Originally posted on my blog 

A Compaq Renaissance

I needed to look back to discover what was next. It occurred to me that I could possibly devise a modern compromise between desktop power and Laptop mobility. After a quick google for "portable PC" and finding this excellent build on reddit, I was hooked on the idea.

I had an old MacBook that I was keeping around for parts and realized that I could employ its screen and power button, and after finding a display driver for the screen from Ali Express I gained a little confidence that I could make it work. I researched the other parts, comparing measurements, as I shopped for the smallest rugged hard-shell case I thought would fit them, but not give me too much trouble with space. It still came down to millimeters with almost every part and its placement, but overall, I was fortunately close enough with my estimations.

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Except I bought too tall of RAM! I decide to modify the heat sink rather than getting another set.

I sketched up several iterations of designs, of how I could mount the hardware in the case, with the criteria of making everything easy to remove and replace for future upgrades and repairs.

I fashioned L shaped brackets for mounting the PSU and the motherboard out of a steel bar, and painstakingly bent wood-framing ties for the display mounts.image

The motherboard is mounted to the back of the case with L brackets

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The front portion is mounted with standoffs.

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The display mounted to the “painstakingly bent wood-framing ties”. The MacBook display hinge was very adaptable, and just required getting the right metric bolts to mount it.

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Two ties were used for rigidity, and the bottom of old MacBook display, where it takes the most torque, was reinforced with a small metal bar (epoxy glued on), as the frame was cracking from its previous life’s use.

imageThe entire build can be disassembled in about 15 minutes, as it is solely comprised of wing nuts and Phillips heads bolts.

The build started in March of 2021, and I quickly realized the state of the GPU market. I gave Twitter bots a go for a while, but realized that it was going to be unprofitable in terms of time, but I still always tried at the online Best Buy drops.

I initially assembled the build without the GPU. The Intel UHD Graphics 630 was plenty sufficient for driving the three-display setup that I use at IntelliTect, and software development is pretty much solely a CPU process. The GPU would be a personal addition for digital video and photo work that I enjoy.

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PSU with display driver that conveniently mounted nicely on top.


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The MacBook’s power button was reused as well.
The MacBook display is always connected via a thin tape-type HDMI cable

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Setting up the workstation!

A few months later, I saw that Best Buy was doing in-store drops. I asked my wife if she wanted to have a Best Buy date night with me, and to my pleasant surprise she said yes. We brought are double sleeping bag and pad and managed to get a few hours of sleep, after chatting with other members of the line about games and their GPU buying horror stories (dare I say KWEST). I was stoked to get the RTX 3070 that I had be hoping for as per my design specs!
imageFellow line members.

imageOur accommodations for the night in front of our Thermo King camper.

With the 3070 in hand, I took more precise measurements and designed a mount for the card in Fusion360. A coworker printed the parts for me with excellent print quality. I chose PETG, which I figured its glass transition phase of 80 °C would be just high enough to withstand the GPU's heat.imageThe GPU mount. A 20cm riser cable is used to connect the GPU.

After several versions of the mounts, a final design was reached, and the card went in with minimal trouble to complete the build!

imageAt the office (had a lot of computers on my desk that day)

imageAt a hotel.


The PC performs well and handles large software projects well as I hoped. It recently was tested with a project that requires running five docker containers as well as a handful of non-containerized web servers to run integration tests locally. The 32GB of ram comes in handy here.imageIt may be bigger than a laptop, but no adapters are required.

The one weakness of the build is the surface area of the CPU’s slim heat sink. The 2000rpm Noctua fan can only handle the full load of the notoriously toasty 10th gen i7 for a short time before throttling occurs. I also have a louder 3000rpm version that can handle the load for a bit longer, but again software development tasks typically don't require extended 100 percent CPU usage, and so I use the 2000 rpm one as it so quiet when I am using it at home, and inaudible in the office. It only becomes a concern when running all core rendering processes, where I sometimes under clock to 4.5GHz to keep the CPU thermally happy. The 10th gen i7 is very difficult to cool with only one 120mm of fan. Typically, it needs a 240mm AIO unit or a very beefy air heatsink, and either would have taken significant more design work to accommodate for the build. If I make another version in the future I think I will use water cooling with a 240mm radiator.

I think that if the design was cleaned up, and engineered for consumers, it could actually be a viable product for some types of industries, or at least a with gamers. Let me know what you think in the comments. Thank you for checking out my build.

Specs