The new issue of HackSpace magazine is packed with Raspberry Pi 5 projects. We’ve picked this DIY Pi 5-powered computer to whet your appetite.
With more computing power than ever before, Raspberry Pi 5 makes a great device for building your own computer with. Obviously, this can be as simple as putting it on your desk and plugging in a keyboard, laptop, and monitor, but the adaptability of Raspberry Pi means that you can create something far more complex if you’d like.
Way back in issue 24, we built an unconventional portable computer with a Raspberry Pi 4. It’s now time to modernise it with a brand new Raspberry Pi 5.
Before we look at the parts you need to build a computer, let’s think about why you want to. You can go to a shop and buy a computer, and there are literally thousands to choose from. However, despite there being a huge number of models, there really isn’t much choice. In reality, you can get three different computers. You can get a big box to sit on your desk, you can get a foldy one with a screen and keyboard attached, or you can get a handheld rectangle with no keyboard. These three come in a range of specifications with a few software choices, but that’s basically it.
Building your own lets you throw away this tri-opoly and start with a blank slate. That’s exactly what we did.
Our main requirements were that we lifted the screen up to make it more ergonomic, that it protected what it was carrying, and that there was space for hacking. We used it as a main computer for a while, but it did eventually end up in storage under a bed.
Now it’s time to give it a refresh. The first thing we can say is that we’re really glad we made it out of wood. This material is almost endlessly hackable. We’ve pulled some bits out, added some new ones in, and generally gave it a bit of a shuffle around. We also really like the feel of wood. In a world of plastic and aluminium, it’s nice to have something to give us a little connection to the natural world.
However you choose to build your computer, there are a few things you’ll need.
Obviously, we need 5 V of power for the Raspberry Pi. Ideally, we should be able to supply 5 A of power, but we don’t really need this much and we can get away with closer to 3 A. You’ll also need power for whatever else you have on the board. We need 12 V for a screen, so we’ve gone with a 12 V power supply and a switching regulator to take this down to 5 V for the Raspberry Pi, which we feed in via USB-C.
You can connect screens to either the Camera / Display ports or the HDMI ports. The Camera / Display ports allow slightly tidier wiring, but there are fewer display options. Using HDMI, you need cables with quite long connectors (and the cables themselves tend to be quite long).
In our original build, we opted to go with HDMI connectors, though it is the least tidy part of the build as we have coiled HDMI cables on show. For now, we’re going to stick with this option, though we will stay on the lookout for alternative options.
Originally, we had two screens, but we found we didn’t use the smaller of the two very much, so we’ve removed that to give us more space for alternative hardware. This also removes some of the untidy HDMI cables.
Our portable computer doesn’t have a keyboard or mouse attached. However, you just need to plug in your own (or use a Bluetooth one that’s not plugged in). For the authentic Raspberry Pi experience, we’ve opted to use an official Raspberry Pi mouse and keyboard. They’re tough, reasonably priced, and look the part.
You can combine these elements however you like to make a computer that suits you perfectly.