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#1 ge∅   User is offline

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Building a laptop?

Posted 10 May 2018 - 03:40 AM

Hello folks,

I have bought this laptop a bit more than a year ago, my first laptop, and although I am satisfied with the performance and battery life, the built quality is not great and some things are already starting to fall apart.

I'll keep it one more year I guess, but for my next laptop, I don't want to buy another ready-made one. I want to choose a good case which will last me for years and build a computer inside it.

The problem I'm facing is that I find it difficult to find informations about laptop components and cases. If I go to the Clevo website, I see a lot of model names with a thumbnail picture and no other information!

My second concern is the motherboard. I have read that laptop cases came with their motherboard. It makes sense since it's so compact and there is no standard place for I/O, but is it possible to upgrade the motherboard or replace it if it fails?

Do you think it's worth the hassle? It's not only about saving money, it's also about recycling components and having an actual custom build. Because my first laptop was "custom built" bu I had the choice between two cases (because there were two screen sizes), and options like m.2 ssd, amount of RAM, etc. basic stuff. If I want a good wifi, I want to be able to choose a good network card, or a network car with drivers which work best with Ubuntu. I want to choose if there is a USB-C or thunderbolt 3 port or not, I want to choose if the keyboard is backlit, I want to choose if there is a Caps lock or Fn LED on the keyboard, I want to choose the angle at which the laptop can unfold, I don't want a ridiculously big MSI logo on the back with stupid LEDs... You know, choice!

Am I daydreaming?

This post has been edited by ge∅: 10 May 2018 - 03:44 AM


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#2 modi123_1   User is online

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 10 May 2018 - 06:33 AM

It seems like a futile waste of effort and money. Any more - laptops are proprietary board designs, connections, layouts, shapes, etc. All per how the company making it thinks will sell, dissipate heat, work, etc. Sure there are a few things that are changeable (battery, hard drive, ram), but that's about it. Heck, most solder cards and bits in.

*shrug* My thought would be to buy a better-than-entry-level laptop next go around.
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#3 ge∅   User is offline

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 10 May 2018 - 10:52 AM

Electronic waste is one of the biggest and fastest growing streams of waste, computers use a lot of materials which are toxic/hazardous, they come from every parts of the world and involve pollution, dangerous working conditions or even child labour for their extraction and transformation, when they are not sold to fund wars. Not re-buying a whole computer every 2-3 years or when it breaks because it is not repairable is not a futile goal to me. In 2018 this should be, I think, in everyone's mind when buying anything that is not recyclable.

I understand what you say, I was reluctant to buy a laptop at all because I had this prejudgement that I would buy some kind of big smartphone with built-in obsolescence - until I actually absolutely needed one for work - but when you are not looking for the thinnest, lightest, coolest, most quiet laptop in the world, you have absolutely standard needs. Laptop design is easy : a screen, a keyboard, a trackpad, one fold, standard I/O... what is there to reinvent? So I don't see why there wouldn't be standard cases with standard motherboard layouts (and by "standard" I mean the manufacturers didn't see the point of spending R&D reinventing the wheel for them). I just don't know where to find them.

This is my first laptop, so I don't know how long it will last me, I just don't want to buy the latest trendy future piece of junk when it dies.

This post has been edited by ge∅: 10 May 2018 - 10:55 AM

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#4 modi123_1   User is online

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 10 May 2018 - 11:15 AM

That's the laptop market though. Go watch any numerous 'laptop tear down' or 'lap top fix' videos on youtube. A ton of crap is mah'giggered to fit specific case sizes, sort-of calibrated for heat and air flow, etc.
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#5 ge∅   User is offline

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 11 May 2018 - 12:59 AM

If I find something I'll update this thread, but I'm not giving up. There are shops which assemble laptop computers, they buy their components from ODMs directly. I'll go ask (not sure they will gladly share the info, but who knows). It must be possible to at least find another chassis with compatible CPU socket if mine breaks so I can harvest the CPU, RAM and network card form my current laptop. If the price of doing this is at all competitive it is because many components can be reused, so you may pay a bit more at first, but you don't have to pay for everything twice (at least, it's my intention).

I have made my laptop assembled by one of these smaller companies. I bought quality components, but without any OS or storage drive, and they probably sold me the cheapest possible chassis there is in order to control the price. Lower end ready-made laptops are so cheap it is impossible to compete. I doubt famous OEMs practice fair trade...

This post has been edited by ge∅: 11 May 2018 - 01:03 AM

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#6 Radius Nightly   User is offline

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 11 May 2018 - 08:43 AM

There are lots of laptop manufactures, they doesnt make CPU, RAM, GPU, monitor, etc., they are combining it together and making a body. Today they wanna make ultralight laptops, cant cut weight from CPU, RAM, etc., but from the body, problem with that is obvious, thin aluminum, weak plastic, arnt durable and will fall apart.

So your option is simple, choose what you want and what you need as close as possible you wanna get.

For example, i bought IBM laptop from 1999-2000, it have 4.2kg, so if i throw him it may kill someone, 4:3, 1400x1050 or something like that, got 2x ATi GPUs that can power tetris at medium settings, because its first card that can run 3D, has Intel M CPU with 2MB cache and 2x 1GB SD RAM (in that time my desktop has 2x 256MB), has 3x WiFi, 2x batteries for 18h work and other shits i dont know, but cool feature is that everything are on slide, remove CD-ROM or HDD is simple by lever. And its still alive today and works fine. Problem with that is a price, you dont need overpriced laptop, because time and new technology will kill him anyway.

So for my next laptop in 2006. i choose more carefully, to spend way less, actually more then twice less, to have fine upgrade options to keep going for several years and still a good quality. That brings me to Acer 6930G. It has C2Duo, i got new unpacked OEM for cheap, around $10 for new T9900, can upgrade it up to C2Quad, thats 2 CPUs, each one with 2 cores, 6MB-12MB of cache, has 3GB of DDR2, max. 4GB, but NB supports up to 8GB of RAM, so it can still run today fine. VGA are MXM2, so i can replace it, but since MXM3 came out in meantime it stuck at 9600GT 512MB, but not a big deal for me. Also supports SATA2.6, have HDD WD Black 750GB and second SSD (because first SSD in him died), running Windows 10 right now while im typing this post on this laptop. It was disassembled 2 times completely to clean it, survived thunder hit, coca-cola trough the cooler on the VGA and several fall downs, keyboard melt down because i forgot to connect cooler so CPU went to 117C (without slowing himself down), so i replace keyboard, and guess what, still working fine and fast, nothing fall apart. It has around 3.2kg and 5 year warranty. And yeah, for 12 years he is 90% powered on all the time, i restart him every several months and its turned off only when im moving him to another country or place. If i was shutting it down every day, turning him on every day, i guess today he would be dead because strain of material and electrical stress.

Now if you ask why i stuck with this laptop for 12 years, answer is similar. Dont buy cheap laptop, you get what you pay, so pay more, aim for upgrade availability and strong build, its still hard to find. If manufacturer believe in his product (warranty) 1 or 2 years, its garbage, low class, but if manufacturer guarantees that laptop is gonna run 3-9 years with warranty, thats probably top quality, 1st class, so you may wanna go for it. Cheap laptops arnd hard and dont have upgrade options, so you stuck with what you buy. And again, ultrathin, ultraportable, ultralight, ultrashit if im gonna transport it around.

Online you can find lots of laptops, even configure hardware, but for me, i wanna see it in real life, feel the quality, handle it and explore the internet what problems he got (because there are laptops who are great, great launch, great reviews, great product, and then all owners reports same problems, such as bad keyboard, BIOS problems, camera died, USB got short circuit, etc. on 99% of them). So its hard to find, but still possible.

This post has been edited by Radius Nightly: 11 May 2018 - 08:46 AM

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#7 modi123_1   User is online

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 11 May 2018 - 08:49 AM

More or less my customizable laptop configuration.
Posted Image


Only think lacking - light up keyboard of great effect and speed.
Posted Image

:D :^:
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#8 no2pencil   User is offline

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 11 May 2018 - 09:42 AM

View Postge∅, on 11 May 2018 - 03:59 AM, said:

There are shops which assemble laptop computers, they buy their components from ODMs directly.

Name one.

The cases are designed to fit logic boards, molds are created, & it's all, as modi123_1 said, proprietary. No intention to be insulting, but I don't know your age or how long you've been in the industry, but you know the Lenovo Thinkpad? Those used to be IBM lapotps. It was nothing more than one manufacturer slapping a brand name on it. When the deal eventually fell through, another company came along & now have "Thinkpads" with the same design. Years ago, Apple didn't use Intel components. It's all proprietary, you can't white box laptops.

If you can name a company that builds Laptops from source, it would be a first to me. The closest that I am aware of is System76, which is STILL just proprietary hardware. If productivity isn't an issue, you can use a raspberry pi, & 3d print everything else from there.
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#9 ge∅   User is offline

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Re: Building a laptop?

Posted 12 May 2018 - 03:05 PM

Hello,

I love the pizza box design ;)

No2pencil, veryPC is one of the hundreds of smaller OEMs. When you look at their Thinbook, it's clearly a Clevo N240WU with a veryPC sticker on it. I know it for it is the one I have. The Ekimea Unifit 2 is also a Clevo, almost the same model. A local shop in Paris had the same model as well.

Now, I have asked each one a quote for the same thing (without VAT)

Full HD IPS panel
Intel Core I5 7200U
1 x 8GB DDR4 2133
1 x 250 GB SSD
1 x wifi / bluetooth card (I don't know shit about this so it may not be of the same quality)

Very PC : £590 ($800, no shipping)
Ekimea : 699€ ($835, shipping included)
my local shop :670€ ($800, no shipping)

This compares to the Thinkpad E570 (FHD IPS panel, same CPU and RAM, about the same I/O with the exception of a USB-C port on the Clevo and the optical drive on the Lenovo. The SSD is only 180GB on the Lenovo but it is sold with a preinstalled Windows 10 OEM), and the price is very close : $715 with discount, list price around $800.

Sure, the built quality isn't the same, there is no finger print scanner toy, but when you think the quotes are more than a year old (the 8th Intel gen was not out yet), that there are man-hours to assemble the parts for the smaller OEMs, compared to the thinkpad which is made in series, and when you see how close the quotes are, it is obvious that the competition is harsh and there is only little room for gross profit margin, hence the cheap chassis.

I also see that you can buy a LCD panel as an individual. This French DIY Youtuber made a video about replacing her laptop's LCD panel, which means that if you can buy a barebone case, as small OEMs do to assemble their products, and if it is relatively "standard" (that's why I'm interested in getting more info about Clevo, the manufacturer must have its own standards and maybe sturdier, higher end cases I could replace mine with if it fails), it's possible that only the motherboard and power supply are not replaceable and upgradable, which is a lot better than buying a completely new laptop.

Now, I don't complain about the design of the laptop I bought: I tested it in a shop, I liked its simplicity, the absence of a logo, etc. I needed a laptop for programming and designing things for the web when I am on the go, I made a point of only using open source software and OS with this laptop, so I liked the idea that the exterior reflected the interior. I only discovered its flaws with heavy use and I didn't know what features I could be missing since it's a first laptop. I think the case is fair for the price.

I have no need for a GPU and cie. The CPU/GPU intensive tasks I do, I could never do them off the grid because of the power consumption. I even underclock the CPU to 800MHz when I program and unlock it only when I need more juice for designing or when I automate unit tests. So even though I wouldn't mind a bigger, heavier laptop, I don't need the room for a GPU, I don't need an optical drive, etc.

I have looked up the System76 Kudu, it's clearly a Clevo N870 Series, It's the same case as the Ekimia Fragment based on the Clevo N870HJ1, which I believed is discontinued. It is a pity there is so little choice but as I said earlier, I think it's because these are entry level cases and it's their only way to compete with bigger OEMs price-wise.

This post has been edited by ge∅: 12 May 2018 - 03:31 PM

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