A few months ago I made version 2 of the Handheld Linux Terminal, a pocket-sized linux computer, which a lot of you seemed to like. Well I'm back now with a new laptop project which is slightly bigger, but way more usable.
It takes a Nexus 7 tablet, and keyboard case, and with a few hardware and software modifications, turns it into a fully functional mini Ubuntu laptop. The original Nexus 7 is a few years old now, so you can pick one up for quite cheap second hand.
1.2GHz Quad-core ARM CPU
7" 1280x800 Touchscreen
Ubuntu OS booting natively
Built in speakers/mic/camera
1 Full size USB port
This laptop is about as big as an A5-sized book, and it strikes a good balance between being small, and still being very usable.
The whole thing easily fits in one hand, and weighs about 900g.
The keyboard is small, but not too small, and with a bit of practice, it's easy to touch type on.
On the back I made a custom OTG adaptor, allowing you to plug in peripherals like external mice, keyboards, flash drives etc.
I also added a front panel to simplify the overall design. It's a piece of black cardboard that stays in place using magnetic strips, and this allows you to remove the tablet.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is running a full version of Ubuntu, completely replacing the original Android operating system. That means many of the things you can do on a regular computer, you can do here.
This is an official Ubuntu ARM port made by Canonical which is specifically for the 2012 Nexus 7, so it works well. It does glitch now and again, but once you figure out the quirks, it's fine.
Standard things like web browsing, watching videos, word processing, coding etc work flawlessly, and of course since it's a linux machine, you have full access to BASH command line stuff.
Different games and emulators run fine on this too, although your selection will be a little limited since the games will need to work on an ARM CPU.
The 7 inch touchscreen is good quality, and has a resolution of 1280x800, giving you ample room for most tasks.
You can use a stylus to interact with apps, which is quite handy for drawing, and graphics apps like GIMP.
It's also easy to hook up a wireless mouse too when you're at a desk, which is way better for productivity.
Since this computer is using a tablet as its basis, that means we have some further options for power modifications.
For example, it would be pretty simple to hook up a 5v solar panel and diode to the back of the case, so you can charge the battery directly from the sun.
There are also some wireless chargers that are compatible with the Nexus 7, and it is possible to solder the wireless charging coil directly onto the tablets innards.
Separately, it's been possible to do all of this stuff for a while now, but when you combine it all together, you're left with a very handy little laptop.
I can imagine it being useful for travel, especially if you need to do a lot of typing-related tasks. The low power nature of it means you can easily charge it through a USB charger, or on the go with a powerbank.
I've been searching for a usable mini laptop for years now, and I think I may have finally found one worth using. To top it off, it is pretty easy to make, and only costs around $100.
What do you think? How could this be improved?