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Here's How You Can Assemble A DIY Laptop

Preconfigured rigs? Nah
by KC Calpo | Mar 9, 2018
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If we were made to choose between assembling our own computer or buying one off the shelf, we’ll pick the latter for its convenience—no question about it. We are impatient, and we like knowing that we’re getting something that will work as intended. Sure, we’ll obsess over specs, do our research, and hold off until we see a budget-friendly option. But in the end, we’d rather pay for convenience.

That said, we also have a huge respect for those who build their own rigs from motherboard to casing. We see them making the rounds over at Gilmore, canvassing and reviewing price lists. They’re at the counters of stores like PC Express, PC Corner, EasyPC and Asianic, lugging those new desktop PCs home for either play or additional testing and custom work. They’re on forums and sites like Reddit, or reading guides and primers like those over on Tom’s Hardware, Tom’s Guide (what’s with that name?), Wikihow, or Kotaku. And they’re joined by people like Terry Crews:

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That got us thinking: what about laptops? Can you actually build your own laptop? Turns out, you can. But here are two caveats:

  1. It’ll be expensive. And we’re not just talking a few grand out of your budget. Prepare yourself for a much pricier laptop, and add shipping fees to the total bill.
  2. Part of the reason why it’s expensive is because we don’t have a lot of local options. You’ll end up shipping things over here; and as far as we know, the demand for custom or DIY laptops just isn’t as big as the desktop PC variety.

Ready to make your own, regardless? We give you three alternatives!

Personal project

What we love about DIYers (particularly tech DIYers): they’re open about their projects, and always post steps and updates on whatever they’re working on. We found this gem over at Instructables: how to make your own laptop using Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

We can’t say this enough: please exercise all safety precautions while doing this!

And then there’s this old Instructables project from 2012: how to make a netbook (netbook!!!) with, again, Raspberry Pi. The “LapPi” looks like a villain-friendly device in any spy movie, but we think it’s part of the appeal.


Think of the children!

Well, Kano did—and we’ll definitely steal this from any kid who has it, it’s just so cool. (Stealing is bad, kids.) The company’s Computer Kit Complete is made for children who want to assemble their laptop with Kano’s premade parts and learn coding basics.

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Honestly, we’re super-pissed we didn’t have this when we were kids. The next best thing would be to gift this to your own kids, or nieces and nephews, and be the coolest person at birthdays and holiday parties.

You can buy the complete kit online for US$249.99 (around P13,000). You can also get a version of the computer kit minus laptop screen, via Amazon, for US$109.99 (around P5,700). No shipping fees have been factored in yet.

Customized computer

Here’s your third—and most expensive—option: choosing laptop parts, and then having the OEM follow your specs.

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If you buy your next Apple laptop from the Philippines website, you’ll see that Apple offers customization options after you click on your preferred model. You can change which processor, SSD storage, memory, or pre-installed software it’ll come to you with, depending on whether you buy a Macbook, Macbook Air, or Macbook Pro. Just remember that with every choice, your Apple tax will shoot up accordingly.

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We've been using Ubuntu Linux for almost a decade now, and never regretted making the switch from Windows... except for missing out on iTunes and Adobe Digital Editions. But a bigger source of frustration for us is the fact that, contrary to its "it just works" tag line, not everything works all the time.

System76 makes laptops primarily for Ubuntu users, which ensures that with their rigs, everything will work. Their products aren't cheap, though: its most affordable laptop, the Lemur, starts at US$749 or around PhP39,000. And changing your Linux OS, processor, memory, SSD, and wireless AC will cost more; along with adding product warranty, accessories, and/or rush assembly service. Lastly, System76 ships to the Philippines, but who knows how much customs will charge you for your new laptop? Yep, there's that.

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Then there's Bulgarian company Olimex, which takes DIY quite literally—by shipping your "modular" laptop to you unassembled. Hardcore! The Linux-powered (but also Android- and Windows-friendly) Teres-A64 laptop comes in white and black, and costs 240 euros or around PhP15,400 without shipping/customs fees. You can also order spare parts for your DIY laptop on its website.

It's worth noting that Olimex is still refining the Teres, so if you want more polished options, especially for gaming, look elsewhere. Companies such as the Singapore-based Aftershock, US-based brands Xotic PC, CyberPowerPC, and Digital Storm, and Aussie brand Origin PC have the same strategy as Apple and System76. They offer laptops with stock configurations, but also give you configuration options. Choose your model, tweak to your preference, pay up, and enjoy!


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