The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, low power computer which sells for just $35. If you want to use the little guy you’ll need to add a keyboard, mouse, and display — which drives up the cost. Or you can just pick up a cheap Motorola Lapdock.
Motorola’s Lapdock is designed to be a laptop docking station for select Android phones. It’s basically the shell of a thin and light laptop with a keyboard, touchpad, and 1366 x 768 pixel display — but no processor or storage.
While Lapdock’s originally hit the market with price tags of $150 or higher, you can pick up a Motorola Atrix 4G Laptop from Amazon for about $77. Similar models are going for even less on eBay.
In order to connect a Raspberry Pi to a Lapdock, you’ll need a handful of USB and HDMi cables and adapters. You can find a good list of necessary accessories at rpidock.blogspot.com, as well as instructions for connecting the two devices and configuring the Lapdock to receive audio over an HDMI signal.
You’ll also need a USB WiFi adapter if you want to connect to wireless networks, since the Raspberry Pi only includes an Ethernet adapter.
The Raspberry Pi can also be modified to receive power over a USB cable — which means you can use the Lapdock’s battery to power the little computer.
To be honest, a Motorola Atrix 4G or most modern smartphones have faster processors than a Raspberry Pi, which has a 700 MHz ARM11 processor. But at $35, the Pi is cheaper than any modern smartphone.
It’s also a lot geekier and easier to modify. The little computer ships as a developer board without a protective cover. It uses an SD card for storage and can run a number of Linux-based operating systems including Debian and Fedora.
While this might not be the most portable laptop around (do you really want an exposed board and a jumble of wires sitting next to your laptop at a coffee shop?), the Lapdock might be one of the cheapest solutions for turning the Raspberry Pi into a fully functional computer.
You can find more details and further discussion about using the Lapdock as a Raspberry Pi laptop at the Raspberry Pi forums.
Fun fact: You can also use the Lapdock as a laptop accessory for the MK802 PC on a stick. The folks at the Rikomagic forum have already managed to hook up a system and demonstrate it running both Android 4.0 and Ubuntu 12.04.
I might just have to pick up a Lapdock myself.