Framework’s New Laptop: Modular Gadgets might be Coming True

A little more than a year after revealing the first version of its ultra-repairable, upgradeable notebook, Framework is founding the second-generation Framework Laptop.

It’s meant to be substantially speedier and a little more sturdy. Still, mostly it’s a signal that Framework is serious about building truly long-lasting devices and might be fulfilling the often vowed and rarely delivered fantasy of upgradeable, modular gadgets.

The new laptop’s headline specification is the processor: it comes with a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 chip with the best-of-the-line, $2,049 model running the Core i7-1280P. (That’s an absolute generation jump from the current model, and these new Alder Lake chips promise significant performance advancements and a gain in efficiency.)

The base model, which drives a Core i5-1240P, starts at $1,049 fully assembled. All are unrestricted for preorder now and will begin dispatching in July. However, you shouldn’t expect one too quickly: Framework employs a preorder strategy to manage demand and anticipates shipments taking a while.

In addition to the performance jump, Framework rebuilt the laptop’s top cover, which it says is now much more inflexible than before. That’s a welcome change: the laptop’s inevitable flimsiness was one of the device’s most harmful qualities. Beyond that, Framework also stated it has “carefully optimized battery life,” which was only moderate on the last model.

Most of the other specifications haven’t changed: the new laptop still has a 13.5-inch screen, weighs under three pounds, and has the same decent keyboard and trackpad. As a result, the new Framework Laptop sounds like a nice, if somewhat predictable, improvement on what you can buy already.

It’s worth noting that even the existing model is already a significant upgrade over what the company established last year: Framework has added Wi-Fi 6E support since its launch and shows a handful of new dongles for its expansion docks. That’s Framework’s entire thing; the laptop isn’t a dormant device; it’s an ever-changing one.

It raises the query for Framework: how do you establish a new laptop when your whole company is based on allowing people to upgrade and enhance their laptops without just having to buy a new one?

Framework’s announcement gets cool: the new chipset will also be available in Framework’s Marketplace, suggesting you can purchase a mainboard with a 12th Gen chip and slot it into your current Framework Laptop without buying it a whole new device.

You can opt to substitute your top cover with the new stronger one without altering anything else. (The Upgrade Kit, which includes both components, starts at $538.) In addition, the Framework is planning to resume selling the first-gen laptop at a discounted price of $899 while its inventory survives, too, so you can begin on your upgrade path whenever you want.

The idea behind Framework’s announcement is more exciting than the announcement itself. Framework’s plan for building longer-lasting laptops could only work if the company stayed committed to upgradeability and made sure to do right by the users who bought its devices on the promise of future upgrades.

We’ve heard that promise before, whether at the beginning of Alienware’s failed Area-51m dream, Google’s canceled Project Ara, or Intel’s semi-upgradable NUC Extreme and abandoned Compute Card initiatives. Unfortunately, these things don’t tend to work out.

It’s still an open question how long Framework will keep its original chassis and design. Many companies have made pledges about modularity and longevity only to break the system as soon as a shiny new thing came along. The new Framework Laptop is both a new and a thoroughly backward-compatible thing. That’s a big deal.