Framework Laptop 13 Deep Dive - Creating a custom high-resolution display

Along with the launch of our latest generation Framework Laptop 13, we announced a new higher-resolution 13.5” display option available on both AMD and Intel-powered DIY Edition configurations. We custom developed this display with our panel partner BOE to improve over our already-great default version. Resolution is increased from 2256x1504 to 2880x1920, which is an amazing 256 PPI. In addition to resulting in sharper text rendering, this resolution is perfect for 2:1 scaling, which is especially convenient for Linux. Brightness goes up from 400 nit to 500 nit, matching what we have on Framework Laptop 16 and making usage in bright daylight excellent. Refresh rate goes from 60Hz to 120Hz with support for variable refresh rate and gray-to-gray rise+fall response time drops to 12ms, enabling smooth scrolling and cursor movement along with an improved gaming experience. We’ve kept the same 3:2 aspect ratio, 1500:1 contrast, 100% sRGB color gamut, and matte anti-glare surface, making this an all-around solid panel for productivity. There is one part of the display that is a slight step backwards from the original though, which is that the corners of the active area are rounded (the top corners with a 3mm radius and the bottom ones with 1mm). You’re probably wondering why we would do such a thing. To explain why, first, we’ll go through the process of manufacturing a display.

Display manufacturing is split into two major segments that are called the “front end process” and the “back end process”. In the front end process, giant sheets of very precisely prepared glass substrate go through a thin film transistor (TFT) process using patterning masks that are custom to each display design. The TFT layer forms the actual electrical functioning of each pixel. Then, the full sheet of multiple displays goes through color filter array and liquid crystal processes that apply the optically functional parts of each pixel. After that, the large substrate is cut into individual panels, which go through the back end process, sometimes in a separate facility. In the back end process, the flex circuit board that the interface chip is on is bonded to the glass and the backlight is integrated. The finished panel is then packed out and sent to our laptop factory.

The earlier processes are substantially more expensive to customize than the later processes. Customizing a TFT patterning mask set for example requires a colossal up-front investment and a sizable minimum order quantity, while customizing the backlight or the final shape of the mechanical module is simpler and cheaper. Going back to our display, we found a panel that BOE was designing for another customer with rounded corners that fit the needs of their product. Rather than paying for our own fully custom panel, we leveraged this existing panel’s mask set (thanks, whichever notebook company paid for this) and customized the back end process to fit the structure we needed for Framework Laptop 13. In addition to supporting our latest generation, we made sure this panel can be swapped into all of our existing Framework Laptop 13 models, going back to the original 11th Gen version from 2021.

You can pick up the new display now as a pre-order option on our latest Intel and AMD Framework Laptop 13 DIY Edition configurations, and you can also pre-order the display module on its own in the Framework Marketplace. We’re looking forward to seeing what you think of it!

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Very nice initiative the Team! I have already pre-ordered mine. Rounded edges are not a step backwards for me, on the contrary! They will allow it to better integrate with the design of Windows 11. On the other hand, it would be good to adapt the screen protectors so that they harmonize better with the rounded corners of the screen. What do you think ?

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Really cool! I’m genuinely curious how much your profit margin is as well, although this probably can’t be answered :stuck_out_tongue:

$370 CAD for a panel is certainly steep (at least from my memories of various laptop BOMs).

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I am pretty confident it is Lenovo.

The Lenovo ThinkBook 13x G4 has a panel with pretty much identical specs to this panel.

According to Lenovo the panel is “13.5” 2.8K (2880x1920) IPS 500nits Anti-glare, 100% sRGB, 120Hz", which matches the specs Framework has shared. NotebookCheck also tested it at 12.8 ms rise+fall latency, which matches the 12 ms that nrp shared.

I have also seen sources indicating that the ThinkBool 13x G4’s panel is a BOE panel, which would also align, but I am failing to find those now.

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Is the 2.8k screen matte?

So cool, really interesting to read about the procurement and manufacturing processes behind the laptops. The open-ness on that front is very much appreciated and certainly contributed to my decision to purchase!


As OP posted -

I believe it was mentioned in the other thread that the Lenovo screen for the Thinkbook 13x G4 has a minimum brightness of 5.6 nits if I recall. But it would be nice if the minimum nits value could be verified in addition to the maximum by Framework. The current matte screen seems a bit on the bright side for using in the dark I think.

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If I had the new, updated screen would that mean type faces would appear even smaller than they currently do? Is it possible to post side by side images to provide a comparison between the original screen and this updated, more dense screen?

Yes type faces would be smaller on the pixel level but you can set the ‘zoom’ of the screen to compensate.

If I upgrade my original Framework laptop to this new display, what can I do with the old one? Is there a driver board available that can turn it into a usable external HDMI/DP/USB-C display for DIY projects?

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Yes, there are a bunch discussed in this thread. I recommend trying the ones from the bottom of the thread as better boards were discovered over time.

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Perfect! Exactly why I love this community… :smiley_cat:

Sorry to tell, but the marginal hike from 400 to 500 nits brightness does not make working in bright daylight excellent - that would require at the very least 1000 nits (like some Apple notebooks offer, or some from HP), and if you want to work with pictures or video (like I do), at least 2000. I know what I’m talking about, from sad experience!

In your deep dive into the display production process you “overlooked” (?) one important possibility: the brightness of a display does not (much) depend on the LCD, it’s mostly a function of the backlight. And while the LCD production process indeed requires massive investments, the back end process where the backlight is added does not require such huge investments. Talk to BOE about it! I would be the first customer to buy a Framework 13 that has a display with 1000 nits general brightness and around 2000 nits peak for HDR material.

And if BOE can’t supply such a display, or requires too steep a minimum number to purchase, try to find out who makes the bright display of the Apple MacBooks or the HP Dragonfly G4. The latter doesn’t have rounded corners (as far as I can tell from the pictures online) and it comes in the same size as the Framework 13’s display, 13.5" with a 3:2 aspect ratio. I wouldn’t mind its lower resolution of 1980 x 1280.

I hope and wait for such a display option for the Framework 13!

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