Startup offers a fully-modular laptop: Framework to launch a completely repairable portable computer in which all components are swappable and upgradeable

Framework Modular Laptop
A full-repairable and upgradable laptop? Pic credit: Framework

Framework, a San Francisco-based startup, has launched an interesting laptop. The company is attempting to build and offer a completely modular laptop. Buyers who purchase the laptop could swap out nearly every component, and upgrade even the CPU.

Unlike desktop PCs that users can easily upgrade and repair, laptop owners are generally stuck with the same components. There are a few upgrades possible such as a storage drive, RAM, Wi-Fi module, etc. but the main components remain with the device. Framework is attempting to address the restrictions.

Framework Laptop specifications and modules:

The Framework laptop ships with a 13.5-inch display that has a 2,256 x 1,504 pixels resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio. The display is hidden behind a series of magnetic bezels. Needless to add, buyers can easily strip away the bezels and replace or upgrade the display.

The laptop also comes with a 1080p, 60 FPS webcam with a hardware privacy switch and a keyboard with 1.5mm key travel. The laptop packs a 55Wh battery inside a 2.87-pound aluminum chassis.

Buyers get the option of selecting a quad-core 11th-generation Intel Core CPU. Wireless connectivity is through a Wi-Fi 6 chip. Buyers get the option of adding up to 64GB of DDR4 and up to 4TB (or more) of PCIe Gen4 NVME SSD storage.

Each module “uses a single labeled connector,” and most of them have “pull tabs to make them easy to handle.” Additionally, even the I/O on the laptop is modular.

Framework modular portable computer with desktop PC-like ease of swapping and upgrading components?

Framework is a hardware startup. Former Oculus engineer Nirav Patel, who founded the startup, is looking to take the Fairphone model and bring it to laptops. Those unfamiliar with Fairphone can liken the Framework laptop to Google’s Project Ara.

Interestingly, Framework has announced its first product. The laptop is essentially a 13.5-inch notebook, but it packs a number of modular parts. Users can swap out several of the components when they break or upgrade them when technology moves on. The startup will even ship their products with a screwdriver in the box.

Framework is promising that almost all of the components that make the laptop are upgradeable, replaceable, or swappable. Even the ports on the laptop are modular.

The company attaches the ports using “expansion cards”. Essentially, there are little boxes with the option of adding a USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD, an extra SSD, or a discrete headphone amp to the chassis.

Surprisingly, the ports have standard USB Type-C ports which slide into the laptop’s mainboard. In other words, Framework is using “dongles” to add I/O to the modular laptop.

Repairable laptops aren’t new. However, besides the screen, the laptop is stuck with the CPU. This is not the case with Framework’s creation.

Although it is a tedious task, buyers can upgrade the CPU of the Framework laptop. They will, however, have to yank out all the components, extract the mainboard, and slide in a new mainboard with the new upgraded CPU.

Framework laptop could start shipping as early as the Summer of 2021. The company hasn’t offered a retail price.

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