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Why a US company called Framework could change laptop design forever

By Sara Barker, 05 Aug 2021

A US tech company called Framework has declared that the consumer electronics industry is completely broken. Why? Because when those electronics break, or when their parts just aren’t up to the task anymore, there are very few ways to actually repair or upgrade them. So Framework is taking matters into its own hands.

Framework has developed what could be the world’s first fully repairable and upgradeable laptop. Yes, it’s modular, and yes, almost every component can swapped out.

The company has timed this release perfectly as the Right to Repair movement gains serious momentum in places like the United States and Europe. 

The Framework Laptop is based on a concept so simple, you have to wonder why nobody took it to market sooner. Almost every component - from storage to ports and CPU and memory, and much more. Framework even includes a screwdriver in the box and regularly publishes repair guides.

Don’t wonder too hard, though, because there’s a good reason why many consumer electronics wouldn’t dare offer modular and upgradable products - there’s more money in selling new devices than there is in helping to repair or manufacture parts for older ones. That’s an entire argument on its own, and if you’re interested in the Right to Repair with a New Zealand focus, check out our feature article here.

Here is a list of specs for the Framework Laptop.

  • Processor options: Intel i5 or i7 (full chip specs are on the website)
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro
  • Storage options (NVME SSD) : 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
  • Memory (DDR4-3200): 8GB, 16GB or 32GB 
  • Display: 13.5” at 3x2 resolution (2256x1504, 100% sRGB color gamut, and >400 nit)
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
  • Camera: 1080p HD camera that captures 60fps
  • Ports: 4 User selectable expansion cards (options include USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD,  ultra-high-speed storage (available in 250GB or 1TB, and more expansion cards are in development)
  • 3.4mm combo headphone jack
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6 with vPro
  • Weight and dimensions: 1.3kg, 15.85mm x 296.63mm x 228.98mm
  • Battery: 55W
  • Power adapter: USB-C, 60W
  • Warranty: 1 Year Framework Limited Warranty

The DIY edition offers even more choices of storage, memory, operating system, connectivity, and power adapter depending on user preference.

Here are some of the replaceable components: Battery, display, webcam, enclosure assemblies, hinges, input cover, touchpad, keyboard, fingerprint reader, headphone jack, speakers, internal cables, heatsink and fan. It's an impressive list, and there will be more to come.

YouTube technology enthusiast Linus Tech Tips did an 18-minute review of the laptop it's fair to say he was amazed at the laptop’s durability, design, modular options, and its aesthetic.

Linus does touch on one potentially tricky issue though - how does Framework aim to stay profitable enough to continue to provide upgrades and components? Framework believes that its direct-to-consumer model and its open-minded approach will hopefully encourage people to come back to them for upgrades over time because people want to invest in their devices for longer. And with only Framework playing in this space, consumers don't really have a lot of other competing companies to go to.

While Framework is only taking pre-orders from people in the United States and Canada (starting from US$999 for the Framework Laptop and US$749 for the DIY Edition - Configurable).

There’s also good news for people in our part of the world: the company has plans to expand pre-orders for other countries and regions, and Australia and New Zealand are on the notification list. Watch this space.

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