go.

            Can some laptop get back from suspend to usable quicker, sure, but the difference of a few seconds before being ready to use is so little you are never going to notice… Oh no two whole extra minutes of my life if I use this as my only computer for a whole year (or whatever – obviously depending on just much you cycle it, and how you count how long you are waiting for it – as in the real world open the clamshell as you put it on the desk and have it turn on its probably ready to go before you have sat down and got ready to work anyway)

            And right now both my old laptops are in standby drawing MORE than the Pi4 built into my desk, and its not entirely idle, just damn close to it. (Measured with the same equipment, as fair a test as it can be). Yes they are old, I’d expect modern ones to do much better, but still they can standby for so long that its not worth worrying about it anyway – something like a chromebook might managed enough extra time from a plug that you can change your habits and not carry the charger but most machines don’t…

          3. lol

            you realize the comment i was replying to said, “Kudos to [Daniel] for making _exactly_ the computer that he wanted.” right??

            _exactly_ the computer i want is going to be at least as good as my 7 years old chromebook. i’m not going to take compromises. you don’t need to bend over backwards to say the compromises are tolerable, because once you compromise you give up on _exactly_ what you want

          4. Only if the ‘comprises’ are actually noticeable, would you like it to be x or y better, sure, but if while in use you can’t actually tell there are compromises I’d call that more than good enough to count as “exactly” what you want.

            As its not actually possible to get “exactly” what you want – I mean I’d love for full on aerospace grade materials, and a super computer grade chip that mystically needs 1/infinity watts so the tiny amount of heat differential between my finger tips and ambient can power it indefinitely or something similarly nutty… At some point you compromise on what you really want (even if your initial expectations were actually plausible) down to something that is remotely affordable, actually possible and acceptably functional…

            What you can get is “exactly what want”, as its only if the compromises actually get in the way of using it they matter!

          5. again, going backwards vis-a-vis a 7 year old chromebook isn’t _exactly_ what anyone wants in a laptop. having a mobile-oriented processor with a plethora of strong low-power modes is such a bare essential requirement of laptops for about a decade now. i waited so eagerly for this development and it finally happened! they revolution was so substantial intel even tried to shove a buzzword ‘ultrabook’ down our throats. no one who uses laptops is going to want to go backwards on this one!

            pi is not meant to be a mobile board. it’s not going to _exactly_ fit that role. that’s not a fatal flaw in the pi but it is a fatal flaw in these ‘cyberdeck’ things.

          6. With how low power the pi is while on and at idle I really don’t see it as even close to a fatal flaw for “cyberdeck” usage – not saying I’d be in any way opposed to it getting better at it, or using an alternative – there actually being a good alternative that has that magic cocktail of great performance, long term support/availability, good efficiency, cheapness, and versatility as well as all the low power modes you could desire, and as far as I can tell there isn’t anything that comes close…

            But when even a pretty dang tiny battery can power a Pi4 going flat out for hours, so will be going for hours and hours and hours while on but idle, isn’t a big deal breaker, I doubt you would even notice while using it, and it boots so fast if you really care about battery life turn the damn thing properly off..

          7. “But when even a pretty dang tiny battery can power a Pi4 going flat out for hours, so will be going for hours and hours and hours while on but idle”

            hahah this has been so true about processors for so long that you take it for granted! you feel just like i do, that a processor should draw a lot more watts when active than idle! you just don’t know this one detail: it’s not true on pi! on pi, the thing draws more when “fully powered down” than a modern laptop-oriented celeron chip executing the HLT instruction while fully powered up.

            on my cellphone, the battery will power full-out for about 4 hours, or idle for about 4-5 days. you will not achieve this kind of ratio on a pi4. you take that ratio for granted because you know deep down that every mobile processor works that way. pi isn’t a mobile processor.

          8. Very true its not a mobile processor and I don’t expect the mobile’s potentially days of standby ratio (though I’ve never seen more than a full 24 maybe 36 hours in standby on any of mine or my families phones). But then its got more performance than many mobile processors and can have more per watt than many x86-64 laptops (as arm is like that in general anyway, and obviously not more than the stupidly potent flagship phone with 8+ cores – that really can’t be used properly anyway as Android doesn’t really let you do anything much with them (at least that I’ve ever noticed, unless you are a mobile gamer I suppose)).

            But it is more than low enough at idle, heck you can even declock it and stay stable for disappointingly marginal but definitely noticeable (from my limited testing anyway) power gains.

            And yes a battery will go ages on most computers – that is my point though its a damn computer, you use it like a computer, more efficiency would be nice but you get more than long enough out of it that you won’t in the real world ever really notice the difference – you will be charging it up often, as you want it charged for when you DO have to go somewhere, and its got more than the required juice to last till you end up at another charge point!

            Fully powered down a Pi draws nothing, as its not connected to the battery anymore, and if you put it into the GPIO disabled super low power mode its pretty damn close to nothing, at least in ratio to it being on… The data sheet seems to say 15uA for lowest ‘off’ state (though I think that one is actually with GPIO still enabled) 8mA for typical lazy software mode ‘off’… Yes its not superb but its pretty damn respectable still and when you need a pretty hefty battery to deal with the 3A or so it might end up using both are damn nearly irrelevant.

          9. i continue to be astonished by how much you take for granted about the pi which is not true. i’ve repeatedly researched this subject and the pi, when fully powered down, draws on the order of 70mA. it’s absurd! it’s farcical. it doesn’t do the thing you assume it does. you think it’s good because you think it does it, but it doesn’t! to get below 70mA, you need an external power switch / wake circuit. which isn’t impossible but does require a cold start.

            if i believed pi was capable of the things you think it is capable of, i wouldn’t be mocking it! we’re simply talking about different things…you’re talking about what you assume pi would be capable of if you tried to do it, and i’m talking about what i’ve found out that pi is capable of from actually trying to do it. and one of the nice things about pi’s huge userbase and decent support from the foundation is that this limitation is extremely well-documented…

            15uA. jeesh! you missed the mark by more than 1000x!

          10. I have played with them plenty, and looked at them, they do pretty much exactly what they say on the data sheet from memory it was actually doing better than the sheet by a touch on the one I really looked at!

            Which was CM – so they may be a little different, and there are now 3 or is 4 revisions of the SOC with CM and 400’s never having the oldest…

          11. Also missed the mark by quoting the data sheet for the CM… That isn’t my problem if the Pi folks have buggerered it up, but the sheet and my test matched when I tested it!

          12. Oh and any close the ‘clamshell’ type switch to wake/sleep by default means you have at least a switch, so what are you moaning about! Something has to tell the pi its supposed to do something different.

            (or most of the time in my playing a jumper lead – switches are a PITA when they are not soldered to a nice solid immobile/gripable object)

          13. Perhaps the USB3 chip on the normal Pi4 sucks down lots of juice in idle?

            And as a final thought for something like this I don’t see the most definately ON but idle draw of a Pi to be a big deal either – sure its in the few hundred mA while idling, but when your battery can easily cover that for days even in small form factors, and most cyberdecks seem to have battery enough to last many many many hours at that idle – its not ideal sure, but functionally in the real world you just use it, and keep using it, and it lasts as long as you want, plug it in when you get to a socket, which you will do with your laptops anyway as you NEED them to be good to go remote when you have to go remote, not after forcing you sit around drinking tea for an hour charging!

            (though now I want to unplug all my laptops – what a great excuse to drink tea and not do family tech support in a hurry….)

    2. There are stl files for it posted in the git page. I started splitting some of the models to make them fit smaller printers… let me know if there’s interest and I can get them posted.

      1. Post ’em anyway, may be useful to somebody.

        For myself if I ever get round to a new portable to replace my aging Toughbook I think this concept is sound, got me interested enough to consider bumping it up the project list – but I’d remix it to use a CM4 (though something better is likely to have come along before I’m ready) and mill lots of the bits from Al, perhaps use carbon-fiber sheeting for the more flat panels – just make the thing a little more compact thickness wise, and make sure the SOC gets lots of heatsink area with the Al parts.

        The keyboard mechanism is just so fantastic for this small size, about the only thing I think might make it better is a trackball mouse between the thumbs, which probably needs a minor redesign of the keyboard slider to make room. But it is always nice even when you are a person that prefers the keyboard to have the mouse option, so I think its probably worth it (and no a touchscreen, useful as it can be, for me doesn’t entirely replace a mouse).

    1. 3000mAh doesn’t appear anywhere in the project. Are you talking about the model name of the charger (whose name does refer to 3000mA, which I assume would be just as offensive)? The project actually uses 2x8Ah pouch batteries.

      Looking at some estimates for a Pi’s power consumption and estimating 1W for the screen, this would run ~5h at moderate loads, maybe 3.5h if you’re pushing the pi and have the screen on pretty bright.

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