Why Framework Is Launching Repairable, Customizable Laptops

Never throw away a computer again

Key Takeaways

  • The Framework is a modular, repairable laptop computer.
  • You can easily fix it or upgrade parts yourself, with common tools.
  • It’s neither ugly nor huge, and will ship in summer 2021.
The Framework Modular Laptop.
Framework

Framework’s new laptop is modular, repairable, and upgradeable, while still slim, powerful, and cool-looking. You even could consider it the anti MacBook.

The Framework Laptop is almost absurdly configurable, right down to which ports appear on its sides. Want four HDMI ports on a single laptop? No problem. But useful as this is, the configurability is almost a byproduct of something more important.

The Framework Laptop is totally repairable, and completely upgradeable. There’s no longer a need to buy a whole new computer, just because the screen is cracked, or you ran out of storage space. 

"An upgrade can turn a 5-year-old laptop into a higher-performing machine than what is for sale now," Janet Gunter, co-founder of the Restart Project, told Lifewire via email.

Repairable

Framework founder Nirav Patel also founded Oculus, and has worked at Apple. Prior to Framework, he hadn't been happy with the way the technology industry was being driven by constant sales, springing from never-ending obsolescence.

Framework’s computer is meant to be kept and used for a long time. The base specs are a 13.5-inch 2256 x 1504 screen, a 1080p, 60fps webcam (with a hardware off switch for the paranoid), and a 55Wh battery.

"Repairability has to be the rule, not the exception."

You can add up to 4TB SSD storage (via swappable NVMe cards), and up to 64GB RAM. It weighs in at 2.86 pounds, and is 0.62 inches thick. In other words, it’s no MacBook Air, but neither is it a huge slab.

All of those parts are repairable, but the modularity makes this repairs easy. You can open the machine without having to melt glue with heat guns, or hunt down an esoteric screwdriver.

Framework also makes spares available, right down to custom-colored bezels for the screen surround. And this repairability goes hand-in-hand with customization.

Apart from the internal storage and memory options, you can switch out the ports on the side, like little Lego blocks. These units contain all kinds of connections, from the standard USB-C, to HDMI, DisplayPort, and microSD. The space also can be used to add up to 1TB extra storage, using a fast USB 3.2 Gen 2 internal connection. 

Right to Repair

Patel’s Framework comes at just the right time. Lack of repairability is expensive.

A recent report by US PIRG says that the US alone generates almost 7 million tons of electronic waste every year. If that figure is too big to comprehend, that’s 176 pounds per family, per year. If we could repair those gadgets instead of replacing them, the US would save $40 billion annually. 

While many people are happy to tighten the screws on a piece of Ikea furniture from time to time, or even tackle home plumbing and electrical repairs, electronics are something of a black box.

But repair sites like iFixit offer guides for fixing everything from games consoles to cameras, and if more companies followed the example of Framework, those repairs would be a lot easier. Even a broken screen can easily be swapped out, instead of having to buy a whole new computer and ditch the old one. 

Legislation also is starting to catch up, which is essential because no electronics company deliberately will hobble its own sales by making its products last longer. In France, Apple must now show a repairability index for its products, right there on its store pages.

Perhaps nobody will care while shopping for the latest iPhone, but it’s a start.

Repairability also is a boon for the manufacturer. To use Apple as an example again, the iPhone 12 can be repaired more easily than previous models.

The Framework Laptop
Framework

If you accidentally crack the glass back, Apple techs no longer will have to disassemble the entire phone to replace it. That means cheaper repairs, and a faster turnaround for the customer.

In the end, the current model of constant buying isn’t sustainable. That model will have to change. It’s just a matter of whether it changes fast enough. The Framework Laptop is an excellent start, but repairability has to be the rule, not the exception.

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