Novena Helps Hackers Build Their Own Laptop

Appealing to hardware hackers, a new build-your-own laptop kit, called Novena, puts you in the manufacturer's seat. It will be available in four configurations starting from $500 for just a motherboard with a 1.2-GHz Freescale quad-core ARM CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 4GB microSD card and a PCIe Wi-Fi card. Prices will rise by 10 percent after May 18, assuming Novena's reaches its fundraising goal of $250,000 via Crowd Supply. The company hopes to ship the motherboards in November. 

One step up from the bare-bones option is the Desktop package, which includes a motherboard, full HD IPS LCD screen and enclosure for $1,195. The $1,995 Laptop package includes a motherboard, LCD screen, SSD, battery and enclosure, while the $5000 top-of-the-line option features a wooden and aluminum enclosure on top of the laptop package. All versions will come with a Debian Linux setup, but you can install any other operating system you prefer. If you want speakers, the founders recommend 3D printing them. Shipping dates for the Desktop kit should be in December, while the Laptops won't be ready until Januray 2015. 

MORE: Google's Project Ara: 7 Things You Need to Know

Traditional notebooks have the screen and keyboard facing each other in a clamshell configuration, but the Novena laptop's display is on the outside and exposes the device's circuitry. Maker Andrew "Bunnie" Huang said this lets hackers gain easier access to the computer's hardware by removing the keyboard mounting plate. It also lets you hang the laptop on the wall when the screen is closed. 

Huang stressed in his blog that the device is not "for the faint of heart" or " casual home use." If you fancy yourself a hardware hacker extraordinaire, or just want to learn how to build a computer, the Novena could be the laptop of your dreams. We've already seen similar build-it-yourself concepts in phones such as Google's Project Ara modular smartphone and the ICE Modular xPC , but this is the first open source laptop. 

Cherlynn Low
Staff Writer
Cherlynn joined the Laptopmag team in June 2013 and has since been writing about all things tech and digital with a focus on mobile and Internet software development. She also edits and reports occasionally on video. She graduated with a M.S. in Journalism (Broadcast) from Columbia University in May 2013 and has been designing personal websites since 2001.