It’s time for a new laptop. My trusty Dell XPS 13 is over five years old and it’s starting to struggle with good old Windows 10 – forget Windows 11.
It’s also an exciting time to upgrade, as the laptop market has come a long way over the past five years and there are some incredibly light and powerful machines out there: the Asus Zenbook 13 OLED, the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360, and of course the Dell XPS 13 OLED. All of them have beautiful OLED displays, comfortable keyboards, and more than enough power for my needs. Plus, they can all be purchased without breaking my budget.
So why have I opened the Framework Laptop order page in a tab for a week now? Why does my finger regularly hover over the buy button on a laptop that I should assemble on my own? A screen that doesn’t even come with a sleek OLED display?
I think it’s the community. Well, that and the framework’s incredibly accessible design, filled with its innovative expansion card system that lets you swap ports on a whim. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried plugging one of my old trusty USB-A accessories into a new laptop I’m reviewing, only to be cold-stopped at the sight of a few USB-C ports. and a headphone jack.
With a Framework I could fit the four ports I need for the day into the catalog of expansion cards I can buy which includes clutch drives such as the microSD card reader that I will need. to get pictures of that old digital camera in my closet and the HDMI port I want when the holidays come and I’m trying to introduce my family to these unspecialized Star Wars cups.
There are also 250GB and 1TB storage expansion cards, in case I need some extra space. And the best part is that Framework has released design documents and reference specifications for the expansion card system under an open source license, which means that some enterprising fans have already designed custom expansion cards as a RFID reader or – perhaps the most exciting – a snack drawer.
So yes, it’s the passion and ingenuity of the Framework community that keeps pushing me to take the plunge and buy one of my own. I was intrigued by the potential of the Framework when I first saw a preview in some office building in Burlingame earlier this year.
The pitch of a more repairable and upgradeable ultraportable was too good to be left out, and when I saw the laptop in person, I was amazed at how thin and light it was. After all, so many laptop makers (* cough * Apple * cough *) justify shipping laptops with irreplaceable components by saying that they are easier and more cost effective to produce, with thinner and lighter frames than what might be delivered if everything inside was accessible.
Still, I was there in this deserted office building (thank you COVID!) With a laptop as thin and light as the latest MacBook Pro M1, but more accessible and dumb-proof than my car.
And let me tell you, as someone who’s accidentally tried to pour motor oil into the washer fluid reservoir more than once: my car is pretty dumb-proof!
When I asked Framework founder Nirav Patel how thinner and lighter the Framework laptop could have been if they hadn’t designed so many components to be replaceable, his answer m surprised: not really.
“It’s amazing how little you lose,” Patel told me. “Technically, we could have reduced by a fraction of a millimeter if we had soldered the RAM or if we had not integrated our expansion card system …[but] it’s all the more shameful because, in fact, you don’t have to compromise so much. “
The framework keeps its promise
I left that meeting surprised and excited by the Framework’s promise, but also doubtful that the company could deliver on it without some blatant sacrifice. Fast forward to this summer, when we received one for review, and after spending a few weeks using a Framework, I became confident that the company delivered the goods as promised.
I tested one of the $ 1,399 Performance setups and was impressed (among other things) with the sizable screen, comfortable keyboard, and good battery life. Sure, the Framework can’t match the performance of some laptops of similar size and price, but I don’t need a laptop to do a ton of gaming or video editing – I have a computer. office for that. What I need is a comfortable, portable laptop that offers sufficient speed and lasts at least 8 hours on a single charge, which the Framework is more than capable of.
And while our review unit’s performance wasn’t great, I feel like I don’t have to worry so much about being left behind once my new laptop starts to lose. of its brilliance. If I buy a Framework and find it having a little too much trouble in a few years, all I have to do is go to the Framework website and buy more RAM or a more powerful processor to swap.
Heck, maybe one day there might even be an external GPU case I can buy that connects through an expansion card and gives me enough power to play even the latest games on my aging ultraportable.
A laptop designed to outlive its creators
But wait, I hear some of you saying, what if Framework stops supporting its laptops? What if the business runs into problems and shuts down, cutting off easy access to spare parts and upgrades? So what, right hipster to fix? Where will you be and your awesome DIY laptop?
This is a reasonable concern, one that I raised in my own review of the Framework. But after taking the time to think it over, I think it’s less reasonable than I initially thought. You see, we are focusing too much on whether the Framework will stay in business for as long as we use the company’s laptops, when the main selling point of these laptops is that they are designed to be scalable. and replaceable. even if the company goes bankrupt. Of course, it’s good that Framework sells parts for its devices, offers repair services, and supports a community of partners and hardware enthusiasts. But even if that was all gone within a year, we can still expect Framework laptops to be more accessible and serviceable than any other laptop on the market.
For example, Framework already has engaged to make its diagrams and assembly plans available to repairers who request them. This means that if the business dips next year, you can probably still find someone to fix your laptop if it breaks down. And since the company has already released documentation, CAD models, and reference designs for expansion boards under an open source license as part of its expansion board development program, it’s reasonable to consider expect them to release similar open source resources for all replaceable components. the road.
Overall, the Framework Laptop is already better positioned to outlast its creators than anything the competition does, and it attracts a community of DIY enthusiasts who are already coming up with exciting new ideas for modifying or expanding the functionality of the. laptop.
It’s this community that keeps bringing me back to the Framework website. Apparently I’m just coming back to check out the community discussion board and see what great ideas people come up with for new expansion cards – personally, I hope someone comes up with a cool design for this aforementioned GPU case. But every time I come back I find myself gravitating to the order page, setting up a nice build-it-yourself framework powered by Core i7 with extra storage and plenty of expansion cards. I haven’t overcome my indecision enough to order it yet, but by the time you read this I’ll probably have one on the way.
Of course, with the current backlog, I probably wouldn’t have my new Framework until November. But it’s worth it to finally get the chance to own a laptop that looks like it was designed to help me get the most out of it, rather than treating me like I’m an untrustworthy idiot who doesn’t. can’t swap his RAM without breaking something.
And look, I’m an untrustworthy idiot most of the time, and almost broke more than my fair share of sticks of RAM during the upgrade process (dubious boast from a blind tech reporter) – but Framework doesn’t need to know that. He certainly doesn’t treat me like that. So far, the company has treated me and its customers with a level of respect that puts other laptop vendors to shame.
This strategy appears to be paying off, based on the Framework notebook’s order book and the active community that has quickly built up around them. I know that a laptop that you can open and fix yourself might seem like a niche product, too intimidating for most people, but the guides published by Framework and the components clearly labeled (with QR codes for each which take you to a store page to purchase replacement parts) do a lot to make battery replacement or processor upgrades more accessible. All in all, this is a remarkable achievement, which I hope will be reviewed and copied by every other laptop maker in the market.