Framework laptop: This DIY laptop wants you to take it apart and repair it
PCWorld|September 2021
It’s the ultimate ‘right to repair’ laptop.
GORDON MAH UNG

Framework wants you to take its laptop apart and repair it. Seriously. While most laptops are difficult, even impossible, to repair or upgrade, not only can this debut product from Framework be dismantled and upgraded, but the company actually encourages you to do it.

We took an early-production Framework laptop for a whirl. While we have some issues with certain design choices, we have to say it’s refreshing to see a laptop made for upgrading and serviceability.

For example, most laptop bezels and bodies are held together with plastic latches that snap the keyboard deck onto the bottom. While you can usually snap the two together after opening it to, say, swap out the SSD, do that enough times and the plastic latches will eventually break. Framework addresses this by using magnets to hold the bezel and body together. Once you’ve removed the five T5 screws on the bottom, you carefully pry the two pieces apart.

Framework’s screws use a T5 Torx head instead of the far more common Phillips head, which some will take as an anti-repair feature because few people have Torx drivers. To its credit, Framework includes a T5 Torx tool with a plastic “spudger” on one end.

GO AHEAD, TAKE IT APART

With most laptop reviews, you start by testing it, and you may gingerly open it up later to look inside. With the Framework, we did the reverse: We took the laptop apart before testing it.

And we don’t mean we just opened it up. We actually decided to remove the laptop’s motherboard to see how easy it was. Hint: It’s easy. Really easy. That’s helped by the clear instructions Framework offers (go. pcworld.com/frin).

INVERTED DESIGN

Interestingly, the design of the Framework laptop puts the pair of DDR4 SO-DIMMs and the PCIe Gen 4 M.2 under the keyboard. This is typically the most unfriendly place to position the most common components people change on a laptop, because removing the keyboard and trackpad runs the risk of tearing delicate ribbon cables.

With the Framework laptop, though, it’s not a problem. As we said, loosen the five T5 screws on the bottom—but don’t remove them. That’s because they’re captive screws, held in place when loosened. This is a particularly rare detail among laptops, but Framework knows you’ll be opening up its products, so it’s thinking of your needs.

Once you’ve loosened the screws, you use the plastic spudger to pry up the keyboard. Then you remove a single ribbon cable that carries the connections from the keyboard and trackpad. In many laptops, the trackpad and keyboard are connected by their own cables, often so short that there’s barely enough clearance to remove them. Framework’s keyboard and trackpad cable is intentionally long to aid and abet its user-tinkerer audience.

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