Tech companies are notorious for promising modular, upgradable devices and failing to follow through. So, when Framework announced its completely upgradable thin and light laptop last year, including replaceable ports, bezels, and even (gasp) mainboards, everyone was understandably a bit skeptical.
As I said in my review of that original device, you just never know with these things. Regardless of how good the laptop was, much of its value hinged on how well the company would continue to support it. Framework assured us that it would make replacement parts, repair guides, and a centralized marketplace available to laptop owners — and future generations of Intel CPUs. And we waited to see if it would.
Well, it’s been (roughly) a year. And Framework did it. It did it all.
The company has announced a new version of its laptop with 12th Gen Intel processors, and now it’s shipping it out. Perhaps more exciting is that it’s also releasing a 12th Gen mainboard that owners of last year’s unit can use to upgrade. And the company did, in fact, publish the repair guides and put up the marketplace, and there’s a whole bunch of stuff on there that you can buy.
Though the new Framework laptop is unremarkable as a laptop, it is laudable in what it represents. Framework is committed to right to repair and has put its money where its mouth is. After all the times this market has been burned, that fact is worth celebrating.
Processor aside, basically the only design change Framework made to the new release is its lid. The company has switched “from an aluminum forming process to a full CNC process” on this cover. Fair enough. I will say that this lid, which felt flimsy to me last year, feels more rigid now — there’s flex but less to speak of.
The lid is also now made of 75 percent pre-consumer recycled alloy. Framework says it is “searching for post-consumer sources.” Various other recycled materials are used throughout, including 70 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics in the included screwdriver, 50 percent PCR plastics in the keyboard, and 30 percent PCR plastics in the battery. (These are numbers that every company shouts around about every model at this point, but I’m happier to see them than not.)
For upgrading folks, the company has also released reference designs detailing 3D-printable cases and stands that people might use to repurpose their old mainboards. I’m not sure how many people will actually do this, but I certainly appreciate that the company is encouraging people not to throw away their old parts.
The third update is that there’s also supposed to be a new ethernet expansion card coming as a port option, though Framework still has a “coming soon” sticker on that. (You can select four ports on this Framework model, as you could on last year’s model. I went with one USB-A, two USB-C, and a microSD but could’ve swapped in a number of others, including HDMI. The only limitation is that you have to pick at least one USB-C since that’s how the laptop charges.) Laptops with ethernet are basically unheard of outside of large gaming rigs these days, so this is a PSA to anyone who’s been bummed by their demise.
My primary gripe with the last Framework also remains. This chassis is held together with T5 Torx screws, which means you can’t pop it open with a regular Phillips screwdriver. This will be less of a problem for prior Framework owners who already have Framework’s screwdriver, but it still may make it more of a hassle to find replacement screws. Framework told me last year that it uses Torx screws because they avoid stripping issues that can come up with Phillips screws.
In real-world performance, I generally didn’t run into significant problems. I used this as a primary work driver including around a dozen Chrome tabs, often with a stream or YouTube and a couple of other apps running in the background with downloads now and again. The bottom got hot when I was putting the device through a lot while on battery saver, but I never felt that heat in the keyboard. I also didn’t hear fan noise while I was working (though I certainly heard it while benchmarking). For those sorts of use cases, the Framework is quiet, fast, and cool. Importing and editing a batch of photos in Photoshop wasn’t a problem either.
That said, this would not be my computer of choice if I had to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro or Media Encoder basically ever. The programs were noticeably slower and less responsive than they would be on more powerful machines, Premiere froze up a few times, and I was getting the spinning wheel left and right when I tried to export.