Blog A Year With The Framework Laptop 13 | Vale.Rocks
Review

A Year With The Framework Laptop 13

  • 1495 words
  • 5 minute read

Ever since I first saw it, I knew I wanted the Framework Laptop. A modern device boasting fully replaceable components? Intriguing beyond belief. Well, I knew I was going to need a laptop for my Certificate in Design, and the Framework seemed like a no brainer, so I got it. I ordered my Framework on the 27th of November 2022, and received it a mere four days later, on December 1st. Today is a year to the day from its arrival, so I saw it fit to give a bit of a review.

I bought the DIY edition, along with the SSD and RAM, directly from Framework. The specs of my specific configuration are as follows:

  • CPU: 12th Gen Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-1240P (16) @ 4.40 GHz
  • GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Memory: 2x 8GB DDR4-3200 RAM
  • Storage: 1TB WD BLACK SN770 NVMe SSD

Assembly and Setup

My laptop came very well packed, and upon unboxing, I got straight to building it. As I opted for the DIY edition, I had to remove the input cover, place in the SSD and RAM, and then reassemble the device. Then all I needed to do was slide in my expansion cards, and I was good to go. This was a very simple process, and the guide regarding it was comprehensive. The newer models are even easier, as the input cover comes detached.

Following up on the hardware setup was the software setup. Installing Arch, my Linux distro of choice, proved nearly as seamless as ever. I did have to implement a small fix to get the brightness keys to function, but it was straightforward to implement and well documented. This was particularly fantabulous, as Arch isn't among their officially supported Linux distros. In fact, it's refreshing to see a list of officially supported distros at all.

Cost & Value

The cost associated with the Framework is undeniably high. There is no way around that. In comparison to other laptops with similar specifications, it is marginally more expensive. However, the initial cost shouldn't be the only consideration. Purchasing the Framework Laptop means investing in repairability. While it might seem more expensive upfront, the long-term value lies in the ability to replace components over time. This aspect ultimately justifies the initial expense, making it a more cost effective choice in the long run. It's also worth noting that you're supporting a smaller company that, in my opinion, seems dedicated to doing the right thing.

With that said, you can save some money when buying your laptop by acquiring your RAM and SDD from alternative sources. Prices are inflated when purchasing directly from Framework, and better prices can be found when purchasing online. You can quite easily shave $100 AUD off the price by purchasing the components online.

A picture of two Framework Laptop 13 computers back to back on a dark background.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Framework is alright. While it doesn't exude the sturdiness of some other laptops I've encountered, it's far from flimsy. There is minor flex in the chassis if picking the laptop up from a corner, but it is so minimal that it's hardly of relevance. Of more notable concern are the screen and hinge.

The screen itself is excellent. It's 3:2 aspect ratio is ideal for tasks such as coding and document processing but affects the structural design, leading to flex, which causes screen wobbling at the slightest nudge. This makes typing on a lap or in a car rather challenging. The hinge is also a hindrance, as it struggles to hold the screen at more aggressive angles. They have released newer, stronger hinges as an optional addition to combat this.

Modularity & Customisation

The reason that just about anyone would buy a Framework is for its user accessible servicing and customisation options. While I haven't yet broken my laptop, it's quite the comfort to know that at any point I can simply replace a broken part with nothing but the included screwdriver.

Speaking of the included screwdriver, it's much better than it has any right to be. Its magnetically attached tip can be removed to allow choice between both Torx and Phillips heads, and the reverse side has a handy pry tool. It's body has a great build and flat edges to prevent it rolling away. I frequently find myself applying its utility beyond laptop matters.

Returning to the laptop, the flexibility to swap out components whenever I choose or opt for an upgrade adds a layer of convenience. The prospect of seamlessly installing new parts as they release is a significant advantage, as is choosing exactly the ports and components I want.

Battery Life

There is a negative sentiment online regarding the battery on the Framework. I've seen countless people claim that they only yield 5 hours of battery life from a charge. While that may have been true at a point, things have since improved. There was an issue with select expansion cards that caused increased power use, but, fortunately, Framework fixed it in subsequent productions and released a fix for those capable of performing it. Yes, these are issues, but Framework has gone above and beyond in not only addressing, but also actively rectifying them to the best of their ability.

They've released a new 61Wh battery and battery optimisation improvements in their newer generations, especially in the AMD chipsets. Even without these improvements, I've been able to surpass over 10 hours out of the 55Wh battery in my laptop with some battery optimisations.

Support

Speaking of their commitment to addressing issues, their user support is excellent. In the few instances where I've contacted support, I've generally gotten very helpful and timely responses. Admirably, they seem to prioritise the mental health of their support employees. Their stance against abuse and aversion to seasonal hiring demonstrates a conscientious approach I really can't say I've seen elsewhere.

As for their software support, that can be a bit more hit and miss. My 12th Gen Framework has been waiting on a BIOS update with numerous improvements, such as compatibility with the new 61Wh battery. There has been work done, but it's been in beta for several months and sets a bad precedent.

Community

It isn't just Framework themselves that support their products, but also the surrounding community. The community cultivated around the Framework Laptop is truly exceptional, the likes I haven't seen with any other product. The company hosts an open and highly constructive forum where users share all sorts of things. Every second day someone shares some crazy thing like spring loaded expansion cards or a crazy new form factor. It's excellent to see. I've found that any issue I've encountered, no matter how obscure (and trust me, I stumble upon some pretty obscure ones), has had some solution or ongoing discussion within the forums.

Overall Evaluation

I think the Framework Laptop is excellent for just about anyone needing a computer, but especially the technologically inclined. This machine is excellent, especially as a tech enthusiast. The modularity and adaptability makes tinkering an absolute joy. Especially when backed by an exceptional community that's always ready to dive into the depths of innovation.

If you need any further evidence as to how highly I regard the Framework Laptop 13, then the fact that I convinced my brother to select one as a replacement for his ageing Surface Go should tell you all you need to know. As he got it more recently, he had the option of the new AMD model, which meant waiting a while due to the batch system, but it only took just over a week to arrive once it shipped. He's been very happy with it, and it's worked excellently thus far.

February 2023 Update

I'm still loving my Framework, but a bit has changed since I wrote this article. Firstly, Framework has finally taken action in regards to the BIOS and has released a new beta. This is great to see, as I was beginning to worry. People have also started receiving the new Framework Laptop 16, which is very exciting.

In terms of my specific computer, I've made some changes. At the end of 2023, I moved from Arch Linux to NixOS. It's got an awesome declarative configuration model that allows the entire OS to be regenerated whenever needed. I truly do love it. I also chose to leverage the modularity of my Framework by switching out my keyboard. As I use Colemak DH, there wasn't much point in having a QWERTY keyboard, so I moved to a blank keyboard. The process wasn't too hard, and was well documented, but took quite a bit of time. There were so many screws. I'm happy with the result though, and really love the sleek, minimalist style it provides.


I hope you enjoyed my review. If you've got any questions about the laptop or think there is something I could add, then let me know in the comments below.