Imagine: If you bought a laptop today and could just swap out and upgrade the hardware components when needed … a device that could outlast your previous laptop. Here is the Laptop Framework.
The start-up called Framework has announced a modular laptop called “Framework Laptop”. It is a modular, easily repairable laptop computer designed to run for decades replacing all parts and components of the machine.
This is not a new concept of modularity in the consumer electronics market, there have been many attempts to design a device that can be modular, easy to repair, and fully upgradeable. In the smartphone market, Fairphone has taken this niche.
Objective: to exceed 5 years of use
Today, high-end laptops tend to slow down after 5 years of use: the battery often fails, but many other components wear out. A USB port that no longer works, an SSD that crashes the OS, the CPU that rows, the screen that sizzles … all of these devices are designed in such a way that you simply cannot evolve essential components like motherboard, display, keyboard or CPU. It is true that we can sometimes change the storage as well as the RAM, or add a new Wi-Fi card… but this is not the case on all models. Complex components tend to be wired and soldered onto the PCB which cannot be removed.
Framework is trying to market a concept of a laptop where you can easily swap out the motherboard, screen, keyboard or any other accessories without worrying too much. In theory, your device can run for decades.
In the smartphone world, Google’s Project Ara had a similar view. Framework has designed small modular port blocks that you can simply remove and plug in separately whenever you want. If you need an HDMI port for an outdoor meeting… just add it to your laptop before you go.
The current characteristics of the machine
The first Laptop Framework is a 13.5-inch diagonal PC with a 3: 2 aspect ratio. It uses an 11th generation Intel Core CPU, the memory can go up to 64 GB of DDR4 while for storage you can add up to 4 TB in NVMe SSD. There is also a Full HD @ 60 fps front camera with a physical button to turn it off manually. Regarding the connections… it’s completely modular: USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, microSD… you put what you want.
On the OS side, you obviously have a choice: Windows 10 (Home and Pro) works perfectly, but Framework has set about working with the Linux kernel to support all the new hardware designed for this laptop PC. You therefore have the option of installing the GNU / Linux distribution of your choice.
In addition to promoting longevity, Framework has also made it a mission to increase durability throughout the life of the product. Framework’s laptop is made from 50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) aluminum and 30% PCR plastic on average. The packaging is fully recyclable and does not contain single-use plastic. In addition, Framework guarantees that its product shipments are subject to carbon offsetting.
In short, the idea is attractive on paper. The questions that we ask ourselves remain however that Fairphone. Will we have a product as efficient as an Asus or Dell laptop? Will autonomy be there? What happens if Framework closes its doors? What will be the future modules offered? What is the base price for this machine? How much will the components cost per unit? Will Framework be the sole supplier for the PCB? The mobile CPU? The screen? The keyboard ? However, this remains an interesting project to follow because it tries to find concrete answers to social and ecological problems.