Review: Framework’s Latest Modular Laptop Is One I Could Be Working With For Years

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Framework has been expanding its presence in the notebook market over the past few years and we felt it was time to give one of their modular laptops sight. This latest generation is good enough that I feel like it could be my daily driver, the port switching system is kid-friendly enough and if you don’t mind continuing to be part of the company’s ecosystem, you have updates for years without having to throw away more than the minimum.

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If you’re not familiar with the Framework, the company makes laptops and components with two goals in mind: sustainability and maintainability.

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The issue of maintainability is a breath of fresh air for someone like me who has been using exclusively Apple laptops for the past 10 years – certainly good devices, but forget about repairing or upgrading them. Framework models are built from the ground up so they can be fixed, whether it’s replacing bad RAM, replacing a keyboard, or adding a (new or old) port.

This contributes to sustainability because instead of buying a new laptop every few years, you keep the old one and just replace the part that needs to go. Less e-waste, less cash.

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Laptop with latest version of Framework includes the following standard:

  • 13.5″ 2256×1504 display (3:2 aspect ratio)
  • battery 55 Wh
  • Webcam 1080p
  • Fingerprint reader
  • 1.3 kg, thickness 16 mm
  • 3.5mm headphone port

You can specify storage, RAM, and of course the processor from i5-1240P to i7-1280P with integrated graphics.

Out of the box, the laptop looks quite ordinary, which, in my opinion, is a compliment. The soft gray brushed aluminum (50% recycled) and gear logo are tasteful, and the overall shape is inoffensive and familiar, although it lacks the MacBook Pro’s “premium” feel (much of which comes from the MBP’s one-piece construction that prevents the laptop from being lightly touched) . repair).

Open it up and you’ll see the now-familiar black bezel and black keys on a silver background, the default style for mid-to-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 view – they’re not just covers. I always wanted to see just such a switch in my devices, and here it is implemented very well.

Image credits: Framework

Turning them on and off actually unregisters them from the OS (Windows 11 in my case) and they reappear as soon as you click on them again. It’s like plugging and unplugging a USB peripheral (which probably more or less works inside the box). My only caveat is that the switch is a bit difficult to move back and forth, which is probably for the best as it would be annoying to constantly press it by accident.

The rest of the laptop’s main elements live up to expectations: the screen is fine, albeit at a rather unusual resolution, and the entire bezel can be swapped in different colors if you want to raise your unusual flag (or just orange). The fingerprint scanner, which doubles as a power button, worked flawlessly for me.

Image credits: Framework

The keyboard is advertised as having a longer travel distance (1.5mm) than others, and this indeed seems to be true, although it is still a long way from tactile mechanics or anything like that. It’s a perfectly good laptop keyboard, and if you’re prone to sagging when typing on smaller ones, this could be a good upgrade.

I only had one major hardware problem and that was the power cord. It is hard, ugly and bulky. I would gladly donate a port for a custom magnetic power connector or pay extra for

Hot Swap and Cold Repair

Notebook Framework open to elements. It’s actually upside down now, which I figured out after I took the picture. Image creditsStory by: Devin Koldevi / TechCrunch

Where the Framework differs from the rest is the presence of hot-swappable side ports. When you order a laptop, you also order as many ports as you need, from USB-C to USB-A, Micro SD, Ethernet, HDMI, and up to a terabyte of removable storage. The only port the laptop ships with is a 3.5mm headphone adapter.

Image credits: Framework

The little port devices are essentially standalone USB-C adapters, so they don’t register as additional devices or anything (except they will of course mount as disks in the case of a card or disk inserted) . They are fixed quite securely – you can feel too much safe, but how often do you need to change them?

As someone who has refused to update my Mac for years due to their ports shenanigans, I feel like this is the best of both worlds. I can plug in the power right or left, pop in a Micro SD when I’m doing stuff like this, and leave the HDMI just in case. Flexibility is good, although I would have liked a full size SD to work with the camera. Hopefully there will be more but they have covered the main use cases and of course my existing adapters still work.

When it comes to internals, it’s a bit different from the usual do-it-yourself computing style. When I build a desktop computer, I buy an ATX standard motherboard and choose from a range of compatible components. Non-standard parts are usually for the motherboard, or for things like dual GPU rigs or liquid cooling.

The Framework has a mix of standard parts (like the internal SSD) and device-specific parts like the motherboard and audio module. So if you’re going to make this laptop your go-to laptop for the next five years or so, you’ll have to go along with the idea that Framework will be your go-to supplier. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but some people really appreciate being able to just order a part and have it replaced.

However, the truth is that while the old “do-it-yourself” method of building and maintaining a computer isn’t quite here, the spirit is certainly there. You may not be able to choose between MSI, Asus and Gigabyte for some components, but you can still easily swap them out and even customize them to your liking. I think it strikes a sweet spot between the completely homemade but buggy and bulky laptops that hardware enthusiasts tend to get stuck with, and the slicker but barely upgradable ones that end up getting the majority.

The Framework isn’t necessarily trying to get people who are already crazy about DIY to go higher – it’s about getting people who would like a little more flexibility and reusability but can’t find it in mainstream devices.

QR code links point to replacements, instructions and other information. Image creditsStory by: Devin Koldevi / TechCrunch

Based on my limited research on the internals, I think anyone comfortable enough to open it would also be able to replace the part. It’s really close to being put in, and there are instructions baked into the pieces, easy enough to find and follow. All you need is the included screwdriver, which is also magnetic:

Looks big but not big. Image creditsStory by: Devin Koldevi / TechCrunch

I’ve always avoided PC laptops because the truth is that Apple products are built to last in many ways – my old 2012 Air now runs Zorin and loves life. I’m not sure if I could have done this if I had a 2012 Acer (although, as usual, it’s not about years, it’s about mileage).

But the Framework tells me there’s a real reason to switch to their approach (although it’s definitely not the Windows 11 that the review device ships with, although you can choose others). Trying to be a little more ethical about buying gadgets is fine, but I also just love the idea of ​​buying something that will actually last 5-10 years instead of just getting more and more outdated.

At $819 for the lowest configuration, this isn’t the cheapest laptop on the market, and you can almost certainly find a laptop with better specs for the same price if you look closely. But if you think of that money (and another $50-100 for ports, etc.) as the start of an investment that will save you from having to buy another computer in 3-4 years, it starts to make more sense. . Plus, you’re supporting a company that doesn’t 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 they offer more models and other customization options in the future to keep the cost down or accommodate special builds.

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