Would soldered RAM be antithetical to the framework model?

I purchased my ram for an incoming DIY the other day and while doing so I was very aware of 2 things:

  1. This is probably the last time I purchase DDR4
  2. It would be wise to purchase as much ram as I think I would need at the end of this motherboards useful life rather than just what I could get away with now.

Thinking about this made me think of how important the ram interchangeability was to me as a feature.

Here are my pro’s and con’s list of a theoretical soldered ram board.

Pros:

  • Already supported
    • Tiger Lake’s memory controller supports LPDDR4X (aka custom Samsung) and LPDDR5
    • LPDDR4X and LPDDR5 specification, implementation and adoption managed to occur before regular DDR5 was even fully spec’ed
  • Much faster
    • LPDDR4X up to 4267 MT/s
    • LPDDR5 up to 5400 MT/s on Tiger Lake, and up to 6400 MT’s on future platforms
  • Lower power draw
  • Potentially smaller board footprint

Cons:

  • Ram dies, motherboard dies
  • No upgradability
  • No reusing of spare ram
  • Much more engineering required of frame.work
  • Supply constraints
  • More SKU’s to manage. Now each CPU has potentially a 16, 32 and 64 GB model. Maybe the i5 wouldn’t have the 64 and the high i7 wouldn’t have the 16.
  • Muddies the marketing message of a completely repairable laptop (I think this one would be the dealbreaker)

All in all I would have probably purchased a model with LPDDR(4X/5) but I totally understand why they didn’t go down this path. Thoughts?

The whole point is a repairable laptop, so it’s pretty obvious why they have not got soldered memory.

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@Josh_Cook It is one point of the laptop. Personally I would rate

  1. I/O modularity
  2. Screen aspect ratio
  3. Motherboard upgradability

Above any repairability. I think I might be in the minority in not having repairability in the top 4 features however.

Really, the only reason I purchased this laptop was for the upgradability and repairability of it. A close second was the modularity with the expansion cards. If it wasn’t for those features, I would have gone with something else.

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To be clear, I’m not saying that every model should have soldered ram, but that given that LPDDR(4x/5) is so far ahead of DDR4, I would trade that flexibility for the speed.

Given how modular the system is, it would not be impossible that a motherboard model comes out one day that didn’t have socketed dimm.

I want a laptop that is as modular as feasible. That includes the RAM. I wish we could swap out the CPU too, but I accept that it’s not feasible.

My reasoning is that I want failures to be isolated to as few components as possible to reduce how much I need to replace to keep the laptop running.

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Interesting to see these replies. I had not accounted for repairability being the no 1 feature for most people.

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FWIW I also would have liked an LPDDRX option, as I think (socketed) ram is generally one of the larger power consumers in the laptop (and more battery life is great), but like with many of the feature requests on the forum more SKUs are costly.

I would like a ~13" laptop with 32GB memory. While there are a couple of models already available on the market, they tend to be only available with a vPro-capable CPU, perhaps even only with a 2TB SSD and 4k touchscreen, i.e. with features that significantly increase the price although I don’t need them. This makes the Framwork DIY look like a bargain, and it offers a couple of compelling features over the competition, which together can compensate for its drawbacks.

There is no perfect laptop, only a bunch of compromises, and from my point of view the Framework DIY seems to strike the best compromise in the last couple of years; if only it would be available in this part of the world.

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Personally, upgradable RAM was one of the biggest draws for me and the reason I went Framework instead of a new M1 MacBook. It’s a lower price too, yes, but I’m willing to fork over a pretty penny for something that will last.
Up until very recently my daily laptop was a 13” 2015 MacBook Pro. The i5 was solid, I love the form factor, great display, and it had the ports I needed. The only thing holding it back for me was the soldered 8GB of memory.
Even the storage was upgradable and I ended up putting 500GB in it. But over time 8GB simply wasn’t enough and couldn’t keep up with the work I did on the laptop, and I had to do away with it.

The usual repair scenarios (in no particular order, and not complete) that in some design would require a complete mainboard replacement:

  • Memory bit error (those soldered onboard)
  • Headphone jack
  • Bad USB / I/O ports (those with direct user plug / unplug wear and tear)
  • Liquid damage
  • Bad SSD / storage (those soldered onboard)

Framework’s design is trying to minimize / isolate these scenarios from causing a mainboard replacement need.

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I think it’s certainly fair to offer soldered RAM as an option for certain boards (i.e. ARM boards similar to Apple’s M1). Sure, it means the RAM is not replaceable separate from the mainboard, but we already accept this tradeoff for the CPU, and it’s not unreasonable to ask if memory is worth doing the same with.

There are downsides (as mentioned), but soldered RAM allows for higher memory bandwidth with lower power usage due to the shorter distances and other things involved. The developer leading the effort to port Linux to M1 Macs discusses it a bit here.

All that being said, I think there are reasons to choose both down the line. I wouldn’t mind seeing a high performance, ultra-wide memory bandwidth ARM board like the M1. :slight_smile:

Right now I have a single 16gb stick to maximize battery life. In eight years I expect to upgrade to the maximum RAM size to keep up with the newest performance requirements. Yes I wish I could upgrade the processor as well to adjust to future needs. But soldering RAM seems contrary to having an adaptable device.

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Hard no on soldered RAM.

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I think one important advantage of the framework philosophy is also choice!

As the motherboard selection expands over time, it would be great to at least see some LPDDR options out there for people who want to prioritize performance and battery life in exchange for a decrease in the repairability of the laptop.

We can have both!

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I wouldn’t say I’m in the “hard no” category, but I would have serious reservations about a Framework mainboard with soldered RAM.

First, I do feel like it would be antithetical to the repairability goals of Framework to this point. While I’ve never had RAM fail on me before, I have upgraded laptops and desktops as larger sticks become cheaper and applications get more memory intensive. Especially if/when I repurpose my mainboard into a mini PC/server, having the flexibility to swap components makes it more attractive late in life.

That said, I could get behind a soldered SKU if it offered compelling benefits over the upgradable socket version. Maybe high-bandwidth memory architectures of the future would reframe the conversation by turning RAM into the key performance bottleneck on PCs.

I just don’t want to go down the slippery slope of soldering all modular components in the pursuit of minimal improvements. I’ve had too many hard drives fail to ever want a computer where replacing the storage means replacing the whole computer.

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I would vote for having soldered LPDDR options - mainly for the battery life. Plus possibly the extra space in the chassis that could be used for better cooling/more battery.

I can understand the argument: while I and many others chose Framework based on design, access to parts, and modularity at the parts level, some might simply want the repairability, such as having access to motherboards and so on. That doesn’t’ have to include replacing RAM, if one sees the motherboard as a component.

But creating additional SKUs would require more SKUs, create more overhead and, in turn, more wastage. Those considerations seem to be a part of Framework’s strategy.

I know that any performance gain would be overshadowed by the notion that I’d be losing the flexibility, and that’s something I value more than the performance gains with LPDDR.

If LPDDR offers significant advantages, then in the future when Framework is a much larger company, I would love to see the option of boards with soldered RAM in addition to upgradable boards.

One memory stick may save power but it also leaves a lot of performance on the table. Tiger Lake REALLY wants dual channel memory; it gives a 25% performance boost in some benchmarks, both CPU and GPU.

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