The Raspberry Pi is small, low-powered, and therefore portable. Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn your own Raspberry Pi into a homemade laptop? Well, you can!
We’ve found five ways you can turn your Raspberry Pi (or Raspberry Pi Zero) into a laptop using manufactured kits and/or 3D-printed plans.
Why Use a Raspberry Pi as a Laptop?
It’s compact, easy to set up, and capable of being connected to a variety of hardware devices. The real question is, why wouldn’t you use a Raspberry Pi as a laptop?
Two key options present themselves: the (relatively) high-powered Raspberry Pi 3B+ (available on Amazon) and the ridiculously low-priced and slim-line Raspberry Pi Zero (available on Adafruit).
Just imagine the possibilities. With a Raspberry Pi-powered laptop, not only do you have a portable computer you can use for productivity (the Raspberry Pi 3B+ makes an impressive desktop replacement), you can employ it for coding projects too. Better still, many Pi laptop projects provide access to the GPIO, letting you easily connect to other devices, just as you would if it was sat barebones on your desk.
The following examples can all turn a Raspberry Pi into a laptop. If you’re looking for some smaller uses, see our look at projects that make your Raspberry Pi portable.
A modular laptop featuring a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+ (although you can order without), the pi-top is amazing. In short, it is a laptop chassis with a keyboard that slides out, exposing the insides. You won’t find much here, other than a PCB to connect your Raspberry Pi to.
The connector board and your Raspberry Pi are mounted on a rail, onto which other cards can be attached. So, you can slide up the keyboard and boot up to enjoy a Raspberry Pi computing experience, then when the mood takes you for some DIY electronics, you can slide back the keyboard and attach another device.
For example, you can purchase the laptop chassis with an inventor’s kit. This includes a breadboard, resistors, and LEDs for some basic electronics.
There’s even a special heatsink to keep your Raspberry Pi cooled, and the pi-top has its own operating system, Polaris (more commonly known as pi-topOS).
Head to pi-top.com/products/pi-top to order your pi-top and turn your Raspberry Pi into a laptop.
2. Raspberry Pi and Arduino Laptop
With a full keyboard, DIY trackpad, and 7 inch display, this DIY project will guide you through building your own Raspberry Pi laptop. This project uses a Raspberry Pi 3, but you could easily swap this with a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+.
This detailed video will walk you through building the battery pack (you should get around five hours out of the Raspberry Pi), connect a charger, boost converter, and even extend one of the USB ports to improve accessibility.
The Arduino component, meanwhile, displays a status for the battery charge, as well as providing connectivity for sensor modules. It’s a useful all-in-one approach!
With a keyboard from a 7-inch tablet case, laptop is built from reinforced cardboard.
While the latest version of the Kano DIY computer kit for kids (available on Amazon) might not be the exact kind of laptop you’re looking for, it’s close. Featuring a Raspberry Pi 3, 10-inch screen, speaker, and the usual components of a full Raspberry Pi kit, the laptop element comes with the device’s portability and compact keyboard.
Developed by Kano, the computer is easily put together. The Raspberry Pi 3 can be mounted on the back of the display, along with the display adaptor. Colorful cables enable the easy connection of a battery and other components. Meanwhile, the keyboard sits tidily on the back of the case.
Once up and running, you’ll be using the Kano OS (several operating systems are available for the Raspberry Pi), which features the best tools from Raspbian, along with a few other popular apps. Although it perhaps more closely resembles a tablet with a keyboard, this is nevertheless a great laptop-like Pi experience.
4. Raspberry Pi Pocket Laptop
Using a keyboard, IPS display, portable battery recharger and a Raspberry Pi 3, this laptop seems simpler than it is. A switch is attached to the battery, enabling easy switch on, although shutting down should be done from within the operating system (so as to avoid a corrupt SD card).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this build, however, is the plastic chassis. While it doesn’t have space for the chosen Bluetooth keyboard (other input devices may be more suitable), it is a surprisingly perfect fit.
What’s particularly interesting about this project is that it is pretty barebones. Only the absolute basics are included here, which gives you scope to make your own spin on it.
5. DIY 3D-Printed Raspberry Pi Laptop
What could be more DIY than a 3D printed laptop powered by a Raspberry Pi?
Featuring a Raspberry Pi 2 and a 3.5 inch TFT display, this build employs a miniature Bluetooth keyboard. There’s also a Li-Ion battery, and Wi-Fi dongle, but with more recent Raspberry Pi models, this wouldn’t be required. Everything about this build is small, and the end result is a pocket-sized Raspberry Pi laptop.
While it might be closer in size to a smartphone than a netbook, this build is easy to use thanks to the choice of keyboard, which sits in a 3D printed frame. More 3D printed components house the screen and Raspberry Pi, while 3D printed hinges hold the two halves together.
If you need to take your Raspberry Pi with you, and have the urge to 3D print your solution, this is the way to go. Find the full instructions in the project’s Instructables page.
Build Your Own Raspberry Pi Laptop
With five potential options for your Raspberry Pi laptop project, you should find enough to replicate here. You might even spot what’s wrong and develop your own laptop project using a Raspberry Pi or install a new operating system on the device.
Looking for something a bit different? Our collection of the best uses for a Raspberry Pi will certainly give you some much needed inspiration. Or, consider turning your Raspberry Pi into a secure travel router .