Framework: the perfect laptop for business use?

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Mark Vletter

7 Nov 2022 Clock 6 min

While desktop computers are easy to repair and upgrade, laptops have always been complicated. Despite rapid technological advancements, the ease with which you can repair laptops has actually deteriorated. Has Framework come to the rescue?

Please note: Framework currently ships only to the US and Europe. We’ll have to wait a while until supply can meet demand. Until then, feast your eyes on the future as Mark unboxes some mouthwatering tech candy at the Voys HQ in Groningen.


Shaking it up

Parts are often glued instead of screwed and some companies make it very difficult for third parties to make repairs. If you claim that as a hardware maker you want to become CO2 neutral, then your devices must also be easy to repair. Yes, I’m looking at you, Apple and Microsoft.

There is one company that is trying to shake things up. It’s called Framework, and they promise a light, powerful 13.5” notebook that is designed to last and is fully upgradeable. We ordered one to see if it could become the default Windows/Linux laptop for Voys. Can it meet our needs?

Ordering the Framework

The laptop is produced in batches; we ordered our Framework on June 22, 2022. You have two options when you order the laptop:

  1. You can choose from three standard configurations, from a basic setup to a high-end business-oriented setup.
  2. You configure and build the laptop yourself.

Configuring the Framework

We decided to configure and build it ourselves. We opted for a 12th generation i7 processor from Intel with 16Gb memory and 500Gb fast storage. You are not obliged to buy the memory and storage from Framework. You can choose to order these elsewhere, which is often cheaper.

Framework port (module) selection

You can also choose:

  • whether (and if so which) operating system (OS) you want,
  • whether you want a power adapter and finally
  • choose something special.

You can choose the ports that become the default on your Framework! This is one of the things that makes Framework unique. You have four slots in the laptop that can accommodate a wide selection of ports, which they call modules. You can select these modules yourself, and you can change them at any time.

For example, if you have a creative professional that requires an SD card reader, Framework has you covered. If you are an IT specialist and want a network port, Framework has a module for that. And if you want 2 USB type C and one type A and an HDMI card, then these are the modules you pick.

And now we wait…

After you have compiled and ordered the Framework completely according to your wishes… you have to wait. It took four months for our laptop to arrive. That’s a long time, but this is partly due to the fact that it is the first batch of 12th generation i7 Framework laptops. However, they will have to drastically shorten the delivery time to be competitive; this is something they are working on.

A second problem we encountered was the fact that our receipt did not include VAT. It took a few emails back and forth to get this resolved, but this should have just been the default.

The 2 main reasons to buy a Framework laptop

A Framework can be repaired and modified

The first reason is that Framework is so extremely repairable and customizable. This makes the laptop last longer, which is great at a time when E-waste is on the rise. For me this is reason enough to go for the Framework laptop.

A Framework is cost-effective

The second reason to buy this laptop is the economics. If you’re willing to build the laptop yourself and buy most of the parts yourself, this is a very well-priced laptop.

A Dell XPS laptop with the same processor, 16GB of memory, 512GB storage space, a 13.4″ screen and Windows 11 Pro could cost you around € 2 256.

Compared to the Dell above, a Framework with i7 will have a base price of € 1 339, with storage and memory available for € 95 and € 65. Windows 11 Pro will cost you about €150. The modules cost on average about € 60, a power adapter and USB-C cable about € 50. This brings the total costs to € 1760. Framework is therefore, despite being a new player with a repairable laptop, is not a more expensive device.

What makes the Framework especially cost-effective, however, is its longevity. It is simply has a longer life-span due to the upgradeability, repairability, and interchangeability of modules when a machine changes users.

The Framework laptop itself

Building the Framework laptop

Building the laptop is easy and takes less than 20 minutes. The way it is put together is smart and sustainable. I had a ‘wow’ moment when I opened the machine. We had to replace entire MacBooks because screens were broken and repairs were too expensive. That felt like a complete waste. With Framework you can repair, upgrade and replace anything. This is how laptops should be built!

Framework in daily use

Then the question remains: what is it like to use the laptop? Well… it’s a laptop. The keyboard is good with decent travel, but it’s a bit mushy. The track pad is OK. The fingerprint reader is present and working.

The fact that you can select the perfect set of ports is really handy, where I would like modules that contain one USB C & USB C port, or accommodate two USB C ports. Currently, each Framework module has one port.

The laptop has physical buttons to switch off the mic and the camera which adds to privacy. They aren’t the easiest to switch on and off, but complaining here would make me a grump. The camera is not bad at all producing a sharp picture with a high resolution of 1080p at 60 frames per second.

Battery life is OK, not great, and the screen is glossier than I would like. I prefer a matte privacy screen on my laptop. The screen is very bright and has good contrast, but color reproduction and calibration are not that good. The fans get loud from time to time, especially when I’m editing photos, but I hardly hear them during average usage. The hinge can be opened with one finger but is a little too loose for my liking, making the screen shaky when you use it in the car.

The only thing I really miss is a timeout on the backlight. You have to manually turn the backlight on or off. I wish this dims itself after – say – 30 seconds and turns back on when you touch the keyboard or trackpad.

The i7, combined with the fast storage, makes the laptop fast, and the machine is surprisingly light, weighing 1.3k. But with my default laptop being rather heavy that’s not a surprise.

In summary, the pros and cons at a glance:

Pros

  • Physical buttons for the microphone and webcam
  • Solid webcam performance
  • Fast machine for a reasonable price if you build it yourself
  • Ultra repairable and upgradable
  • Port choice as desired
  • Solid build quality, with a premium feel for a repairable laptop
  • Bright screen with good contrast

Cons

  • The screen is glossy and not so well calibrated
  • The hinge of the screen wobbles too much for my liking
  • No keyboard backlight timeout
  • OK track pad
  • The battery life is not great
  • The current ordering process too long

Should you buy Frameworks for your organization?

So the question that remains is: should your company switch to Framework laptops? To be honest, it’s a great idea.

Any company that cares about the environment, or privacy, will love the laptop.

Any IT department will be thrilled with the laptop’s repairability and the ability to control the ports and default hardware configurations.

Any user will be happy with the port selection and hardware buttons for the camera and microphone.

So the question is really: why not? The only answer I can think of is if you absolutely want macOS, or need a very powerful graphics card for work or gaming.

Since neither is standard for most companies, a Framework laptop should quietly begin to become a standard.


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