Free space in a hypothetical 15''/17'' model

I was wondering what the extra space in larger versions of same laptop is normally used for (a GPU ? more battery ? just empty space for cooling ?) and if Framework has some point of view about it.

In a normal laptop?

Many 17" laptops are big honking gaming laptops, or mobile workstations. So the room is taken up by a GPU, but also a larger hearsink, more heatpipes, sometimes a 2nd fan. And almost always a larger battery, or a 2,5" drive, or both. In many cases there’s also room for a 2nd m.2 2280 drive.

Mobile workstations are basically gaming laptops, but with less RGB and better build quality. And they are more expensive. Sometimes configurable with Xeon CPU’s and Quadro or Radeon Pro GPU’s (with special sauce CAD drivers).

15" laptops usually have a selection of some of the above, depending on target audience. You could make a 15" business laptop with a huge battery, or a 15" gaming laptop, with a GPU with heatsink but a smaller battery, or a 15" media consuption laptop with mostly a larger screen but not much on the inside (low cost).

Edit: What I’d expect on a 15" or 17" Framework laptop is a daughter board on the side with 2 female usb-c plugs on one side and two male plugs on the other side. What’s on the board would at least be a PCIe switch and thunderbolt controller for the ports, but there could be multiple options with either a second m.2 slot, or a GPU, or maybe even a few additional battery cells. On the 17" version there might even be space for a 3rd m.2 drive, or a 2,5" drive.

Like Peetz0r said, it’s really best summarized as “just more stuff.”

An additional thing often added is more storage. The reason I got a Dell XPS 15 instead of the XPS 13 for my last laptop was the 15 has 2 M.2 slots. Dell Precision 7000 series had like… 4 M.2 slots last I looked. They’re also utterly ridiculous monsters in size, but that’s for all the cooling

edit: hit save to quick. Additionally, there’s rarely “free space” in them. If there is, it’s minimal and/or not really “usable” by the end user. It’s not like there will be enough room for you say add an extra fan or something, even if you could figure out how to wire it up.

The reply I wrote yesterday made me think, and I made a sketch of what I think could be a hypothetical future 15.6" and 17.3" laptop.

Full SVG as Gist on Github

Some notes:

I added a 5th and 6th port. There is space for it and there’s demand for it. But those ports are probably never going to be Thunderbolt. And I’d guess having Power Delivery input capabilities is also going to be very difficult. I’m also not sure about Display Port alt mode. Still very useful for adding USB ports, card readers, storage, etc.

Also the board in the middle is a nice spot for a second and even third cheaper bulk sata ssd.

Then there’s the ports on the left. I think it should be possible to keep Thunderbolt and PD on both sides by adding a PCIe switch and Thunderbolt controller on the GPU board. Talking about the GPU board, it’s going to need GPU memory, lots of power delivery stuff on it for the GPU, the memory, and the ports. This is complicated stuff. And in the 15.6" version I made this board probably way too small. That’s why I left out one of the SSD’s to move that stuff down to the middle board. But realistically that’s never going to work. I mean, what kind of board-to-board connector can handle GDDR6X? And >100A at around 1V of power? I think none really can.

Also the connection of the GPU to the two USB-C ports is complete fantasy so far. Can you get 8 lanes of PCIe out of 2 thunderbolt ports in parallel like this? Or can you get away with just 4 lanes? (and then use the other 4 lanes for the ports and maybe the sata controller on the middle board). This will definitely require some sort of creative solution.

So I guess the 15.6" option is not really possible. So let’s just focus on the 17" one. While we’re at it, I put in a larger battery, but also noticed the 13.5" battery with a 2.5" hdd would actually fit nicely.

I don’t think anyone should have a harddisk in a brand new laptop in 2021, but if we could have the option without Framework having to stock another battery SKU, then why not.

Then there’s thermals. If you want any decent GPU performance in a setup with the same heatsink+fan as the 13.5" iGPU version, then you’ll thermal throttle before you can blink an eye. So the heatsink should not be the same. It should look the same viewed top-down, but it should be thicker, so the heatsink has more surface area and the fan can move more air. You can then also use thicker heatpipes. Maybe even fit a 3rd heatpipe in there somehow.

Obviously the main board (excluding heatsink) should remain compatible across all sizes. Many of the other components could remain identical too. But some of those would need longer or differently routed cables. So there’s a stockkeeping/logistics challenge. But it should be possible.

I wonder what next year will bring. But Framework, please don’t spend too much time on shoehorning every possible whishlist item in more models like this before you have sorted out EU or worldwide shipping for the 13.5" model. Because I want the current 13.5" model, not the 15.6" or 17.3" models I sketched above, and I can’t order yet :slight_smile:

1 Like

A really good sketch. You really tried to make the 13.5" mainboard fit into the 15/17" formfactor. Though i’m not sure if this would be an ideal 15" or 17" laptop. As you said yourself the cooling is way too small for a GPU. For a GPU you won’t be able to cool it without adding a second fan. Having one fan in a corner with an exhaust on the top and on the sides in a also a possiblity. You also have to connect a GPU to at least 8 PCIe lanes otherwise nvidia would never aprove of the design in their greenlight program. You need your laptop design to be approved by nvidia to use their GPUs from the frist sketches to having them test the final product. You don’t have that much freedom in how you implement a GPU. I feel like with a better mainboard design you could have a way bigger battery. Good battery life is something a lot of people want and you see more and more laptops with 99Wh batteries.

All in all i think it would be best to develop a new mainboard formfactor for 15" and 17" laptops. Then 13" design isn’t really suited for that use and wastes a lot of the space that you could use bigger batteries, more cooling, adding more m.2 ssds and a potential GPU.

A little example of the cooling of a 15" gaming laptops with a amd 4800H (65W TDP sustained) and 3060 (130W+ TDP sustained), 23mm height

A slightly weaker cooler: 4800H (65W TDP) and 2060 (110W TDP), 20mm height:

Dell XPS: Intel Core i7-11800H (45W TDP sustained), 3050ti (45W TDP), 18mm:

3D mark 11 perfromance scores:
3060 (125W TDP): 22955
3050ti (45W TDP): 14027
This is just meant as an example for how big a cooler would have to be for certain components

The ability to pick and choose components for absolute maximum runtime on battery would be the killer feature for me. So a 100Wh battery? Yes, indeed. Discreet GPU? Nah. Still need a fat display. OId eyes…

As far as I know, there isn’t really an alternative to MXM for modular graphics in laptops, and I have the impression that the MXM standard is a)lagging, b)dying and c)controlled by Nvidia. So… discreet GPU either implies “soldered on motherboard” or “eGPU”.

I’d say the only sane route for Framework would be eGPU. (Modularity, upgradeability, reuseability of mainboard.)

Which leaves plenty more space for battery, cooling, storage and memory. Or the ability to use the entire power budget for the CPU.

eGPU are more of a compromise to get a lot of GPU performance on a rather weak laptop. They are pretty expensive though with the prices ranging from around 200-400$ for only the eGPU enclosure with intergrated power supply. You still need to buy a GPU for it. If you already have a PC with a relatively modern GPU inside it, it is not a bad idea to reuse the GPU as a eGPU. There is also the nadwidth issue of the thundervolt port. A 3080 desktop GPU looses for example 50% of its performance already from it so with future GPus you won’t be able to get a significant perfromance benefit. The next gen of dGPU will most likely be way faster than the best eGPU setup becasue of the bandwidth issue. There is also the portability issue which puts a lot of peope off. eGPUs are far from being the best solution for everyone, for most people a gaming/worstation laptop type latop would be a more appealing option

eGPUs are far from being the best solution for everyone, for most people a gaming/worstation laptop type latop would be a more appealing option

An onboard dGPU in a Framework laptop would be a compromise. Possibly too weak for those who really want a dGPU, and costly, dead weight to those who do not need one.

An eGPU won’t be faster than becuase of the bandwisth issues, there are already instances where even desktop 3080 in a eGPU (in other words around fastes eGPU you can get) is slower than the dGPu in a laptop that runs at a fraction of the total power consumption. There are plenty of laptops that don’t have a dGPU for everyone that doesn’t need a laptop with a lot of GPU performance. There are plenty of options to choose from as a consumer

An eGPU won’t be faster than becuase of the bandwisth issues,

I am not an expert on this. But a)I assume bandwidth isn’t the main bottleneck for all workloads. And b) eGPU permits way beefier GPUs than the thermal or power envelope of a laptop can do.

There are plenty of laptops that don’t have a dGPU for everyone that doesn’t need a laptop with a lot of GPU performance. There are plenty of options to choose from as a consumer.

True. I want repairability, modularity and monster battery runtime. With a fat display. So obviously, I want Framework to swing that way. And then those who want an onboard dGPU can turn to one of the other options. :slight_smile:

From what I understand, eGPU is the only way to obtain modularity with a latest generation dGPU, in 2021. And I believe modularity is the core of the Framework idea, no*?

This video shows pretty well how much of a bottleneck the eGPU causes. Its a very big bottleneck. To be fair the laptop has a worse cpu than the desktop pc but cpu bottleneck don’t really matter at high resolutions like 4K. In professional application it sometimes makes a big difference and sometimes none. The reason why this bottleneck can be so big is because a thunderbolt port has around the bandwidth of x2 PCIe 4.0 lanes with some additional overhead. A desktop CPU is usually conected to x16 PCIe 4.0 lanes which is 8 times as much bandwidth. With desktop GPUs you can also see some impact between using 8 PCIe lanes vs 16 PCIe lanes in some rare cases (16 PCIe 3.0 = 8 PCIe 4.0 lanes).

Games are obviously the most impacted scenerio but its also the most common usecase. All i all the bandwidth bottleneck is high enough that a good dGPU inside a good cooled laptop can outperfrom even the best eGPU already.

With MXM GPUs i would be possible to get some modularity. MXM GPUs are basicly a normal mobile dGPU put on a seperate daughter board and that is connected via a PCIe slot to the mainboard. Unfortunatly MXM GPUs are not really used anymore with Clevo being the only laptop maker i know that still uses them with the newest nvidia 3000 GPUs in some of their latops. Its questionable if nvida and amd are still willing to support them in the future but maybe framwork can revive them. They look like this:

All the tealeaves indicate MXM is dead, dying, or worse,

Its difficult to tell the exaxt state of MXM as an outsider. The condition to use MXM would obviously be that nvidia and amd decide to continue certify and support the use of MXM cards for many years with their future GPUs.

I may not be typical, but the reason I want a larger laptop is for the larger screen, and because I want a number pad on the keyboard. I’m 52 and my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I need a bit of screen real size (not necessarily more resolution). I’m not a gamer, and dont care about the GPU so I personally would be completely happy with the small laptop hardware in a case which is ONLY larger to support the larger screen and keyboard. Extra plug-in ports or space for an additional drive would just be a bonus.
I really hope Framework succeeds - I know they need to manage cash flow and can’t be everything to everyone (yet!) so I’ll keep my fingers crossed and eyes out for a new larger model!!


@Stephen_Jones1 You’re definitely not alone. I don’t care too much about the GPU, but I do want a larger, more comfortable screen, the numpad, and many more ports.

Sometimes I work with my laptop, occasionally play games, most of the time I use it for video, music, etc. I need to be able to connect it to a TV screen (or a 2nd or even 3rd monitor when working), to speakers,sometimes a microphone, an external drive (sometimes two, if I’m transferring data or searching for something), ethernet cable, mouse, an external fan, and maybe even use it to charge my cellphone at the same time, and I don’t want to be plugging and unplugging things constantly.

My current laptop provides all of that…