Introduction: DIY Tablet: Powerful, Easy-to-make, (relatively) Cheap [Part 1: the Guts]

Picture of DIY Tablet: Powerful, Easy-to-make, (relatively) Cheap [Part 1: the Guts]

Hi everyone! This is my first Instructable and I'm really excited to share it with you! Now, given that you are on this site or app, I'd guess that you'd probably have at least one idea that hit you like a baseball bat and then occupied the outer fringes of your neocortex ever since. This happened to me on the train one day as I was gazing at the screen tethered crowd, and I thought, "Hey, what if you could make your own tablet?"

I then proceeded to scour the internet for guides and 'how to's and came upon this great guide by Michael Castor detailing how he made his own tablet using a Raspberry Pi here. With flashy battery lights, a carbon fibre backing and a dashing walnut finish, the only things I wasn't particularly fond of were the Raspberry Pi and the difficulty in constructing it. I wanted something with a little (actually a lot) more kick to it that wouldn't cost three quarters of the project. So I turned to the Odroid U3 for several performance buffs and its similarly great community. The next step will further detail the performance.

Several things to note:

All prices are in USD unless stated otherwise

All prices and currency conversions are as of 2 Jan 2015

Step 1: Odroid Performance Comparison to 2014 Tablets

Picture of Odroid Performance Comparison to 2014 Tablets

Enough of the unnecessary but poignant back story. Its time to put my money where my mouth is and show the numbers. I selected a couple of benchmarks based on a range of activities that one would do on one's tablet and benchmarked it against the best tablets at end of 2014 according to Techradar, and the Raspberry Pi of course.

  1. Geekbench - processor and memory performance (Higher is better)
  2. Peacekeeper - Measures online speed from browser (Higher is better)
  3. Sunspider - Measures speed of javascript (Lower is better)

Now, as you can see, the Odroid's performance is quite close to that of the Galaxy tab and is quite sufficient for my everyday tablet needs. While it may not exactly have the power of an iPad air 2, the total cost of the project is lower than that of the iPad and you'll get the cool, geeky bragging rights to say you made your own tablet.

Another point I should mention is that the Odroid U3's power consumption is just over 1A or at most 2A at 5V, which is pretty good to most power banks and the tablet's battery life.


Step 2: International Shopping!

Picture of International Shopping!

A DIY tablet basically consists of 3 main things. A tiny computer, a touchscreen and a battery pack. Do note that all shipping costs are from the country of origin to Singapore, so costs might vary based on where you live.

A. Korea

You'll need to pick up the following things from this site: Hardkernel

1. Odroid U3 - USD65 - The tiny computer

2. RTC Backup battery - USD2.50 - Maintain system clock

3. Odroid U3 case - USD4 - for good measure

4. USB DC plug cable 2.5mm (at least 2 units!) - 2X USD1.9 - Used to connect the Odroid and the touchscreen to the battery pack. Difficult to find elsewhere.

5. WiFi Module 4 - USD14

6. 8GB SD/eMMC module U Android - USD8/USD25 - Whichever fits your wallet and attention span, eMMC is much much faster than SD. You could use your own SD card, but remember that 8GB is the minimum. Also, feel free to buy one that has a greater size if you want.

7. HDMI Cable(Micro, type D) - USD5.70

8. Shipping - USD30

B. Malaysia

The next place you'll need to visit is here: Chalkboard Electronics

1. 10" universal LCD with HDMI interface and capacitive multi-touch - USD134.95 - This module is unique as it requires a 5V power supply, whereas most others require 12V. This allows the board to be powered up by about any standard battery pack. Do note you can also buy the 7" option if you want, but not the 14" and 15.6" versions as they require 5.5V. Do also note that out of the box, single touch is supported and if you want multi touch, you will have to update the firmware and kernel as described in the chalkboard electronic blog.

2. Shipping - USD33.60

C. Your local electronics store

If you live in Singapore, I got all my stuff from the infamous Sim Lim Square.

1. HDMI type A to type C converter - SGD5/USD3.62 - The Chalkboard electronics Screen receives a type C HDMI input.

2. USB male to USB mini male - SGD3/USD2.17 - The Chalkboard electronics board uses a USB mini input from the Odroid to get touchscreen data.

3. 12,000mAh Battery pack with dual charging ports - SGD19/USD13.77 - The power supply for the tablet. The dual ports are needed to simultaneously power the Odroid and the Chalkboard electronics Screen via the USB-DC plug cable from Korea. Do note that some power banks cut power off when the Odroid and screen are plugged in (too much current drawn), so the best way to check is to bring the Odroid and screen down to the electronics store and test it in store.

Total cost (excluding shipping): USD257.51

Total cost (including shipping): USD321.11

Step 3: Putting It All Together

Picture of Putting It All Together

Here comes the fun bit! There is this certain mad scientist satisfaction derived from connecting electronics that you should begin to feel once starting this section. It helps to that no soldering is involved and all you need to do is simply connect one end to the other.

Firstly, start off by connecting the RTC backup battery and the SD/eMMC module to the Odroid.

Pic 1:

Connect the HDMI cable to the HDMI type A to type C converter.

Pic 2:

Connect the HDMI micro, 2.5mm USB to DC cable, WiFi module and USB to USB mini cable to the Odroid.

Pic 3:

Connect the 2.5mm USB to DC cable to the chalkboard electronics screen.

Pic 4:

Connect the Odroid cables to the Chalkboard electronics cables. You should have 2 USB type A cables not plugged in anywhere.

Pic 5:

Connect these two cables to the portable power supply. If luck is in your favour, you should see the android logo on the chalkboard electronics screen within a minute. Proceed to grin like an idiot and skip to the last step.

Step 4: Troubleshooting

Picture of Troubleshooting

When I first made my tablet, I was tearing my hair out because it wasn't booting and I had no idea why. Fortunately for my sanity (and luscious hair), the Odroid community came to the rescue. A big thanks to gripped, odroid and joerg for helping me with my Odroid issues.

So based on my experiences, I wrote a full troubleshooting guide for newbies here: Ze complete Odroid troubleshooting guide

If you still can't get your board to work, I'd recommend simply posting your question in the Odroid forum. I'm sure that the fantastic community will be able to clear it up real quick.

Step 5: This Is Not the End!

Picture of This Is Not the End!

What good is having something really cool if you don't get to show off? I'll be posting a guide on how to make a case for your new tablet soon! (I'm toying with the fibreglass & Pepakura method and might switch to 3D printing if it doesn't work)

That brings us to the end of this instructable, I hope you enjoyed reading or making it as much as I did. Thanks for stopping by! And if you have any further questions, I'd be more than happy to answer it in the comments section below! Seeya!


CamiloM1 (author)2015-09-21

I wanted to build this only thing is the ODroid U3 is discontinued on the website you mentioned. Would there be much difference in using the XU4.

Thanks in advance

TeddyIndustries (author)CamiloM12015-09-25

Hi! As far as I know, you would need a power bank that can provide at least 4A of current, as that is the maximum current drawn by the XU4. As a bonus, you'll get all the perks of the latest hardware from hardkernel.

You are wrong. The ODROID XU4 can use up to 6A 5V, if used with usb devices that use a lot of power. I would prefer a 12v battery and a DC-DC converter that outputs 6a 5v of power from the 12v battery.

CamiloM1 (author)TeddyIndustries2015-10-06

Thanks the reply! look forward to getting this started!

JacobL52 (author)CamiloM12016-03-26

Hey check this out if your not done already lol.

ceightchicus (author)JacobL522016-11-03

Your link wqas very helpful! Thank you :-]

Ugifer (author)2015-03-12

Great instructable - I didn't know there were single-board computers like the Pi that ran Android. Looks like you made a great tablet there.

Did you also have to add some hardware buttons? All Android devices that I have seen have at least a home and power button in hardware, plus usually a volume control.

Interested to try this, or something similar.


cosmicaug (author)Ugifer2015-08-20

Technically speaking, you can run Android even on the Raspberry Pi (though I suspect it might not run very well):

TeddyIndustries (author)Ugifer2015-03-13

I was pleasantly surprised when I did some digging too. Others listed in the chalk elec site are: Beagleboard/Pandaboard/, Beaglebone Black, Hackberry, Cubox, mk802, Gooseberry, Nitrogen/Sabre, OLinuXino-A13/. I chose the Odroid because it had the best specs at the time I made it.

And to answer your question, no I did not have to. Having to add hardware buttons was also one of my primary concerns when planning out this project. If I could direct you to the first picture in this instructable, look at the tablet screen. You should see 7 icons on the black bar (or officially, the action bar) at the bottom of the screen.

The function of these buttons are, from left to right, are: volume down, volume up, back, home, recent apps, power button, screenshot. These buttons come natively with the android image provided by Odroid.

Also do note that I haven't quite figured out how to lock my tablet yet. What I normally do now is I set the sleep timer to 15 seconds and disconnect the chalk elec screen from the battery pack. The software then puts itself to sleep.

While I'm talking about this I also do have some issues while running my tablet in portrait mode with the touchscreen. The coordinate data is way off. However, it is totally fine with a mouse.

Hope this helps, and btw, your High-Altitude Balloon Tracker instructable is far out man!

Ugifer (author)TeddyIndustries2015-03-13

Thanks for the fast reply - I must look into this further! In some ways a hardware power button would be nice but not being essential makes the whole project a lot less complex, especially when it comes to casing it up.

Not quite sure how I justify another tablet in our household at the moment, but I expect I can find a reason!

Thanks for a great project


PS glad you enjoyed the tracker - it was fun to make and very rewarding to see the pictures.

tgimages (author)2015-03-12

Is Ubuntu supported on this? I like the concept but want to make my own Ubuntu tablet.

TeddyIndustries (author)tgimages2015-03-13

Yes it is! On the site you buy the odroid you can get a SD/eMMC with lubuntu:

Or you could flash it to an SD yourself:

From there (based on my limited knowledge of linux), you could then simply convert lubuntu to ubuntu with this command: apt-get install ubuntu-desktop

dbess (author)TeddyIndustries2015-03-13

Lbuntu would be better for that small unit it is a more lightweight Distro

djskype (author)2015-03-12

Anyway to get a front facing camera for this? I've been wanting to get tablet with a really good front facing camera and if i build my own camera, maybe i could

TeddyIndustries (author)djskype2015-03-13

Yep! You can get it on the same site as the Odroid! It listed as the USB CAM 720P

PJMOR (author)2015-03-09

Great idea. What OS is it running?

pucksurfer (author)PJMOR2015-03-09

It looks allot like android kitkat, but I'm pretty sure it's some kind of android

Spot on! It is running android kitkat, specifically Android 4.4.4. If you buy the SD card or eMMC module from the hardkernel website, it comes preloaded, if not you can simply download the image from the same website.

AndrewB561 (author)2017-07-09

Hi, this is a great project! Hope it's still working well.

I'm a complete novice, and came across your instructable while Googling for info on building an Android based infotainment system for my car.

Would the Odroid be suitable for an application that needs:
-GPS navigation with Google maps
-Music and video player with hi resolution digital audio output to an external DAC (USB, I guess)
-Ability to read music and video off a USB pendrive

I'm sure this is a really noob query but so far I've found it hard to even narrow down where on the net I should be looking. Would really appreciate any guidance or advice. Thanks!

Hi Andrew,

I would recommend looking up "carputer" or "car pc. There are much more up to date resources that you can find with it.

Some Odroids are more suitable than others, and it would be best for you to look up the specifications yourself to determine what is best for your needs.

Here's a couple of links to get you going in the right direction:

Good luck!

JacobL52 (author)2016-03-26

Hey anyone looking at this instructable, should take note of the odroid c2 an updated module from Hardkernel it is faster,lighter and cheaper than the processor mentioned here. It also stacks up nicely against the new XU4 and is cheaper and much more efficent.

The xu4? its much better than the c2.

XU4 has 4 2.0ghz cores and 4 1.4ghz cores, 2gb ram and pretty much better at processing power.

somadinau (author)2017-01-05


kkaaos (author)2016-10-22

hello there, i know this is old so who knows if i will get a reply. But i love this project and i am wanting to do a similar project of my own using one of my boards, currently I have a Raspberry Pi 3, a Cubieboard2 and a Riotboard both the cubie and the Riot run android 4.2 and the pi, well the pi is a pi but its got the built in bluetooth an wifi... also i will most likely be using something like Kali on this final project.. (already have plenty of android devices) anyway my main question is regarding the screen. Would i in theory be able to use a old screen from a non working android tablet if i took it apart carefully?? and how would i do that?? could you possibley point me in the right direction? the tablet is a Chinese cheap Chromo tablet i got off of amazon for like 40 bucks. and now it is busted but the screen works.. i would greatly appreciate any help someone can give. THANKS

TeddyIndustries (author)kkaaos2016-11-14

Hey! In theory that probably would be possible. Some cheap android tablets use LVDS (Low Voltage Differential Signalling) to communicate between the board and the screen. If you somehow managed to detach the LVDS connecting the board to the screen and then somehow found a way to connect it to one of your boards, you may be able achieve what you're after.

Here's a thread a found of some people who seems to be on a similar quest to you.

Good luck!

gillato20 (author)2016-08-31

I was just wondering what the overall cost was?

Hi there! The total cost (excluding shipping) was USD257.51 and the total cost (including shipping) was USD321.11. For the full cost breakdown kindly refer to step 2.

GiorgioC1 (author)2016-07-15

i'm curious ti make this diy tablet but i have an ask for you, i will use a 15.6 lcd touch screen inch (toshiba satellite) but i have no idea about the connection between display and ondroid u3, how does it work? all the screen connection is egual and there is no difference to use a 7 inch or 15.6 inch? because i'm curious to make a tablet for note taking (cheapest than 150 (euro)) and with 7 inch tablet is not big like a copybook A4 so 15.6 i think is better, ehat do you think?

Hi! There are a number of things that you do have to consider.

1. Does the touchscreen have HDMI input (Odroid U3 uses this)?
2. How much power does the touchscreen use?
3. How to power the touchscreen?
4. Are the touchscreen and Odroid U3's resolution and display size compatible?

Using a 15.6 inch touchscreen is a great idea if you like the size. Also you can easily add a keyboard, in comparison normal tablets!

Buona fortuna!

JamesB539 made it! (author)2016-07-10

First, many thanks to TeddyIndustries for the inspiration for this project.

Secondly, yes, it has taken me a year to make but when if you have 2 young kids and nowhere at home to make this you will understand.

I managed to design and print a case in SLS polyamide for this. You can see the almost finished product here;

It includes; 1800mAh battery, WiFi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm headphone socket, 2x 1W 8ohm speakers. Powering up and down is done by activating the battery pack (why there is a cutout on the base) and a power switch on the side. Power switch is required as battery cannot be turned off unless any attached devices drawing power are disconnected. Everything is fixed in to the case with a hot-glue gun. Quick and dirty and very effective.

The addition of the speakers in the case make this more useful (I can give it to the kids for watching YourTube Kids and playing games) but the audio (via the HDMI and output from the 10" screen interface card) is OK for headphones but not enough to drive the speakers directly. Am looking in to a miniature TDA2822 amplifier to drive the speakers at the moment. $2.50 on eBay!

The only other issue I am having is the ambient light sensor for the screen brightness auto-adjusting does not seem to be working. Also, do not be tempted to buy cheap USB A to 2.5mm power jack cables on eBay. The copper wire is so thin that the internal resistance is so high causing such a big volt drop the U-droid will not power-up properly. Make your own with decent 0.3mm wire like I did from the parts below.

The files for the 3D print can be found here if you are interested in doing the same or modding for an available newer processor module, alternative battery, etc.;

I got the print done by the reasonably priced (relatively speaking)

A direct link to the uploaded print file I used with them is here with current price;

***NOTE*** My tolerances for parts were very tight and the unit as ordered came back about 1.5mm shorter than specified. Most was OK but there was a lot of work with a craft knife and a dremmel to make the parts fit in the tight spaces, especially the screen. Consider printing 1% oversize if you use the same file. Printing using the files above without checking yourselves is entirely at your own cost and risk.

Polyamide print is pretty much only available in white. Case was spray painted with satin black enamel modelling paint after a light sand. Looks good and is quite tough.

I currently have the tablet running Android Cyanogemod (CM-12.1) Lollipop (v5.1.1). All of the instructions and files for that can be found here;

Easiest way to install was to first install the ODROID supplied KitKat version to the eMMC card, get the network working (wired or WiFi) and then use the 'update via link' utility and the link in the above forum post.

***NOTE*** The ODROID WiFi adapter 4 is not supported for the above CM-12.1 build. Get yourself a cheap RTL8192CU USB WiFi adapter and follow the instructions to modify the build.prop file as described in the forum above.

I got most of the parts from eBay (cheap as silicon chips) with free international delivery. Breakdown parts list with links (if still valid) are below;

Battery - Red Monster Ultra Slim Powerbank 18,000mAh - Got on offer (S$90), very slim and large capacity. Not so available these days. Anker seem very good these days (but a little thicker). If I was to build again I would look into separate battery and charge controller that can be activated by a capacitive button (there is space for one on the front of the screen).

Black paint for case -

WiFi USB adapter -

Bluetooth USB adapter -

2x 1W 8ohm speakers -

HMDI mini C to micro D cable -

USB A to mini-B cable (for touch screen input) -

3.5mm stereo headphone socket -

2.5mm stereo headphone jack -

DPDT power switch -

2.5mm power jack -

USB micro-B socket (for charging) -

USB micro-B plug (for charging) -

USB A plug -

Hey, great job there! Looks really awesome!

RobertS297 (author)2016-01-26

Have you seen this...

Nope, but it seems pretty cool! Especially for its price tag!

GuillaumeD2 (author)2015-04-08

Cool work ! I'm building also my home-made tablet, with an Orange Pi (A20 dual core, same as BPi). I'm using an old 17' screen from a broken laptop, + resistive touch screen (usb)

It works, but I still waiting for the battery (a big power-bank, 42000 mAh @5V).

I see the most difficult to build is the case! I have studied about this: maybe I will do it with carbon fiber and epoxy resine, or like you, with a 3D printer (but the result would be nicer in fiber I think)

Here's a pic of mine, with the consomption of the screen @ 9V. I would like also have a slim result, like 15 mm max. So I will remove/modify some parts of the Pi. (ethernet for example)

However, good luck for the case, I am impatient to see your final work !!

Hi there! My apologies for the late reply, I've recently been conscripted.

Nice work too! It is really awesome to see someone else with a similar project! Do to post more pictures once you are done too!

I have decided to go with fibreglass instead of 3D printing as it is a lot cheaper, yet much much stronger.

Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid, à la vôtre!

Hi !

I hope your build is going as far as you want.

Some news of mine: The battery is ok, I can run the system about 4h15 before the luminosity of the screen start to be low. I will try to connect it to the Pi to have a jauge in Android system.

I wanted to install an accelerometer to rotate the screen but it's too hard with Android. Never mind !

I have tried a GPS with usb and it works fine with an usb-serial application. That's cool.

You can see my project here.

Cheers !

geomcc (author)2015-05-08

would it be possible to add a sim card module? To add phone functionalities?

Thanks for sharing, this is really cool btw!

TeddyIndustries (author)geomcc2015-05-22

Hi! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

I'm afraid that adding a SIM card even with a USB module is not possible as I believe that the call and SMS software is closed source.

Refer here:

However, 3G functionality should be well supported. In which case, calling and messaging could simply be done via apps such as viber and whatsapp respectively.

Refer to page 32 here:

And under NETWORKING here:

sblair96 (author)2015-05-17

Hi, Just out of curiosity how much different would it be if i neglected the touch screen? Would it still be straightforward?

Thank you

TeddyIndustries (author)sblair962015-05-22

Hi! The only difference is that you'll be lacking touch functionality. In which case, you'll need alternative means to interface with the android UI. The most simple means to do so is to simply connect a mouse

DustinEveritt (author)2015-03-30

I have a Lenovo ThinkPad that has a broken screen and it came with xp on it but it presently had Ubuntu on it but it has enough power on it that I want to upgrade the ram and put an ssd inside. But the biggest thing I want to do is to turn it into a multitouch tablet using the 14"version of the screen that you used. One problem is that it doesn't have an hdmi port? Could I get a vga to hdmi converter and then wire the power wires of the touchscreen to the power for the original screen? I am thinking that the power wires for the original screen should provide a minimum of 5.5 volts of power. I have found some converters that use the vga, the 3.5mm headphone jack and one usb port as power and turns the signal into an hdmi signal. Do you think this would work? Thanks.

That's a cool idea! I can't provide you a complete answer, as I've never used the 14" screen. However, here are some considerations which you might find useful:

Things that should work:

1. VGA to HDMI: it should work fine

2. Touch screen data from the USB: It should also work fine

Things I'm not completely sure of:

1. Multi-touch: Don't take my word for it, but multi-touch does appear to work natively with windows according to this video:

However, given you use Ubuntu, you "might" have to edit your kernel if the multi touch drivers are missing for that distro.

2. Resolution: You should check if the thinkpad's resolution is supported by the 14" screen

3. The voltage of the original power cables. You should be sure of the voltage of the cables before buying the screen. I'd recommend trying to find the schematics somewhere or splicing the cables (be careful!) and using a voltmeter to measure the voltage. According to the site 6V is better recommended

4. The current supplied. Also another important consideration. Recommended is 3A.

5. The power jack. As I'm not sure what kind of power jack the 14" board has, I'd recommend you buying the power supply from chalk elec "5V/3A, US plug(+$6.99)" available as an option, and then splicing and soldering it to your thinkpad's original power cables.

I hope this helps! Good luck!

I have a touchscreen Dell and I have booted off of a live USB unto Ubuntu before and the multitouch worked perfect without me having to do anything. But I want to put Windows 8.1 on the ThinkPad and then upgrade the ram and put an ssd in.

mechagen (author)2015-03-17

I've got some questions for you. Have you ever thought about joining the Android developer community here at they have very useful info on current and older devices. But if you are already a member what is your Dev Tag/Name (Mine is LordCashern)? And have you thought about making a custom "ROM" for the ODROID U3 on that note does it even have to be the U3 or could it use the ODROID C1?

TeddyIndustries (author)mechagen2015-03-24

Yes, xda has really great info, however I'm not currently a member as my programming knowledge is close to zero.

If I'm not wrong, a cyanogenmod rom has already been developed by this dude called voodik.

I believe that the Odroid C1 can also be used.

btw, the rooting guide you made was great!

mechagen (author)TeddyIndustries2015-04-01

Thanks for the info on the Cyanogenmod ROM but I can't find it can you post a link for me?

Also, sadly I didn't make a post/guide on rooting but I did follow/subscribe to some and have made comments on a few of them as well. Sorry if that caused any confusion...

Another thing my programming knowledge is pretty much next to nothing as well as that knowledge being in web design NOT Android programming... so yeah that kinda happens sometimes...

TeddyIndustries (author)mechagen2015-04-02

You can find it here:

U2 and U3 software are compatible with each other.

No worries!

shashwat.patkar (author)2015-03-25

You can use pcduino, put some speakers some ports out, Bluetooth, WiFi done you have a perfect tablet

technosapien (author)2015-03-16

Any idea if this could be done with a pen-tablet type screen?

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi! I'm Thaddeus and I'm an undergraduate at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (established in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology ... More »
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