Today, every laptop is locked down with proprietary tech. They're often built with the mentality of replace it versus repair it. It's inspired the right to repair movement. Repairing stuff is so much better for both consumers and the environment. Framework is a company built from the ground up supporting reparability, transparency, and ownership.
When you buy a laptop from Apple, Microsoft, Dell, or any of the main manufacturers, you're going to likely get a slim machine with a bunch of proprietary parts. And when one of those parts fails, it's expensive, hard to replace, or completely non user-serviceable. I'm sure we've all had a busted keyboard, broken button, failing charging port, wonky trackpad, or a cracked screen. On some machines you can replace the hard drive; if you're lucky the ram, but you're unlikely to get official parts to replace things like the fan, keyboard, or the web cam, especially from Apple.
Now there is a thin argument to be made that if only Apple can repair these machines, then it's more secure or that it's a better customer experience. I don't buy that. It's likely that they want to tightly control the parts to increase profits.
Apple is not alone, though they're the most notorious for locking their systems down and tightly controlling who can repair and who can get parts. For my Dell XPS 13, the replacement parts site lists usb-c dongles, nvme drives, and a power brick. Nothing about memory, fans, cables, speakers, batteries, or displays. If those things break, they usually have to fix it.
Obviously this leads to a great bottom line for companies like Apple and Dell, but is so bad for the consumer and the environment. If you can't repair it on your own, you're at the mercy of the company. This trend is becoming increasingly more popular with components being glued down, soldered, and only available through the companies they pick and chose to be able to buy replacement parts. Samsung used to mock Apple for not being able to replace the battery in the iPhone, but has now followed suit. They're not alone, many companies are making it harder and harder to not only replace parts, but to even get ahold of replacement parts.
The best shot we have at reducing the environmental impact of our electronics is to keep them around for as long as possible.
Repair is the first line of defense against waste. It extends the life of electronics: users can replace broken components, put in a better battery, or upgrade to higher-capacity RAM whenever they want. That means less stuff in landfills and less things in a recycler’s shredder.
Even better, when stuff is repaired, it holds on to all the energy and all the materials it used up during manufacturing. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is lost. -iFixit
Imagine a world where repairing your electronics is the norm. Where you can order a new component and pop it in. We do this for cars and houses. We repair before we replace. Mainly that's because it's so much cheaper to replace a car part than the entire car, and that should be true for modern electronics as well. One company is thinking hard about this problem and they're called Framework.
Framework currently ships a modular and completely repairable laptop. Every single part including ribbon cables, speakers, the battery, the webcam module, and even the display bezel are replaceable. Parts are labeled with QR codes so you can learn more about them and how to replace/repair.
We know consumer electronics can be better for you and for the environment. Unlike most products, ours are open for you to repair and upgrade.
Framework is making it easier to repair (modular, pick your own parts, they openly discuss the parts and components they use/support).
When you order your Framework laptop, you have two options: Pick a pre-built configuration, or get a DIY kit with all the parts you want. They fully disclose who makes each part, what model it is, and will soon have a marketplace of all parts and components including a transparent keyboard! This could inspire a wealth of 3rd party components and manufacturers building all sorts of cool stuff to customize your laptop. Plus, they're not proprietary parts. They're all standard things you can buy at any computer store today.
The sides of the laptop may look a bit different. That's because the ports are customizable and completely modular. Pick what port you want and pop it in. Plus, you can swap them out at any time like little USB-C Legos with different inputs. Currently there's USB-C, USB-A, DisplayPort, microSD, HDMI, and even storage options to add 512GB or 1TB of storage with many more options soon to come.
Instead of keeping these little expansion cards proprietary, they've open sourced the schematics on GitHub. It's inspired others to 3d print cards, and hopefully opens a whole world of customization. They've also launched an expansion card developer program.
We have a variety of Expansion Cards in development including high end headphone amps, Arduino-compatible microcontrollers, and more. We’re also opening the spec and sharing reference designs to enable partners and the community to help grow the Expansion Card ecosystem.
This is a very exciting laptop. It's expandable, repairable, and is affordable.
The laptop starts at just $999 with an 11th gen Intel i5 chip. It supports up to 64GB of memory and a few TB of disk space. I configured one I'd buy which ended up around $1400. They even mentioned that they might add other chip support on their fully modular motherboard such as AMD, ARM, and RISC-V.
The laptops are shipping now and require a $100 fully refundable deposit to place an order. They've been in the hands of some popular tech youtubers and they've all had very positive things to say. It even got a 10/10 reparability score from iFixit, who has been giving out 1/10s for most of the new laptops out there.
The Framework is the most exciting laptop I've seen in ages and I really hope they become popular and others start making more repairable electronics. I love my M1 MacBook for it's battery life and performance, but it doesn't get me as excited as the Framework. I can't repair it and because it's not upgradable or modular, it's as good as it'll ever be. Imagine if your car got a flat tire you had to buy a new one, or go back to the manufacturer to have them replace it at whatever price they wanted. That would be a horrible customer experience, insanely expensive, and terrible for the environment. It's not how we deal with cars. There are dozens of tire manufacturers thousands of independent repair shops. It's time companies start thinking about this for our daily electronics.
All images are courtesy of the official Framework website.