An upgradeable laptop has long been the holy grail of laptop features. And much like the famed grail, it has never been found.
Many have tried and all have failed. The most recent attempt was Alienware’s Area 51m R1 (go.pcworld.com/51r1), which launched with lofty goals but ultimately never offered meaningful upgrades (go.pcworld. com/mnup).
Enter Framework (go.pcworld.com/ fmwk), which pledges to finally bring the Holy Grail home to Camelot with a modular, do-it-yourself, upgradeable laptop. Having borne witness to all of the prior quest failures, we have our doubts. Many of them.
But after talking at length with Framework founder Nirav Patel, we found our hope rekindled. Maybe, just maybe, this time someone will succeed. Patel seems to have answers for most of the problems that brought down everyone else, including TDP limits and consumers simply breaking the things while building them.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the Framework laptop’s specifications, followed by our Q&A with Patel. It’s insightful.
CPU: Intel 11th gen
GPU: Iris Xe integrated graphics
RAM: DDR4/3200 in two SO-DIMM slots
Storage: Standard M.2
Keyboard: 1.5mm travel dome
Webcam: 1080p 60fps
Networking: Wi-Fi 6E
Display: 13.5-inch 3:2 2256x1504 resolution
Availability: Summer 2021
OS: Linux or Windows
FRAMEWORK LAPTOP Q&A WITH NIRAV PATEL
PCWorld: Can you share more details on how it can be “upgraded” and repaired? I’m guessing the mainboard can be swapped out down the road—but that largely means the company has to do the QA and fulfillment of boards, which I’m going to guess are custom. How can you account for power and thermal requirements down the road?
Patel: Every module in the system is end-user replaceable for upgrade or repair purposes, and parts are made available through the Framework Marketplace. Our Expansion Cards slide and click into place in the housing. The replaceable bezel is magnetic attach. For the internal modules, each uses a single labeled connector and a minimal number of fasteners. The only module that is more complex to replace is the mainboard that everything connects into, which would be a more rare item to change (and something that no other notebook currently offers).
In general, mobile CPUs are designed by Intel and AMD to target the thermal constraints of specific form factors. We’ve designed in a thermal budget to max out Intel’s “U” thermal tier, 28W continuous load at the CPU with boost levels above that. We’re developing additional mainboards with new CPU platforms ourselves at Framework as well as opening up our specs for third parties to be able to develop compatible ones and offer them through the Framework Marketplace.
PCWorld: So there will be an AMD version?
Patel: We haven’t announced specific plans for additional versions, but we have designed the Framework Laptop to be able to use future mainboards we develop with different CPU platforms.
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