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posted by hubie on Tuesday March 19, @07:32PM   Printer-friendly

https://www.engadget.com/framework-laptop-16-review-modular-wonder-mediocre-gaming-laptop-150026910.html

If you're a PC hardware geek who's been dreaming of a laptop that you can upgrade far beyond the life cycle of a typical machine, Framework's modular notebooks must seem like a miracle. The American company has a straightforward pitch: What if your laptop could be nearly as customizable as a desktop, with the ability to swap components out for repairs and upgrades? What if we could put an end to disposable hardware? We were intrigued by Framework's original 13-inch notebook and its Chromebook variant, despite some rough edges and a basic design. Now, with the Framework Laptop 16, the company is targeting the most demanding and (arguably) hardest group of PC users to please: Gamers.

Framework has already proved it can build compelling modular laptops, but can the Laptop 16 cram in powerful graphics, a fast display and other components to keep up with the likes of Alienware, Razer and ASUS? Sort of, it turns out — and there are plenty of other tradeoffs for living the modular laptop dream. Hardware quirks abound, battery life is mediocre and it still looks like a totally generic machine. But how many other notebooks could let you completely upgrade your CPU or GPU in a few years? Who else offers a customizable keyboard setup? In those respects, the Framework 16 stands alone.

[...] I was genuinely bummed to discover that it was a fairly mediocre gaming machine, at least for its high price.

What do you think? Is having a laptop that you can upgrade more important than having the fastest laptop on the block? What price would you pay for being able to upgrade your hardware?


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Framework’s Software And Firmware Have Been A Mess, But It’s Working On Them 1 comment

Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:

Since Framework showed off its first prototypes in February 2021, we've generally been fans of the company's modular, repairable, upgradeable laptops.

Not that the company's hardware releases to date have been perfect—each Framework Laptop 13 model has had quirks and flaws that range from minor to quite significant, and the Laptop 16's upsides struggle to balance its downsides. But the hardware mostly does a good job of functioning as a regular laptop while being much more tinkerer-friendly than your typical MacBook, XPS, or ThinkPad.

But even as it builds new upgrades for its systems, expands sales of refurbished and B-stock hardware as budget options, and promotes the re-use of its products via external enclosures, Framework has struggled with the other side of computing longevity and sustainability: providing up-to-date software.

Driver bundles remain un-updated for years after their initial release. BIOS updates go through long and confusing beta processes, keeping users from getting feature improvements, bug fixes, and security updates. In its community support forums, Framework employees, including founder and CEO Nirav Patel, have acknowledged these issues and promised fixes but have remained inconsistent and vague about actual timelines.

Patel says Framework has taken steps to improve the update problem, but he admits that the team's initial approach—supporting existing laptops while also trying to spin up firmware for upcoming launches—wasn't working.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by SomeRandomGeek on Tuesday March 19, @07:59PM (2 children)

    by SomeRandomGeek (856) on Tuesday March 19, @07:59PM (#1349546)

    I just built a new desktop gaming PC this weekend. It made me stop and ponder modularity, and my attitudes toward it.
    First off, upgradability my ass. My PC has a motherboard with a AM5 CPU socket, PCIe5 graphics and storage sockets, and DDR5 memory sockets. What that means, for those of you who haven't been paying attention, is that if I decide to upgrade in a few years, I will discover that the AM6, PCIe6, and DDR6 products that are on the market then are not going to work with my motherboard. So, if I decide to upgrade at that time, a more accurate description will be that I am building an entirely new computer, with a few parts scavenged from my old computer. Like the case. The case will be perfectly acceptable in the next generation.
    Second, my computers are built to last. I'm getting a new computer. My daughter (age 9) is getting my old computer. She needs a computer that is better than what she has now, but it doesn't have to be great. My daughter's old computer is getting scavenged and repurposed. I grabbed an old hard drive from 2015 (the newest one in it) to top off the storage on my new box. My son scavenged the RTX 1060 in it for the graphics memory. Apparently that will allow him to run larger ML models. My mother in law is getting the balance, which is being converted to Chrome OS. So, modularity is important to me. Because eventually someone will want to cannibalize these parts and use them as a router or something like that.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Ox0000 on Tuesday March 19, @09:00PM

      by Ox0000 (5111) on Tuesday March 19, @09:00PM (#1349554)

      First off, upgradability my ass. My PC has a motherboard with a AM5 CPU socket, PCIe5 graphics and storage sockets, and DDR5 memory sockets. What that means, for those of you who haven't been paying attention, is that if I decide to upgrade in a few years, I will discover that the AM6, PCIe6, and DDR6 products that are on the market then are not going to work with my motherboard.

      I agree with you, and in addition would like to offer a different way of looking at it: while you're right that a desktop is not as 'upgradable' as it is made out to be, it is more extensible. It's significantly easier (and somewhat cheaper) to extend what you have in your desktop than it is to do the same with a laptop.

      Personally, I prefer a desktop over a laptop, purely because of the "umph" you can pack in it. I don't use that desktop for gaming but for compiling and building stuff - which is not to be understood as a diss on gaming because that has a place as well in this space.

      Occasionally I'll (have to) run a simple Node.js app, at which point my desktop grinds to a halt... (that is a diss!)

    • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @02:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @02:31AM (#1349588)

      AM5 socket is new so it'll be around a while?

      PCIe6 will be backwards compatible? And PCIe bandwidth isn't limiting the framerate of games much. If you put an AMD GPU w/ PCIe5 into a motherboard with PCIe4, it will only drop a few FPS.

      DDR6 yep it won't work.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by gznork26 on Tuesday March 19, @08:48PM (1 child)

    by gznork26 (1159) on Tuesday March 19, @08:48PM (#1349549) Homepage Journal

    I'm a retired programmer who started on a machine with bat switches and paper tape, but it seems to me that component sockets have been the limiting factor all along, haven't they? More advanced component architectures have different requirements, and that's reflected in changes to newer motherboards. So what's the alternative? In order to make a truly upgradable computer, wouldn't the physical connects have to be limited to just the connection to a power supply? Everything else changes. Could components be designed such that each contains the means to wirelessly connect to other components once they are introduced to one another and complete a handshake of some sort? (If not wirelessly, then perhaps optically.)

    If that's a feasible way to go, where would it lead?

    --
    Khipu were Turing complete.
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @12:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @12:16AM (#1349562)

      > where would it lead?

      The optics would lead to less leads...

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Tork on Tuesday March 19, @08:48PM

    by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 19, @08:48PM (#1349550)

    What do you think? Is having a laptop that you can upgrade more important than having the fastest laptop on the block?

    I haven't given a shit about 'fastest on the block" in forever. It used to be that extra speed could mean you're playing more games or something. But I'm not playing PC games and even if I did I don't really think that's the case anymore. (I learned long ago that new pricey video cards don't make my games funner.) I am the bottleneck when it comes to getting tasks done, not the processor.

    I'm also in a bit of a weird niche where I do need a mobile workstation but not to the crazy extent that my machine's no longer portable. In other words I'd rather max out the ram at the initial purchase and have it soldered in. There are claims that it's more energy efficient, I cannot verify that but I can tell you that the 'modularity' I had with previous laptops is where decomposition would start to take hold. The last thing I need is something getting unseated while I'm traveling. Am I paying a premium for ram? Fuck yes, I'm running Apple and I'm getting gouged pretty bad, but my replacement cycle is every 4-5 years. My previous laptops (mostly Dell) started looking like junkers after the two year mark and rarely ran after year three. I'm actually coming out ahead here despite Apple's best efforts to suck all the money out of my wallet.

    I'm definitely not the target audience for this laptop. Then again I'm the sort that just spins up a new box when I do need heavy lifting processor-wise. Best tool for the job, not best tool I can buy today for a later job.

    --
    🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Ox0000 on Tuesday March 19, @09:05PM (1 child)

    by Ox0000 (5111) on Tuesday March 19, @09:05PM (#1349556)

    I'm somewhat dismayed that a measuring stick for laptops is the equivalent of "what's its framerate running crysis" and less a "how portable is it, what's its stamina under reasonable load-on-the-road, and how fast does it charge".

    Laptops and Desktops serve different modes-of-work: laptops are for mobility, desktops are for umph.
    Personally, I just cannot do proper (development) work on a laptop, I need my big iron for that...

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Freeman on Tuesday March 19, @09:25PM

      by Freeman (732) on Tuesday March 19, @09:25PM (#1349559) Journal

      The new Crysis is "Cyberpunk 2077": https://www.tomshardware.com/laptops/framework-laptop-16-review [tomshardware.com]

      Cyberpunk 2077 was unplayable on ray tracing ultra, which we usually use for gaming laptops in this class. The Omen just passed that test, and only at 1080p. You'll have to turn the settings down for this game. Red Dead Redemption (medium settings) showed how you might do that — the Framework played the game at 60 fps at 1080p but dropped to 35 fps at 2560 x 1600.

      ^^That seems reasonable for what it is. Though, if you're looking for "top of the line gaming laptop". This isn't quite that. It got 22fps at 1080p Ultra with raytracing on Cyberpunk 2077, which is pretty unplayable. Though, you could likely get it to run smooth enough to be playable by adjusting the settings. I.E. Disabling ray-tracing alone may be enough to fix that.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Freeman on Tuesday March 19, @09:18PM (4 children)

    by Freeman (732) on Tuesday March 19, @09:18PM (#1349558) Journal

    Perhaps my subject line is a bit overly dramatic. Except in the few instances where it's not.

    The biggest thing I have against laptops is their form factor. All that heat has to go somewhere and at best case scenario you've got that thing stuck on a hard surface with nothing blocking the vents. In reality, people stick those things on their laps, seat cushions, blankets, etc. Heat kills electronics and Laptops are a prime example. Then, you have all of the other fun things that kill Laptops, dropping them, spilling liquids on them, etc. While you can do all of those things with a desktop, you're not usually hauling a desktop around, or trying to block literally every vent hole and then wonder why the thing fried. The amazing factor is that Laptops don't die faster than they already do. *Insert here* all stupid small form factor desktops, especially the "NUC" variety of "desktop" computers. They are essentially glorified Laptops for all practical purposes, except you get none of the benefits of a Laptop, portability (weight), built-in screen, built-in input devices, etc.

    I've maintained/swapped-out parts/replaced a fleet of laptops at my work. Laptops suck, but they do serve a purpose. (Assuming yours isn't "portable workstation", then perhaps you should also revisit your thoughts on buying a laptop.) They're also a very compelling option for people who don't know any better, because it's cheaper than a desktop, smaller than a desktop, already has a display, keyboard, and mouse thingy.

    The framework laptop is an interesting beast and certainly poses a better value proposition for repurposing your "old laptop" (main board) and providing an actual upgrade path for your current laptop (main board, possibly display, etc.).

    I whole-heartedly recommend going with a desktop, if your main use case is "computer at home".

    --
    Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Tuesday March 19, @09:29PM

      by Freeman (732) on Tuesday March 19, @09:29PM (#1349560) Journal

      My brain was broken there, NUCs are indeed "portable" as in the weight, but not portable like a laptop is, display, keyboard, mouse, battery all built-in.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @12:25AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @12:25AM (#1349566)

      > All that heat has to go somewhere ...

      A friend used to work at an IBM plant and got me hooked on their lightly used ThinkPads, something over 20 years ago. I don't game and don't need super speed at all and the ThinkPads last a long time. To keep them cool I mostly have mine elevated off the desk on a wire rack that is about 5" high (130mm), and use a full sized keyboard. Or, if it has to sit on a desk, I set it on two pencils (eraser ends toward the back) to make a little air clearance underneath. When I vacuum out the keyboard (maybe 2x/year) I use a piece of fine screen over the hose to keep from sucking off a key, and also vacuum at the vents to clear some of the dust collected by the fan(s).

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by RS3 on Wednesday March 20, @12:37AM (1 child)

      by RS3 (6367) on Wednesday March 20, @12:37AM (#1349571)

      As long as I can remember I've been bothered by the name "laptop", when if you actually put it on your lap, you block critical cooling vents, including CPU fan intake on many models. As such, I have a laptop lap-top thing that has cushion on the lap side, and nice flat hard surface on top. Also if it's on my bed, I have a thin piece of plywood (maybe 5mm or so thick).

      I've also applied much taller rubber feet so if it's on a somewhat softer surface, like right now on the laptop carrying case's somewhat stiffer side, it has a fighting chance to get air.

      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday March 20, @01:54PM

        by Freeman (732) on Wednesday March 20, @01:54PM (#1349627) Journal

        Which of course the average user is doing none of.

        --
        Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @01:01AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @01:01AM (#1349578)

    But how many other notebooks could let you completely upgrade your CPU or GPU in a few years? Who else offers a customizable keyboard setup? In those respects, the Framework 16 stands alone.

    Hasn't that been System76's [system76.com] jam for quite a while now?

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @07:20AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @07:20AM (#1349604)

    Upgradability: RAM, storage (SSD, HDD).
    Repairability/replaceability: main battery, CMOS battery, keyboard and display.

    Upgradability of CPU and GPU = don't care.

    Lastly, I remember lots of hype over the repairability of stuff like the Fairphone 3/2. But years later when you look for the parts, some aren't available.

    To me having high repairability/upgradability on Day 1 sounds nice but it might be overrated if in practice there's low repairability/upgradability on Day 2000 because the parts are not available.

    In contrast stuff with lower repairability ratings but are very popular might actually be more repairable/upgradable just because it still has parts years later (and maybe even people who can repair it for you): https://www.aliexpress.com/w/wholesale-xiaomi-%22note-4%22-parts.html [aliexpress.com] (SN removes the double quotes for: xiaomi "note 4" parts so you may have to readd them).

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Cyrix6x86 on Wednesday March 20, @10:48AM

    by Cyrix6x86 (13569) on Wednesday March 20, @10:48AM (#1349610)

    Framework has already cemented its legacy in that it's forced the larger manufacturers to design repairable products again. Witness the Lenovo ThinkPad 2024 lineup, which touts captive screws, easy to remove panels, and user-replaceable SoDIMMs again (as well as a bit more keyboard travel), features vintage 2019 that were slowly being eliminated from the ThinkPad lineup. I say this as a person who shrugged and thought, "I guess this is the only way now" when I bought my non-repairable ThinkPad Z16 with next day on-site repair (I'm on day three now of waiting on that next day repair by the way).

    Like Fairphone before it, which punched above its weight and proved that Androids can last longer than 2 years and forced Google, Samsung, OnePlus, et al., to provide up to 8 years of support now. Remember what Android updates looked like before the Fairphone 2?

    I never imagined Framework as a gaming platform but I like where this is trending. Also, probably doesn't need to be said here, but I imagine there will be an onslaught of review videos from the "Youtube Tech Bros" that cater to the illiterate that subtlety dunk on this product. People still watch that grifter Linus Tech idiot who fucked up his system trying Debian and has sexual harassment claims. He shit all over the Fairphone 5, for example, and people still quote him as gospel. I imagine those types will be using velvet daggers in their reviews to say how its a great concept, great product, etc. but not something for their viewers to buy.

    Competition, no matter how small the company, keeps the larger manufacturers honest.

    --
    sent from my system76 laptop

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by jman on Wednesday March 20, @12:46PM (1 child)

    by jman (6085) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 20, @12:46PM (#1349619) Homepage
    My Framework 13" is a couple of years old now, replacing a then 13-year-old MBP (which still works, and I loved that machine; but like Gramma, doesn't want to run as fast and far as it used to).

    The new mobile device ended up costing about what the old one had, but unlike the new version of the old one at least I can get in there and replace parts as needed.

    I'll check back in a dozen or so years from now and let you know how this "upgradability" thing worked out.

    Who knows; by then, everything may be holodeck-based, and I won't even need to lug hardware around with me anymore...
    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @01:37PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, @01:37PM (#1349623)

      but unlike the new version of the old one at least I can get in there and replace parts as needed.

      Yeah, I've replaced the battery of my 2011 MBP. Also upgraded the RAM and swapped the HDD with an SSD.

      Arguably with the SSD and RAM it runs faster than stock.

      Wasn't that difficult: https://youtu.be/aQLov6ZaE9I?t=90 [youtu.be]

      It's not like the newer Macs with stuff soldered/glued in.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by acid andy on Wednesday March 20, @10:59PM

    by acid andy (1683) on Wednesday March 20, @10:59PM (#1349667) Homepage Journal

    Laptops these days are typically very fragile. There's not much point in being able to upgrade it and replace parts many times if the case and power connector break after a year or two of use. The old ThinkPads were on the right track.

    --
    Consumerism is poison.
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