ZX Spectrum Next Laptop

Posted: Jan 13, 2018
By: Dan Birch

Having started out with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128K way back in the mid '80's I was excited to see the recent Kickstarter for the new ZX Spectrum Next which I promptly backed back in May.

For those unaware of the Spectrum Next, it is a recreation of the existing Spectrum hardware inside an FPGA. Not software emulation but real hardware! Finally a successor to the '80s Speccy with more RAM, better graphics, better sound, better keyboard, mass storage using an SD card, hardware acceleration with a PI Zero and much more.

Backed on Kickstarter!

The Spectrum Next team were targeting a release of Late August/September for the Spectrum Next PCB only and January 2018 for the full, cased version of the Next. I backed both with the intention to take the bare Next PCB and create a Spectrum Laptop around it. There were several delays for the Next Board Only, however in early December it arrived so I can begin making this laptop a reality!

Here are some shots of the design for the ZX spectrum Next Laptop. Ignore the colour, they will of course be 3D printed in Speccy Black:

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop Design 1

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop Design 2

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop Design 3

The Laptop Specs

  • The dimensions of the laptop case will be 284mm wide, 151mm deep and 41mm high. The width is dictated by the keyboard I'm going to use otherwise it could be smaller.
  • Spectrum Next board with Raspberry Pi Zero and 4 port USB hub, 3 USB ports will be available on the right hand side of the laptop
  • Re-route the 2 joystick ports from the front of the Next PCB to the right hand side of the laptop
  • Solder a cable directly from the back of the HDMI socket straight to an LCD driver board
  • The screen is an 8" VGA LCD using an aspect ratio of good old 4:3
  • It will have stereo speakers with volume control
  • All the standard Next buttons/ports will be available except for HDMI as this is now used for the built in LCD
  • Access to the Raspberry Pi Zero SD card slot will be extended out to the back of the laptop enabling the Pi OS to be updated without taking the machine apart
  • The keyboard will be a standard compact PC USB keyboard with the horrible windows key modified so there will be no Windows logo on it
  • The keyboard will be removed from its casing (so just the keys, membrane & backplate) and mounted in the laptop with a custom 3D printed face plate with the words "ZX Spectrum" top-left and "2048K" top-right.
  • Proper laptop hinges taken from an old Dell laptop will be used

The Parts

To create a working laptop requires careful consideration of which parts to use. Things like the keyboard and LCD will need to be off the shelf components. Thankfully there are plenty of options here thanks to places like Ebay and Amazon.

The Spectrum Next Motherboard

Only available for backers of the original Kickstarter. More may be made available from the Spectrum Next shop in the future so register your interest on their forum if you want one!

ZX Spectrum Next Board

The Screen

The screen selected is an 8" 4:3 ratio LCD. Billed as a Raspberry Pi screen it will do the job perfectly.

LCD Screen

I had originally intended to hook up the display via the VGA connector, however due to various issues with the Next firmware and this particular screen I decided to do it via the HDMI connection instead. By this time I had already removed the VGA scoket from the Next board! I will leave this socket out for now but may put it back in the future.

The Keyboard

For the keyboard it was a choice between PS/2 or USB. The Spectrum Next comes with a PS/2 connector to enable a mouse/external keyboard to be attached. My initial preference was to find a compact PS/2 keyboard, however these were hard to come by. Most of the keyboards found were too thick for what I wanted. I needed a very slim keyboard, perhaps a few millimetres thick at the most.

USB Keyboard

The size requirement would mean the PS/2 keyboards tested were out of the question leaving only a single USB keyboard, that could be removed from it's casing and used in the new laptop. I had to wait until I received my Next board to test whether this USB keyboard would work via a PS/2 adaptor and, thankfully, it does.

USB Keyboard Insides

LCD Controller, Pi Zero USB Hub etc.

Some other boards needed are the LCD driver board, Raspberry Pi Zero and USB Hub. The hub gives us access to 3 USB sockets accessible on the right-hand side of the laptop for external joysticks, game controllers and any other USB device that may work on the Spectrum Next!

LCD Controller, Pi Zero USB Hub etc.

The Finished Laptop

Having sent the designs of to Shapeways and received the 3D prints back I assembled the parts and here it is:

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop Finished

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop Finished

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop Finished

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop Finished

The Laptop in Action!

Update 27/05/2018

Due to changes to the Spectrum Next firmware the 8" LCD screen is no longer displaying a reliable image. It seems the HDMI timings were tweaked in order to satisfy big screen TV's however these adjustments have affected a lot of small LCD panels. I am looking at other screens and will update the laptop in the future. I will also be looking into making a handheld Spectrum Next too!

Comments

Pablo CortésApr 21, 2018 21:48

Excuse me, Dan, when are you going to release the files for us to be able to recreate such a beauty? I am sure a lot of people would love to recreate that casing. Thank you very much for making such a thing.

John DeuxApr 04, 2018 22:02

You could also make a similar hardware to include a MIST ...
This way, you could choose to boot any machine in it , no ?

PaulApr 04, 2018 05:49

Do you intend to release the shapeway link or the STL files for us?
Can you tell us the cost of the Shapeway printing?
Kind regards
Paul

amber hinaMar 20, 2018 15:05

a very nice laptop i think you should make it in production after few miners changes , like the size is perfect what if you make it avalable to handle 3D printers software like this company can really benefit you : voodoomfg.com

juan delacostaFeb 12, 2018 16:49

will there be a new post when you release the .stl files?

SteveJan 25, 2018 11:59

That's great its an awesome project. I agree with the other comments it would make a nice project to make and sell a few or in my case adapt your solid design for a Pi based laptop if that's ok.

DanJan 23, 2018 19:27

Hi Steve,

Yes I'll be releasing the STL files in the near future. There are some changes I need to make/test first.

SteveJan 22, 2018 20:34

Will you be releasing the 3D print files on shapeways?

RuudJan 22, 2018 07:35

A very nice-looking Sinclair laptop.

Jason bullough Jan 15, 2018 18:45

Absolutely awesome. I think you should produce this design and sell a few. What sort of cost was the case? Regards jason

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