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Home built Windows touchscreen tablet is quite the performer

By

June 7, 2010

Justin Campana's home-built Carbon Tablet with 13.4 inch resistive touchscreen display, Wi...

Justin Campana's home-built Carbon Tablet with 13.4 inch resistive touchscreen display, Windows 7 and Intel's 1.6GHz Atom Z530 processor

Image Gallery (7 images)

Rather than make do with an iPad or wait for other manufacturers to create the desired "Windows 7 touchscreen tablet with a large screen that could handle HD video and wasn't too thick or power hungry," Justin Campana decided to try and create his own. The process involved breaking open an MSI X320 notebook, overlaying a touchscreen interface and creating custom carbon fiber casing to house the new 13.4 inch high definition LED backlit touchscreen tablet with accelerometer and SSD storage.

There are times when 9.7 inches is just not enough. With sales of over 2 million units, Apple's iPad is undoubtedly a crowd pleaser but not everyone is content with all that the new tablet has to offer. For Justin Campana the main issue is one of resolution. The iPad has a screen resolution of 1024 x 768, that's old school 4:3 aspect and nowhere near the widescreen 16:9 high definition experience Campana was looking for in a tablet.

The Android-powered Vega from Innovative Converged Devices does offer some tablet respite with a nice 15.6 inch 1366 x 768 touchscreen display but getting hold of one is not yet possible. There are notebooks of course that do offer the desired widescreen viewing capabilities but, well, they're just not tablets are they?

With a resolution of 1366 x 768, 720p high definition video is bright, big and beautiful -...

Campana decided to try and make his own large screen tablet capable of playing visual content in glorious 16:9 aspect 720p high resolution. He told Gizmag that he chose an MSI X320 notebook as the base for his creation "because it is cheap, thin, lightweight and has a large screen." It's power comes from an Intel 1.6GHz Atom Z530 processor on Intel's US15W chipset with onboard Intel GMA 500 graphics. It can support up to 2GB DDR2 RAM, both 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR and its LED backlit LCD display provides a comfortable 13.4 inch, 1366 x 768 resolution visual encounter.

Unfortunately the search for an appropriately-sized capacitive touchscreen panel to lay over the top of the X320's screen proved fruitless so Campana opted for a 15 inch resistive widescreen version instead. It was a specification sacrifice made much easier because "when using Windows 7 the difference between single touch and multi-touch is pretty much non existent." Obviously with the touchscreen overlay being bigger than the X320 display beneath, there was some overlap but this would later be hidden out of harm's way underneath the tablet's frame.

The frame itself is made from carbon fiber. Campana purchased a do-it-yourself carbon fiber kit, fashioned a mold from a plastic bread board and laid five layers of fiber cloth into it. The layers were coated with UV resistant epoxy to form two sides of the tablet's frame. After some wetsanding for effect, the frame was ready to receive its tablet components. Before that could happen though, the X320's HDD was discarded in favor of an Intel 2.5 inch 40GB SATA II SSD.

The Carbon Tablet is 14.125 x 8.875 x 0.75 inches and weighs 3.2 pounds

The original number of USB ports on the X320 was expanded to make two available for outward connectivity, one for the touchscreen overlay and one for a WiFi/Bluetooth adapter. The native WiFi and Bluetooth adapter is geared for use with a keyboard so USB components had to be wired in to allow wireless connectivity to be switched on and off using a touchscreen. The externally available USB ports on the right edge of the tablet are joined by a headphone jack, mic input and power input.

Campana's tablet also sports accelerometer functionality thanks to stripping out the necessary components from a wired Action XL motion sensing games controller and installing into his creation. Like an iPad, there's no camera. That's not an oversight on the creator's part, he told Gizmag that he had "no need for a webcam so I did not use the one from the X320. It would have been possible, but would have added work for something I never would have even turned on."

All that remained was to create a recessed Macbook Pro power button to the rear of the tablet and screw the casing together. Job done.

Well, not quite. Campana is not particularly impressed with the battery life offered by the X320's four 2150mAh cell power pack so is in the process of swapping the cells out for higher capacity 5000mAh ones, which he describes as "not easy and can be dangerous if you cross your wires or hook it up incorrectly because the cells can explode."

Surfing the web with the Carbon Tablet

The slampana (to use the creator's online name) Carbon Tablet runs on Windows 7 Home Premium, is 14.125 x 8.875 x 0.75 inches and weighs some 3.2 pounds. As you can see from the video below, its resistive touchscreen is responsive and it handles high definition video without so much as a stutter. More importantly, it does so in that elusive 16:9 aspect ratio.

Although not specifically vented for airflow, the spacing around the ports on the right edge appears to let the CPU fan inside the tablet do its thing and Campana reports having "no issues with it getting too hot."

Total build price so far - US$652. More expensive than commercial offerings perhaps but not uncomfortably so, especially when user satisfaction is taken into consideration.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
11 Comments

Cool! Speaking for myself: there isn't a single manufactured tablet that I would buy because none of them have these minimum specs. Well done!

Grunchy
7th June, 2010 @ 07:25 pm PDT

Fantastic job - and faster than any of the big boys could have done it too. I would seriously consider buying this if it went into production, but it commercially it might infringe on some patents by using the notebook as its basis so we'll probably just have to wait - I'll live my my bulky new Toshiba laptop for now. Well done!

PeetEngineer
8th June, 2010 @ 07:06 am PDT

Meh. Too big. I'm looking at the Smart Devices SmartQ V5. Not high resolution (800x480) but it comes with Ubuntu Linux, Google Android 1.6 (2.1 is available in preview/beta) and Windows CE 6.0.

It has 2 gig flash RAM internal storage, takes SDHC cards up to 32 gig and has a USB OTG port so storage space is no problem. It also has HDMI out so it can play 1920x1080 video on an HDTV.

It's what the Palm LifeDrive wanted to be when it grew up. ;)

If you want something bigger you can't stick in a pocket, the SmartQ V7 is pretty much identical for specs but has a 7" screen.

Facebook User
8th June, 2010 @ 03:39 pm PDT

Awesome squared! You are a legend for doing this!

Hogey74
11th June, 2010 @ 09:26 am PDT

"Campana decided to try and make his own large screen tablet capable of playing visual content in glorious 16:9 aspect 720p high resolution. "

Well, you surely picked a crappy picture to show *THAT* off!

Ed
11th June, 2010 @ 02:38 pm PDT

Very nice project. I understand wanting the larger widescreen, but then that's where it pretty much just becomes a laptop/notebook that can can be opened 180 degrees. Also I think the carbon fiber case/border is too wide and looks like rattan painted black. Just my opinion and again, great job on your project.

Carrie Montgomery
20th July, 2010 @ 10:13 am PDT

Puts all that work into it and then runs a pos os.

Shame.

Neil
21st August, 2010 @ 10:58 pm PDT

i am trying to build my own tablet when i came saw this one to all the people posting we need to make a forum so we can all help each other build are own anyway if anyone wants to help out or needs help contact me at ajm21789@gmail.com right now i am stuck trying to think of a power supply for mine gods some one pleaz help

Facebook User
19th March, 2011 @ 12:00 pm PDT

I would love to test drive this thing. It sounds like the tablet that smart people have been waiting for. I am going to share this with all my tech/geek friends.

Symanthia Sindar Chambers
28th July, 2011 @ 06:04 pm PDT

can u help me for the tablet in india............

i like the configuration and interested too

Akash Gupta
10th February, 2012 @ 05:59 am PST

Great work man, I have been thinking of Breaking open my Dell Studio laptop for the Components. I am looking for a good Capacitive Touch panel to mount on the 15" screen. Need some help in sourcing out parts. have designed mine with Aluminum body and man It's heavy.

Needed something with balls to run my CAD packages.

Vivek Manohar
27th March, 2012 @ 08:00 pm PDT
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