When shipping starts later this year, you can even pick your ports.
A small company named Framework is attempting to carve a new niche with a work laptop that offers a lot of customization options and is partially made of recycled aluminium and plastic. In a sea of laptops that are becoming less upgradeable or repairable every year, Framework is attempting to carve a new niche with a work laptop that offers a lot of customization options and is partially made of recycled aluminium and plastic. Let’s hope they plan to make a gaming laptop at some stage in the future.
One of the major complaints about laptops introduced in the last few years has been that manufacturers are almost always prioritizing thin and light designs over upgradeability and repairability. Many PC laptops still have replaceable and/or upgradeable components like RAM and SSD storage, but in the case of MacBook owners these are all soldered to the logic board, while other things like the battery and Touch Bar are tricky even for repair professionals to deal with.
In the smartphone land, consumers have to deal with a similar phenomenon, but there are some companies like Pine64 and Fairphone that push back against the current with repairable, modular, and even eco-friendly designs. This week, a startup called Framework announced a laptop built on similar principles, with components that are easy for users to replace or upgrade as needed.
The new laptop comes with a 13.5-inch, 3:2 ratio display with a resolution of 2256 by 1504 pixels and over 400 nits of brightness. Its components are housed inside an aluminum chassis that is a hair under 16 mm thick, for a total weight of up to 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg). You can configure it with one of three 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake processors with Xe integrated graphics — i5-1135G7, i7-1165G7, or i7-1185G7 — and up to a Wi-Fi 6E module for wireless connectivity.
The CPU is the one notable component that can’t be replaced as it’s designed as a BGA package that’s soldered onto the motherboard. However, the Framework team says it will release new motherboards in the future when newer CPUs come out, so theoretically that shouldn’t be that big of a problem. And thanks to the lessons learned with the Alienware Area-51m R1, it’s ultimately up to Intel to make things easier in that department.
You can configure the processor with up to two 32 GB DDR4-3200 RAM modules for a total of 64 GB of RAM, as well as a big, 4TB M.2 2280 NVMe SSD for storage. You can mount all of the fastest market SSDs since the slot supports four-lane PCIe 4.0 drives.
The Framework team devised a clever solution to the USB-C transition in terms of connectivity: the four ports are recessed into the case, allowing you to add whatever ports you need for your use case via removable modules. You may possibly lend them to a friend or colleague in need of a USB-A, HDMI, microSD slot, DisplayPort, and even a headphone jack, as these link via USB-C. This device also allows you to select which side those ports are on, which you might think can come in handy more frequently.
Like the magnetically-attached bezel housing the 1080p webcam and microphone with physical privacy switches for both, the panel is also replaceable. The keyboard has a 1.5 mm key travel and a localised version is available if desired. A 55 Wh battery drives all of the Framework laptop’s parts, and it’s also user-replaceable since it’s not glued to the shell.
Starting this summer, the Framework team plans to sell this laptop with Windows 10 or Linux. There is no pricing details yet, but we know it will also be offered to those of you who want to assemble the laptop yourself as a “DIY” package. As for the several user-replaceable components, they will be available in the marketplace of the System, which will be open to third-party component sellers.