Framework’s new laptop means the promise of modular gadgets could come true

Just over a year after announcing the first version of its ultra-repairable and upgradable notebook, Framework is launching the second-generation Framework Laptop. It’s supposed to be a lot faster and a bit more robust, but it’s mostly a signal that Framework is serious about building truly durable devices and might actually fulfill the oft-promised and rarely-delivered dream of upgradable modular gadgets. .

The main spec of the new laptop is the processor: it comes with a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 chip with the top-end $2,049 model running the Core i7-1280P. (It’s a complete generation leap from the current model, and these new Alder Lake chips promise big performance improvements and increased efficiency.) The base model, which runs a Core i5-1240P, starts at $1,049 fully assembled. All are available for pre-order now and start shipping in July, but you shouldn’t expect one too soon: Framework uses a pre-order system to manage demand and seems to anticipate shipping taking a while.

Along with the performance jump, Framework has also rebuilt the laptop’s top cover, which it says is now much stiffer than before. This is a welcome change: when The edge Monica Chin reviewed the first model, the inevitable fragility of the laptop was one of the worst qualities of the device. Beyond that, Framework also said it had “carefully optimized battery life”, which was only average on the latest model.

Most other specs haven’t changed: the new laptop still has a 13.5-inch screen, weighs just under three pounds, and has the same decent keyboard and trackpad. Overall, the new Framework laptop looks like a nice, if fairly predictable improvement over what you can already buy. It’s worth noting, however, that even the existing model is already a significant upgrade over what the company launched last year: Framework added support for Wi-Fi 6E since launch and offers a handful of new dongles for its expansion ports. That’s the whole Framework thing, really; the laptop is not a static device, it is an ever-evolving device.

The new Framework laptop is also an upgrade from the old one.
Picture: Frame

Which begs the real question for Framework: how do you launch a new laptop when your whole business is based on letting people upgrade and improve their laptops without having to buy a new one?

This is where the announcement of Framework gets cool: the new chipset will also be available on the Framework market, which means that you can buy a motherboard with a 12th generation chip and insert it into your Framework laptop. existing without having to buy a whole new device. Or you can choose to replace your top cover with the new stronger one without changing anything else. (The upgrade kit, which includes both pieces, starts at $538.) Framework plans to continue selling the first-generation laptop at a discounted price of $899 while its inventory lasts, so you can start your upgrade path whenever you want. .

The idea behind Framework’s announcement is definitely more exciting than the announcement itself. Framework’s plan to build more durable laptops could only work if the company remained committed to expandability and made sure it did the right thing for users who bought its devices on the promise of future upgrades. We’ve heard that promise before, of course, whether it’s at the start of Alienware’s failed Area-51m dream, Google’s canceled Project Ara, or Intel’s semi-scalable NUC Extreme and discontinued Compute Card initiatives. These things don’t tend to work.

How long Framework will support its stock chassis and design remains an open question, given how many companies have made promises about modularity and longevity to crack the system as soon as a shiny new thing happened. The new Framework laptop is both a novelty and a fully backward compatible thing. It’s a big problem.

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