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Detail DIY Mobile Standards Feedback

Posted by Kathy Smith

Date: August 22, 2002

Here are some responses that we received from readers about VHJ's proposal for a DIY Mobile Standard. The responses are in no particular order.

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Vegar Kleppe writes:

It's a good idea, but I think I would be a lot more difficult to upgrade a laptop, than to upgrade a desktop PC.

An important limiting factor would be the cooling system. Both the CPU and the GPU needs a customized cooling system. To replace the screen should be possible, but it would probably be quite difficult to do right.

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Douglas Hutchison writes:

Great idea!!  Just as DIY has added much to the "regular PC" market and allowed much tinkering and hobbying, this would certainly allow for many new entrants into the Notebook market.  I would consider it myself!  I have not entered this market because of the expense and lack of tinkering.  I can see only good coming from this.

Senior Network Engineer

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Mark Grosskopf writes:

From a personal point of view, absolutely!

Since Microsoft and others have strove mightily to commoditize the desktop variety, it only makes sense to commoditize the portable sector as well. Hardware prices would plummet here too.

The downside of this is that many manufacturers, who depend on the mobile market for profits (they ARE more expensive) will go under, or at best merge with other dominant players. So, we again get to limit our choices...

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Jack Chen writes:

I could not come up a better idea than yours. I have tired so hard to find a decent Athlon powered laptop but failed. None of these OEms seem like to put a discrete video card for AMD machine, none of them are willing to put a Athlon XP into ultra portable machines. Their stubborn put AMD mobile CPU at a very unfair disadvantage position against Intel mobile. At end, I had to satisfy myself with an underpowered PIII notebook, I sincerely believe a same Athlon XP powered machine could have saved me a couple hundred bucks.

I always appreciate your fight against monopoly.

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Jason Sares writes:

I donít think the industry will be behind it since they are already making a lot off notebook sales and one of the reasons for that is the ability for each OEM to distinguish itself.

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Michael Jennings writes:

Would simply rock.

6 months ago I was looking for a laptop and had to settle for something less then I really wanted because no one made what I really wanted. If there was a DIY standard for laptops that would allow me to build my own, every computer that I built from now on would be a laptop.

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Hugo Albrecht writes:

I think the DIY laptop is a great idea. You explained the frustration of many laptop users very well.

The question is who should set the standards?

I think it would be great if AMD and VIA started the initiative, with or without Intel. If Intel doesnít follow, it would create a major competitive advantage for AMD and VIA.

Moreover, it would decrease the development cycle of these notebooks.

For simplicity reasons, I would combine the screen with the case. A standard size for mobo, connectors, disks, DVD, keyboard etc. and you have it. The mobo should include the PC-card reader.

Umbra.

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Brady Adams writes:

I'm amazed that this very topic has not been touched on by more sites like yours. A "DIY Mobile" standard would light the computer industry on fire with people buying parts like no tomorrow. I have built more desktop systems than I care to think about because people don't like the OEM "options" they are given (e.g. Do you want a bad video card or an awful video card?). Countless people (friends, colleagues, etc.) have asked me if I could do this for them. Unfortunately, the answer continues to be, "Sorry, there isn't a standard."

If the Asus's, Abit's, Shuttle's of the world are listening, get a group together to set a standard. You think your SFF systems are selling well...sell parts for a "standard" laptop and you'll be set for a long time to come.

Van, thank you for bringing this topic up. Being on a reputable site such as yours will hopefully turn some heads and get the ball rolling. Keep up the great site!

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Joseph Meyerowitz writes:

A DIY/Standardized Model (like ATX) for laptops would definitely be a godsend for us DIYers, but it isn't going to happen. The only thing that I have heard of any hardware manufacturer do to make laptop equipment easier to change is nVidia. I distinctly remember reading somewhere that they were going to have a proprietary interface for their laptop video cards that didn't change model to model, either starting with or after the GF4MXGO (possibly I saw this from one of the THG laptop reviews if memory serves correctly). The problems with having a standardized model for laptop parts is that constant innovation and the various flavors of laptop will make it a near impossible standard to keep updated and will slow tech progress in the laptop sector as well as increase costs for laptop manufacturers (aka no OEM support for any mobile standards). Laptops in general are just desktops from a few months ago that have been hacked together in a slipshod manner so that they work with fewer components and less power, and changing from the current industry practice of slapping hardware together, changing some things to force them to work together, and then adding a custom and proprietary cooling solution to having everything standardized and having everyone using the same everything would overall be a bad thing. Trying to conform to a laptop standard would raise R&D costs for all manufacturers, and if a new innovation if theirs didn't fit inside the standard, then the innovation would need to wait until the next revision of the standard. Though having a standard like that would certainly make upgrading and repair and building much easier for us DIY folks and for the comp repair shops and all, it really wouldn't be worth it for the people who are making the actual equipment, even if only for the reason that they will make more money handling upgrades and repairs on their own for the laptops instead of allowing others to do the repairs and upgrades for them.

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Nathan Brookwood of Insight64 writes:

DHYB. [Donít hold your breath]

 DIY mobile systems are a nice dream, but a distant (if ever) reality. The space constraints inside todayís notebook systems force everything to be packed in like a finely designed watch. Thermal issues further complicate the picture. As a result, system designers have to balance electrical, thermal and 3-D layout parameters in order to make a design work.

Contrast this with the desktop market, where thereís plenty of slop to allow a range of motherboard sizes, processor placement, thermal solutions, add-in cards and power supplies.

I wouldnít dream of using a desktop system I didnít do myself, but a DIY notebook would be a nightmare.

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Tony Truitt writes:

You have broached a question I have asked several times in the last year. I have even looked for parts to use to try to build one. The biggest problem is that there are no chassis' or MBs available. I know there are suppliers as I have spoken to a "white box" laptop builder in Sun Valley, ID. The chassis in not very slim, generic, but very serviceable.

I wish the parts suppliers would sell to the DIYers too. It sure looks to me like there is a potential industry waiting to be tapped by some enterprising person assuming they could get the agreements and contracts signed.

I would love to add my name to your poll or petition, or whatever you are doing.

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Warren Rhyner writes:

That's the best idea I've heard in a couple of years. The component manufacturers could make a killing. I know I would build my own AND probably convert to a partial wireless network at home as well.

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Dustin O'Neal writes:

I think this would be a wonderful solution to the short-time lives of most mobile devices. While it might take some time to get it done right, and set standards (i.e. AT to ATX switch), I think it has tremendous applications in the DIY market. I cannot tell you how many times I could have used a laptop in my field, but am not willing to spend the money on something already outdated when I could put that money into my desktop and some CD-R's instead. Not only would this allow for more flexibility in costs, but would be a great boost to those of us gamers out there who would like to be able to play our high-end games, wherever, whenever, and not have to pay $3000 to do it. Great article.

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Alex Blanton writes:

I think the real issue in limitation on this subject (other than companies seeking total market control! What's new . . .) Has really been the limitation in terms of "space." That is where the details need to be hammered out - creating standard mobo layout and design that are interchangeable, allow for integration with any mobile case, and allow for versatility for upgrades. That is no small trick my friend! And that is why it has not been done - the payoff for that kind of R&D is limited.

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Dan Johnson writes:

I was just thinking the same thing myself just last week, we need barebones laptops and laptop upgrades! I needed a computer for school and a laptop is the obvious choice for mobility and limited space. However, power user and tinker that I am, a dinky laptop would not do. None are exactly what you want for the right price, but I decided on a Dell Inspiron 8200. Having a limited amount of money, I cut back on CPU speed (1.6GHz P4) in order to get an upgraded UltraSharp screen. After all, I'll be viewing 100% of the time, but only push the CPU to 100% with the occasional game of Doom III or perhaps when encoding some media. In a year or two time, I'd like to be able to grab some 2.4GHz+ P4-m as an upgrade. Same with video cards; I am stuck with a GF4 Go 440 which isn't all that shabby now...but in 2 years? I read about the modular video boards Dell uses in laptops on Tom's Hardware a while back (can I mention them :-p). I'd be willing to pay a premium for a compatible GF6MX mobile card in a few years. As it stands, I think I'll have to leave the laptop as is and build a Hammer desktop when the time comes for computer upgrades...though having one compact computer I can use for everything is certainly more convenient and I think there are a fair number of people willing to pay for that convenience. Heck, I don't even mind if it's a bit bulky, it's not like an extra 2-3lbs and extra .5" thick will make it that much more difficult to move. DIY laptop computers, definitely a great idea IMHO.

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Greg writes:

There was a similar thought presented back in the days of 8-900 page days of Computer Shopper.

Unfortunately, I believe this takes the excessive profit out of notebooks, and would be resisted by those who stand to gain from not doing it (DELL ? )and others.

I have bought 2 notebooks in the last 5 years, both DELLS, and the last was a disappointment in terms of battery  life. 750 Pentium III will barely make an hour before the battery is almost dead. The first had a crappy LCD that made everything including text look like sh**.

keep pushing.  This would be wonderful if they did standardize and become interchangeable parts.

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Steven Reible writes:

As a (old K6-2) Laptop owner that has tried to figure out an upgrade path, I would LOVE to be able to build my own! Endorse a standard, you better believe I do!! I would GLADLY and rather put my dollars into

something I can upgrade (or fix) than something proprietary. Please, please PLEASE give us a standard!!!

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