ZX Spectrum Next Laptop

Posted: Jan 13, 2018

Having started out with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128K way back in the mid-'80s,  I was excited to see the recent Kickstarter for the new ZX Spectrum Next, which I promptly backed back in May. I have also created a handheld Spectrum Next, which can be found over here.

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, a better keyboard, mass storage using an SD card, hardware acceleration with a PI Zero, and much more.

Backed on Kickstarter!

The Spectrum Next team was targeting a release date of late August or September for the Spectrum Next PCB only and January 2018 for the full, cased version of the Next. I backed both with the intention of taking the bare Next PCB and creating a Spectrum laptop around it. There were several delays for the Next Board Only; however, in early December, it arrived so I could begin making this laptop a reality!

Here are some shots of the design for the ZX Spectrum Next Laptop. Ignore the color; 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 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 original Kickstarter backers. 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 I may add 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 or 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 I found were too thick for what I wanted. I needed a very slim keyboard, perhaps a few millimeters 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 its 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 three 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 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'll also be looking into making a handheld Spectrum Next!

Below are the files for those interested, though please note that this is very much incomplete and will need refining for better keyboard placement, and the screen will need changing.

Update 21/11/2020

The idea of a Spectrum Next laptop has recently been revisited with version 2 of the design:

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop V2

Submit a Comment


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

RuudJan 22, 2018 07:35

A very nice-looking Sinclair laptop.

SteveJan 22, 2018 20:34

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

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 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.

juan delacostaFeb 12, 2018 16:49

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

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 :

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

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 ?

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.

D. Rimron-SoutterAug 04, 2018 17:59

Have you looked at setting the custom timing in your config.ini for the HDMI setup, that may help a little?

ACPJan 28, 2019 14:43

This is gorgeous, really fantastic work. I was looking to do a project using a very similar form factor... I'll echo the sentiments above, are you planning to release the STL files for this? Thanks!

andreJun 20, 2020 07:13

can you release the 3d blueprints so we can print this!!!? awesome job, looks very professional :)

wurldeAug 30, 2020 19:47

i'm late postín (2 years late) but if you're in the mood of selling some of this, count with me

juan delacostaNov 15, 2020 22:48

thank you now ill try changing these. any inserts needed for screw holes?

GINONov 25, 2020 08:39

ZX Spectrum Next Laptop ? i WOULD LIKE TO PRINT IT 3D,

J.R.Nov 26, 2020 13:56

Sir Clive would be proud outstanding job

TecDec 07, 2021 17:34

Good Work !
Where i can get the STL files?

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