The Framework laptop is my favourite piece of tech in 2022 (so far, although there are only two months to go).
No, seriously: it’s a big call to make and it’s one that I don’t do lightly, but the laptop made by a startup sporting the same “Framework” name as the laptop has impressed me so much that I’ll applaud its design without hesitation.
How does it earn this praise? Well, it’s a modular laptop, where instead of paying for an expensive repair or buying a whole new unit once it’s past its best, you’re encouraged to upgrade its parts. Which, by the way, are as easy as LEGO to swap out.
It’s a sustainable, environment-first and cost-effective approach that, frankly, it’s sad that major manufacturers haven’t gotten behind.
Hardware modularity became lost in time as the tech world shifted to Apple’s closed-device approach. In a post-iPhone and MacBook world, removable batteries became one of the more noticeable casualties. Devices also became a lot harder to pull apart to swap out parts, with most phones now requiring the removal of the screen before accessing the insides.
While modular PCs retained popularity among enthusiasts and boutique PC building companies, the modularity we see in the Framework is unusual. It’s absolutely welcome, of course, but it’s not something we’ve come to expect (the same can be said for the Fairphone).
And it’s for the best, without a doubt. Starting at $1,639 for a prebuilt laptop, or $1,279 for a DIY part machine where you pick the parts, modularity speaks for itself. You may spend less on a laptop from a larger manufacturer than on one of the three standard Framework models (divided by processor), but there’s more value to be had in swapping out a broken part instead of a full machine.
If a part breaks, you order that part and replace it yourself instead of paying for a repair or a whole new device. If it’s feeling run down, you order parts to give it new life.
This sounds like a daunting task but I assure you that it is not. I recorded the entire build process below.
@gizmodoau This is a #diy laptop from #Framework. #tech #australia ♬ Shipyard Sample OriginalMix – Official Sound Studio
The Framework laptop has a mistake-proof design that I truly admire. Here are some points to consider:
- The screws on the bottom of the device can’t be removed from the chassis but can be undone just enough to allow you to pull the laptop apart, eliminating the risk of losing screws
- You’re provided a screwdriver with a tool on the end to open the device with
- The screen bezel is held in place by screen-surrounding magnets
- The keyboard lifts off effortlessly when the screws are undone
- Internally, parts slot, click and snap into place, similar to LEGO bricks (truly)
- Every part that could possibly break can be purchased from Framework directly.
Additionally, when you order your laptop, you’ll be given the choice to check out with Windows 11 or no operating system, RAM sticks, your selected NVME hard drive and whatever ports you want on the sides of the device (up to four).
These ports are all removable as blocks and connect to the machine via indented USB-C ports. They’re also all configured to charge the machine, so it doesn’t matter which port you allocate for USB-C charging (charging cable provided).
No sacrifices for performance
You’d think that as a company that was once a startup, Framework would want to keep costs low and continue to sell the cheapest tech they could, but this is not the case. The 2022 model laptops come with 12th gen Intel processors, although 11th gen processors are also available (and are cheaper, too).
Reviewing the mid-range i7-1260P model (with 16GB RAM), the Framework laptop did not disappoint. In our Cinebench test, the laptop scored 1,507 points and placed second, whereas in our multicore test, the laptop scored 9,239 points and placed fourth.
In our Forza test, things were similarly impressive. You might be dissuaded from the Framework laptop if you’re after a heavy-duty gaming laptop, but these results weren’t terrible.
In our Chrome tab test, the laptop was able to withstand 37 open tabs before stutter was noticeable, before freezing up at 46 tabs.
Finally, in our battery test, where we see how the laptop fairs against the entirety of Avengers: Endgame, the laptop dropped from 100 per cent to 81 per cent in the first hour, then 62 per cent in the second and then 42 per cent in the third. This is a fairly average result that clocks in below more expensive options like the XPS 13 Plus, and isn’t particularly worrying.
But while the battery model, size and capacity is the same across all Framework laptops, nothing else is, which brings me to an important point: these results are beside the point.
The model I reviewed included 512GB NVME storage, 16GB RAM, an i7-1260P processor and an assortment of ports on the side (I selected USB-C and HDMI on the left, but USB-C and USB-A on the right).
As I touched on above, ordering a laptop from Framework, you’ll be able to purchase a pre-built model or a “DIY” model, adding in your selected RAM, ports and storage. I ordered a DIY model and built it myself within an hour.
This way, you can tailor the machine to your needs and budget. Of course, the more you spend the better the laptop will perform, but you can also keep things cheap and even go without a Windows licence (just remember to bring a Linux OS instead).
I haven’t got a truly bad thing to say about the Framework laptop. Sparingly, all of my problems come back to a lack of personalisation:
- The laptop is only available in a silver finish with a black screen bezel (although more bezel colours will be available soon)
- The keyboard feels a little flimsy and the shape of the laptop is reminiscent of a 2016 MacBook
- The laptop only has one screen size (2256 x 1504 at 13.5-inches)
- There’s no touchscreen option available.
I… Don’t think there’s anything else I can say against the Framework laptop. Genuinely, these small things are it, and Framework’s dedicated modding community could probably rectify half of them.
Although I know the point is to try and get laptop users to stop buying so much tech and start getting used to swapping out broken parts instead of whole machines, I would like to see Framework offer a separate model shape with the option for adding on a dedicated graphics card (or, as I said earlier, a touchscreen).
But otherwise, this is an all-rounder for most people, with customisation and maintenance so easy it may as well be a toy.
The Framework laptop has won my heart for its straightforward approach to modularity. I have no trouble calling it my preferred laptop of 2022 and will likely continue to use it for as long as I can.
If this is the last laptop I ever own, swapping out parts as it gets older, I will be very satisfied. I’ve said it a few times in my reviews, but I’ll say it here with praise: the most ethical thing a consumer can do is consume less, and the Framework laptop wants you to do just this.
The team that designed this laptop should be very proud.
Where to buy the Framework laptop
The Framework laptop can be ordered from the Frame.work website. Prebuilt models start at $1,639 and DIY models (with most of the parts removed from the ordering process to begin with) start at $1,279.
If you choose the DIY model, remember to bring a Windows (or Linux) licence. Australian deliveries are set to begin on October 17.
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