For obvious reasons (including a tightly confined working area and the price of discrete components) the DIY laptop market has never come close to the desktop one, despite periodic attempts to provide buyers the opportunity to swap out parts on their notebook. In fact, the industry has moved in the opposite direction, with laptop manufacturers (led by Apple) making it harder and harder for end users to open up their laptops even to swap out a dead battery, much less add RAM or change motherboards.
Framework is the latest company to try its hand at the modular laptop concept, recently announcing a 13.5-inch system that it claims will be shipping by this summer. While some previous attempts at modularity allowed for limited upgrades, Framework is promising that nearly everything can be swapped from its base specs, including 11th-generation Intel Core processors and a 55Wh battery. It’s even planning a DIY kit that will allow more adventurous types the ability to assemble a laptop themselves and add the Windows or Linux operating system of their choosing.
It’s probably easier to list what Framework does not say you’ll be able to upgrade, mainly the aluminum chassis that weighs roughly 2.9 pounds. Nearly everything else is fair game, from RAM to storage to the battery to the keyboard. Even the mainboard can replaced so you can update the laptop with a new CPU down the road. One thing not mentioned inside the Framework Laptop is discrete graphics, though perhaps that will become available if the company’s marketplace concept for third-party providers takes off.
To allow users to configure their laptops with just the ports they need, Framework uses an expansion card system that lets you insert USB-B and USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD or other inputs or slots. The company says it’s working on additional modules like headphone amps and Arduino microcontrollers, and will open up the system to outsiders by sharing its spec and reference designs. You can even add a little flair to your system with bezels in a number of color choices that connect magnetically, and Framework says it will throw in a screwdriver with your order (perhaps as a reminder that you can upgrade the laptop at any time).
Unfortunately other than a promised summer shipping date, pricing and availability details have yet to be provided. Framework says it will reveal that information soon, though it’s hard to imagine a budget price point for the laptop given its unique design.