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Maker Ken Van Hoeylandt, who goes by ByteWelder online, has been tinkering with code and electronics for years. His latest project is a slick open source cyberdeck he calls Decktility.

The system is built around a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 and its powerful Broadcom BCM2711 processor. An Arduino helps manage power and a compact Bluetooth keyboard handles input duties. Decktility’s components fit neatly into a 3D-printed shell that measures about 5 inches by 6 inches.

 

Bigtreetech’s 5-inch Raspberry Pad 5 helps simplify the build. In addition to providing an 800 x 400 pixel display it also supplies a convenient breakout board with four USB ports (a single Type-C and three Type-A) as well as HDMI, Ethernet and a microSD slot.

Decktility will run for 6 or 7 hours on a full charge, and that’s part of the reason for its slightly chunky profile. Of its 26.5mm total thickness, just over 10mm is due to the dual 18650 Li-ion batteries it packs.

They do provide added convenience, though, since they can be easily swapped for additional cord-free runtime. You can also recharge them while using the device via a USB-C cable. They’re also responsible for a good portion of the handheld’s weight, but Decktility remains relatively light at around 13.2 ounces (375g).

Hoeylandt says that Decktility was inspired by both Yarh.io and Clockwork’s uConsole, as well as a couple of classic handhelds he owned: the Sharp Mobilon HC-4500 and the Palm III.

It took about two weeks to complete the build, and Hoeylandt says that he hopes to publish a write-up soon.

Update: Want know what it takes to design and build something like the Decktility? Hoeylandt has published a write-up of the build process, explaining what went into designing and building this custom handheld computer. 

But you don’t have to go through all of that to build your own: Hoeyland has generously shared code, a parts list, STL and STEP files and a printing guide and an assembly guide. That should be more than enough to get you going on your own build if Decktility has sparked your interest in a cyberdeck!

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Lee Mathews

Computer tech, blogger, husband, father, and avid MSI U100 user.

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  1. I was going to wait for the MutantC V5 which has a Sony Vaio form factor , but this project looks very promising.

  2. I hate those soft membrane keyboards. Casio calculators have better keyboards with hard plastic keys above membrane.

  3. Sweet build! Only things I would change would be connecting the keyboard via USB (if possible) and streching it out vertically some to add a D-pad, face/Start/Select buttons and some R/L triggers on the back for emulation. Otherwise, haven’t seen a build this clean for a handheld computer in a while!

    1. I have the same keyboard I had bought a couple of years back for essentially the same project but with a smaller screen and based on the Pi Zero W. I tried working out how to connect it via USB or even SPI but without a datasheet I was stuck with Bluetooth, which was a bit flaky on the Pi side of things. The keyboard itself is good enough for use with a phone or tablet though.

      I still have the 3D printed shell that holds the keyboard, a 3.5″ display, LiPo battery, and the Pi (piggy-backed on the display). I never worked out how to comfortably fit the Adafruit battery management board into the case without it melting that corner of the device though; that thing gets HOT under charging!

  4. good layout keyboard, (planck) but no AltGr ;(
    fat and … how many weeks work on one charge?

    1. It’s just an off-the-shelf membrane keyboard that is available in China, the creator here didn’t design the keyboard or label it.

      If you needed AltGr, you can program your own keyboard firmware to use one of those buttons as AltGr.

    2. “how many weeks work on one charge?”
      You know this, because the article confirmed that it was 6-7 hours, so approximately 0.039 weeks You should also know this because it’s a Raspberry Pi. Those are not low-power devices. They will never be. I’m willing to charge things much more often than you are, and even so I tend to stay away from battery-powered Raspberry Pis. I’ve built enough projects around these that I know they take too much power to fit into the portable use cases that interest me.

      1. Agree, tons of these kind of custom builds but I only know of uconsole bringing a similar form factor to market

    1. Yeah but this can do more than basic calendar and email though, which a PDA implies. It is running a full version of Linux, not some stripped down mobile operating system. Which means it can install the wide gamut of available Linux packages such as VLC, Libre Office, Gimp, Kodi, Calibre, Qemu, Waydroid… thousands more. 3D apps, games and emulators too after downloading the Mesa Videocore4 drivers. Buy the CM4 with the built-in eMMC flash drive for loading the OS and insert a 1TB sdcard for storing data, and it is a mini computer with unlimited number of uses that can slip in the pants pockets.

      1. I’m not sure I can agree on those distinctions. A PDA of old tended to have many apps that could run on them. I remember the days of Windows CE, including the many applications that were compiled and in some cases designed for the hardware that ran it. Many of those Linux programs, on the other hand, are great on computers but not well-designed for a mobile interface. Some mobile-focused programs exist and those would work, and of course you can use any software you like if you”re willing to deal with the interface, but it’s not as big a difference as you make out.
        I’m also not sure I can agree with “can slip in the pants pockets”. It measures 125 mm in width and is 27 mm thick. That’s pretty big for pocketability. For context, the GPD Micro is smaller on both dimensions and that’s not exactly pocket-sized either.

        1. Windows CE was crap. I had a Dell Axiom (can’t remember if it was x3 or x5), apps were sparce and expensive, battery life was terrible, and if you wanted to watch a video you had to reencode it to the exact resolution in .mp4. There was no support for anything else.

          All of that was typical for PDA’s until they died.

          Raspberry Pi’s are far more capable, I have had one set up as a desktop (currently a Pi4), that is replaced each generation from as far back as the Pi B+, and I still use a Pi 2B as a media center. They are very capable devices for light dev and desktop work.

          1. I didn’t say that CE was great, just that it could do a lot more things than was implied. I ended up finding a large number of apps, and while they weren’t as capable as their desktop counterparts, I remember having a pretty capable media player (audio, as I didn’t have enough space for video), basic audio editor, and a code editor that went along with several languages that ran natively on CE. I didn’t write a lot of code directly on the device since it was small, but I could have and did on occasion. Most of that was free.
            Similarly, you’ve described using the Pi as a desktop, which is what it’s designed for. Have you done any of those things on a tiny mobile display? Many pieces of software intended for desktop use do not work well when shrunk down to that size. You have plenty of capacity in the hardware, but you may find that you have to write more of the software than you’d expect from the amount that works on a desktop.