The Penkesu is a retro DIY laptop with a mechanical keyboard
There aren’t many ultra-portable laptops around anymore, aside from the GDP pocket and its gaming-focused successors. With tablets, smartphones, and even handhelds like the Steam Deck diluting the marketable needs of owning a laptop, there isn’t much room for mini laptops beyond mere joy. to own a fun version of a traditional computer.
But that doesn’t stop handyman Penk Chen from build their own pocket PC called the Penkesu – a retro-futuristic ultraportable laptop with a mechanical keyboard. It could very well have existed as a functional sci-fi movie prop in the 90s or as an R&B video plotting device in 2002.
The Penkesu case is constructed using 3D printed parts combined with hinges designed for the Game Boy Advance SP. The clamshell lid features a large 7.9-inch 400 x 1280 capacitive touchscreen, wired through the hinge with a ribbon cable carrying the HDMI signal to a 2W Raspberry Pi Zero at the base.
Then, a USB interface with charging, as well as a Li-ion battery complete the main components of the computer, in accordance with Chen’s goal of using a minimum amount of electronics. All that’s left for the Penkesu is the keyboard, which consists of an Arduino controller with Kailh Choc V1 low-profile switches, low-profile keycaps, and the rest of the electronics.
The result is a swanky handheld that somewhat reminds me of the compact Raspberry Pi 400 keyboard that houses an ARM-powered computer, but with a display.
This isn’t the first retro-tastic Raspberry Pi laptop we’ve seen, as there was also the Raspberry Pi cyberdeck computer that survived the apocalypse. Like the Penkesu, it also has a mechanical keyboard. But instead of a compact design, the components of the cyberdeck are wrapped in a rugged, waterproof pelican camera housing.
Small laptop designs have gone through phases; at various times, manufacturers have rushed to create compact, affordable internet-focused netbooks or joined Intel’s war on the MacBook Air with Ultrabooks. But laptops like the highly desirable clutch-style Sony VAIO P could never quite catch on. In the case of the VAIO P, it was because it wasn’t very usable due to the slow Intel Atom processor, odd 8-inch 1600 x 786 resolution screen, and near 900 price tag. $.
But if you like the form factor of the VIAO P and have a use case for a Raspberry Pi, then maybe this retro handheld is something for you. If you can’t find a reason to build one, remember that this could be the perfect computer for the Pirates.
If you are thinking of getting into the project, Penk Chen has posted all the information you need on GitHub, including 3D printable STL files. And yes, putting a Matrix wallpaper will actually be tasteful on this device.