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Making your hardware is expensive but the results are beyond worth it IMO. The quality surpases most chinese crap, and the tailor fit os is a huge step up over andriod, which I do not like.
The quality of the system board is binary - either it functions or it doesn't. I suppose the argument could be made that a shoddy board might work initially and then fail. But if they're cheap enough...
The case and the controls on the other hand, those are definitely subject to manufacturing standards. The case you would have to make yourself regardless of whatever other components you could glom.
The analog sticks are going to be as off-the-shelf as the ones in the pyra insofar as they're a singular subcomonent that you're going to buy from somebody. You just need to find somebody selling decent ones - the sticks in the GPD XD are reportedly quite good.
I honestly think the dpad and buttons are better off coming from an existing controller. I'd call up 8bitdo and try to buy the dpad, buttons, and mats that they use in their (incredibly good) gamepads. It's going to be a hell of a lot cheaper than tooling up to make your own, and you know for a fact that they'll feel good and respond properly.
The keypad can definitely come from an existing device. As ED has pointed out, they're quite expensive to have custom-made. Far cheaper and "good enough" to try to buy a mat from something like this and make it work with your case/PCB. It also sidesteps the thousand-post threads about keymat layouts.
And as far as the OS, at no point was I suggesting sticking with android. I love android on my phone, but it's not suitable for a proper computer. If nothing else, the inherent input lag for the gaming controls makes it a non-starter. No, I was assuming a custom linux-based OS would be used. That's probably the trickiest part of the whole shebang, as the SoCs in most of these phones are less than amenable to aftermarket OSs. In a perfect world, somebody would figure out how to get linux onto one of the atom-based phones from asus or lenovo and you'd use that as your donor. Then you could run any number of PC games in WINE. Failing that... I don't know how possible it is to get linux on a mediatek or rockchip without assistance from the manufacturer.
Just take the example of switching ED's custom CPU board with a SODIMM slot SoM. You could still keep all your peripherals, just wired up onto a different connector. You'd only have to design the main board, rather than the main board and the CPU board - this would save you some cost. ED said he could only get OMAP SoCs, but with SODIMMs, he could have picked a Pi Compute, or several other ARM SoMs - including a Tegra 3. So he would have had more choice.
Sadly, this is not the case. While there are several SoMs using the SODIMM connector, there is no standard pinout. None that I am aware of are intercompatible.
While the SODIMM connector is great for certain systems in that it is cheap, readily available, and comparatively robust, it is not ideal for a handheld device. It takes up more space vertically than is necessary, and will add thickness to the device that could be avoided with a more svelt interconnect. ED chose wisely for the pyra.
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