What is Framework?

Frame Work is a startup tech company that launched a little while back with the aim to reduce waste and improve repairability of laptops. Truth be told, I was quite interested when I first heard about Framework a few months ago, but I wasn’t really ready for a laptop at the time.

Framework offers a future where we’re not just chucking laptops in the trash when it’s time to replace them. They’re building, or in the process of building, a marketplace of replacement parts.

The Options

There is a pretty decent set of options available for a laptop from framework. Unlike most other brands, I found it quite easy to see exactly what hardware I’m getting. My last large laptop purchase was a Dell XPS and it took me the better part of a week or more to decipher their model numbers down into something actually measurable.

With Framework, their website offers as easy way to select what hardware you want in your laptop. Of course all this is for the DIY version, which is what I chose. If you’d rather something be ready built, you can always choose their complete assembled version as well, and you’ll stil get that future upgradability, it’ll just come in the box already installed.

Ordering, shipping, and delivery

The ordering process was quick and easy with the previously mentioned options on their website. I was pleasantly surprised as well. They promised a ship date of a week but, as best I can tell, it was out the door the same day. It was shipped by FedEx, who proceeded to send my package in a circle around my area… None of that is really Framework’s problem, and quite honestly I’ll say the package arrived faster and in better shape than any packages I noramlly get from “the other two”.

The laptop arrived in great packaging with all of the additional items I bought wrapped in a protective bag and in a single box.

The laptop itself arrvied well packaged, wrapped in a protective foam bag.

Unboxing

Unboxing vidoes are overrated, but I’ll explain a bit here.

It seems Framework was originally planning on sending the DIY version out completly unassembled, however that’s not the case. I’ve read previously that they ran into some logistical issues doing this, so I recieved an assembled laptop, with just memory, WiFi, and NVMe storage needing to be installed.

I don’t really see a big deal either way. The laptop itself is still repairable, if it was together in the box when I got it or not, who really cares?

Installing the components

As you can imagine, installing the NVMe, WiFi and memory were pretty uneventful. Getting into the laptop on the other hand was pretty simple. A far cry from some previous laptops I’ve worked on. Framework included a tool, with a soft prybar on one end and a multibit screwdriver on the other. The torqes screws in the bottom of the laptop are retained, so no lost screws. Once you loosen the few screws on the bottom, flip it over and you can remove the keyboard.

This is about where I ran into my first, very minor, issue. More on that later. The keyboard is connected with a ribbon cable to the main board and from here we can install the memory, Wifi, and drive. The only challenge during the installation process was the wifi. The antenna connectors have always been trouble, but it didn’t take long, just a little work to get them poped on.

About that minor issue

Powerup should be uneventful, but was a little concerning. I pressed the power button and… nothing. Truthfully this is entirely my fault. I may have pulled a little hard on the keyboard as I was removing it and losses a small ribbon cable in the process.

The better explain, there are a few ribbon cables between various parts on the bottom of the keyboard. There is only 1, very lengthy might I add, ribbon cable that goes from the bottom of the keyboard to the main board. I tugged a little hard by mistake. Fortunatly, framework planned for my idiocy and the connector gave before anything broke. Great job by the design team there!

So, power button press… nothing.

To fix this is was simply a matter of ensuring the smaller ribbon cables were locked in all the way on the bottom of the keyboard.

Operating System installation

Installing my chosen OS was a simple task, as usual. I did need to jump into the bios (F2) to disable secure boot in order to get Manjaro Linux installed.

I didn’t order a Windows license, but as I understand, it comes on a USB drive with the Framework laptop.

First thoughts

Wow this thing is light. My previous laptop was a Dell XPS 15, but it was a pretty high end model with a larger screen. The Framework sports more power, in a lighter package.

The screen

The screen is a nice screen, with a bit of a glare in normal room lighting (think work not home lighting) but it’s easy to work with. The difference in aspect ratio doesn’t bother me at all honestly.

Being a little worse in the visual department, I’m still getting used to a smaller screen. Nothing a little adjustment in the display settings can’t help though. So far it’s been fairly easy to read at a normal distance.

The keyboard

I have to admit I’ve got a terrible keyboard at work. So bad I bought my own and donated that one to my raspberry pi kiosk project. The framework keyboard feels similar but not nearly as bad as that work keyboard. I’m fairly used to large clunky keys, with a keycron at home. I find the framework’s keys to be a little harder to depress and gets a bit tiring after typing for a while, for instance, this article.

For reference sake, the work keyboard mentioned above was terrible. It was a thin keyboard, modern, and sleak, but to get a key depress you had to type like it was a typwriter (the original, not the electric). One email at work made me feel like I needed a hand massage.

In comparison, the framework is fairly easy to type on but it’s still a littel new. Not nearly as easy to depress as the Dell’s but not as bad as my work keyboard, at all, not even close.

Hardware switches?

Yep, hardware switches for the microphone and the camera. Need I say more?

Ports

This is the great part, I could literally list a dozen ports here! The framework has multple port modules that you can buy seperatly. They slide into the laptop and enable you to mix and match the ports you need. I’ve got a few USB A ports, 2 USB C ports, an HDMI port, and for some reason I ordered a MicroSD port… That was my mistake, not framework’s, but I’m not sure what I’ll use the MicroSD for.

So far I haven’t had a need to swap ports, but they just seem to work. You’ll consume one port for the power cable, as it’s a USB C port.

I’m not sure if they’re hot swapable. I’d think they would be, but I haven’t looked into it yet.

Touchpad

The touchpad is, well a touchpad. Coming from a broken touchpad on my XPS, it’s great. I really can’t say much more about it at this point. It’s smooth and worked out the box with Manjaro Linux.

Summary

So this has been a pretty fly by the seat of my pants review. In truth, I really want to get this out, so in a few weeks, months, and years, I can look back and see how my opinon has changed over time. So really this is a quick, dirty, and unfiltered post.

So far I like the Framework, a lot.

I haven’t had any real reason not to like the Framework and I’m pretty excited to see what the company does next.