Framework has expanded its presence in the laptop world in recent years and we felt it was time to give one of their modular laptops a look. This latest generation is good enough that I thought it could be my everyday driver, the port switching system is easy enough for a kid to use, and if you don’t mind staying part of the company’s ecosystem, have your upgrades for years without having to throw away more than the bare minimum.
If you’re not familiar with Framework, the company makes laptops and components with two goals in mind: durability and repairability.
The reparability part is a breath of fresh air for someone like me who has exclusively used Apple laptops for the past 10 years – good devices for sure, but forget to repair or upgrade them. Framework’s models are built from the ground up to be repaired, whether that’s replacing bad RAM, replacing the keyboard, or adding a port (new or old).
That feeds the durability side because instead of buying a whole new laptop every few years, keep the old one and just swap out the piece that needs to go. Less e-waste, less money wasted.
The latest Framework laptop contains the following standard:
- 13.5-inch 2256 × 1504 screen (ratio 3:2)
- 55Wh battery
- 1080p webcam
- Fingerprint reader
- 1.3kg, 16mm thick
- 3.5mm headphone port
You can specify storage, RAM and of course processor, from an i5-1240P to an i7-1280P, with onboard graphics.
Out of the box, the laptop looks very ordinary – which is a compliment, I think. The soft gray brushed aluminum (50% recycled) and gear logo are tasteful, and the overall shape is harmless and familiar, although it doesn’t have the “premium” feel of a MacBook Pro (much of which comes from the unibody construction of the MBP which is easy to repair).
Open it up and you have the now familiar black border and black keys on silver, the now standard style for mid- and high-end laptops.
But you immediately notice that there are small switches above the screen next to the camera and microphone. These privacy switches completely remove the device from your system’s consciousness – it’s not just covers. It’s the kind of kill switch I’ve always wanted in my devices, and it’s implemented very well here.
If you toggle them on and off, they are actually written out of the operating system (Windows 11 in my case), and they reappear as soon as you click on them. It’s like plugging in and unplugging a USB peripheral (which is probably more or less how it works in the box). My only caveat is that the switch is a little hard to slide back and forth, which is probably for the best, as it would be annoying to accidentally hit it all the time.
The rest of the standard laptop items are as expected: the screen is fine, if a rather unusual resolution, and the entire bezel can be swapped out for different colors if you want to get your freak flag flying (or just an orange one). The fingerprint reader, which doubles as the power button, worked perfectly for me.
The keyboard is advertised to have a longer travel distance (1.5mm) than others, and that feels true, although it’s nowhere near the tactility of a mechanical or the like. It’s a great laptop keyboard, and if you tend to sag when typing at shallower levels, this could be a nice upgrade.
I only had one serious hardware problem and that was the power cord. It’s stiff, ugly and bulky. I’d be happy to sacrifice a port for a custom magnetic power connector or pay extra for one
Hot swappable and cold fixable
Where the Framework differs from the rest is the hot-swappable side ports. When you order the laptop, you also order as many ports as you need, from USB-C to USB-A, Micro SD, Ethernet, HDMI and removable storage up to a terabyte. The only port the laptop was born with is a 3.5mm headphone adapter.
The small port devices are essentially standalone USB-C adapters, so they don’t register as additional devices or anything (except mount as drives in the event of a card or drive inserted, of course). They click into place quite securely – you may feel at safe, but how often should you replace them?
As someone who for years refused to upgrade my Mac because of their port shenanigans, this feels like the best of both worlds. I can plug in the power right or left, swap out the Micro SD when I’m doing that sort of thing and keep the HDMI in just in case. The flexibility is nice to have, although I would have liked a full size SD format for camera work. Hopefully more are on the way, but they’ve covered the main use cases and of course my existing adapters still work.
When it comes to the inside, it’s a little different from the usual DIY computer style. When putting together a desktop, I buy an ATX stock motherboard and choose my components from a range of compatible parts. Non-standard parts are usually motherboard-specific or for things like dual-GPU setups or liquid cooling.
With the Framework, there is a mix of standard parts (for example, the internal SSD) and device-specific parts, such as the motherboard and audio module. So if you’re planning to make this laptop your primary laptop for the next five years, you should feel that Framework is your primary supplier. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – but some people appreciate being able to just order a part and trade it in.
However, the truth is that while the old method of building and maintaining a do-it-yourself computer isn’t quite here, the spirit certainly is. For some parts, you may not be able to choose between MSI, Asus, and Gigabyte, but you can still easily replace them and even customize them to your liking. I think this strikes a balance between the completely DIY but buggy and chunky laptops where hardware enthusiasts tend to get stuck and the slimmer but barely upgradable laptops the majority end up with.
Framework isn’t necessarily trying to get people to scale DIY stores – this is about capturing people who want a little more flexibility and reusability, but can’t find it on mainstream devices.
From my limited quests into the inside, I think anyone comfortable enough to open it will be fine to swap out a piece too. It’s really almost drop-in and there are instructions baked into the parts, easy enough to look up and follow. All it takes is the included screwdriver, which is also conveniently magnetic:
I’ve always steered clear of PC laptops because the truth is that in many ways Apple’s products are built to last — my old 2012 Air is now running Zorin and loving life. I’m not sure I could do that if I had a 2012 Acer (although as usual it’s not the years, it’s the mileage).
But the Framework suggests to me that there is a real reason to switch to their approach (although it certainly isn’t Windows 11, which the test device came with, although you can select others). It’s good to try to be a little more ethical about buying gadgets, but I also like the idea of buying something that will actually last 5-10 years, and not just become more and more obsolete.
At $819 for the lowest configuration, it’s not the cheapest laptop on the market, and you could almost certainly find one with better specs for a similar price if you looked. But if you think of that money (and another $50-100 for ports, etc.) as the beginning of an investment, and one that will save you from having to buy another computer in 3-4 years, it starts to make more sense. become . Plus, you’re supporting a company that does more than just talk about the right to repair and reduce e-waste.
If I was looking for a non-Mac laptop, Framework would be my first stop. I hope in the future they will offer more models and other options for customization to reduce costs or allow for special builds.