RRP $ 999.00
"The Framework Laptop is more than just a worthwhile experiment in terms of modularity, it's also a great laptop."
Bright, high resolution screen
Lots of key trips
Easily interchangeable ports
Mediocre battery life
Even the very best laptops are only supposed to last four or five years. Warranties expire, components become obsolete, damage occurs, and not much of it is repairable.
Here the framework laptop disrupts the norm. A screwdriver is included and adjustments, updates, and repairs of all kinds are highly recommended. A piece of technology that won't run out of steam even in a few product cycles? Now there is a new idea.
For a starting price of $ 999, you can get a premium Windows laptop that looks and works like any other. But the framework philosophy is really what you pay for – and that makes the framework laptop unlike any I've ever used.
On the surface, the Framework Laptop is an ordinary laptop. It's a simple silver laptop that resembles a cheaper version of a MacBook – no different from countless Windows laptops and Chromebooks.
That's not exactly a compliment, but maybe meddling is part of the point. The idea that the Framework laptop looks and works like any other laptop feels important – especially when trying to demonstrate how easy it would be for other laptops to take a similar approach to modularity. Of course, that doesn't mean that I didn't want a more original design.
Most laptop manufacturers claim that reduced upgradeability is a necessary compromise for portability, build quality, and system integrity. It doesn't matter whether it's Apple with its MacBooks or Dell with its XPS 13.
But for the most part, the framework laptop turns out to be mere excuses. It's 0.62 inches thick and 2.9 pounds – not a clunky laptop at all. No, it's not as small as the XPS 13 or Surface Laptop 4, but it is very close to the size of the MacBook Pro 13-inch. Laptops like the Razer Blade Stealth 13 or the Asus ROG Flex X13 have pushed the performance limits of 13-inch laptops and crammed separate graphics cards into similar physical dimensions.
Build quality is the only major area the Framework laptop has to sacrifice. It's not that it's badly built, but it's certainly not made from a single block of machined aluminum either. Since the key cover, bezels, and connectors can all be removed, they each introduce additional bezels that can potentially weaken the overall integrity of the structure. The lid has a bend, as well as the keyboard deck and the hinge. I've also noticed a clicking sound that sometimes occurs when the laptop is quickly opened and closed to a full 180 degrees.
But again, these aren't things that are unknown to a laptop at this price point. It's a flaw in many midrange or premium laptops that don't seem to get perfect. Framework Laptop also fits into this category, except it has some legitimate reasons for its slightly inferior build quality.
Do I wish I could do without these plastic bezels? Absolutely. With a glossy screen like this, the option for the glass frames only would have been great.
Connections and expandability
Ports are the easiest way that the modularity of the framework benefits laptops. When you pull the Framework laptop out of the box, it looks a bit strange with its four exposed Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, two on each side of the laptop.
Framework then allows you to select the ports you want. You'll need at least one USB-C port to charge, but from there it's up to you. You might want HDMI or even full DisplayPort for your monitor connections. You might want three USB-A ports for all of your accessories and peripherals. Or maybe you just want to put all of these expansion cards in a pocket and use them as adapters when needed.
It's the kind of thing that gadget heads are going to love. But it's more than just a novelty. It also makes for a pretty versatile setup that no other laptop can replicate without the use of dongles, adapters, or hubs. However, changing expansion cards requires the system to be turned off, where carrying a set of dongles may be more convenient.
I was disappointed to see that it didn't include a full size SD card slot as an expansion card. Framework instead went with a micro SD slot, which is far less useful.
But ports are only the first step. The whole system is based on the idea of easy access to the internal components. Most laptops provide access through a removable bottom lid, but the Framework laptop provides top access directly through the keyboard. Using the screwdriver provided, simply loosen the five fastenings on the underside and pull off the magnetic input cover.
From there you can see the internal layout, all of which are neatly labeled and removable. Framework even went so far as to include scannable QR codes that tell you exactly what parts are included and how to install them. It's a real breath of fresh air. Laptop manufacturers tend to downplay the specific memory, storage, and connectivity they use – and would rather not tinker. That is not to say that it is completely unknown today. Many gaming laptops still allow you to add memory or storage. But it's becoming increasingly rare in thin and light laptops of this size.
Removing components on the Framework laptop couldn't be easier. Adding via the M.2 slot only requires loosening the latch while RAM snaps into place with no problem. The WLAN module is a little trickier, as you have to connect the antenna cables correctly. I love that all of the screws are just fasteners to make sure you never lose an important screw. Framework has thought through to the last detail and everything contributes to a pleasant upgrade experience for both newbies and PC veterans.
Adding memory or RAM is a great way to extend the life of a laptop, but ultimately the processor and graphics will hold you up. That makes the Framework Laptop even more special.
It should be noted that while the memory and RAM work well with third-party parts that you buy and install yourself, the framework must provide the CPU and motherboard. That is, for the time being. The CPU and the mainboard (or the mainboard, as the framework calls it) are proprietary designs that are not that easy to separate on their own.
Framework also sells a discounted DIY edition that requires you to install these modules yourself. For most people interested in the modularity of the Framework laptop, the DIY edition is a cheaper way to get the exact same laptop experience.
Keyboard and touchpad
When I got into this review, I was concerned about the keyboard touchpad. These are the details that can easily be overlooked in a laptop that is more user upgradeable. I was pleasantly surprised at how good these entrances are.
The keyboard has a travel of 1.5 mm, which felt heavenly under my fingers. When you're tired of the direction of flatter laptop keyboards, the Framework Laptop gives your tired fingers rest. This is one of the most comfortable laptop keyboards I've ever used. The layout is familiar and there is nothing that requires a learning curve.
This is one of the most comfortable laptop keyboards I've ever used.
The backlight is bright and even, with three levels of brightness. This has become the standard for brightness control, but laptops like the Razer Blade or the MacBook Pro offer more precise control.
The touchpad isn't quite as good as the keyboard, but it comes close. It's big and responsive, the tracking feels precise, and the click isn't too loud. Palm suppression is decent too, though the cursor skipped or moved a few times as you typed.
Framework also includes a fingerprint reader on top of the keyboard deck that is built into the power button. It looks a little out of place and unbranded, but the fingerprint reader worked fine for Windows Hello authentication.
Unfortunately, the Framework laptop doesn't include an IR camera for facial recognition, so you'll have to rely on the fingerprint reader for passwordless logins.
It would have been easy to use an older, less trend-setting display option on the Framework laptop. Instead, it's another aspect of the device that doesn't just meet the basics to get through. It has a resolution of 2560 x 1403 with an aspect ratio of 3: 2, an increasingly popular alternative to 16: 9. This means more vertical screen real estate and more space to get work done and view web pages.
It's very similar in shape and size to the Surface Laptop 4, which also has a 3: 2 13.5-inch screen. There is no touchscreen in either configuration, but I love this size of the laptop. It strikes the balance between portability and screen size, giving you a comfortable place to work without having to lug around a larger 15-inch laptop. The increased resolution and size are to die for if you come from a 16: 9 1080p laptop.
It's a very bright screen with a maximum of 463 nits.
The image quality of the display isn't the best I've seen, but it excels in a few key areas. First, it's a very bright screen. It reaches a maximum brightness of 463 nits, an abundance of brightness that makes it a versatile laptop for working outdoors, near windows, or under bright fluorescent ceiling lights. It's also a high contrast screen with a maximum of 1090: 1 at 100% screen brightness. The result is crisp text when reading or typing and dynamic lighting in videos and movies.
The colors are the weakest aspect of the screen. 76% of the AdobeRGB color space is by no means bad, but it lags a bit behind some of the leaders in the field like the MacBook Pro, Samsung Galaxy Book Pro, and Razer Blade 14.
The color accuracy is also a bit off. My Spyder5 colorimeter gave some inconsistent results when reporting an average color error, despite doing a lot of testing. Framework says it uses the standard calibration made by the panel manufacturer, and when used anecdotally, colors felt pretty lifelike and natural. However, it may not be the best option for a professional color grader unless you plan on calibrating it yourself.
Webcam and speakers
The webcam is located in the top frame above the screen and is impressive in itself. It's a 1080p camera with 60 frames per second (fps) video, which is a huge upgrade over most laptops that are still sold with 720p webcams. The increased resolution makes a huge difference on video calls by sharpening your face and smoothing movements. It's another example of how the Framework Laptop is a disruptive force in the laptop market today.
The speakers are on the lower edge of the laptop and face down. The screen's 3: 2 aspect ratio doesn't allow for as much width next to the keyboard for upwardly radiating speakers as I would prefer. These aren't bad speakers considering the placement. Compared to the MacBook Pro 13 inch they are of course pathetic, but the stereo separation sounds full and the speakers do not crackle at high volume.
The Framework Laptop is divided into three simple configurations that scale processor performance, memory, and storage. It's an easy way to sell a laptop, but it's a little misleading, and the lack of configurations makes buying the Framework laptop a bit limited just off the page. On the other hand, unlike most other laptops of this type, it wouldn't be difficult to buy the base configuration and add storage or RAM as needed. That's the beauty of user-upgradeability.
My test device was the middle option, which comes with an Intel Core i7-1165G7, 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD. While the base configuration is pretty affordable at $ 999, Framework demands a fair amount for additional memory and storage space. Dell is charging just $ 100 to upgrade the XPS 13 from 8GB to 16GB, while Apple is charging $ 200 for the same upgrade on the MacBook Pro. Microsoft is a notorious culprit in this regard, charging $ 1,700 for an identical configuration to my $ 1,399 trial configuration of the Framework laptop. So you will surely save some cash by upgrading yourself, although $ 1,399 isn't a terrible price for what the Framework laptop offers.
In addition, the Framework laptop does admirably. I tested it on our benchmark suite including Geekbench 5, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10, and 3DMark Time Spy.
|Geekbench 5 (single / multiple)||Handbrake (seconds)||Cinebench R23 (single / multiple)||PCMark 10||3DMark time spy|
|Dell XPS 13 (Core i7-1165G7)||1540/5432||201||1399/4585||3859||1589|
|HP Specter x360 14 (Core i7-1165G7)||1214/4117||236||1389/3941||4728||1457|
|Samsung Galaxy Pro 360
|1554/5603||N / A||1308/4062||5159||1800|
|Razer Book 13 (Core i7-1165G7)||1548/5374||210||1508/4519||4878||1776|
The Framework laptop trades punches with some of the more powerful 13-inch Windows laptops you can buy, including the Razer Book 13 and Dell XPS 13. The strong multi-core performance in Cinebench R23 is remarkable and has it all beaten other competitors listed above. This great multi-core performance also translates well into fast video encoding times in Handbrake.
However, the Iris Xe graphics didn't blow my socks off in the Time Spy benchmark, nor in any of the games I tested. It's not a laptop that will be of great use for AAA PC gaming.
The thermals also worried me a few. The CPU reached peaks of 100 degrees Celsius several times in PCMark 10 runs and maintained the temperatures throughout the PCMark Spreadsheets test in the very high 90s. For example, the Ryzen CPU in the Asus ROG Flow X13 stayed around 10 degrees cooler during the same benchmark, which is still running pretty hot. Thats not cool. When you're doing something particularly demanding, both the surface and interior temperatures can get uncomfortably hot.
It handles video conferencing well, however, but the fans never turn loud enough to disturb the built-in microphones and speakers. The other good news is that the CPU was still humming at around 4.4 GHz even at high temperatures.
Under heavy loads, both the surface and the interior temperature can get uncomfortably hot.
So what's the explanation for these types of temperatures? Open and accessible components can certainly be one of the culprits. Multiple fans, more heat pipes, large heat sinks, extra case vents, and other types of heat spreader are additional techniques that laptops use to cool these components. The Framework laptop is limited to just a single large fan, a couple of heat pipes, and a few small openings along the bottom of the laptop for airflow. This is certainly the weakest aspect of the Framework laptop and one that could wear out its internal components over time.
When asked, Framework confirmed that the system was designed to operate at the maximum boost frequency while remaining within safe temperature limits. 100 degrees Celsius is technically the maximum temperature the processor can reach, but you typically don't want your system to run at temperatures that high. It's not uncommon on competing laptops like the XPS 13, but it's never a good thing to see.
The Framework Laptop contains a 55 watt hour battery, which is a decent building block for a laptop of this size. However, higher resolution screens like this one drain batteries faster and the result is mediocre battery life.
The Framework laptop lasted 7 hours and 11 minutes in a light web browser test that crawled through some heavier websites until the battery ran out. Most laptops in this price range and category last longer in this test. The Dell XPS 13 lasted almost 8.5 hours, while battery life champions like the Surface Laptop 4 lasted up to 13.5 hours. Even the Razer Book 13, which I praised for its mediocre battery life, lasted a full hour longer than the Framework laptop.
I also tested the laptop's battery on local video playback, which repeats a 1080p video clip until the battery runs out. The Framework laptop died after 7 hours and 20 minutes. This, too, is a good way behind the competition.
The Framework laptop won't get you through a full day of work on a single charge, especially if your typical workload includes some tasking applications, a lot of streaming, or heavier multitasking.
The Framework Laptop has a gimmick. Its modularity and upgradeability are certainly its main selling points, and if that's not important to you, look elsewhere. But unlike a lot of other experimental tech products, the Framework Laptop is a great laptop too. It's not perfect, but the Framework laptop doesn't let you sacrifice much to enjoy its unique design.
Are there alternatives?
In terms of upgradeability, Framework Laptop doesn't have a lot of competitors. There are some larger laptops out there that you can still upgrade the memory yourself, but not many in this size.
In terms of price, the Framework laptop ends up among premium laptops like the Dell XPS 13, MacBook Pro 13 and HP Specter x360 14. However, the option of the DIY edition really helps to make the Framework laptop more affordable. Any number of other flagship laptops have strengths over the Framework laptop, but none offer this level of upgradeability.
How long it will take?
As long as you want in theory. Since almost all internal components are interchangeable, a dead battery or an outdated CPU does not mean that the entire laptop has to be disposed of. I say in theory just because the framework has to hold its end of the deal for it to really work.
In order for this laptop to last 10 or 15 years, Framework has to release new "motherboards" with updated processors, which is planned. The company has great ambitions to even open a third-party marketplace that aftermarket manufacturers can participate in. However, none of this has started yet. The interest in a shop for everything to do with the Framework Laptop will likely depend heavily on the success and acceptance of the first rounds of product releases.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If the idea of a long-lasting, user-upgradeable laptop sounds remotely appealing, the Framework Laptop is a dream come true.