I’ve been using my Framework laptop (DIY 12 Gen) for just over a month now after receiving it in the first batch to Australia around mid-October. Here’s my first thoughts after that time, both the good and the could-be-improved, both as info for those who haven’t bought a Framework yet and for the Framework developers to take into account for future revisions/upgrades.
Background: I’ve been waiting for this thing to be available here in Aus for over a year before it became available and was very excited to be able to replace my ageing Surface Pro 4 with something where I could even just get in to clean the fans, let alone change the battery or have a sustainable upgrade path! My other daily driver for comparison is my work 2019 Macbook Pro. Obviously both of those are very different computers to the Framework, but if you want my references for build quality, those two are it.
First thing to mention: Putting it together was so amazingly easy! I’ve never built a computer before of any kind (aside from a couple of arduinos) but even so, the guides Framework proovided were super clear and easy to follow. Was kinda looking forward to more of a challenge TBH But would definitely recommend the DIY edition, even to beginners. In fact, the Windows install was by far the hardest part of the process, but that’s not on Framework!
The next thing I noticed wasn’t so great, that being the keyboard. The keys are kinda mushy, which really got to me at first from a purely sensory level. Now I’ve been using it more I don’t mind so much, but I can genuinely say I prefered the feel of typing on the floppy Surface Pro keyboard than on the Framework one, and that’s not even mentioning the hardly-a-fair-comparison Mac keyboard. Again, how annoying it is depends on what I’m doing (scrolling internets or playing Minecraft it’s not such a big deal, but if I’m doing a lot of writing and/or am in a particularly prone to bad sensory mood, it does make me uncomfortable). I would love the option to get a keyboard with better quality switches, even if it’ll cost a bit more. I just really don’t like the membrane feel.
Back to the positives though, I can say that I can comfortably play Minecraft at 60FPS on the Framework without external help (all my monitors are max 60FPS so no way to test for better). This was in Vanilla on a server, but also, this was in Vanilla without the help of any performance mods like Optifine or Sodium/Rubidium. The battery could handle it quite well too, with me playing on the couch the other week for quite a while before getting reminded that I needed to fetch my power cable! Can’t speak for other games as Minecraft is the only one I play on PC (am more of a console gal), but if that’s something you care about, Framework works great!
Though now for another downside: The touchpad very much ain’t amazing. Normally I don’t notice too much of an issue with the touchpad, but again when in that sensory mood it feels… gummy isn’t the right word for it. But it’s like there’s a latency between me making a movement (particularly a scroll) and the screen reacting, which when I’m in the headspace to notice makes me feel ill enough to need to put down the laptop. This isn’t something I have anything concrete to pass on, but as somebody who uses a Mac trackpad as my primary mouse for my 9-5/5 job, I’ve never had that issue there, so there’s something off about this one. There also seems to be some sort of acceleration curve on the trackpad scroll, where if I scroll slowly the screen moves proportionally slower than when I scroll fast, which again sets off those bad feelings, but I don’t know if that’s actually an acceleration curve or an artifact of the scroll latency. Even just editing this long post using the touchpad to navigate rather than the mouse is starting to make me feel the effects to the point I’m gonna be using the mouse to navigate for the rest of this edit.
Now the thing is, the touchpad wouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem if I could instead reach up and touch the very touchable looking screen that is not in fact touchscreen enabled. The number of times I’ve gone to hit a button on screen with my finger, especially when getting fed up with the trackpad, only to remember at the last moment that it wouldn’t work, numbers into the multiple dozens, particularly when using my laptop on, well, my lap. As much as I’d love a better trackpad, I’d rather have a touchscreen to compensate. Windows since 8 has been optimised more and more to take advantage of the touch experience, especially with so much useful functionality on the taskbar controls so near to the top of the keyboard such as wifi settings. It reminds me a little of the Mac touchbar, except in the screen itself rather than a separate thing. I’m finding it actively frustrating working against such clear UX to scrunch my arm down to the touchpad rather than poke up to the screen for these small interactions, even when docked with a full mouse available beside me. And that’s not to mention experiences such as reading long webpages where scrolling along the screen can be so much more comfortable than using the trackpad, or navigating web experiences with big, extremely pokeable buttons which I’m very used to poking on my Surface. Please release a touchscreen upgrade ASAP. It’s the one feature I miss most from my Surface Pro.
Back to plusses though, and I find I don’t miss face sign in nearly as much as I thought I would. In fact, when it works, the fingerprint reader to log in is way faster! Of course, that little caveat there is the main kicker, as right now the fingerprint reader isn’t working, and has stopped working a couple times before pending restart. I’m not sure if that’s a Framework problem or a Windows problem though. The fact I can’t make fingerprints recognise more of my finger is another Windows-caused problem, but it is frustrating having to move my finger all over the reader until it’s finally recognised and I’m logged in. Still, even then it’s faster to get in than with facial recognition sign in!
Another thing I’ve been loving is the hardware mute/camera off buttons! It’s taken me a little time to get used to them, and there have been voice calls I’ve been on where I’ve spent more time on mute than I intended but I’m quickly getting used to them and checking for that red line to see if it’s on or not. Even just small things, like being able to turn off the mic for a second to cough while in a Discord call without Discord making a whole lotta noise (defeating the point of the mute) is such a quality of life improvement! Really love this feature, and really love the placement so up-front-and-centre with the red line when off so it’s a very quick glance to check the settings are as I expect.
Speaking of minor quality of life things, I do find the placement of the Home and End keys weird, being Fn + left/right arrow as opposed to being their own buttons/non-fn button on the fn row as most previous Windows computers I’ve used. This isn’t a big thing, but I think the main thing that trips me up here is that “in threory” this is the same key combo as on a Mac, but because the Fn/ctrl keys are the other way around on the Mac, I still get confused a lot. Though TBH I get tripped up more going between OSes by opt + left/right on Mac being the word-jump command but win + left/right being move windows on Windows! Again, just a small QOL thing, but I’d much rather have a dedicated home + end button than a dedicated flight-mode button or Framework website button on the Fn row.
Though back to the positive QOL, oh man do I love the USB C standard for charging! I can charge my Framework at my desk using my work Mac charger, and leave my Framework charger by the couch where I can use it again for both my Framework and my work Mac. I didn’t notice how much I hated constantly unplugging and replugging chargers in different places until I got this laptop and could just leave a cable in each place and reuse it for both laptops. And reuse it for my Switch too! As much as I like magnetic chargers for coolness factor and anti-trip safety, the simple reusability of a standard like USB C just makes such a QOL difference.
Overall though, I have been absolutely loving my Framework laptop and don’t have any regrets in buying it. Over the last month I’ve been able to use my laptop docked at my desk with two external displays, relaxed on a couch, and even on a plane (it arrived literally the day before I went on a one-week holiday so of course I put it together and took it with me!) and it’s worked perfectly well in all those situations. These sorts of niggles that’d normally make me very frustrated with my purchase, particularly the keyboard quality and the lack of touch screen, I can live with for now in the hope that in the future I’ll be able to just upgrade that particular component to make my laptop that much better without wasting the money and resources on a whole new product. And everything on the inside of the computer has worked flawlessly, with the laptop running perfectly well for practically every application I’ve tried (though will probably stress-test this further over the Christmas break when I have time to get some coding projects working)! It also runs way cooler than my previous laptop, although I suspect that’s got more to do with the fact there’s no way to clean the fans on that old thing than anything else, a problem which the Framework won’t have!
I just really want a touchscreen. Whoo boy I didn’t realise how much I’d miss a touchscreen until I was browsing things to do on a couch next to a bunch of iPad users. As soon as a touchscreen option is available on the marketplace, you better believe I’ll be in that first batch of orders!