The Framework laptop lets you swap out its main processor

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When the Framework laptop debuted last year, it was a technological revelation. With a little know-how, you can replace hard drives or batteries on many laptops, but even the most customizable of them aren’t designed for the average consumer. Many technologies, including laptops, have become less suitable for DIY over the past few decades due to companies manufacturing their proprietary repair tools or methods.

But the Framework was born out of the Right to Repair movement, which champions designs that encourage users to repair their technology and use it for as long as possible. Fixing your own electronics shouldn’t be a daunting undertaking, and with a Framework laptop, it’s as easy as screwing in a bolt.

Buy a Framework laptop for $819

What is the Framework Laptop?

Credit: Revu / Adrien Ramirez

Expansion slots in the cardboard stand allow you to swap out available ports on the laptop.

Everything about the Framework, from the on-screen battery, is exchangeable and you can follow the QR codes indicated on each component for detailed instructions on replacement or repair. Even the motherboard, which embeds the central processor, is scalable! We reviewed the original Framework with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor last year, and instead of having to buy a brand new laptop to review a model with a 12th Gen processor, we can just swap the board mother.

What is a motherboard and why is this one better?

A photo of the back of the motherboard.

Credit: Revu / Adrien Ramirez

Be careful, each tiny component on the back of this card is sensitive to electric shocks. Hold the motherboard by the edges.

Motherboard is a catch-all term for the Framework laptop’s motherboard, processor, and cooling system. The motherboard is the computer’s central hub for communicating with every piece of hardware in the laptop – everything from the display image to the fan speed is routed through the motherboard. The Framework motherboard also attaches a fan and heat transfer lines that keep the processor cool.

Compared to the original motherboard, the biggest upgrade of the new motherboard is a new processor, mainly; The 12th Gen Intel Core processors are faster, more power efficient, and pack more cores than their 11th Gen predecessors. This results in better performance and longer battery life. The 12th generation processors also support DDR5 memory, although Framework does not yet sell memory upgrades, and DDR5 memory does not necessarily provide major performance gains over DDR4.

Intel’s 12th Gen chips also bring major improvements to 11th Gen processors, especially when it comes to multi-core processing. (If you do a lot of video work, Gen 12 is great for tasks like that.)

However, Gen 11 is powerful on its own. The seven-hour battery life and performance of the original Framework is perfect for productivity tasks away from home, and most users will find their search, webcasting, and streaming needs met. document editing. Whether the 12th Gen’s performance or battery life gains are worth the $450 to $1,050 upgrade is debatable.

What are my options?

A close up of the WiFi module and storage drive.

Credit: Revu / Adrien Ramirez

The storage drive is an M.2 NVMe 2280 SSD, readily available from major retailers.

There are three configurations available for replacement of the new motherboard, each with a separate processor. The Intel Core i5-1240P configuration sells for $450, the Intel Core i7-1260P configuration sells for $700, and the Intel Core i7-1280P version sells for $1,050. You can also buy the Framework laptop pre-built, though DIY versions are hundreds of dollars cheaper.

While all three processors are great for productivity tasks and light photo and video editing, their integrated GPUs can’t handle anything beyond 3D modeling or casual gaming. P-line processors are lightweight chips from Intel that prioritize efficiency and battery life over performance, so if you need a machine capable of heavy processing work , you’ll have to look elsewhere for the more power-hungry processors from Intel and AMD or wait for Framework to expand its processor options.

Meanwhile, the integrated graphics are suitable for low-fidelity games, like Stardew Valley Where Gate, but 3D graphics quickly become a chore for this PC. Framework will have to step up discrete GPUs if it is to compete with gaming or workstation laptops.

What do I need to install the motherboard?

Overhead view of bare laptop with motherboard removed.

Credit: Revu / Adrien Ramirez

The T5 screwdriver is all I used to disassemble the laptop in about ten minutes.

You will need the Framework laptop, a new motherboard and a Framework screwdriver. (It uses a T5 bit, which most people probably don’t have, but you can easily find a screwdriver with the same bit at your local hardware store.) It should take about 15 minutes to complete the swap, from start to finish. the end. to end. Here is the detailed step by step instructions from Framework.

Any tips for the installation process?

A close up of memory cards.

Credit: Revu / Adrien Ramirez

Two memory slots mean you can expand the memory later.

As with any technical repair, remember to keep liquids away from the work area and start with clean hands. Although Framework does not mention anchor you and your work area, it is recommended that you work on an anti-static mat or surface and ensure that you are properly grounded to avoid shorting out components in case you become a static magnet. Grounding, the practice of directing unwanted electrical current away from a closed circuit (or simply touching a metal object to discharge static electricity), eliminates any difference in charge between you, your workspace, and the laptop.)

Be especially careful with the battery, as puncturing can cause it to leak and create a fire hazard, and keep magnets away from any exposed components. Framework expects users to work with the internals of this laptop, so the components are reasonably resistant to rough handling and require no special treatment.

Is motherboard replacement easy?

A photo of the front of the motherboard.

Credit: Revu / Adrien Ramirez

The motherboard places the processor behind the large fan and heat pipes.

Removing the motherboard is quite simple, as it mostly involves unscrewing the components and gently pulling on the parts to disconnect them from the laptop. It requires no more dexterity or strength than connecting USB cables to a computer. Remember to shut down your laptop before you begin and be careful when removing parts or connecting cables. Also remove any unnecessary parts, such as expansion cards and power cables.

When you unscrew the bottom cover, you need to turn the laptop right side up and remove the keyboard cover to access the motherboard. Make sure to remove it gently, as the keyboard cover will still be attached to the motherboard with a cable. .

The next steps are to unplug each part of the motherboard: battery, speaker, audio card, display, webcam, Wi-Fi module, memory, and storage. (Don’t worry, the Framework guide has step-by-step instructions and visuals for removing everything quickly and painlessly.)

After swapping out the bare motherboard, you perform the same steps in reverse and connect each part to its proper location.

Once you’ve finished and replaced the keyboard cover, you’re ready to turn on the laptop. Booting will take a few minutes as it performs initial checks and memory training to ensure the laptop is working properly. When logged into Windows, make sure to update your drivers and BIOS after installation.

What to do with my old motherboard?

A photo of a custom project using the Framework motherboard.

Credit: Richard Sutherland

This handyman turned his old motherboard into a laptop made from custom parts.

Don’t throw it away! You can give it to a friend so they can build their own Framework laptop, or you can make it a whole new technology. Framework has released a ton of open-source documentation for DIYers to make all kinds of cool new projects, like this little retro computer where laptop.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.

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