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




Introduction: 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

Step 2: Tools Needed

  • Pen Knife/Box Cutter
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Wire Cutter
  • Wire Stripper

Wikipedia has the best pictures.

Step 3: 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

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

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

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

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

Pray that it powers on.

Step 9: 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!

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

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.

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    123 Discussions

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

    2 replies

    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.

    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?

    4 replies

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

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

    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.

    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?

    4 replies

    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!

    Follow the instructions here!

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

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


    1 year ago

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

    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.


    2 years ago

    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 :)

    3 replies

    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.

    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

    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.