Framework laptop review - ~tech


I've seen a few posts about the Framework Laptop on Tildes and since I received mine, I thought I'd do a write up for it.

I've been using the Framework laptop for a few weeks now and it's been great so far. I was originally skeptical but I decided that I would take a shot at it as I've been growing increasingly unhappy with the design decisions that Apple has been making with MacOS.

I ordered the DIY kit, which was nice since I already had an NVMe SSD I could use with it, so I ended up saving about $150. It only took about 20 minutes to get the RAM, SSD and wifi card installed.

Specs:

  • Intel i7-1165G7
  • 32 GB of RAM
  • Intel WiFi 6E card

Total cost: $1,422.03.

Unfortunately my first laptop arrived with a dead display. The Framework support team was pretty helpful and quickly sent out a new one, which works perfectly.

After toying around with Linux Mint and a few other distros, I ended up installing the Windows 11 beta. Getting the drivers installed was easy, since Framework offers a single download that runs one script to install all necessary drivers in unattended mode. Just hit one button and restart - all the drivers are installed. I wish all manufacturers offered something similar.

Overall construction is great. For something as modular as this, it feels extremely solid and well built. While the build quality isn't equal to something like a MacBook, I'd say it's on par with a Dell XPS or similar high end machine.

The screen is nice and bright, with accurate colors. I've always been a fan of 3:2 screens on laptops and moving from a MacBook Pro with a 16-inch 16:9 display to the 13.5-inch 3:2 display on the Framework doesn't feel like losing too much real estate. Having the taller display is great for sites like Tildes, where it can fit almost the same amount of content as a much larger screen.

The keyboard and trackpad are both great. The keys remind me of the older pre-2015 style MacBook keyboards before they switched to the butterfly mechanism. They are bouncy and responsive, with a nice feedback that doesn't feel too harsh like the butterfly keyboards do. The trackpad is pretty good and it uses the Windows Precision drivers, so it supports swiping and pinching if you like that. It does sound a bit louder than my MacBook Pro's trackpad.

The speakers are a bit disappointing. The max loudness is pretty anemic. Even in a normal acoustic environment (A/C running in a house), you have to actively listen to hear. Coming from a MacBook Pro 16-inch, I would say that the speakers are the biggest downgrade.

The main draw of the Framework is the expandability and upgradability.

The Framework modules are a fantastic idea and I love them. While they don't save you from having to carry around adapters, it is really nice to have those adapters slot in to your machine and feel more integrated. I purchased 2 USB-C, 2 full-sized USB, a DisplayPort, and an HDMI adapter. Being able to just slot in a USB A port and swap it for a display out one on the rare occasion that I need it has been great. I love being able to adapt the ports on my laptop to a situation without having to have dongles coming out of the side of my laptop.

The adapters are tiny and easily fit in any backpack or carrying case. I'm really curious to see what new adapters they offer in the future and what crazy niche ones third parties come up with. I'd love to see a cellular modem jammed into one of these things. Or maybe one that can hide a dongle for my wireless keyboard and mouse?

Battery life is...fine. It's an all day machine, but you'll definitely need to charge it every day if you're using it a good deal. The battery is on the smaller side, but it gets me through a normal work day so that's good enough. But when the battery goes bad (as all Lithium-Ion batteries do), it's an easy fix.

In terms of upgradability, getting into the laptop is dead simple. There's five screws on the bottom and then entire top deck (keyboard and trackpad) comes off. Everything is easily accessible and sensibly laid out. It's also all labeled with QR codes that take you to specific guides on how to install/upgrade those components. I think the educational component is great. It really shows people who would have never thought to upgrade their RAM or storage how easy it can be.

That's the big selling point for me. If I decide in a year or two that I need more than 1TB of storage, I can just buy a larger drive and stick it in there. Or if my display dies, I can get a one for a lot less than the cost of replacing the laptop. Or if the keyboard or trackpad dies, then I can easily replace just that component. On my MacBook Pro, replacing the keyboard is an $800+ repair, since it involves replacing the entire top case, which includes the motherboard and other expensive components.

For years we've been hearing from manufacturers that they can't make a laptop thin, light and upgradable. This laptop proves them wrong.

My biggest concern is the long term viability of the company. It's nice that they made an upgradable laptop, but if they aren't around in a year or two to keep selling replacement parts, then it doesn't matter much.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the Framework and I plan on keeping it and making it my daily driver.