ARM-based CPUs

I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about getting AMD CPUs on the Framework laptop, but what about chips based on ARM or RISC-V? Either of those instruction sets would be able to increase the battery life significantly, let the unit run cooler, and potentially free up space from not needing a fan to be able to get a secondary NVMe slot or something else. This of course comes at the cost of software compatibility, but there are a few reasons this would not be a huge problem; namely, someone who needs x86 software would choose an x86 motherboard, 32-bit programs can be run (at least on Linux) fairly well with Box86, 64-bit program compatibility is in development with Box64, and by moving towards ARM the market can be pushed in that direction as well, leading to more natively compatible apps. I think that with the existence of Box86 and Box64, it would be a mistake to not make an affordable laptop which packs some power and can last for multiple work days.

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I’d be very interested in RISC-V. Maybe we should buckle down and make one :slight_smile:

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I imagine that assuming the appropriate drivers exist for the ARM variants (trivially true for any hardware they’re currently using if Linux is the OS, as those drivers would be open source and able to be built for ARM manually; Windows is less clear), it wouldn’t be incredibly difficult. I’d definitely love an ARM variant though.

From the ‘The Upgradable Mainboard’ blog post:

“We architected the mainboard to maximize adaptability to future generations of x86 and ARM (and we hope eventually RISC-V!) CPUs”

So yes, I hope for a bright, RISC filled future! Apple already proved the power of RISC, and I hope both ARM and RISC-V continue to have more serious adoption rates. Hopefully Alder Lake and future generations of CISC processors in general get to be a lot more efficient as well!

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A repairable laptop

That you can use :
Intel
Arm
Amd

Can you imagine… I hope they can accomplish this

Oh my gosh, yes, I’d take both ARM and RISC-V (well, the latter just for tinkering, since RISC-V isn’t ready for it’s prime time yet).

More realistically an AMD x86_64 option would be nice.

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The big thing for me is feature parity. Performance isn’t 1:1 comparable so I care less about that, but things like Thunderbolt (USB4) are a MUST for compatibility with add-ons and docks. Currently there’s nobody selling an ARM-based laptop with thunderbolt/USB4 except for that one fruit company, but the first company to sell a linux-compatible device with ARM that I can use with my thunderbolt dock can take my money!

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At this point for everyday types of tasks, most processors are complete overkill anyway. Even if an ARM based Framework laptop didn’t outperform or even match the latest Intel i7 mobile chips, I’d still be extremely interested if it allowed long battery life and cool, quiet operation. If I need to do more intensive tasks, I’ll fire up my desktop computer. But a 13" laptop with decent performance, 15 hours of battery life, a decent screen for content consumption, and no fan is basically my ideal, general use laptop.

And because of that, my current, general use laptop is a MacBook Air M1. I’ve never had it feel any temp other than ambient, it has no fan and is totally silent, it has a decent screen, the battery usually lasts me two or three days of general use, there is no intake/outlet to worry about when setting the computer on my lap, the arm of a chair, or wherever. I purchased it well before I heard about the Framework laptop.

I LOVE the concept of the Framework, and I’ve complained for years about devices removing features, reducing repairability, etc. I put my money where my mouth has been, and purchased a base, DIY Framework laptop. I will use it to learn Linux and to do some general “tinkering.” So far it works great and I’m happy with it. As much as it pains me to say it, it won’t be replacing my M1 Air just yet. Unfortunately, the M1 Air is essentially a throw-away laptop. If some component on it dies in a couple years, I’m sure there will be no economical avenue to keep it going. If it wasn’t so perfect for my use case otherwise, I never would have bought it. If I didn’t already have the Air, I probably wouldn’t buy one. I’d just use the Framework laptop. But since I already have it, I’m going to keep it since it is working so well for my everyday use.

But if the M1 Air ever dies, I’ll switch to full use of the Framework. And if Framework has a laptop with similar attributes to what I described above by then, they’ll get my money again.

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Even for high-performance stuff, I honestly just run that stuff in the cloud these days. My only high performance tasks are

  1. Blender (but aside from rendering the iGPU does this fine)
  2. Gaming (slowly becoming less of an issue because I mostly run older/indie titles)
  3. Tons of monitors (4-6) for productivity (which I use a Thunderbolt GPU for)

Everything else I either run in the cloud (AWS) or have been able to do since my Lenovo T400 with a Core 2 Duo. Battery life matters WAY more than raw power, since my job is mostly writing with software development/research/3d modeling/GIS on the side.

Looks like Qualcomm might come out with an ARM snapdragon chip for laptops:

If it turns out to be any good it could be a good option for the framework team to consider

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May even be 2024 now if we’re unlucky… Qualcomm Promises Its New CPUs Will Aim for Desktop Performance Leadership, But May Not Ship Until 2024 - ExtremeTech

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Looks like they’re here already!

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Looks like they’re horrible in comparison to x86 and M1/M2 as of right now though. Qualcomms chips just don’t seem to be powerful enough to handle anything, 30FPS in CS:GO low is just sad… Although it is promising that windows supports risc this well!

in general they are but the one @Elizabeth_Frost mentioned isn’t that bad. geekbench shows promising numbers and i would guess that most of the issues (including gaming issues) have to do with windows more than the hardware itself. one year ago apple chips felt like another universe but maybe in a couple years the market will catch up and we’ll see an option like this available on a framework.

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Wow thanks for sharing this - looks great! Completely missed this. I wonder how far out Linux support for the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 chipset is and how it runs?

Edit:
The reviewer gets on Geekbench 32GB ram: 1118, 5776
My i7 Framework gets on Geekbench, 32GB ram: 1683, 5382

So it’s not that far behind on synthetic scores and is technically ahead on multi-core!

Ooh those scores are pretty interesting. Although this doesn’t really play to x86’s advantage if I’m correct which is having dedicated instruction sets to speed up certain workloads!

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I was thinking if we go ARM, why not something like Khadas VIM4, Rock Pi or Banana Pi? Or even better, something like the HoneyComb LX2. Then again, ARM released the Cortex X3 recently, so perhaps we will see ARM based laptops in 2-3 years time as the platform begins to mature.

I’d totally buy an ARM or an OpenPOWER board. I dunno about RISC-V, the fragmentation and blob issues are offputting to me, personally (less the fact that it the implementations of it that anyone cares about because they have access to nodes below 180nm and extensions to the ISA that give it critical functionality and much faster execution or more work per cycle has have blobs [and themselves aren’t open at all] and more that despite that, it still markets itself as super open, freedom loving hardware) but I suppose even then, more architectures is better than fewer.
As long as people are realistic about RISC-V and don’t like it for reasons that may be less inherently true and more marketing inflating things, then I’m fine with it. Certainly interesting, while I’d have loved for MIPS to be still around, RISC-V is at least pretty similar to it. It might even be cool to have in a case reminiscent of an SGI workstation.

Windows NT should be portable to RISC-V easily, since the x86 and amd64 versions of it are themselves ports from the i860, and in the past has had ports to MIPS, DEC Alpha, and PowerPC. It at least was originally specifically designed for easy portability, but who knows how long it’s been since the code has really been easily portable.

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There’s the ThinkPad X13s Snapdragon…has anyone tried it?

Somewhat on sale from Lenovo Canada on via eBay with their 15% off coupon. from their website.

For example (CAD):

Really like this rather old ThinkPad promo video. I hope Framework will make a similar or better video to show the tests and decisions made over the products they make:

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That thing boots up real fast back then (with NT4).

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