Framework has begun taking preorders in the U.S. for its upgradeable, customizable, and repairable laptop.
The company designed the laptop in response to big companies like Apple making it expensive to repair or upgrade devices. The company acknowledged that the worldwide supply chain constraints mean the number of Framework laptops available at launch will be limited.
Founder Nirav Patel said in an interview with VentureBeat that the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last. He founded the company in 2019 with the aim of empowering consumers to take care of their own products, increasing longevity and reducing electronic waste in the process. Patel showed me in a video demo how he could pull out little modules that changed the functionality of various ports, changing them from standard USB ports to USB-C ports and so on. It was very easy to swap out parts.
“We are building repairable, upgradeable, customizable consumer electronics products,” Patel said. “The goal here is to give consumers back the power to be able to use the products for as long as they would like to. If you go back into the history of computing, that’s what the default was. You bought a machine with the expectation that it was not a sealed box, and it was an item that you could modify, update, and upgrade. And the expectation in the PC space, in general, has always been that you have the power and the flexibility to customize the machine to do the things that you’d like it to.”
The Framework Laptop is a thin, lightweight, high-performance productivity notebook with a 13.5-inch screen. It can be upgraded, customized, and repaired in ways no other notebook can, Patel said.
“Over the past couple of decades, both PCs and other categories of consumer electronics have just continued to trend towards this path of being sealed up and locked down and fixed into place in a way that when a consumer buys that product, they know that they’re really only going to get a few years of use out of it before some part of it wears out, or goes out of date or breaks,” Patel said. “And they’re forced to buy another one and repeat that over and over again. It’s a pretty poor experience for consumers. But it’s also pretty bad for the environment, and that we’re just generating this enormous quantity of e-waste that continues to grow each year. And so Framework was a way to solve this problem in a way that actually makes sense as a business and as a product model.”
It’s a big challenge to take on the likes of Apple, and Framework has just 14 employees. But there are forces on its side. The Federal Trade Commission recently sent a report to Congress detailing repair practices in the industry, and it wasn’t happy with the status quo.
Along with socketed storage, Wi-Fi, and two slots of memory, the entire mainboard can be swapped to boost performance as Framework launches updated versions with new CPU generations.
High-use parts like the battery, screen, keyboard, and color-customizable magnetic-attach bezel are easy to replace, with spares available directly through the web store.
In addition to releasing new upgrade modules regularly and ensuring replacement parts are available, the company is opening up the ecosystem to enable a community of partners to build and sell compatible modules through the Framework Marketplace.
“What we’ve done is built a product that is as thin and light and powerful and performant as the notebooks that consumers are buying today,” Patel said. “But every part of it is replaceable by the end user, whether that’s to repair something or replace a battery, which will just inherently wear out after years of use, or even upgrade and replace the entire mainboard and move to new CPU generation to get more performance.”
Most consumer electronics devices are disposable one-offs by design. But the single best way to reduce the environmental impact of electronics is to make them last longer, Patel said.
In addition to enabling longevity, the company is focused on improving sustainability across the life of its products. The Framework Laptop has both 50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) aluminum and 30% PCR plastic. The packaging is 100% PCR material with no single-use plastics, and the company says all of the product shipments are fully carbon offset.
The Framework Laptop is available in a range of preconfigured models running Windows 10 Home or Pro. For people who love to tinker, Framework also created the Framework Laptop DIY Edition, a laptop available as a kit of modules you can customize and assemble yourself, with the ability to choose Windows or install your preferred Linux distribution.
The device will ship as the company completes its production models this year.
Regarding the semiconductor shortage, Patel said, “It’s definitely a big challenge. We have a great supply chain team, we have a great set of partners, and we’ve anticipated this for months. And so we’ve gone and placed our long-term orders and forecasts, and gotten almost everything that we need for the foreseeable future. There is a single chip, actually, that we are constrained on. And that’s the reason we’re doing preorder batches, to give people visibility.”
The Framework Laptop uses the latest Intel 11th Gen Core i5 and i7 processors and it is upgradeable to Wi-Fi 6E, up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, and 4TB or more of Gen4 NVMe storage. The entire mainboard is replaceable too, enabling upgrades to future CPU generations.
On top of that, the Framework Laptop is deeply customizable. The expansion card system lets you choose the ports you want and which side you want them on, selecting from four at a time of USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD, ultra-fast 250GB and 1TB storage, and more. Magnetic-attach bezels are color-customizable to match your style, and the keyboard language can be swapped too.
Framework made upgrades and repairs straightforward. The only tool you need is the Framework Screwdriver included in the box, Patel said. Every module has a QR code on it that you can scan for step-by-step instructions, support information, and a link to order a replacement from the Framework Marketplace. The aim is to serve consumer better than companies that believe they know what’s better for consumers.
“That attitude by existing companies just gives us the opportunity as a new brand to come in and go to those consumers and go to those repair shops and say we hear you,” he said. “We’ve built the product that answers your needs.”
Patel believes that the industry should just make its practices on repair and upgrading transparent to consumers, so people can choose what they want.
- Base (starting at $1,000) unit — Comes with a i5-1135G7 processor (8M Cache, up to 4.20GHz) 8GB DDR4, 256GB NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi 6 Windows 10 Home.
- Performance (starting at $1,400) — Twice the memory and storage and a faster CPU for heavy-duty multitasking. It has a i7-1165G7 (12M Cache, up to 4.70GHz) processor, 16GB DDR4, 512GB NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi 6, and Windows 10 Home.
- Professional (starting at $2,000) — Even more memory and storage, plus enterprise management functionality. It has a i7-1185G7 (12M Cache, up to 4.80GHz) processor, 32GB DDR4, 1TB NVMe SSD, Wi-Fi 6 vPro, and Windows 10 Pro.
- DIY Edition (starting at $750 for a barebones configuration) — “The only high-performance notebook you can customize and assemble yourself from a kit of modules,” according to the company. You can choose from a range of memory, storage, Wi-Fi, and operating system options, or you can bring your own, including your preferred Linux distribution.
To make preordering easy, the company will only be taking a fully refundable $100 deposit at the time of order. It will give you a heads-up when it is preparing to ship the system and then collect the balance of the order. It also offers a 30-day return guarantee.
The company is opening preorders in the U.S. today, with Canada coming in the next few weeks. It will take orders in additional countries in Asia and Europe before the end of the year, and you can sign up to get notified when it is available in your region. The company was founded in January 2020, after Patel had spent time at places such as Oculus, Apple, and Facebook.
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