We upgrade internals but keep the case. Is that the wrong way round?

Framework sell us the idea that we buy a premium aluminium case and can upgrade the internals as the state of the art advances. Intuitively this makes a lot of sense: if you make your own marmalade at home you might put it in an old jar that came with shop-brought jam.

But microelectronics are not the same as homemade chutney. They are a massive investment of energy, materials and precision, and should be utilised fully over this natural life. By contrast, the aluminium case could be very economically recycled into beer cans when it becomes redundant. According to this logic the case is the “throwaway” part not the internals, yet Framework’s sales message suggests the opposite.

I posit that Framework have - perhaps inadvertently - fallen into what might be called the Apple way of thinking. I would articulate this as being that the modern slimline laptop - with minimalist aesthetic -represents an evolutionary endpoint of personal computing. So perfect is this form factor (Apple maintain a very simple lineup) that aside from “power users” - who are catered for by the 16" model - the only deviation needed is catered for by the expansion card system and technical spec options.

By contrast people have all different physical abilities and needs. This might manifest itself in more styles of case available to consumers. My own preference is a deeper one that accommodates some sort of discrete switch in unorthodox keyboard formats, but others will want more battery life, or a better cooled case to extract the maximum sustained performance from the hardware they got.

Framework are keen to give people back ownership of the computer, a counter to Apple which locks in the user hardware and software. All Apple products have similar physical design because conformity to the “Apple Way” is part of the sales proposition. Framework should reject this. Other industries that let you choose (say) a small framed Trek road bicycle or a small frame Trek mountain bike. When can we choose between slimline or chunky 13" Framework cases? As discussed, swapping case on a whim is less ecologically damaging than swapping the semiconductors. I feel that this is an omission. What do others think?

1 Like

I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that the motherboard has higher impact/footprint than the rest of the laptop in many metric. And I think anyone that knows how electronic are made can make the same assumption.

I remember Fairphone, the modular phone company from the Netherlands, sharing in the past (phone was FP2 or FP3, not sure) that the core module (the one with the soc, modem, etc…) was iirc 85% of the total phone carbon footprint.

But I still think a modular laptop is a good idea. One key advantage is easy repairability. And even if for someone can be a trap, I personally think even upgradability is for me. I’ll explain.

Repairability. My last laptop had a keyboard “glued” (with plastic) behind the motherboard, I had a problem with some keys but I was not able to change the keyboard without tyring the whole case apart. If I had a framework I could have easily replaced the motherboard. The laptop before the last one had some problem to the charging port on the motherboard. Of I had a framework I could have used another one of the 4 ports capable of charging (motherboard repairs are expensive where I live and are hardly available for lots of laptop models).

Upgradability. I agree that if someone think “A new/better motherboard was released, let’s upgrade because there is no big problem in upgrading ONLY the motherboard” they are probably misunderstanding/forgetting how electronic are made. But for someone that want to upgrade anyway because it need/want better performance/some new feature, in such a situation it’s better to reuse each working component rather the buying a whole new laptop, even if the footprint benefits are small.

With regard to custom made case that works with the same FW13 motherboard I think they might still be coming in the future.

It is not just Apple, who pushed the current laptop customers into this direction. Nevertheless, if the customers would’ve felt this form to be unpractical, it wouldn’t have survived until this day. So this form has proven to be practical; it is what customers expect nowadays.
Frameworks goal is to reduce electrical waste by introducing repairability and reusability into the laptop market, not to produce experimental laptops or laptop casings.

You contradict yourself by calling Framework to be apple-like in one sentence and not apple-like in another. First of all, we need to agree, that the main concern with apple is their wasteful approach to hardware by designing it to be unrepairable unnecessarily. Framework does reject this in both areas by providing you with hardware as well as software options. Being a startup company, Framework has the obligation to be financially sustainable to be ale to continue its operations, which leads to restraints regarding their options and complexity regarding their products.
They have proven that, given time, they are serious about replacements modules, as one can witness in the history of the Framework Laptop 13.
The Framework Laptop 16 on the other side, is still pretty new, so you need to be more patient for further options to be prepared.

1 Like

Yes, the microelectronics are the more expensive part, but they’re also the part that will need to be replaced more often. The case itself has no computing function, so it will never be obsolete and thus need replacement. On the other hand, the mainboard will eventually be unable to run modern software, or it will run it so slowly as to be useless, thus warranting replacement.

Unless you damage it, you will never need to replace the case, screen, keyboard, or touchpad. The mainboard you will need to replace every 3-7 years (depending on your workload), no matter how great of a job Framework does at designing it.


I was going to make this same point. There isn’t any way to “Future proof” electronics. The technology is always changing. However, I do think one way to come close to this is to build and design electronics that are less likely to need to be replaced or upgraded. Unfortunately, that’s sort of outside the control of Framework since they rely on the likes of Intel and AMD to build their processors. That being said they have used what they can control to design a way to reuse some or most of their system. The chassis which is designed to be used for the entire life of the product (potentially the rest of your life), the expansion cards are able to be switched and transferred between FW products (FW13 and FW16) and can likely be used on other laptop/PCs as well, and the expansion bay which is in a similar vein to the expansion cards but is currently only usable in FW16.

However, on the electronic component side they can also choose to use the mid and top tier hardware for this and leave out any low tier that would inevitably need to be replaced sooner. By making smart choices on the quality of products they offer they can extend the life of a given product. I think FW had done a good job at this so far.

I disagree that the semiconductors need replacing more frequently than the case. If you lead an active lifestyle you will probably damage the outer more frequently than you need to upgrade the specs. What a shame those who are a bit careless and would need to replace parts of their Framework that they are not able to upgrade to different styles and form factors.

Moore’s law is dead. I am typing this on a 2016 Macbook 12", widely regarded as hopelessly underpoweed even when new. Yet it is usable for basic computing a decade later. Sure, is dropped from the latest MacOS versions, but may get a lease of life even if I switched to a lightweight linux, never-mind a modern OS like Haiku or 9Front. My bigger concern is the butterfly keyboard (which achieved a certain notoriety in da scene) so I carry my Atreus if I want to type like I am now.

Most likely the only worthwhile upgrade is that from jumping between architectures like from x86 to ARM (as Apple did) and then to RISC-V or Power-PC and then whatever follows RISC - perhaps VLIW. Note how Apple made a huge jump when switching to ARM but then stagnated. If you got an M1, there is no reason to upgrade. I expect the same will be true of this Snapdragon - the ARM chips have been totally perfected in the crucible of smartphone development.

1 Like

I can’t quite believe the proposition that there is any sense in replacing the case.
Why would I do that?
I could put the innards in a different box if I wanted.

I have numerous laptops from 1996 and never thought about changing the chassis.
The chassis is designed to hold the insides nice and tidy etc. That seems to work

And in those situations users can buy the mainboard and bits and then ask someone to print a case for them. Alloy, plastic or wood; probably even biodegradable plastic.

As far

I hope not. I have 20+ year old Dell that works, but it does have Win 98.

So I’m hoping for ten year inside and outside.

I love this framework laptop and not looking to change a thing, even the Gen 1 hinges and if they play up I’ll try and fix them.

Take care.

If this being the “wrong way round” implies that the opposite is the right way, then I disagree. It makes very little sense to upgrade the case of a laptop.

But I think if anything Framework devices incentivize upgrading more often because it’s (relatively) cheaper as you can simply upgrade the mainboard and keep all your other parts (unless the memory specification changes from DDR4 to DDR5 for example).

This is obviously a pro for the customer experience, not so much for the environment (but still better than if the customer upgraded the whole device instead).

What’s great though is that there are cases that let you use your old mainboard standalone. You’ll have to get new RAM and SSD for the new mainboard in this case, but then you’ll have something comparable to a mini PC/NUC.

It’s also a great model for handing down old boards to friends or family members with lesser requirements in terms of performance. You can upgrade their laptop with their choice of display, ports, keyboard layout and their data on their SSD. Of course for this to work they’d either need to have a Framework already or purchase all the other required parts - with which Framework could do a better job by selling “everything but the mainboard” in a bundle.

Just how good this all works will have to be seen, because Framework would have to support many generations of mainboards in the same chassis and with the same displays, keyboards etc. Handing down “old” mainboards won’t help much if a 5 year old chassis is no longer compatible for example.

The other big thing is obviously repairability. I had a battery issue with my MacBook Pro 14" (battery didn’t charge properly and then started smelling very bad), so I got it repaired but what they did is essentially replace everything except the display and the bottom cover. Not sure if this was a precaution or whatever, but they did (Apple authorized repair shop). With the Framework, you’d just get a new battery shipped and replace it. I didn’t pay a cent because it was within the warranty period, but they replaced a lot of working parts with new ones because this device isn’t very modular at all.

1 Like

I was going by the standard that you should replace a device when it no longer runs modern software, as I explained in that post. A 20 year old Dell running Windows 95 does not meet that requirement :wink:


I feel like you almost certainly don’t daily drive that machine. If you did use it often, or even semi-frequently, I’d assume it would be for a specific piece of legacy software or hardware that is incompatible on newer hardware or newer OSs (i.e. an old video game or some such). I’d also hope that it wasn’t internet connected. Aside from all the hardware and software security vulnerabilities I doubt it would be capable of smoothly running a modern webpage.

Functioning and usable are totally different things. I’ve got an old system that I’ve kept so I can play Dune 2000 (it’s running Windows XP and runs the game in a backwards compatibility mode just to get it to work). Needless to say, I almost never use it and it’s not network connected. It still functions and is usable for that particular task, but it would never be able to run any of the things that I’d usually do on a more recent computer (typically video games that feature DirectX 10 and above, and likely even web browsing without it feeling like I’m running off of dial-up).

With computers and technology, it’s not just the hardware that evolves but the software as well. What makes the hardware obsolete is the fact that eventually the software will grow beyond the capability of the hardware. Now you could just continue to use older software and continue to run the hardware, but with how interconnected technology has become you’ll likely want or need to stay interconnected thus requiring newer hardware and/or software to stay connected. PCIe and USB have taken major strides to be backwards compatible, however where you’ll usually run into issues is on the software side (e.g. drivers).

1 Like

But, hang on, Framework do make the outer cases available in the marketplace. where is the problem?


If I might be permitted a friendly jab at participants of this forum, and as a user who is coming over from Apple, let me say that Framework has that firm’s fanboiz licked in the zealotry department! :rofl:

Most people would welcome greater opportunity to customise a supposedly customisable laptop to their own demands, yet time and again we are seeing people twist themselves into all sorts of logical knots to explain why we should not be allowed to choose between different styles of case.

They all look the same. It really is “any colour you like, as long as it’s grey”. Perhaps there would be a market for a colourful case for children or young people which can rehouse older components. We do not even need to look to children. Minimalist grey might well represent the prevailing design orthodoxy amongst straight, male, white adult tastemakers who feel it looks sophisticated and manly. I know the IT scene is very biased to that demographic but would female or non-straight designers choose a different aesthetic?

1 Like

To be fair there’s only one for the FW16. I do think that having more options for the case would be nice like different colors (which they don’t do because it’s less environmentally friendly) or a deeper chassis (I recall seeing that mentioned in a forum for a mechanical keyboard), or a non-laptop case like the Cooler Master case for the FW13.

New codecs in fixed-function hardware accelerated video encoding/decoding is another good reason to upgrade. Newer, better codecs continue to be made so when the streaming services and video conference services upgrade to a new codec that your machine lacks, your options are either upgrade your machine or your laptop becomes a frying pan.

That “relatively” is key here.

Over the last three years or so, I’ve been thinking about this…

The “cheaper” only comes into play in two situations:

  1. You need to repair the laptop because something needs repairing (exclude upgrading).
  2. You are upgrading within the Framework lineage.

The upfront more expensive investment into a Framework laptop only really become a benefit to be capitalized on when one or more of the above situations apply. For people who takes care of their laptop (or had really good luck with electronics…these people do exist), it’s cheaper for them to just go from one laptop to another. (*Reasonable repair / upgrade frequency comes into the equation, of course)

To my recollection, npr’s messaging has always been on repairability, and not on being cheaper.

This came out today (7:45 is where Apple seem to have a point):

That’s only half the idea. The other idea is “Keep the old electronics useful by having them externalised from the laptop, yet remain functional”…extending functional life time. (Coolermaster case)

i.e. “Useful lifetime” is not a tightly coupled single unit. Each component’s useful lifetime is different from other…and can be de-coupled. (e.g. When I die…maybe my kidney would still be good for someone else)