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Framework is reviving the DIY laptop form factor and I couldn’t be happier

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For the most part, today’s laptop designs offer limited DIY upgrade options like RAM and storage at best. And in the worst case scenario, just getting inside the thing can be a big job only to find that the RAM is soldered to the motherboard and that you tore a ribbon cable when you pried the panel off. A startup called Framework is taking a completely different approach with a modular laptop to make all kinds of upgrades easy.

Do you remember barebones whitebooks? This effort reminds me of that, but with modern hardware and a thinner design.

“The common belief in the industry is that repairing products makes them thicker, heavier, uglier, less rugged, and more expensive. We’re here to prove the opposite and fix the consumer electronics one by one,” explains Framework.

Framework’s first attempt at a 13.5-inch laptop that resembles a MacBook but is based on Intel’s 11th generation core processors that come with up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, 4TB (or more) PCIe 4.0 SSD storage and Wi-Fi can be configured. Fi 6E wireless connectivity.

The machined aluminum and “precision formed” chassis measure 15.85 mm (0.62 in) and weighs only 1.3 kg (2.87 pounds).

What really stands out, however, is the hyper focus on customizations, repairs, and upgrades. From socket memory and RAM to motherboard and display, Framework promises that everything will be easily accessible and torn out when needed.

“Highly usable parts such as the battery, screen, keyboard and color-adjustable bezel with magnetic attachment can be easily replaced. QR codes for each item lead you directly to instructions and the listing in our webshop,” says Framework.

The feasibility of a modular laptop relies on framework that will offer future hardware upgrades that will fit, and for this purpose the company intends to “regularly” offer new parts. This also makes it an open ecosystem for other companies to sell compatible parts and modules.

Speaking of the latter, there are four external slots that users can fill with different modules. There will be a number of options including USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, microSD, storage, a headphone amplifier, and other modules that plug directly into either side of the case.

Framework plans to offer various pre-configured models under Windows 10 as well as a Framework Laptop DIY Edition, which is “available as a module set that you can customize and assemble yourself”. Either way, Framework will include a screwdriver in the box to drive home the point where these systems were designed to make tinkering easier.

It’s a neat concept and I applaud the Right to Repair Framework. However, this is still not at the desktop level as it doesn’t sound like users can swap out the CPU or GPU individually – both will likely require a wholesale board swap. But hey, you have to start somewhere right? We hope Framework will continue this with a modular gaming laptop model. The first “Framework Laptop” is currently being launched this summer.

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Robert Dunfee