I’m VERY picky when it comes to laptop keyboards and trackpads, and basically every laptop I’ve tried in stores this year has failed or underperformed my “tests”. I’m happy to say that the Framework laptop passes with flying colors, but you should know why. I’m assuming that others have the same reservations about these things that I do, and will finally get some very specific validation for those concerns. I will also be comparing it to my last laptop, which I hold in very high regard, ergonomically: the Matebook X Pro (2018)
First, the keyboard. I want decently stabilized keys with a good tactile bump. I’m not nearly as concerned with the travel as I am the tactility. I was a big fan of the Matebook X Pro keyboard, despite its measly 1.1mm travel, because of its great, prominent tactility (In comparison; the 1.1mm Macbook “Butterfly” switches that recently went extinct felt like typing on Cheez-Its). People described the keyboard of the Matebook X Pro as “punchy” and yeah, I can’t come up with a better word than that to describe the type of tactility it offers. Relieved I was to find that the Framework Laptop comes with a very similar feeling keyboard; just with much more travel. Although types of tactility are hard to explain, and not everyone just lands squarely in certain, closely bunched realms of tactility, I can mention at least a few other laptop keyboards for comparison: I do not like the feel of recent high end Dell laptops, preferring something like the ones that come with Suface Laptops. HP’s keyboards tend to be all right. Lenovo’s are generally good. None of these feel quite like the type of tactility I’m talking about with this keyboard, but they at least establish my preferences, whatever they’re worth.
Another keyboard concern I had was a niche one. LG’s gram series of laptops have generally decent keyboards with ONE MAJOR ISSUE: Every single one of them has keys that go BELOW the surface of the keyboard when pressed; as in, the surface of the keycaps goes below the surface of the chassis. This REALLY annoys me, and is a dealbreaker for those laptops for me; it just feels weird being able to feel the walls of the key cavity after pressing them. Thankfully, the surface of the keys on the Framework laptop generally fall slightly above the chassis, with some variation that you probably wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for it.
After all that, the trackpad. Trackpads on non-Mac laptops have generally gotten better over the years, but they also tend to screw up in a variety of special little ways, whether its size, surface feel, position, palm rejection, accuracy, tactility, or otherwise. Thankfully, the Framework laptop’s trackpad falls into the very small category of “generally flawless” trackpads. It’s decently positioned, well-sized, has a smooth enough surface, is quite precise, rejects palms properly, and has probably my favorite click I’ve gotten out of a non-Mac keyless trackpad; the bottom half of the trackpad goes down easy with a satisfying click, with neither too long or too short a travel. I remember reading a review that described the click as long and cheap feeling; maybe it was an issue earlier revision, but I have to strongly disagree with that assessment with the unit I have. Maybe it’s long if you compare it to a Mac trackpad, with literally NO travel, but it’s certainly not that long compared to non-Mac trackpads (Also, I hate the way Mac trackpad’s feel by default nowadays anyway; I have to turn the haptic tactility up in settings in order for it to feel decent to me. Having only a part of the trackpad be clickable is a small price to pay for something I’m generally more comfortable with).
It’s also worth reiterating that, even with non-Mac trackpads getting bigger and more precise, a lot of them suffer from palm rejection issues, where the bigger size actually becomes a detriment. Some of them, like some of the high end Samsung thin and lights I’ve tried, even actuate their clicks under the weight of my palm, which is unbelievably annoying and something I can’t believe they didn’t catch in testing. The Framework Laptop’s trackpad straight up doesn’t care about my palm, even if I rub it all around, and yet works with my fingers across the entire surface without issues. (Also, yeah, it won’t actuate under the weight of your palm, either. Wow, is that a stupid fault.)
So if you’ve had very specific concerns with how this laptop might feel to operate, and you’ve never been able to try one in your area (good luck with that), hopefully this post will help you understand it more. I really enjoy what I have here, and can confidently say that the team at Framework were being sincere when they described the effort they made into doing these things right.