You love your Raspberry Pi, and you want to take it with you. Or perhaps you have the urge to build a portable project, but don’t have the design skills or patience.
Don’t be ashamed. Many Raspberry Pi projects require a lot of planning and various additional components. Trying to build a Pi-based portable gaming device or laptop means trying to emulate the hardware of the originals.
You could rely on a DIY project… or you could focus your portable Pi-building energy on existing kits. Several Raspberry Pi kits have been developed that make your little computer portable. Literally, tiny computing on the go!
First, there’s the MintyPi, a project that is easy to build and requires just a few components. The main part is an Altoids tin, that perennial favorite of the DIY hacker.
As you can see, you can buy most of the parts in kit form, such as the all-important PCB. The power regulator and battery will also be required, along with a few more components (see the guide for more). Meanwhile, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi Zero, which is the perfect size for this tin.
If you can’t find an Altoids tin, don’t worry. Some Raspberry Pi Zero kits ship in a suitable replacement!
You’ll notice that it’s not possible to buy the colored plastic parts: the display bezel, and the mount for the buttons. You’ll need to rely on 3D printing for these, and you’ll find the STL files via this FAQ.
When you’re done, you’ll end up with a handy, portable Raspberry Pi Zero, intended for retro gaming on the go.
Another dedicated Raspberry Pi portable gaming device, the PiGrrl is a Pi-powered Gameboy clone, sitting in a suitably nostalgic case.
Like most other gaming-related Raspberry Pi projects, this runs the RetroPie classic gaming OS, and is particularly suited to console based titles. Fancy taking your favorite SNES title for a ride on the bus?
Although you cannot buy the case (it must be 3D printed), the kit produced by Adafruit, features a display, speaker, rechargeable battery, buttons, microSD card, a Raspberry Pi, power management board, and a few other bits and pieces.
Meanwhile, you can find the 3D printing instructions for the PiGrrl case at Thingiverse.
The result of a successful crowdfunding campaign, the NoodlePi is a versatile little portable Raspberry Pi. Shipping with a choice of docks (one for a handheld keyboard, the other for a game controller), the NoodlePi features a Raspberry Pi Zero or Zero W computer.
Which one you choose depends on how you want to use the device. The Raspberry Pi Zero variety of NoodlePi is air-gapped: there is no network connection, so the device remains secure and private as long as it remains offline. However, if you’re planning on some gaming, the Zero W model is a better option. Getting your game ROMs onto the Pi via FTP is probably the best option.
I’ve been able to get my hands on one of these kits, and the quality of the 3D printed case is very good. The touch display works well, and the option to clip a keyboard or game controller to the NoodlePi is a great feature. Perhaps the only thing that causes problems is battery life, but as the battery is replaceable, this isn’t an issue.
Head to noodlepi.com to find out more.
The projects we’ve looked at so far offer small displays. But what if you want to be more productive with your portable Raspberry Pi (Raspbian makes a great desktop)? Well, you’ll need a laptop!
Currently, the only Raspberry Pi laptop solution that is available to buy is the Pi-Top, which began life as a Kickstarter project. Offering a 3.3-inch HD TFT LCD screen with eDP interface and 1366×768 pixel resolution, the Pi-Top also features a programmable keyboard, trackpad, and smart battery with 10-12 hours run time.
Once assembled, the Pi-Top weighs 1515 grams (3.3lbs). The most intriguing aspect of this device is its attitude to housing the Raspberry Pi (not included). Compatible with the B+, Raspberry Pi 2, and Pi 3, the Pi-Top gives you instant access to your Pi via a removable cover.
The Pi-Top Hub PCB deals with power management and the display, and sits on a modular rail alongside your Raspberry Pi. There is also space to add other Pi-compatible boards to the rails. The Pi-Top also ships with a microSD card featuring the Pi-Top OS, which you can otherwise download from www.pi-top.com/product/pi-top-os.
Want to get your own? Head over to the Adafruit website and grab one!
Meanwhile, it’s possible to build your own Raspberry Pi-powered laptop. One option is to repurpose an existing laptop shell and monitor. Another is a project like the LapPi, which builds the portable computer into an aluminum makeup case.
DIY Portable Raspberry Pi Projects
Although a few DIY projects are linked to above, these are only the tip of the iceberg.
But if finding a kit that suits your portable needs isn’t working out, it’s time to consider a DIY solution. Getting a Raspberry Pi to run off a battery isn’t difficult. However, bringing in a display, human interface devices, and a suitable case can prove tricky.
Not sure what you want? Head over to YouTube, where you’re bound to find a project that suits. They’ve got everything, from how to squeeze your Raspberry Pi into a Gameboy Advance shell, to building a tablet using the Raspberry Pi’s official 7-inch touch screen display.
And Then There’s Crowdfunding…
If all of this wasn’t enough, the future looks great for portable Raspberry Pi projects. Whether you’re looking for a gaming device, laptop, or tablet, several crowdfunders are underway or about to start. These could prove to be game changers, and are worth checking out.
Need a Portable Raspberry Pi Project? Try One of These!
Want to take your Raspberry Pi with you? Fancy using it on the go? Or just want a pre-specified kit to convert your Pi into a portable gaming device?
Whatever the case, you should find plenty of options here. While the Lego-like simplicity of the Pi-Top might be attractive to anyone wanting a truly portable Pi experience, the MintyPi and Pi-Grrl offer nice gaming options. Used with a Bluetooth keyboard, however, a suitable Raspberry Pi (the Pi 3 and Pi Zero W both have Bluetooth on board), could be converted into a portable work device.
Do you have a favorite? Perhaps you’ve already made your Raspberry Pi go mobile. If so, how did that go? Let us know in the comments.