Hands On With the Framework Laptop: The Most Upgradable Ultraportable Ever

This unique laptop from a new San Francisco-based maker lets you swap out the ports, all of the key internal components, and even the motherboard!

Read more about the Framework right here!

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– Hello, I’m Matthew Buzzi, And I’m here with John Burek And we have a pretty unique product today. This is from Framework computer. This is their main product,
which is the Framework laptop. And this is not sort of your normal PC, Not your normal laptop. This has a lot of different
facets that make it unique. Most importantly, that it’s very modular, Upgradable, DIY friendly. Secondly, it’s very
environmentally friendly In part because it’s Upgradable and repairable by
the user that gets into topics Like right to repair also being More environmentally conscious. But yeah, the whole
thing is deconstructable, This is really their, their
marquee product, as I said. So this is not some sort of
spinoff from a larger brand. This is a sign of their mission. This is kind of the thing
that they believe in. And it’s made up of recycled materials, In addition to the idea that
you won’t need to throw out the Whole computer when something goes wrong, Or you want to make an upgrade And John’s been looking at it, Checking it out and getting
into the different modules and Exactly how it works. So, John, what, what does
this thing look like? Tell me about the form factor
and what you can do with it. – Yeah. So this was like a very Unprepossessing cardboard box, right. There’s actually a really
interesting laptop in here. So let me put this up a
little bit, quite a bit. So we have laptop on the left there.

We’ll take it out in a moment, But you’ll also notice in the box here. There’s a bunch of small, Almost like little chocolate
bar sized modules in there, And I’m going to take them out one by one And show you what they are, But they’re sort of integral
to what the laptop is about, Modularity. So let’s open it up a little
and look at the machine itself, The machine itself, If you just look at it at
first glance, is, I mean, It looks like a pretty basic laptop. It’s got a gear on the front. Very light and all aluminum
construction, very sort of, You know, modern looking. And if you were just
looking at it at a glance, It wouldn’t really catch your attention. But in the box here, There’s something that at first
I looked at and I thought it Was, oh, they included a
stylus, but it’s really not. What this is, Is it’s sort of a uni-tool
that you would use to basically Upgrade anything in this
laptop that’s upgradable. So we’ll get to that in a moment. I’m going to move this out of
the way so we can concentrate On the machine itself. If you look at the underside
and to save us some time on Video here, I pre-loosened
the screws on the bottom. You’ll notice that there
are four bays in the, In the corner here, two on
either side and a button. What you can do is you
can press the button, Pop things out of the bays, And I’ll explain what
those are in a moment, But let’s strip the notebook down.

– So as you can see already, not, Not normal laptop behavior, This is kind of core to the concepts. And this is a 13 and a half inch notebook. It only weighs about 2.8 pounds And it’s 50% recycled aluminum. So off the bat, it’s
got a lot of different, Different things to talk
about that, make it stand out. But yeah, please, please tell
more about these modules. – Yes. The modules here, What you can basically do is
equip the laptop with a mixture Of ports, storage or connectivity modules, Depending on what you’re
trying to do that day, Or maybe just what your
usual usage patterns are. So for instance, I yank these out and it doesn’t
seem to matter which order You put them in, in which bay, But because they all seem to attach via USB-C connectors on the end. You have an HDMI module
here for HDMI video out. This one here is a micro SD card module, If you are going to use interface
for camera or a smartphone Card, we have here a
display port video out. If you want to connect to
a display port monitor, As opposed to an HDMI
and we have here a USB-C Basically a USB-C pass
through for the USB-C there For USB-C connectivity. So we had those installed there, Just sort of arbitrarily, But you’ll notice it in the box here, Framework computer also includes
a couple of other modules And there are also a few others
that aren’t included here That you can get. For instance, you can also install

Additional storage in these bays here. So basically you’re installing
the equivalent of an external SSD in one of the bays
and those come in 250 gig And one terabyte sizes. So in the, the boxes
here, we’ve pre-removed Some of them. We have the micro SD module, We have the display port module. We have the HDMI. We have two USB-Cs, One of them is on the
table here and one isn’t. And the last one here, what is this? This is the USB-A expansion part. If you just want to
conventional USB-A port. So depending on what you’re
trying to do, I mean, Even if you’re just trying
to plug in one particular bay To swap out the C for the A, Depending on what drives you
have or what device you’re Trying to attach to the laptop. So pretty nifty, I mean, Most laptops limit you what’s installed. And then you’ve got a bunch
of dongles or adapters Hanging off of it. – I was just thinking of
dongles and this may seem like, Oh man, it’s all these
things to keep track of, But you shouldn’t be using
them as frequently as you would Be dongles. Like you don’t have to bring
all of these things with you Every time you use it or go
somewhere because they’re really Semi-permanent in a way that’s like, okay, I normally use a mouse that’s USB-A. And I normally use, you know,
a USB-C drive or something, And you kind of keep that. And then it’s like, oh, I need now something, you
know, I have a new drive,

You swap out one of those
and leave it there for weeks. So it shouldn’t, It shouldn’t be a dongle
sort of craze and losing all These different tiny boxes. I think you can, for the most part, Keep one of them with you
maybe and keep the others, You know, in the box at home. – Yeah, the idea might be, You might have maybe like a
rogue configuration and a home Configuration, depending on
what you use in each place. And once you sort of figure
out what you’re going to be Connecting to it, You’ll probably leave both
of them in place, you know, At any given time. But the idea being that you can
use this laptop as a sort of A basis on which like if six
months from now you decide to Move to a USB-C, external SSD,
and you don’t have one today, You can swap in the module so
that you can use that without Having to, you know, Get another cable or use a dongle with it. So pretty nifty, you
can buy additional ones. And like I said, You can add storage and I
could see scenarios where For instance, You could have a bunch of the
storage models and you swap Them in and out, you know, and
use them in that way as well, If you are, you know, Trying to maintain different
environments or different sets Of media or of the cases. So yeah. So you could just swap them in
and out of the bottom there, You can hop swap them, you know, USB-C very nicely executed here. You just press a button
to release and yank.

So that’s one aspect of the Framework, Which is very much unlike other laptops. You could be stuck with the
ports you get when you buy it. – Yeah. But that is only half the half
the battle with this laptop That is only scratching the
surface of like, kind of taking. It apart. – Yeah. – So I know there’s much more,
there’s much more to come, So why don’t you show
us what else it can do? – Okay. So we’ll open it up over here. So a couple of things,
this one is more of a, As we put it, more of a vanity
thing. Framework says that They’re going to offer Different colored bezels for the machine. So if you’re in an
orange kind of mood or a, You know, dark mood or a light mood, You can get different
bezels to snap on here. And you know, The idea behind a lot of modern laptops Is that there’s almost
no bezel in many cases. So you almost don’t want to
bring emphasis to the bezel, But they’re pretty thin over
here on the sides and it’s Magnetically held on here. So I felt a little funny
doing this at first, because – It seems like something that
a laptop should not do, but. – No. Absolutely not. Yeah, but it’s, it’s flexi-plastic, But it feels sturdy enough. It keeps wanting to go back and place. I noticed if you open it a little further, It’s easier to get off of, Once you get your fingers down here. This is the scary part.

There’s a little bit of flexing. I’m making this look harder than it is. – Yeah. I think the guy had said, well, If you put it flat 180 degrees,
it is easier to get the, To get it off. – Alright, let’s do it that way. Ah, look at that, read the manual, John. There we go. So you can swap these in
or out, they’re magnetic. One thing that I should point out, Which is a very nice detail,
is that this unit comes with a 1080P camera capable of 60 FPS, Which is not common among
mainstream laptops these days. And given how much time we all spend On Zoom and whatnot. Definitely a point in its favor, A hardware switch for
disabling it as well. – It’s not something
you’re going to be swapping In and out with, with any sort
of ease or intention by the, By the manufacturers. So they might as well put a
good one of those in there. – Yeah. Well, for Framework laptop too, That actually would be
an interesting thing To implement, wouldn’t it? The ability to upgrade the onboard camera. – We’ve seen the size of
those deconstructed at various Vendor events, how small
those little apertures are. I can imagine losing that pretty quickly. – I can’t, I can’t imagine that
you want to be the support, You know, Folks who were dealing with
folks who were trying to Implement something like
this, you know, on a basis. So, but no kudos to, to
Framework for putting, A 1080P, 60 FPS camera
here in the first place.

And for letting you swap the frame out. That’s not all, So we’ve taken the frame off the display. Now I admit, I pre-loosened the screws On the bottom of the chassis here. There are five of them on the bottom. And what you could then
do is use the tool. You would actually use this
end of the tool to remove the Screws, they’re kind of
a very tiny star screw. And then you use the other
end, which is a sponger, You know, a separator
for…typically these, You would use these, If you’re trying to upgrade
to save the battery in the Smartphone and we get it in the, The crack between the keyboard deck And the rest of the laptop. And. – Another thing that shouldn’t
happen on a normal laptop, But there you go. – You wouldn’t be able to do this, right? So the laptop to me, The keyboard deck comes out
and there’s a cable here, But you need to be a little
bit delicate with it, That engages with the motherboard. And there goes the keyboard
deck and the underside. So let’s put that aside. Yeah. – Of course it gives you, why
would you want to do this? It gives you access to other changeable Parts of the computer. – Right. So here we go. So inside here, You’ve got all of the sort of components Of the laptop exposed.

And on a lot of laptop designs, These things are multiple
layers or they’re behind other Cabling, or they’re restricted by the, The cooling solution in the laptop here. – And all sorts of issues. – Right, so if you’ve ever
tried to take a laptop apart, Sometimes it’s a bloody
nightmare trying to get to any of The components in there because
they’re blocked by something Else, or you need to take out
a ribbon cable to get to it. And it feels a little
bit like microsurgery, But here they kind of put
everything on one plane, Very nicely and mark things as
you know, for what they are. And also, you’ll note, put
QR codes next to the various Components that you can upgrade. And the idea here being,
you could scan the QR code With your smartphone you’ll see
a video that explains how to Remove the part and how
to upgrade the part, And what your options are. And they also, Framework also
prides itself on the fact that You can use this tool to
upgrade anything in the laptop. You don’t need a bunch of screwdrivers. You don’t need a bunch of
different tipped pliers to, You know, wrench cables out. You basically use the
hex…excuse me, not hex The star screw tip here to
remove the, say for instance, M2 drive or anything else
that needs to be removed. That’s pretty clever. – Just generally. I think, I think it’s easy to see a
version of this that is much more Nightmarish to, to get into. And I think using the QR code
is also something you see in a Lot of the like motherboard
and case instruction booklets These days, is a lot of the,

The instruction videos and
the directions are offloaded Online to a video that you
maybe scan through a QR code. So putting all that in a QR
code on each part is all is Pretty clever. – Yeah. I’m actually, Funny you say that. The
last PC case that I’m in The process of reviewing, There was no manual and it
literally was just a business Card with the QR code on it.
You have to load it up on your Phone. So yeah, definitely
the, the trend these days. But yeah, if you take a look
through the, the unit here, The speakers are over here,
the speakers are replaced. I mean, I don’t know if
they will actually sell Other speaker modules, But if you needed to
replace the speaker modules, They’re right here and removable. Batteries right up front here and held on, It looks like, by a couple of
star screws in the corners. And this cable over here is the M2 module. It takes up to an M2 80
millimeter drive in there, As I recall from looking at Framework’s Materials and specs for
this, it’s a PCI express Four capable slot since the
machine is based on Intel 11th Generation chips, there’s
Gen 4 support here. So pretty nifty, remarkably
thin thermal solution here, Spread out over the CPU. Speaking to the CPUs, You can get an i5 or one of two i7 SKUs In this machine, And very easy to access the
two SO-DIMM slots for the Memory. And what’s this over here. Oh, this is just telling you That you can scan the QR code. It’s just a message.

You can scan the QR code for information. I thought there was another
component under there. – I have to admire the, the layout there, Because I think we’ve increasingly
seen manufacturers are Just using every square
spare centimeter of space to Maximize the thermals and the performance, And all those other things,
and doing that on top of it and Making it all accessible
and clean like that, And removable, must’ve been
two or three times as much as Much engineering work to figure that out. So of course we don’t know yet
how good the thermals are in Comparison. Maybe there’s a compromise there
because they had to make it Accessible and they couldn’t, They couldn’t fully maximize
the thermal solution because of The need to be able to
access the components. But it definitely looks clean and we will, We will be able to tell you in the future, How well the parts keep cool. Yeah. Actually, one of the
things I should point out, Which I found quite amusing is
that there are credits on the Inside of the laptop here, Like in a movie where the
various folks who worked on the Design and engineering. So I thought these were
more sort of instructions on Upgrades, but it’s actually
a set of credits on – That’s pretty funny. – Probably the most
interesting laptop interior I’ve seen in a very
long time, if not ever. – Definitely. Yeah, John did mention the
11th gen Intel processors. You can get up to 64 gigabytes of RAM. This does run Windows. I
don’t know if that was clear. We said that it is,

It is you can order it with
various preset configurations, Windows Home or Pro, As well as different
processor and storage and RAM Capacities. So it’s not one
preset unit off the shelf, And then you have to upgrade from there. There are options that, Of course you can then go ahead
and swap whichever of those Many modules and
components that you desire. – Yeah, I think there were three presets, There was a $999 model, Which is core i5 based. There’s a, don’t hold me to this, But I believe there’s
a $1,399 middle model Which is using a, core i7 with memory, I believe the 1165 G7. And then there’s an $1,185
G7 pro model, which has, I believe it’s 32 gigs of
memory and Windows 10 Pro that One’s $2,000, $1,999, you know? And so those are the three
preset models and I believe There’s also what’s called
the DIY version of it Where you’re basically Buying the, the Framework Framework. And then you can sort of à la
carte buy pieces for it to, You know, sort of equip
it as, as you like. So they’ll sell you the various
port modules separately, And you can also, I believe put Linux on
it if you want as well. So a very nifty laptop. Is this the future? Maybe. I would like to see laptops
be more accessible and More upgradable to be certain. And no one’s really gotten
it right up to this point. This is as good a
attempted as I have seen, But entering into a, you know,

A very competitive market
like laptops, you know, Framework’s going to need, you know, A good bit of luck and a good
bit of savvy to, you know, Sort of keep the development
going on new modules and Support for different components. Actually, one more
thing I should point out Possibly the most important. The entire motherboard
area here is removable and Framework says that it will
be offering in the future Additional motherboard modules, So that, say a year or two from now, You might want to upgrade to
12th or 13th gen Intel core, And you would be able to
therefore swap out the entire Motherboard area and swap in a
new one there that would work Within the, you know, The rest of the
architecture of the battery And other components. – That way, you keep at
least 50% of the laptop. You keep the display, you keep the case. You don’t have to start from scratch If you wanted a new processor. – Yeah, the thing with
that is, is, you know, Unlike desktops, laptop
motherboard designs are very much, You know, to design to
the particular model. You can’t swap out a processor,
there’s no socket, you know, The motherboard, excuse me, The CPU is down on the
motherboard and cannot be removed. So if you want to do a, an upgrade, You’re pretty much bound to
take out the whole guts and Because different laptop models
use different designs and Have connectors in different places, You just can’t swap one into the other. You need to have a, a board
that’s designed for the chassis. And that’s what the plan is here,

Is to be able to swap these out. So that would be exciting to see as well, Because it’s very rare that
we’ve seen any kind of laptop That has had any kind
of a CPU upgradability. I mean, there have been a couple
of socketed power laptops, Really big, you know, Models over the years that
have had (mumbles) CPUs But to be able to actually
swap out the, you know, Mobile chip, the mobile ray
chip in a laptop like this, This is, this is uncharted territory. So kudos to Framework for
actually making this exist. – Yeah, I think, I think
you touched on, we’ve seen, You said no one’s even
succeeded really doing it. No one’s, as far as the big manufacturers Just have even really tried All that much to make anything
upgradable or solvable. I think the biggest sort of
concessions we’ve seen that way Are in gaming and enthusiast,
laptops like that, That you maybe upgrade
the RAM or the storage, And it’s still very closed
off for the most part. Those are kind of the only
things you can get to. They don’t really have an incentive to. 90% of people buying a laptop
or more don’t want to touch It. Don’t have interest in opening it. And these big companies
that are doing mass market And high volume production,
don’t have interest in, In throwing out laptops and
doing all the extra work that Goes into being able to
open it up and upgrade it. So, yeah, I think something like
this, I guess sort of, Is an inevitable solution to
that, going all in on it and Making that sort of your,
your principle belief and, You know, proof of concept here. I admire it, definitely.

I hope, I hope it, I
hope it pans out well. We will, of course, have
to put it through the paces As far as actual testing
and seeing what it can do. More experiential stuff like
the screen, which by the way, Is a 2256 by 1504 resolution. So greater, it’s a three
by two aspect ratio Greater than 1080P resolution. So again, that’s not something
you want to to throw away. – One thing I should point that out. I was going to say about the
display is that you also have Easy accessibility to the
display hinges over here. So if crack your screen, conceivably, You can also replace the screen. So that’s one of the things
about laptops is that you can Typically get a, you know,
a display replacement, If something happens to
the panel, if it goes bad, It gets bad pixels or you crack
it, or whatever the case is, But usually replacing the display Is kind of not trivial and kind of scary ’cause there’s cables involved, Running through the hinge in
some designs and the hinges Themselves more often feel like
they’ve been put together by Robots and maybe have been
put together by robots For all I know, But this one, you actually have access To the hinges here. And its cables are routed in
a way that you feel like you Could do this. You could see everything That needs to be needs to be routed. So kudos for that as well. – Yeah. All that, all that adds up, As we said, to the more
environmentally friendly

Right to repair, which is
increasingly a hot topic and yeah. Not having to throw out
the, the kitchen sink, Throw out the baby with the
bath water, so to speak. So yeah, if that’s all, I think we’ve pretty thoroughly
covered what you can do and What it looks like here.
As I was, as I was saying, We’ll get to the more
experiential stuff about How the keyboard feels,
how the touch pad feels, If it runs well, The bass parts should run
pretty well, I would say, I think it’s going to be, for
the price, a pretty competent And all around useful laptop. But of course you don’t
quite know until you try it. And as you see the keyboard can, It can come off and simply reattach as we, As John mentioned, He did undo some of the screws To make that a little quicker for you. So that isn’t something you
should be doing every day. I don’t think you’re going to
be taking the keyboard off on A daily basis. So a couple screws shouldn’t
be too bad, and yeah. So keep, keep your eyes
out for more on this. The Framework laptop it is known as. Thank you so much, John,
for walking us through And for putting it back
together with care. – I did not connect the
keyboard to the motherboard So it won’t work. So I will, I will be doing this again. I was just putting it together
for appearance’s sake. – Yeah, I’m sure that the fine folks At Framework computer
will appreciate your care. Thank you so much for watching. Stay tuned,

Check into PCMag for a deeper
dive on this in the future.

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