PROS Most components are fully replaceable by end-user. Sustainable concept and design, including recycled materials. Sold preconfigured or in DIY kit form. Clever accessibility and QR code instructions.
CONS Concept is reliant on long-term company support. DIY aspect may be intimidating for less-savvy laptop users.
BOTTOM LINE A unique notebook PC with admirable goals, the Framework Laptop is built from the ground up to be user-upgradable and sustainable for the long term, letting you swap out almost every part and keep your laptop for years.
Manufacturers such as Acer and Asus have been experimenting with radical new laptop layouts of late—twin screens, pop-up, and slide-out keyboards—but the Framework Laptop is something else entirely: a notebook built around true modularity and component capability. Fully focused on easy repair and long-term viability, this 13.5inch ultraportable is designed from the ground up to be opened up, parts wapped, and used by its owner for years to come.
This concept combats environmental waste and the idea that you need to throw out or recycle your whole laptop when one part goes bad or when you need an upgrade. Almost every core component in the Framework Laptop is easy to access and change out. As a general-use laptop, its build, performance, and battery life were good (not great) in our testing, but the upgradability is what sets it apart. It earns a TechX award and our recommendation for its innovation and execution.
INTRODUCING FRAMEWORK COMPUTER
The Framework Laptop comes not from a major manufacturer but from Framework Computer, a San Francisco–based company that is all about this particular product (in case you couldn’t tell from the name). The concept comes along at a time when both “right to repair” (the ability for end users to maintain and upgrade their tech purchases rather than dispose of them) and being more environmentally friendly are firmly in the zeitgeist. Indeed, just a few weeks before we wrote this, the Biden administration announced plans for an executive order addressing onerous repair restrictions on certain products, including types of tech.
Framework Computer’s argument is that most modern laptops aren’t upgrade-friendly; they’re built to be thrown away after a few years of use, and this is bad for both the environment and consumers. It’s hard to argue with that—some notebooks offer the ability to add or swap out the RAM or storage, but even that’s not a given and mostly is reserved for larger gaming or workstation-grade models. When the parts get old, you can’t really change or upgrade them as you might on a desktop PC, and most users will eventually pass along or retire the machine.
In theory, this will not be the case with the Framework Laptop, which is made for users to be able to order new parts, easily access the interior, and replace what needs replacing. On top of that, the chassis is built with 50% post-consumer recycled aluminum and has fully recyclable packaging. The Framework weighs just 2.8 pounds, placing it squarely in the ultraportable class.
To be clear, this laptop is sold with Windows and components and is fully functional to start. You can select among three preconfigured models, at $999 (the Framework “Base” model), $1,399 (the “Performance” model), and $1,999 (the “Pro”). The base model includes a Core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB of memory, and 256GB storage, while the others bump up to one of two flavors of Core i7 CPU (the Core i7-1165G7 or Core i71185G7, respectively), and as much as 32GB of memory and 1TB of storage.
Our review unit is the middle-Performance model, offering a good balance of core specs alongside the DIY design. It includes the Core i7-1165G7 CPU, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD, and Windows 10 Home.
The display is a 13.5-inch 3:2 screen with a 2,256-by-1,504-pixel native resolution. The squarer 3:2 aspect ratio may take you by surprise if you haven’t used a screen with one before, but we’re seeing this more and more, especially on smaller laptops. The picture quality is good, and the screen is quite bright at maximum brightness. (We measured 357 nits at 100% brightness.)
You can also buy an assembly-required DIY version of the Framework Laptop at $749. When you choose this starting point, you pick individual parts for your order or leave some components out of the order and provide your own, and then assemble the kit yourself. That also gives you the option to roll your own operating system, including Linux distributions.
SWAP IT ALL, FROM PORTS TO PARTS
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