Review: Recompute Cardboard PC

Shawn shows us the Recompute PC from Sustainable Computers.  It's a full blown workstation that you could use to start a camp fire.  We don't recommend the camp fire part though.


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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle...?

Red Ronin's picture

I have considered building a custom case out of various materials: wood, Legos, PlexiGlas and yes, cardboard. I think I might do so with a Mini-ITX board some day. It seems a good bit of work went into this product.

The cost of the unit is likely right in line with what someone might consider for their time of designing and fabricating one from scratch. Also, other custom cases, which often don't include a power supply, cost the same amount or more. Just take a look at the higher end HTPC cases you'll find at a variety of online retailers for comparison.

Reduce - The cardboard case doesn't seem to waste space at all. It uses just enough material to be stable. I only purchase small cases now, slim Micro-ATX towers at the largest. That way there is less material used to house a PC from the outset.

Reuse - This does not seem to be a very reusable case really. You would have to be very careful with disassembly. I have an old Antec tower that I expect to turn into a FreeNAS server for media storage and data backup. I shouldn't need to buy another case that size ever again.

Recycle - I put more emphasis on the first two R's of the trinary ecological emblem. But eventually, due to changes in technology or damage to the unit itself, any case may need to be recycled. Making sure that they go to a proper reclamation center instead of a landfill is always a good idea.

Take care,

Red Ronin


Anonymous's picture

Looks like good airflow, but no place for a bunch of drives in a RAID5 md config. This would be the deal breaker for me...

Do they make these in 19" Rack Mount for my Home Server Rack in my computer room?

Doesn't look like cards would be easily accessible, nor access to the CPU for upgrading.

Now if this was reusable, and you had access to swap the board and such, this would be great option...


dosson's picture

There's no mention of how noisy the computer is. Seems like cardboard might be a pretty good sound absorber.

Worse then a normal case

Treah's picture

This thing is so funny.. The first time I heard about this I was like hay that was my idea like 10 years ago when I put a 486 in a cardboard box :P. But seriously can you believe that this thing is actually worse then a conventional case for the environment. A standard aluminum case recycled will save about 90% less energy to recycle then to make virgin aluminum. Cardboard is much less recyclable, and the cost of this thing pretty much will stave off anyone from caring about it. I think that maybe (I really doubt it tho ) they have the right idea in there heart just didn't think it though too much.

heavy metals

squarecandy's picture

This is complete BS/greenwashing - the actual pressing environmental issue is with the heavy metals in the electronic components, not what the case is made of:

Electrical waste contains hazardous but also valuable and scarce materials. Up to 60 elements can be found in complex electronics.

In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded electronics.

Like it

Jeff Wicks's picture

I like it because I assume it's lighter and smaller than a conventional case. I wanted to hear him say if it was any better on noise than a regular case.

agreed with all that say 'use the same case'

ppyo's picture

This looks more like a gimmick than a sensible option. Like a solution in search of a problem.

Ppyo - A proud Linux user since '96.
Distros in use: Ubuntu, Jolicloud, Android, Zubuntu/Cacko (Zaurus).


kjnelan's picture

I've used the same case now for the past 10 years?!?!?! Why on earth would I get rid of a case during the course of upgrading? If I want a "new" case, I can always mod it myself and then I have a new one... otherwise I'd much rather buy my own parts and put them in a case I already have. Then I store the parts I've replaced in case I might need them in an emergency, and recycle (through art or other functions) the parts not needed. That's the responsible things to do... in my eyes anyway...

If and when I ever need to upgrade my case, I'll go to the hardware store and try my hand at building my own case out of wood. I'm not all that handy, but I'll sure have fun trying!

Just Stupid!

Anonymous's picture

Uh NTY I would rather pollute and buy a cheaper brand, I own a $40 case made of pure steel. Why the hell would I waste $200 on something that killed a tree in order to be recyclable?

Let me know when your rig catches fire, then you can panic as the paint on your walls releases deadly fumes!


marinegundoctor's picture

Steel is also recyclable and more valuable than paper!

Case lifespan extension

Anonymous's picture

Another approach: reuse the same case.

I have been using the same case for about 12 years: an Antec full tower case. I live in a tropical marine environment, where rust has taken a toll, but three years ago I stripped the entire case down to bare metal, treated it with Phosphoric Acid / Naval Jelly, and sprayed it with Instant Galvanize 99% Zinc powder spray. After two coasts of this, I spray painted with a rust inhibiting paint, two layers.

When I reassembled the case, I used stainless screws. Been through three power supplies. It's an ATX case. The main issue has been that newer ATX boards, while still the same form factor, site the CPU in a different location that interferes with the HDD bay.

3rd Party Videos Usually Don't Work for Me (using Iceweasel)

Randy Kramer's picture

Please put a direct link to the "source" YouTube video, either in the Weekly Notes newsletter, or on a page like this.

For whatever reason, 3rd party videos (like this page, where the video comes from a 3rd party, YouTube in this case) usually don't work for me. I get an error message that says:

"An error occurred, please try again later"

Trying later doesn't help. If I'm interested enough, I might view the source and hunt down the URL. If you want to depend on me being interested enough, good luck.

Randy Kramer

Cute, but steel is also 100% recyclable...

Leon Matthews's picture

Cute, but steel is also 100% recyclable... Though I understand your point about pulling things apart.

I think that Linux is its greenest feature. Since moving to Linux at our office we've had to upgrade our machines less often. Fewer upgrades == less e-waste!

Insane Prices?

sohosources's picture

$200 for a cardboard case and a power supply?

That only seems to make sense if you have more money than brains...and a pile of philanthropic cash sitting around just waiting to be wasted...

As others have said, to really recycle your PCs, bug a good case and reuse it.

I've built at least five generations of PCs in my big server case on wheels. Each rebuild, I strip the case bare, blast it clean, replace the PS if necessary, and start with new innards. No case e-waste, no cardboard, no nothin'.



Cheaper way

Zane J Cersovsky's picture

Just get a magazine and mobo,power supply, etc and assemble the computer and set it on the magazine (for insulation). To start, use a knife or other metal object, no cardboard to recycle.

Cute, viable, not 'new'

Rickb's picture

Look for cardboard computers, and you should be able to find designs that are almost 15 years old. Wait, older. Most were simple boxes, and this one answers the problems of durability in a better way, perhaps.

But I made a case of cardboard eons ago for an i-Opener board and display, saturated it with that Minwax Wood Hardener, not at all environmentally friendly, but darn hard and strong. my skills with an X-Acto knife aren't what they used to be, so this current design would be a challenge, but a band saw would do the job. Inventive, but the concept isn't 'new'.

One would be better than none or many

WatchOutForTermites's picture

It is an interesting social commentary, or would be, if they only made one of them, and put it on display.

I.e. replacing the one solid, lasting, durable and most reusable part of a PC with something made to be thrown away.

If you really want to recycle, find an old case and keep it out of the landfill. Only upgrade when you need to, and try to keep power consumption down (remember when a 400 watt PSU seemed absurd??) and take advantage of Linux cool tricks (e.g. 2 kids = 1 PC w/ two GPUs)

Now, if they made a car out of cardboard, that would be cool..

Car out of cardboard

Anonymous's picture

They did - It's called a Yugo.

You're thinking of the

Rick's picture

You're thinking of the Trabant, East Germany's finest auto.

Clawful, don't spill near it.

Jack.Hawk's picture

Clever idea. How was the weight on it?

Cats with claws would that case too! Heck, even without claws, my kitten would chew it to pieces.

I'd really hate to spill a drink on or near it.

Another way to be environmentally friendly...

bolt's picture just to use your old case for your new computer. Buy a really good case and keep it,I say. It's not like the ATX standard has changed a whole lot since it came out, at least in regards to mounting holes and other case-related factors.


jza's picture

so this sounds cool. Hope this takes off. I am still not sold on the color though.

Linuxer, Rapper, and part time lunatic
Living in the sandy beaches of Cancun

Cost effectiveness

eldergeek's picture

For the money and in terms of efficient recycling I think it'd be better to buy a used (off lease) system from someplace like 3btech or, better still, get one from the Blind Center of Nevada on eBay: Even better, buy two, install Linux on them and give one to a senior citizen (hey, that's sort-of my hobby).

Swapping the innards

Paul Tansom's picture

So if you rip out the motherboard, etc. does that mean you can't put a new one in? Maybe I'm too geeky, but I'm still using the same cases I bought about 15 years ago (I think, certainly pre-millennium). The ATX motherboard, PSU, cards, drives, etc. have all been upgraded over time, but the case remains. My only annoyance is that now I no longer have floppy drives in some machines the fact that there's a custom floppy drive opening and not a standard 3.5" mounting means I cant use it for other drives, card readers, etc. - just a drive bay with extra ventilation! Not that I'm knocking it, I'm all for anything to improve the environmental impact of technology.

FCC Compliance?

Craig Maloney's picture

So, have we given up on FCC compliance? I remember a bunch of older computers that couldn't be released until they had enough shielding to make it so they wouldn't emit a lot of radio waves.


Shawn Powers's picture

The website claims it's lined with EMI shielding. (see first paragraph)

Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.

Ah, OK. I should have read

Craig Maloney's picture

Ah, OK. I should have read the site, then. :) Thanks! This looks quite promising. :)


bminish's picture


As a member of the IEEE EMC society and as person who regularly deals with the EMC impacts of poorly shielded, Non-standards complaint devices to Amateur radio I Emailed the vendor (Via their contact form) a couple of weeks ago and asked some questions about thier EMC standards compliance, I didn't get a reply.

There's a bit more to meeting the standards than throwing in a bit of glue backed aluminium shielding and hoping for the best.

I think we may assume that they are NOT complaint with the standards unless they are willing to show otherwise.

The greenest solution is to recycle an old metal case.

Radio Waves

Bob Harvey's picture

I have my doubts about the EMC capabilities of windowed "modded" cases too, and as for the all-perspex "orac" clones!!!