Introduction: KeyPi - a Cheap Portable Raspberry Pi 3 Laptop Under $80

Picture of KeyPi - a Cheap Portable Raspberry Pi 3 Laptop Under $80

Hi Everyone! Firstly thank you for all the support and feedback, the community here is awesome :)
Here are answers to some questions:

Why did you make this?

I wanted to make a portable computer that had a full sized keyboard. I felt that this form factor was very compact and most of all easy enough for me to actually make.

What can it do?

From my usage experience, I feel it is more suited for tasks such as text editing and tasks you can do using the command line (which is plenty!).

What are you gonna use it for?

Taking notes in my lectures for now. Gonna use it to experiment with linux bash scripts next time to perform more tasks.

How long does the battery last?

On my aging knock-off 18650 battery, they last almost 1 hour before the LCD screen starts flickering and dies.(Latest Test 8 Aug) I will test it soon with a better quality 18650 cell. I hope it will last longer, if not i guess i'll have to use at least two batteries in parallel for a better lifespan :(


Hi Everyone!

I always wanted to make a cheap portable Raspberry Pi computer. There are many Pi Laptops out there but they rarely feature a full-size keyboard with such a form factor. Pardon my sub-par DIY skills and I hope you like this project!


If it's crappy call it a Proof-of-Concept! Hahaha!

Step 1: Parts Needed

Picture of Parts Needed

Step 2: Tools Needed

Picture of Tools Needed
  • Pen Knife/Box Cutter
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Wire Cutter
  • Wire Stripper

Wikipedia has the best pictures.

Step 3: Cut Out the Numpad

Picture of Cut Out the Numpad

In order to make space for the Pi and other components, the keyboard's numpad has to be sacrificed haha!

  1. Unscrew the keyboard screws to handle the top body by itself
  2. Pull out the keys
  3. Cut the whole numpad off


Hope you're not fond of numpads hurhur.

Step 4: Position Parts

Picture of Position Parts

Experiment with where to position the parts and most importantly make sure you can reassemble the keyboard back up at the end. I cut out additional parts of the keyboard's body structure to make space for the DC Boost converter. Take your time with this!

Step 5: Solder Connections

Picture of Solder Connections

Time for soldering! Pardon the lack of soldering pictures haha.(Useful basic soldering video guide!)

The most difficult part to solder was the Boost converter's wires to the Pi's test pads (aka PP points *chuckle*). Take your time and hopefully your soldering iron isn't crappy like mine haha!

By soldering to the Pi's test pads, we are able to power the Pi directly without using the microUSB port!


  1. Solder the battery holder to the DC Boost converter connections (Helpful guide on the connections!)
  2. Solder the DC Boost converter to Raspberry Pi connections
    Solder the +5V power wire to the PP1 or PP2 test pads.
    Solder GND(Ground) use the PP3, PP4, PP5 or PP6 test pads. (How to power the Pi directly through test pads!)
  3. Test the whole circuit by powering it up (With a 18650 Battery)
  4. Install the Raspbian OS and boot it up to test the system

Is that a CRT TV? *gasps*

Step 6: Hide Keyboard Wire

Picture of Hide Keyboard Wire

Lets hide that long keyboard USB wire by shortening it and running it back into the keyboard itself!


  1. Cut out the USB Connector at end of wire
  2. Run wire back into keyboard
  3. Find out where to trim wire
  4. Trim wire
  5. Solder the wire to the connector and connect to Pi

Exposed? What do you mean exposed... hahaha *hides*

Step 7: Secure Components

Picture of Secure Components

I found a tiny bolt and nut that was perfect to secure the Pi to the keyboard's base. I aligned one of the Pi's screw holes to a screw hole on the keyboard's base (quite lucky) and fastened it together.


Wait is that bluetack?

Step 8: Reassemble Keyboard

Picture of Reassemble Keyboard

Pray that it powers on.

Step 9: Add the Screen

Picture of Add the Screen


After a request by some to explain how to install the LCD screen, I have decided to go more into it!

I will post the instructions soon. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Step 10: Enjoy Your KeyPi!

Picture of Enjoy Your KeyPi!

And you're done!

Thank you for having a look at my project, have a nice day!


What can I even do with this thing...

Step 11: Problems You May Encounter

Picture of Problems You May Encounter

1) The UK/US keyboard formatting problem
The Problem: Typing the character '@' somehow produces the character ' " '.
The Solution: Change your keyboard layout

  1. Open up the terminal (ctrl + alt + t)
  2. Type in sudo dpkg-reconfigure keyboard-configuration and hit enter
  3. Scroll to Logitech Generic Keyboard and hit enter
  4. You will see either a list of UK or US options, scroll to other and hit enter.
  5. Scroll to the top to select either UK or US (whichever is at the top), hit enter
  6. Select the default for the rest of the options until you exit the configuration window and return to the terminal.
  7. Ignore any of the messages
  8. Type sudo reboot
  9. Wait for Pi to reboot and your @ should be @ again!


2) Removing the SD card from the KeyPi is so damn troublesome
The Problem: Sometimes you want to remove the SD card to change or reinstall the OS, but accessing the SD card requires you to remove the WHOLE keyboard body.
The Solution: Boot from your USB drive. I recommend using a mini USB drive to preserve the compact form factor.


3) Sending an Email is difficult
The Problem: Using an email application with the 3.5" screen is so hard.
The Solution: Send an email through the Terminal! Follow YouTuber Gaven MacDonald's youtube video until 1:30.


ElliottH9 (author)2018-01-02

Does the battery charge from the Micro USB? How would it charge?

MichaelO162 (author)ElliottH92018-01-03

No, unfortunately the boost converter doesn't have a charging function. You need to remove the battery and charge it with your a 18650 battery charger.

ElliottH9 (author)MichaelO1622018-01-03

Yeah, that's what I assumed. Thanks though!

juniever (author)2016-09-16

I want to make this project, but the downside is we dont have a raspberry pi here in the Philippines. But it's a very cool project, I like it?

MichaelO162 (author)juniever2016-09-18

Thanks haha! Maybe you can switch out the raspberry pi for a small smart phone and connect it with an OTG cable :D

ChandanJyoti (author)MichaelO1622017-01-07

hey dude can u repeat what kind of dc to dc converter i need, actually i bought 7805transistor

MichaelO162 (author)ChandanJyoti2017-01-11

Here's the link:

I'm not very good at transistors but I know you have to find a way to step up the voltage from 3.7V to at least 5V yup

ChandanJyoti (author)MichaelO1622017-01-12

I fixed that problem, I used 220 v to 9v step down transformer then used 7805 to make 5v, and now it's o.k.
I did a little change in the project.

JpsManCave (author)2016-09-09

very cool idea. how is it looking off to the side to see the screen in that location seams to me like it would be a little awkward?

MichaelO162 (author)JpsManCave2016-09-10

It might be a little awkward at first, but I've been using it everyday and have gotten used to it haha. Might not be comfortable for everyone though!

ChandanJyoti (author)MichaelO1622017-01-07

how do i fix the display

with raspberry pi 3

MichaelO162 (author)ChandanJyoti2017-01-11

Follow the instructions here!

After that you may need change some settings to rotate the display to the proper orientation.

ChandanJyoti (author)2017-01-07

really amazing thnkx for sharing this i soon built a laptop using pi 3.

I184 (author)2016-12-07

You kind-of sound like an evil genius with all the hahas :-)

dexter.dageek (author)2016-08-29

Might just have found a new use for the alchemy elixer gathering dust in my closet now that I don't game much these days. Great idea and keep making things, don't worry if others don't get it.

NejcF (author)2016-08-04

Well, this is really not the most practical. but I won't judge since I made even more bizzare things already. Whatbugs me about this projectis theuse of a normal cable keyboard. There might be some angy faces staring at this comment later, but I think using a wireless keyboard would be much more energy efficient, since RasPi would have it's own power and the keyboard would have it's own power. But as I said, otherwise, an interesting project. Its a good idea for s Pi server as said before. Would definetly make one if I had time :)

cnbuckley (author)NejcF2016-08-15

Wireless communications is really inefficient compared to good old copper. Its why the battery in your phone lasts so much longer if you turn off bluetooth/wifi/etc. You save a lot of weight too by not having the second power system, but you could repurpose that weight and add in two more batteries in parallel to get the whole system to last a lot longer with the wired keyboard.

Its easy to test for yourself. Get a USB power meter, they go for 5-10$ if you order online. Read off the amp draw in heavy use, and idle for both, and you have your answer.

GavinF2 (author)NejcF2016-08-04

Wireless keyboard needs a wireless receiver which takes power.
I may be wrong but I will assume a wired keyboard uses less power than a wireless keyboard reciever

NejcF (author)GavinF22016-08-05

I am an IT student and as a computer technician in the making I can assure you that a wireless R/F receiver takes far less power than a wired keyboard, since the wired has the lights and stuff and the keyboard and Pi are (in the case of this instructable) both powered from the same power source.

If you think otherwise, I challenge you to find a reliable proof and present it (I am not trying to be offensive or anything) if you can that is.

GavinF2 (author)NejcF2016-08-06

minh dangc is correct and as you have not nominated a wireless keyboard we can not compare your wireless keyboard to a USB one unless you would like me to be terribly one sided and find the most power hungry wireless keyboard I can find and compare it to the most energy efficient USB keyboard on the market.
You must include the power use of the wireless keyboard and the receiver connected to the Pi as your suggestion would mean that the device would be rendered useless after either the wireless keyboard or the Pi loses power. I believe the error in your estimation of power drain may be from not including that of the wireless keyboard itself which is understandable as you state you are merely an IT student and not an electronic engineer.
Your suggestion that running 2 wireless interfaces consumes less power than a single LED for Num Lock and another for the Caps Lock occasionally is misguided.

NejcF (author)GavinF22016-08-07

Excuse me, but have you given a thought to the matter that calling me a ''merely an IT student'' would hurt my fellings. Not to be a crybaby or anything, cause Im not, but I have some pride about being a future IT guy, so don't downgrade my proffesion by comparing it to a proffesion of a slightly different field of work and a different paygrade.

thank you

minh dangc (author)NejcF2016-08-06

the keyboard used in this one isn't a backlight keyboard, i checked the logitech site, so it theoratically uses less power. If you want to use a wireless keyboard then you would need to charge both the keyboard and the battery for the Rpi. The charge controller inside the keyboard may have different power efficiency depend on the cost thus use more power. And wireless keyboard can also experience interfere between device in the same frequency. In conclusion, use the wire keyboard, no interfere, no need to charge, come in great price too.

NejcF (author)minh dangc2016-08-07

Yes, mihc dangc, but that is besides the point. I speak of the long term usage and power consumption. And well, you might be right, so I will go along with it, bus as you have deduced, I was referring to a use of a backlight keyboard, so thanks for correcting me..

DIY-Guy (author)2016-08-14

This looks like a wonderful way to go portable with Linux, and also go big when plugged into an HDMI TV.

It's COOL!

DanielD4 (author)2016-08-04

Here's my question: Why?

What purpose does this serve? Is anyone who cares about having a full-sized keyboard going to be willing to live with a 3.5" screen?

keets (author)DanielD42016-08-14

Not everybody is served with a standard gaming machine! I think it is a very useable project!

Great ible.

meswanson (author)DanielD42016-08-04

For fun, experimentation and to say "I did it!"

DanielD4 (author)meswanson2016-08-04

OK, that's fair. As long as we can agree this item is not practical in any way.

I was hoping someone might explain a use case for this that I hadn't thought about.

AndyR47 (author)DanielD42016-08-14

I have to disagree, in certain situations this could be very practical. Micheal0162 uses it for noting taking. Can you type at the same speed on a tablet/mobile keyboard as a full size one? Also a 21" monitor could get in the way in a lecture hall. Hats off for a good idea.

Chitlange Sahas (author)AndyR472016-08-14

Agreed with You!

powerfulparadox (author)DanielD42016-08-09

I think some custom software and it can replace this:

GavinF2 (author)DanielD42016-08-04

I am not sure what is impractical here.
It is a cheap way to have a full keyboard on a small computer which can be plugged into a larger monitor and mains power.

Not quite pocket sized and will be redundant in a couple of years but for now it is perfect.
I am heartened by the newest generation of Windows Mobile Phones which scale to be a small PC with the addition of a USB hub but they are underpowered and a lot more expensive than this device.

mirakin (author)DanielD42016-08-04

self contained server with battery backup.

UncleEd (author)DanielD42016-08-04

@DanielD4, can't agree on the not practical. I'd suggest that the uses are apt to be specialized, though. Years ago, when I was doing networks in businesses and schools, laptops were not cheap enough for me to carry one with me. (And they were fat and heavy back then, too.) Something like this would be handy now for someone doing service work on odd things like electronic home furnace controls or refrigerators.

But the challenge of getting something like this to work to do anything is enough to make me think of it. When you were through, most of the parts that make it up could be disassembled and used for something else, if you needed them and didn't need the "laptop," so the money wouldn't be totally wasted.

NakanoYamato (author)DanielD42016-08-04

I used to work on maintenance of something called "fiscal printer" (I think it's a thing only in my country).
Somethimes I needed a "mini-pc" with a full-size keyboard. So I could send test commands and have minimal visual return.

If I knew this project back then, It would be a hand...

danny.omoore (author)meswanson2016-08-14

& GOOD JOB TOO! Some people do not understand tinkering, & fun with wires... & script. They might mosey along & leave the experimental minds alone. :) Keep up the tinkering, it will expand your mind & help with learning curves others may fall short of. Nice cheap job... that people will notice & quiz. Maybe see if you can do this sort of thing from re-purposed (recycled) materials that you can get cheaper... or free.

synchronous0987 (author)DanielD42016-08-13

Whats so impractical. Its not as if the keyboard is underneath the keyboard. This device runs linux, debian I belive. Linux is heavily dependant on the console. Meaning lots of typing. Theres no GUI per say.
Besides im writing this message on a four inch screen. We all surf the web on our phones all day. Id say people a more than accustomed to looking at small screens.

The screen is underneath.....

ShannonW49 (author)DanielD42016-08-04

Hmm, with the Pi's ethernet connection, I see it as possibly a portable media server (or a MP3 player that is easy to search for music ;) ). Or a portable network test device (protocol/scan/web server/etc/etc/etc). It would be a perfect network hacker's tool. Small, looks like a simply keyboard, with Linux on a network device.

I would recommend adding a 9/12 wall mart adapter plug that bypassed (or charges) the battery for when you are near an outlet.

Nice work, and a cool idea!

GavinF2 (author)ShannonW492016-08-07

Also has N wireless and Bluetooth 4.1 so there are many ways to use it in this configuration.

I am now wondering about installing a MicroUSB charge circuit which draws power from the Micro USB input to charge the battery which then powers the Pi. This would mean that the same power supply you usually use for the Pi could still be used and there would be no need to solder to the Pi board.

mirakin (author)DanielD42016-08-04

those type of keyboards are cheap 7 dollars at Walmart cheap or free in many cases. One change I might make is to solder jumper wires from the usb to the keyboard controller then solder the external usb to the usb in on the pi so I could plug it in...

GavinF2 (author)mirakin2016-08-06

You could solder it under the PCB then block the USB port so you don't accidentally plug another device into the slot but with this design you can easily remove the Pi from the keyboard for other projects.

mirakin (author)GavinF22016-08-06

or you could buy another pi not like they are expensive. Use this thing as a mobile test bench or something like that.

GavinF2 (author)mirakin2016-08-06

$56 plus postage just for the Pi is not expensive for some people but for myself and possibly Michael that is a little too much to tie to one project unless I was using it quite regularly.

GavinF2 (author)DanielD42016-08-04

This is a place where we do not ask why, we ask why not then we make and share our designs.

animation303 (author)DanielD42016-08-04

you're on the wrong site if you have to ask why someone wanted to make something, not everything has to be practical.

meswanson (author)animation3032016-08-04


juntjoo (author)2016-08-13

What it this pi thing?

MichaelO162 (author)juntjoo2016-08-13


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