Customizable Framework Laptop Lets You Pick Ports, Reduces E-Waste

(Image credit: Framework)

Most people by a laptop, never upgrade it, and toss it when it's time for a new model. Framework, a San Francisco-based startup, hopes to upend that paradigm with its Framework Laptop, a 13.5-inch notebook that appears to be an easily upgradeable, customizable portable unlike any other. It could also greatly reduce e-waste.

To start, the laptop will run off of 11th Gen Intel Core processors, and will support up to 64DB of DDR4 RAM and up to 4tB of PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD storage. It will offer a 13.5-inch, 3:2 display with a 2256 x 1504 resolution. It won't be saddled with a 720p webcam — instead, it will offer 1080p at 60 fps. 

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CPU11th Gen Intel Core Processors
RAMUp to 64GB DDR4
StorageUp to 4TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD
Display13.5-inch, 3:2, 2256 x 1504
Webcam1080p, 60 fps
ConnectivityWi-Fi 6

But for tinkerers and environmentalists alike, it's the repair system that sounds awesome. The ports are housed in a series of expansion cards, so you can choose the inputs and outputs you want on the laptop, as well as on which side they go. There are four port bays, from which you can choose from USB Type-C, USB Type-A, DisplayPort, HDMI, a microSD card slot, a headphone amp, or an "ultra-fast storage" bay. 

The Wi-Fi, two memory slots and the SSD are all replaceable, rather than soldered. But the entire motherboard will also be replaceable so that you can put in newer processors later on. This, of course, is the tough part for a startup. Framework will ultimately have to succeed to put out new versions for the full potential to come through. Alienware had promised replaceable GPUs for the Alienware Area-51m gaming laptop, and those ultimately never truly came to fruition, and that was an established company.

Framework also states that "high-use" components, including the battery, display, keyboard and a bezel with customizable color options will be easy to replace and that you will be able to buy parts directly from the company. It is pledging to release updates "regularly" to the components, and that it is going to have an open system so that partners can sell their own modules through Framework's market. Additionally, the laptop is made from 50% recycled aluminum and roughly 30% recycled plastic.

There will be pre-configured models with either Windows 10 Home or Pro, as well as a DIY Edition, which lets you customize and assemble the modules yourself and choose either Windows or a distribution of Linux. The company says it will include a screwdriver either way for when you eventually want to open the laptop up to upgrade or repair.

Framework hasn't yet announced the full specs, prices or configurations. It says those will come in "the next weeks," along with a shipping date that’s more than the curent Summer 2021.

The company was founded by Nirav Patel, who worked at Oculus near the start back in 2012, and also has talent that has worked at Google, Lenovo, Apple and others. We'll be curious to see how it fares and if Framework ultimately manages to deliver, both at launch and years down the road. It's a lofty goal, but one that could be game-changing if it succeeds. 

Andrew E. Freedman

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon

  • Kamen Rider Blade
    It would be nice if they made things out of "Standardized" form factors, chasis, and parts.

    Things like:
    LapTop MoBo = Nano-ITX Form Factor
    GFX Card = MXM Form Factor
    Daughter Cards = __ Standardized connector.
  • ginthegit
    It would also be nice if they were not limited to Intels parts as AMD is becoming more popular and uses less power. The main problem with the laptop is always cooling, so it would have made more sense to make a Ryzen version first and deal with the lower TDP.
    It is overall not a difficult venture to make, all parts are modular and can be slid in and out of the old Laptop types, so long as they have the appropriate ports. Laptops had interchangable graphics so long as they had MXM port etc... But cooling is the Big issue.... I expect these laptops to be a little more Chunky in size to allow for some different heat-pipes and fans.

    But this is welcomed and hopefully will be a success (if they dont over charge).