Future products: N100 Chromebook?

So far, Framework 13’s product strategy seems to be going after features and compute power at a single price point. I’d be interested if Framework were to add an additional, lower price point for low power, ultra long-day usage and I believe the N100 would be a great product for this target, particularly for the Chromebook line.

N100 laptops can be silent, fanless, and run cool. This ASUS N100 laptop can run for 14 hours on a 50Wh battery due to their 6W TDP. They have similar compute to 6th gen Intel, but also have hardware encode/decode for h265, h264, VP8 and VP9 which should make them great media consumption devices. I believe this is enough compute for 99% of people out there, and any students that use their computers primarily for reading and writing. Even if the N100 only has 9 PCIe lanes, I believe most light users would not be impacted with NVME running at x1 for example.

The price point for an entire Lenovo N100 laptop is in the $230 range. It’s unknown what Framework’s engineering costs are vs supply chain costs for a main board, but I’m guessing they started out with products on the high end because margins are higher. If margins are lower on a low end N100 board, this may be offset by having a longer tail, i.e. it wouldn’t be necessary to have annual product refreshes for a product focusing on low compute and low power consumption.

I for one would pay $230 for an N100 mainboard supporting DDR5 that could complement my 7640 mainboard. The modularity of the FW13 platform would mean that I could choose to configure my computer for compute or for battery life depending on the work that I am doing, without having to sacrifice the great HIDs of the keyboard, trackpad, camera or screen. It would give FW 13 users a similar experience to FW 16 users that can swap the GPU in and out depending on their need to balance portability, power consumption and GPU performance.

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The problem is that the N100 would require a new mainboard version, which would result in high upfront R&D costs to Framework.

I also doubt it would sell particularly well. Even if it could reduce the cost of the mainboard by $200-300 the laptop would still be a $700 laptop because the rest of the laptop would still be very high end. I doubt there is a large market for a $700 laptop with an N100. The people interested in the N100 are looking at cheaper laptops and the people interested in $700 laptops want higher end CPUs

High upfront R&D cost combined with low demand inherently means that Framework would need to increase the per unit sale price to make up for it, which would greatly reduce (or maybe eliminate) the cost savings.

I think a much more reasonable option would be to use a processor that is compatible with one of Framework’s existing motherboard designs.

Some processors that are potential options would be the Intel Core i3 1210U (9W TDP, 2 P-cores, 4 E-cores), Intel Core i3 1315U (12W TDP, 2 P-cores, 4 E-cores), Intel Core Ultra 5 134U (9W TDP, 2 P-cores, 8 E-cores, 2 LP E-cores), AMD Ryzen 3 7440U (15W TDP, 1 Zen4 core, 3 Zen4c cores), AMD Ryzen Z1 (9W TDP, 2 Zen4 cores, 4 Zen4c cores) and a couple other related chips.

Those processors would be compatible with the existing mainboard designs for 12th gen Intel Core, 13th gen Intel Core, Intel Core Ultra Series 1, and AMD Ryzen 7040 series respectively, dramatically reducing the upfront engineering cost.


As much as I love the n100 platform, the framework laptops just have too expensive a skeleton to make sense stripping down the “brain” so much.

It’ll also cause support issues/confusion because of the different feature set of the ports, there is no usb4/tb on the n100 at all. Dealing with 2 different sets of port capabilities is already bad enough but worth it to get the benefits of the amd platform, adding a 3rd much more stripped down version just to save 1 or 200$ on a 1000$+ laptop doesn’t make much sense.


Improving modularity for low power-consumption vs high power-consumption modes would be awasome indeed

I would also like this, I’m currently using an Asus E203MA with an Intel N5000 in it. The CPU performance is fine, but it’s crippled by only 4GB of RAM and 64GB eMMC. Both soldered on of course. It’s basically a Chromebook without Chrome OS and with a normal keyboard (the reasons why I don’t want an actual Chromebook, I want a normal keyboard and run Linux without hacks).

I do agree it would be on the expensive side. I wonder if some more money could also be saved by bashing in a smaller cheaper LCD (using fat bezels). I’m not entirely sure what would fit, maybe a 12.1" 16:10 panel. It would be around 2cm narrower and 3cm lower.

I agree that a $700 N100 Framework 13 is a hard sell. At this price, I don’t think that laptops would be the primary application for this product.

The two applications for this product would be the Mini PC space and as a secondary mainboard for existing Framework 13 users. Selling a mainboard + coolermaster case at $270 would be on the higher end of N100 Mini PC systems, but the added value would be interoperability with the FW 13 platform. This is something that other N100 products can never compete on.

I don’t think lack of USB 4 is an issue for this application. People know that they are getting less for less. The whole point is to create a product line addressing a new market-- low power, low compute, fewer features, low cost. There is definitely interest in this segment-- see the interest in a Raspberry Pi compute module mainboard.

I’m not familiar with the engineering side of the N100 vs the 1210U. Any new CPU is going to require some amount of design, no? What about the 1210U makes it compatible with existing designs vs the N100?

Aside from the core count, clock speeds, and power levels the 1210U is almost identical to the 1240P, 1260P, and 1280P that Framework already put the engineering effort into designing a mainboard for.

It has the exact same pin layout (with 1781 pins) on the bottom as the 1240P/1260P/1280P, meaning it can physically just fit on the mainboard.

It has similar I/O capabilities to the 1240P/1260P/1280P, meaning most of the mainboard I/O capabilities would work the same. Although I believe it only has 2 Thunderbolt ports so a minor change would be needed to make the other two slots still work.

It has the exact same underlying architecture as the 1240P/1260P/1280P, meaning it should be compatible with the same BIOS firmware (although slight tweaks to reflect the lower power limits may be needed).

If Framework were to simply substitute in a 1210U processor where they normally have a 1240P/1260P/1280P in the manufacturing process and a mostly functional mainboard would come out (2 slots wouldn’t work but otherwise it would work). Some of the other processors I listed are even closer matches to existing options and could work without any mainboard design tweaks whatsoever.

The N100 on the other hand has a completely different pin layout (with only 1264 pins) and has very different I/O capabilities (necessitating a board redesign and rethinking of I/O as well as different firmware). If Framework just tried to substitute in a N100 it wouldn’t fit, and even if it could be forced to fit it wouldn’t work without designing a complete new mainboard design for it.

The 1210U looks like a good fit, other than according to the specs it requires LPDDR RAM. I’m guessing that’s why Framework decided not to offer it as an option.

I think the wildcard here is the N100’s MSRP is only $55, compared to 12th and 13th gen core CPUs in the $350 range. That leaves a lot of room for profit margins if Framework can make the pricing work with what the market will bear.

Good catch. I hadn’t realized the LPDDR5X requirement. The 1210U would still be much easier than the N100 to implement, but the other SKUs I listed would make more sense as I believe those are truly drop in replacements with no hardware changes required.

The listed MSRPs of Intel laptop CPUs should be ignored.

For example the Intel i7 1360P is listed by Intel at $480, however that price makes no sense as it is higher than what Intel lists the higher end 1370P at ($438) and leaked documents have indicated that Intel actually sells the 1360P for under $300 to laptop manufacturers.

Given asus is able to sell a full z1 (non extreme) ally for the price of a semi recent framework mainboard, putting the laptop version of the z1 or hell just the actual z1 (pretty sure the z stuff is asus exclusive though) on an amd mainboard may also get us a low cost mainboard option.

Though on the really low end intel is kinda crushing it with the n100, baller hardware decoders that actually use less power than just sw decoding on linux and just enough cores to keep them fed.

It’s not Asus exclusive. The Lenovo Legion Go is available with the Z1.

The Z1 has very similar specs to its laptop equivalent, however is rated for a slightly lower minimum configurable TDP (9W vs 15W), bringing it a bit closer to the N100 (but also probably making it more expensive).

The n100 also has a higher tdp brother in the n95 and then there are the 8core n300 and 305 in the lineup too.

But ultimately the n100 would need a special mainboard so any potential cost benefits mostly get wiped out by that. Might be the easiest to just put in the cheapest socket compatible chip they can find that works in one of the existing mainboards.

I don’t think any of the drop-in CPUs meet the product requirements I’m thinking of to really give that all day or multi day battery life. Without visibility into Framework’s engineering and product costs, I don’t see how we could come to any conclusion about profitability of going down this line.

However, it looks like there is no socket continuity between Alder Lake and Raptor Lake, which implies that there is no upgrade path forward for the N100. If Framework is going to create a new product line, it might be a better business risk to hitch to AMD’s road map since they’ve demonstrated a willingness to design around long-term socket support.

AMD does have long term socket support on desktop, however on laptop it is viewed as less important (since users would need a new mainboard regardless) and they usually have 2 generations (not counting minor refreshes) per laptop socket.

Realistically if they want to offer a low-end product I think they would either need to use chips on the same socket as high-end chips they’re also using or they would need to go all in on the low-end market segment and offer a full budget laptop with budget versions of their components. I don’t think there would be enough demand to justify developing a separate low-end mainboard design for just the mainboard.

Today’s RISC-V announcement is a validation of the business model to have partners develop mainboards on top of the Framework 13 ecosystem. This could be another path towards getting an N100 mainboard if there is a partner willing to build it and take on the business risk.