Storage Expansion Cards

Continuing our series of technical deep dives on the Framework Laptop, today we’re sharing more about Storage Expansion Cards. The Expansion Card system in the Framework Laptop lets you choose exactly the ports you want and which side you want them on. This lets you slot in any combination of USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, MicroSD, and more seamlessly, rather than needing to carry around external adapters. Expansion Cards let you customize the capabilities and performance of your Framework Laptop in even deeper ways, and Storage Expansion Cards are our first example of that. These cards let you add 250GB or 1TB of removable external storage that approaches the performance of internal storage.

Over the last year, we worked closely with our Expansion Card manufacturing partner BizLink and Phison, one of the top makers of storage silicon. We were able to pack super high performance into a tiny form factor using Phison’s brand new U17 Flash controller and Micron N28 NAND. This lets us deliver speeds approaching what internal NVMe SSDs are capable of, hitting the limits of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface. The 1TB card exceeds 1000 MB/s sequential read and write performance, with fantastic random read and write too. The 250GB card reaches 1000 MB/s read and 375 MB/s write speeds.

All of this means that you can get the performance of an internal drive with the flexibility of an external one. Storage Expansion Cards are fast enough to install your operating system onto and you can boot from them too. This enables use cases like putting Windows 10, Ubuntu, or a privacy-focused OS like Qubes on a card and booting from it when needed. You can also use BitLocker, LUKS, or other drive encryption tools to use the card as secure external storage. Because the Expansion Card uses a standard USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface and a USB-C connector, you can slide it out of your Framework Laptop and plug it into other computers and devices for high-speed file transfer.

Storage Expansion Cards will be available for order individually or with Framework Laptops shipping this summer. We’re looking forward to seeing how you use them!

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Oh man swapping cards with OS’s is what I was aiming for. Fascinating way to use “dual boot”. I know I could create a VM but I’d like to have a drive dedicated to Ubuntu at some point. Also the thought NEVER crossed my mind that you could connect it to a usb c on another system! That just really got me even more excited!

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Being able to swap drives is huge for me. Right now I use 3 different machines because I don’t want the headache of chasing internal drives and hate having usb devices sticking out the side. The speed of these drives will not create any limitations either.

Can’t wait to get a DIY machine.

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So many possibilities, there is nothing worse that finding a laptop you like but the I/O on it sucks.

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Nirav, just a suggestion - think if it’s possible to offer a blank module, just the plastic cover that closes the internal of the machine, because if someone no need any of the modules must go outside with four holes in the chassis, and this is no good for so many reasons.

Good luck with the sales, and I wish health to everyone in the Framework team!

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We have a 3D printable blank card design that we’ll be releasing as part of the reference design release!

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Will the price of the storage expansion cards (as well as the rest of the modular ports) be the same buying individually later on down the road as they are now in a computer build?

I wonder if the expansion cards would be large enough to house a M.2 slot for, e.g. 30mm SSDs.

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The cards are wide enough but not long enough for an M.2 2230. It would be possible with an oversized card.

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How about a WiFi expansion card for people who want the privacy option?

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Could you please clarify what you want, that is, how it’s different from the internal WiFi card that is already on offer? Thx.

The option to easy switch off or unplug the WiFi.

Only MicroSD but not SD?
Would be really pitiful because SD is still the mainstream of cameras.

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@nrp I am looking to get my hands on a pre-built blank module. I know you mentioned a reference design, any update on the eta / availability?

I have a few designs that I want to work on.

We’ve posted designs here: https://github.com/FrameworkComputer/ExpansionCards

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Thanks, I know… I was referring to a pre-built one… even an existing design (Like USB-C) but without the circuit board.

[ I ordered extra modules… 1 just to work with for ideas just in case you did not offer a Blank etc.]

@LlightW, you’re generally not going to lug a monitor and an egpu around. A dock will handle that, as it should be a stationary use case. Many egpu already include ports to attach more devices. USB4/thunderbolt supports daisy chaining as well. Just make sure to put more demanding devices earlier in the chain. So egpu first.

I’m planning on using one USB4 port for a dock to supply all of that, except without the egpu.

What are the prospects for higher-capacity expansion cards? Is the current 1TB limit due to the physical size of the board, or could future modules offer more space?

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Personal opinion only, They picked a level that could be implement at moderate cost levels. Two or more terabytes would likely increase the costs greatly.
Perhaps when the marketplace is opened, they will consider higher capacity devices.

I would also like more info on this if possible please. I did add a 1TB expansion to my pre-order but I was hoping on a 2TB expansion card instead. (Planning on using an eGPU dock and expansion card for gaming when at home) :stuck_out_tongue: