Laptops suck. Their performance sucks, their price point sucks, they cant easily be modified or improved and even those that can have terrible or purposely floored heating solutions in the name of weight, aesthetics, or "safety". Not only is this annoying for me, but I know many others that hate this "in club" that laptop builders have.
So what can we do about this? Well you make your own of course! Sure, it'll probably burst into flames eventually, sure it will be inefficient and pretty fragile but who cares when you can dominate any Starbucks crawler in any benchmark!
Okay, lets talk issues. Building performance parts is tough in general (probably why OEM's do it blah blah blah), but not impossible! Let's look into the various problems and some solutions..
Parts for laptops point blank dont exist. At all. The only way to use laptop parts is to teardown a laptop and put the parts into a case, and even then they cant be upgraded as most parts are soldered directly to the boards, and I dont know about you but I have never seen a pci-e slot on a Macbook. So thats out of the window.
We need to change our angle. what does the market have that works? Tower builds! What's small in that category? Mini-ITX! Do they have standard ports headers? Yes! Are they portable? No!
The next problem is taking a Mini-ITX based system and making it portable. Where to even start? Well ideally, we need to keep upgradability in mind. The ability to swap out parts is a must, and it needs to be of a manageable volume. Power is simple, taking some LiPo batteries it is possible to rack up a respectable amount of work, which will definatly help with the necessity to push desktop grade parts. Most LiPo cells have recharge and protection circuits, so that helps us out a little with not setting everything on fire.
Now we need a way to get the power from the cells to the parts. sure, we could wire up a custom board that takes the yerminal output from the pile and splits it into ATX DC rails, but what if it breaks? what if there is suddenly a new kind of ATX board that needs some magical connector we didnt design for? what if the board dies? Oh dear. Now our laptop is useless, and repairing will be expensive and timely.
Obviously we need a better solution... what if we were to use a normal ATX power supply? They have all the connectors we need are designed to last for a decent amount of time. This is great! Thing is, they dont really build DC ATC PSU's, so now we need a way to get AC from our DC pile. A cheap sine inverter should do, either buying one from Amazon and tearing it down or even building your own should be the ticket. What's more, with this approach you can throw in an AC port to power the laptop purely off the wall, with a breaker switch to stop AC from feeding into the battery.
Ok, so we have our Portability out of the way, now to make sure that it doesnt go into meltdown. One of the easiest ways would be to obtain a qunatity of 40 mm fans and line them up in rows either side of the components, blowing air through them. This would require power, but would be ideal, and could even be made more effective with ventilation in a case along with custom shrouds to direct airflow over warm bits of the hardware.
Now into laptop performance. Because we are using a standard platform with modular parts, this bit is a breeze. Find the best mix of performance to power usage (rememeber, a lower power chip will help your laptop last longer!).
Graphical performance may still be an issue. Generally a decent GPU kicks out a lot of heat, besides being incredibly large. Single slot cards are for sale, but they aren't exactly very powerful. Another option is to use a pre-existing high-performance card, and modify it to single slot using water cooling and sharp things to cut down the I/O. However, water cooling is generally a bad idea in anything that has to move, so it will have to be designed for low profile and reliable usage. What could go wrong.
Belive it or not this is the easiest part. You can by an LVDS converter board for a laptop screen relativly cheap from the internet, meaning you can use a pre-existing laptop panel for the display. Sweet.
Funnily enough, a laptop is no use without a touchpad and keyboard. Fortunatly, this part is pretty easy. A touchpad can be hacked of an old or broken laptop along with its driver board and be wired up to a PS/2 or USB connection. As for a keyboard, just find a thin mini usb keyboard and crack it apart, and wire it up to an internal connector.
This is by far the most complex and timely part, but not exactly a major problem. A custom laptop chassis can be designed and manafactured with CADCAM production, creating a one off, but perfectly suitable part. Whats more, the chassis can be styled and customised to your liking, with options like material colour and engraving now open to your will. Always wanted a hot pink laptop.
WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY! now its time to get started on the laptop. First up is locating and purchasing the parts required.