Framework, a startup creating a modular laptop for easy repair, is today opening pre-orders for its first product. All told, the Framework Laptop is available in four variants. When the company first announced the laptop, it insisted that it wouldn’t charge a premium. So far, it seems like the company is staying true to its word: You can pick up the base model for a reasonable $999, or a DIY version for $749.
The units are differentiated by their CPU, RAM and storage options. The $999 base model packs Intel’s Core i5-1135G7 processor, paired with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and Windows 10 Home. The $1,399 Performance model, meanwhile, gets a Core i7-1165G7 chip with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB SSD and Windows 10 Home. The $1,999 Professional Model tops the range, offering a Core i7-1185G7 processor, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD and Windows 10 Pro. And, if your budget stretches that far, you can also spec up further, with up to 64GB ofRAM and 4TB of SSD storage.
The rest of the spec list is certainly enough for the majority of people, with a 13-inch, 3:2, 2,256 x 1,504 display, a 55Wh battery and a keyboard with 1.5mm of travel. Speaking to Engadget, founder Nirav Patel said that his team — spurred on in part by the pandemic — also wanted to ensure the Framework was good at video conferencing. Consequently, the laptop packs a 1080p, 60fps webcam with a physical privacy switch. He added that the components were at least as good as what you’d find in other industry-leading devices.
In terms of Framework’s environmental bona fides, the machine uses at least 50 percent post-consumer recycled aluminum in its enclosure. Modularity hasn’t affected the size of the body too much either, with the Framework Laptop measuring in thinner and lighter than a 13-inch MacBook Pro. Plus, of course, you can hot-swap the quartet of ports attached to the laptop — connected in fact via USB-C inside the chassis. Alternative options include USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, microSD and additional storage.
For those people who would be leery about opening up any sort of device, let alone a laptop, Patel says swapping out and replacing a module should take even the most fearful of users less than 10 minutes. And each component will carry a QR code that leads you straight to a website offering step-by-step instructions and video in the style of iFixit. And users should only need the screwdriver that is included in the box to carry out any repair.
The only repair that's likely to take longer than 10 minutes is swapping out the CPU and mainboard. The chips aren’t socketed, so when it comes time to upgrade the brain, you’ll need to disassemble the whole unit for a replacement.
In terms of longevity, Patel said that there were, broadly, two periods of time when you use any computer. The first is when it’s relatively new and the hardware can keep up with the technical standards of the time. The second is when performance begins to sag as software and web standards move forward. Patel’s aim with Framework is to double the amount of those “happy years” when using your computer doesn’t feel like a chore.
For the braver amongst you, Framework’s DIY edition, priced at $749, offers the whole machine disassembled. You can then select the components you want to include, and pick the operating system to be pre-installed, or bring your own.
The pandemic has, for a lot of companies, slowed their ability to get product out of the door and that’s true here, too. Framework has begun producing the machine but expects the volume of units available to sell to be limited for the next few months. It will instead offer pre-orders in batches, with early adopters putting $100 down now to get their machine in June. When those orders are fulfilled, pre-orders will open up in Canada, with European and Asian availability coming toward the end of the year.