January 2022

Framework Laptop Review

My Framework Laptop was delivered on December 6, so it's about time for a review.

TLDR: I have no real complaints.

The Framework Laptop came onto my radar in February when it was posted on Hacker News. Framework promised a novel repairable and sustainable design, including replacement components and repair guides, an upgradable motherboard, and swappable ports based on a recessed USB-C design. At the time, I noted it as a neat concept, but was perfectly content with my 2015 Macbook Air. After my computer died in October, however, I began researching the company with renewed interest.

My Requirements

What I was looking for in my laptop will color how I evaluate it. I wanted a machine for coding, writing, and schoolwork.

The Framework

This is a very good laptop. The build quality feels as good as my old MacBook, although there are a couple of minor issues that I've noticed: the screen doesn't align perfectly with the base when the laptop is closed and my HDMI expansion card is inset very slightly. In both cases it's hard to tell visually, but I can feel a ridge when running my finger down the sides.

There are several repeated concerns with the laptop online, but in all cases those reported issues have not materialized.

Low battery life is supposed to be one downside of the Framework, but I haven't run into any extreme problems. Part of this may stem from the fact that I've been living with a battery issue in my Mac for years, and so even a restricted battery life is greater than what I'm used to (and that I used a 2005 PowerBook as my laptop for almost two months in between laptops). I brought my Framework on vacation though, and it worked just fine on the 5-hour drives there and back. Although I was coding on it, I don't use an IDE and so may not have stressed it as much as I could have. Still, if I my workflow doesn't require that much power, then my laptop doesn't need that much battery and so I'm perfectly content with it.

Weak hinges is another common problem, but in my particular laptop the hinges are sturdy (in fact, to the point that sometimes it can be difficult to open with one hand). According to Framework, hinge strength has a fairly large allowable variance (I believe it was ± 0.5 kilograms of force, so that is expected.) In any case, for those wishing for a stronger hinge, they are developing replacement hinge kits with stronger forces.

The only other downside to a Framework that I've noticed is the touchpad. This is something that definitely bothers me every so often, but is also something that I expected, coming from a Mac and their notoriously good touchpads. And to be honest, the touchpad isn't that bad. I haven't figured out how to configure multitouch in Ubuntu, but am able to swipe up and down with four fingers to change workplaces, which is pretty much the only multitouch feature I used on Mac. Tap-to-click is somehow a bit less useful, I think? Although I have it on, I find myself actually clicking much more often than on a Mac, where I pretty much only tap.

But there are also places where the Framework really excels and these minor quabbles are far overshadowed by the benefits of the Framework. The keyboard, for one, is really good. I'm able to score roughly 10 words per minute higher in typing tests on it than on my desktop keyboard and its very comfortable to type on. And, of course, the repairability and versatility of the Framework surpasses that of other computers. The expansion ports have allowed me to customize my experience, yes, but also have been helpful in their use as dongles: I've indeed had to lend them out sometimes to my peers for use with their MacBooks. I'll leave you with one random thing that I've noticed that I'm oddly pleased by: the screen snaps shut with a satisfying thwack and strong pull from the magnets in the case.

All in all, I'm very happy with the Framework Laptop and I look forward to many years with it.

UPDATE: April 2022

I have switched out the default keyboard for a blank one with no letters. The experience was a great one, albeit rather time consuming. It took me ~50 minutes of focused work to make the change (I am skeptical that the quoted lower bound of time required, 15 minutes, is feasible). Although I've taken apart computers before, never have I worked on a recent laptop, and never have I dared touch my daily driver. I've grown from the experience—and now, my computer is even more mine.