Framework's Dream of a Modular Laptop Is Real and Ready to Preorder

Framework is a modular laptop featuring Intel’s 11th-gen CPU.
Framework is a modular laptop featuring Intel’s 11th-gen CPU.
Image: Framework

Imagine sprucing up your laptop the same way you would swap out the components inside a desktop PC case. That’s part of the premise behind the Framework laptop, made by a startup that wants to make it easier to diagnose and repair your stuff. Preorders are now open for Framework’s first batch of modular laptops, with four different models available in a surprisingly affordable price range.

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Each of the Framework laptops is priced based on the processor, memory, and storage option you choose. All laptops are powered by Intel’s 11th-gen Tiger Lake processors. The $1,000 base model comes with a Core i5-1135G7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD for storage. The $1,400 Performance model gets a spec bump with a Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. The $2,000 Professional model completes the lineup with a speedier Core i7-1185G7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The base and Performance models come with a serial for Windows 10 Home, while the Performance model runs Windows 10 Pro. There’s also a do-it-yourself configuration starting at $750. You can customize the components and then assemble them yourself, and even choose between Windows and Linux.

The Framework laptops are relatively standard across the board. They all feature 13-inch displays and a 55Wh battery, as well as a 1080p, 60fps webcam with a physical privacy switch—that goes beyond most consumer laptops, even the business-focused ones. Not all parts of the Framework laptop are swappable to help maintain consistent function and design across models. But the hardware you’d need (or want) to upgrade first is, including the processor, wifi chip, RAM, and storage.

As Gizmodo reported at Framework’s initial launch, the laptops have four swappable port bays, helping eliminate the necessity for a separate port dock. Framework calls this the Expansion Card System.

There’s the default USB-C card, which supports USB4, 20V/5A charging, and DisplayPort Alt Mode for connecting a monitor; a USB-A card that supports USB 3.2 Gen 2; an HMDI card that supports HDMI 2.0; a DisplayPort card for DisplayPort 1.4 support; a MicroSD port; a card for an extra 250GB or 1TB of storage, which kind of functions like an external drive; and Framework has more expansion cards in development for headphones, microcontrollers, and others.

You can choose the ports you want and what side you’d like them on. The battery, screen, and keyboard are also replaceable, and you can swap out the keyboard if you rely on different languages and layouts—or you’re prone to nasty keys due to eating food around your laptop. (It happens to the best of us.) There’s also a customizable magnetic bezel.

Modular mobile computing is hardly a new concept. But with the creeping onset of climate change and a desperate need to cut down on e-waste, the fact that Framework is giving it a serious try offers a little hope for the industry. The challenge is getting folks to adopt the idea at scale, particularly the tech-adverse.

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Perhaps if the Framework laptop can find some success, other mobile modular projects will get off the ground again. I can’t help but think about Android’s fabled Project Ara smartphone, which offered the promise of modularity in a smaller device that we tend to upgrade more often than our laptops.

Preorders for all Framework models are available in the U.S., with Canada coming soon. Framework plans to take orders for Europe and Asia before the end of the year. Framework requires a refundable $100 deposit for all preorders.

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I cover Android, the smart home, laptops, and mechanical keyboards for Gizmodo. You might've heard me on a podcast once.

DISCUSSION

Technozilla
Technozilla

I’d love to see one version with a fast connector to attach an external graphics card. Although 13 inches sounds small for gaming. Will have to check out 13 inch screens at my local computer store.