Most laptops are not made to be serviced by the end-users or expanded. In the part of the world where I live, I still have a “warranty void” sticker if I open my laptop to add an M.2 SSD. There are very few laptops with full documentation and whose companies encourage users to update and modify the hardware.
Olimex TERES-I and MNT Reform 2 open-source hardware laptops do offer modularity, customization, and repairability, but they are based on low-power Arm processors and cater to a rather niche market. However, a new company called Framework is preparing to launch a modular laptop that is easily upgradeable and repairable with a more powerful set of features.
The Framework laptop will be initially offered with a choice of 11th generation Intel Core processor, up to 64GB RAM, up to 4TB SSD storage, a 13.5-inch display, a Full HD webcam, a 55Wh battery, and weight less than 1.3kg with a thickness of 15.85 mm.
Each laptop will also come with four bays compatible with the Framework Expansion Card system lets you select the ports via exchangeable USB-C modules offering USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD, “ultra-fast storage”, and more with a thicker USB to Gigabit Ethernet module also is the works.
You’ll also be able to replace the usual storage, memory, and WiFi module, as well as the entire mainboard to upgrade to a faster processor, the battery, screen, and keyboard. Laptops are not usually relying on socketed processors, so the complete motherboard must be changed. Each part will have a QR code that takes you to the relevant documentation on the company’s website. Framework will also release specifications and reference designs for the Expansion Card system under a permissive license to let the community design and sell their own expansion cards.
The Framework Laptop will be offered with pre-configured models running Windows 10 Home or Pro, but the company also designed the Framework Laptop DIY Edition sold as a kit to let people customize and assemble the laptop themself and install Windows or a Linux distribution. All models will come with a screwdriver for assembly, upgrades, and/or repairs.
The Framework laptop is not available yet, but you can register your interest to get notified of the launch in Summer 2021. Price is not available, but as with all custom systems, it should be quite pricier than standard models that benefit from high volume production and aren’t serviceable by most users. The company, however, says “we won’t be asking consumers to pay a premium for longevity, and they have funding to go ahead, notably because Framework was founded by Nirav Patel, an early employee of Oculus, and there’s money left over from Facebook’s purchase of Oculus.
We have the funding we need to bring the product to market (an odd downstream benefit of Oculus getting bought by Facebook), but we will be taking pre-orders with a deposit prior to shipping to make sure our SKU mix and production rates are matched to actual demand.