Are Expansion Cards Needed?

Looking around i was curious if you ordered the diy kit with no expansion cards, could you still make use of the ports on the laptop? or do they need cards connected in order to use them?

You can access the recessed USB-C ports, but it’s probably advisable for the safety of the ports to have cards installed.

alright. that’s what i was wondering. so Expansion Cards are just integrated dongles. and if you didn’t have any cards, you just have 4 recessed fully functional usbc ports.

I wonder if there’s some type of circuitry in the USB-C card, e.g. to protect against static, misbehaving downstream devices/power adapters, etc.

That is correct. You can plug directly into the recessed USB-C ports, but it’ll be pretty awkward and thicker cables may not fit. We definitely recommend getting at least one USB-C Expansion Card.

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Slightly unrelated, but does the laptop come with port covers, in event that I buy less than four cards?

The order process recommends that you order at least four cards.
I believe this is because there are no covers available.
An empty slot module probably wouldn’t be much cheaper than the USB-C, or USB-A module.
I can see a use case for empty modules, though, if the laptop is to be taken to dirty environments and you want to limit dust intrusion.

You could probably 3D print a simple cover for >50 cents if you’re fine with the aesthetics

We don’t include port covers, since we expect that most folks will order four or more cards. As Jason noted, it is certainly possible to 3D print one from the reference CAD we provided: GitHub - FrameworkComputer/ExpansionCards: Reference designs and documentation to create Expansion Cards for the Framework Laptop

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