The transcript below comes from a pre-written script; it may not perfectly represent the finished video.
You might not remember earlier this year when a small new company called Framework announced a 13” laptop that was designed from the ground up with repair and modularity in mind. You might not remember, but we’ve been anxiously waiting 4 long months for this thing, and it’s finally here: the framework laptop. Before we tear it down though, let’s rewind, because the Framework Laptop is so DIY friendly that you have the option to build the thing yourself. So… of course we chose that option.
Framework laptop box contents
Inside our Framework package, three boxes hold all the pieces we’ll need to make a working laptop. In the first box, the bare-bones machine, and underneath, they include the only tool you’ll need to replace anything inside: a handy two-bit screwdriver with a pry tool on the other end. Framework was initially hoping to sell this “DIY edition” even less assembled, but then announced in a blog post earlier this year that they had run into some logistical issues with that plan, so finishing touches is all we’ll really get to do here. Still a cool idea!
In the component box is an Intel wireless card, 16 GB of RAM, a 250 GB Western Digital NVMe SSD, a 32 GB thumb drive for installing Windows, six different port options, and three awesome Framework patches. When you buy a framework laptop, assembled or not, you’ll get to pick your own version of all of these parts, or ask them not to include anything you already own.
To get inside the laptop and install these parts, I just need to twirl 5 Torx screws on the lower case. These are captive screws, so they don’t fall out and get lost, which I love. Then I flip the laptop over and lift up the keyboard assembly, which is held in place with magnets, just like the newer Surface Pro laptops.
Underneath the keyboard is pure beauty. Every major component is labelled, and there’s even a QR code which will take you right to the spare part page on Framework’s marketplace. The two 8 GB sticks of RAM slide into their homes, along with the storage drive and the Wi-Fi card—after some coaxing of the antenna cables. Finally, we’ll choose our ports!
One of Framework’s coolest ideas was to build little modules to convert the four USB-C ports into a number of alternate connection options: HDMI, DisplayPort, USB-A, MicroSD card reader, or even extra storage. They’re like little built-in dongles.
We’re not going to install Windows yet so booting this up won’t do much for now, but that’s the whole assembly process! And again, this isn’t the only way to buy a Framework Laptop–they’ll definitely sell you a pre-assembled machine just like any other company too. But what’s the fun in that?
Comparison to other flagship laptops
With all this modularity, you might expect the laptop to be extremely thick, or maybe really ugly by modern laptop standards, but that’s very much not the case, at least in my opinion. The Framework Laptop is actually just barely thicker than the HP Envy 14 I’ve been using for the last few months, and it’s considerably more repairable. Even the thin-at-all-costs 13” MacBook Pro at its thickest part is only a fraction of a millimeter thinner than the Framework.
Removing wireless card, storage, and memory
So on to disassembly: we’ll speed through everything we already assembled since you know how that works. The ports slide out with a push of a button, then captive screws … keyboard comes up … wireless card … storage … and memory.
Since Framework designed this from the ground up with repairability in mind, they of course made arrangements for an easy battery replacement procedure. To replace a battery in the Framework Laptop, all you need to do is disconnect it and loosen three captive screws. It’s a beautiful thing: no glue to fight, no awkward prying, no removing other parts, so you can do a whole battery swap in less than 5 minutes, which is great because batteries will fail no matter what, since they eventually lose their ability to hold a charge. This battery is on the small side so it will go through cycles quicker, but it’s so easy to replace that that’s almost not an issue.
Moving on, the speakers slide up off these screw hole posts with a gentle pry, and then all there is to do is peel up the cable that connects them.
The display is home to another genius idea: a magnetic bezel! If you need to replace the display, or you just want a different color bezel, simply peel it up, and you’re on your way! I’ll actually go ahead and remove this whole display to keep the laptop from wobbling for the rest of this teardown.
I set my sights on the motherboard next, since that too is a replaceable module! Five screws hold it down, then three to release the heat sink, and it’s out. The board is sparse, to keep the part cheap and easy to replace, but it is home to an 11th-gen Intel core i7 processor. With a swap-able motherboard you could easily upgrade your CPU from the entry-level i5 up to an i7, or, if Framework has their way, all the way up to a next-gen Intel CPU next year, though I wouldn’t exactly count on that.
The Repairable Brand Conundrum
We’d love to see it happen, but we have seen the sad version of this story before: A company comes forward to disrupt the market with a repairable product, we get our hopes up, but the company ultimately doesn’t care long enough to make upgraded parts, or has to compromise repairability to stay relevant in the market. I will say Framework is the most promising version of this story that I have seen in a long time, but it’s a hard puzzle to crack! Just be careful with your high expectations.
Enough of me ranting: back to the good stuff. There’s not much left in this cavity, but I am curious what’s under these indents where the ports slide in. A few screws and an aluminum cover reveals a light guide!
Finally, let’s take a quick look at the keyboard assembly. At this point you probably won’t be surprised to learn that this is all modular—the keyboard is held down by at least 50 screws, but it can be replaced! Hint, hint, Apple. The trackpad on the other hand is as simple as any: four screws and it comes right up.
Final thoughts and score
It’s safe to say we are pretty thrilled about this thing. Framework has gone above and beyond even what we hoped for in a repairable laptop, and managed to do it in a super-sleek, affordable package. The only tiny nitpick we have is that the four USB-C ports on the motherboard are soldered in place, and even that isn’t a huge deal since they’ll have the adapters plugged into them most of the time.
I’m crossing my fingers for a version 2 with a dedicated GPU, but I know a lot of the iFixit team will be upgrading to one of these from their 2012 MacBook Pros this year. If you’re in the market for a new laptop right now, definitely consider a Framework laptop, it’s earned our highest recommendation. The framework laptop scores an exceedingly rare 10/10 on our repairability scale.
Oh, and one quick note before we go. We usually buy our own teardown devices as soon as we can after their public release, but Framework was nice enough to send us this one early to make this video. We love that, but obviously that’s not why we gave them a 10. If you can think of any reason this thing doesn’t deserve a 10, let us know in the comments below.