The Raspberry Pi Zero is a is a tiny, low-power single-board computer that sells for $5 (or $10 if you want a Pi Zero W with WiFi and Bluetooth). But the tiny computers aren’t much use without accessories — like most single-board computers, you’ll need to connect a keyboard, mouse, and power supply before you can do anything with it.

One option is to use the Raspberry Pi Zero W as a tiny desktop — but there are much better options with more powerful hardware if that’s what you plan to do.

Another is to use it as the foundation for a portable device — and one nifty new option for doing that is the SnapOnAir Raspberry Pi Zero PCB. It’s a printed circuit board designed to help you build your own handheld PC using a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a 2.8 inch LCD display (sold separately).

The PCB is available for purchase from Tindie for $10 and you can read more about the project in the developer’s Facebook group and on Twitter and github.

The board is designed to let you build a handheld communicator or pager-style device by attaching a Raspberry Pi Zero and a bunch of other components including a touchscreen display, an RF transceiver, a digital microphone, buzzer, USB connector, and silicon buttons for the keyboard.

Looking through recent updates, it looks like you can also connect a portable battery to make the device truly mobile… although you’ll still probably want to design a 3D printed case if you don’t want all the electronic components to be exposed to the elements (or lint in your pants pocket).

With a 1 GHz single-core processor, 512MB of RAM, and a microSD card slot for storage, the Raspberry Pi Zero isn’t exactly the most powerful mini PC around, but it’s certainly one of the cheapest to feature built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and support for Raspberry Pi-compatible hardware and software. And it packs more than enough horsepower for the modern, open source communications device the folks at SnapOnAir have been focused on.

At this point you should just keep in mind that all the company is selling is a PCB, with a lot of assembly required to turn it into a fully functional handheld computer. So if you’re not into the DIY thing, you might want to wait and see if a fully assembled version becomes available in the future.


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21 replies on “This $10 PCB lets you build a handheld PC with a Raspberry Pi Zero W (plus a display)”

    1. Yes. As I am french, I made the first azerty. But you can remap to qwerty

  1. This looks like a piece of curiosity but an exercise of futility. Not only has a weird keyboard layout but typing would be a tedious chore.

        1. Note the keys are not staggered, just plain straight up aligned and organized in normal QWERTY layout. The spacebar is the only key that will be a little troublesome to replicate. You can see that the SnapOnAir developers used 3 buttons to replicate the spacebar. That is a salvaged Blackberry keyboard used in one of the projects here

    1. The company went into insolvency in March of 2018. There is still support from users but none from the company. I bought two. Now they are sitting in a drawer. The keyboard made them impractical to use for any extended period of time. This at least has physical buttons.

  2. If they just put a BlackBerry logo on it, then it would probably sell quite well!

  3. I remember FIDONET. A packet forwarding network that could figure out how to forward a message from one part of the world to another using the least amount of costly long distance dialup telephone connections. So it might use a series of “free” local calls between, say, Los Angeles and New York, and then a paid long distance call to somewhere in Europe, and then it would again figure out how to get to the ultimate destination in, say, Germany using the least costly connections.

    So does this thing rely on other similar devices within range acting as forward agents for messages?

  4. why external power.
    small keyboard, exist people who not using lating charcters. Look at french , russish, Polish or esperanto lang

  5. Too bad there’s no BOM listed, and all the facebook links require you to sign in before viewing.

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