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Framework Laptop review: Buy now, upgrade and repair later

It happens almost in slow motion. You’re walking through the parking lot when a friend claps you on the shoulder. Your laptop drops, almost hovering in mid-air for a split-second before crashing into the pavement. When you pick it up, the screen is cracked. So now you’re crunching the numbers, figuring out how much you can afford to spend on a new laptop because you already know that fixing the damage yourself is out of the question.

It shouldn’t be, though.

The Framework Laptop—a new repairable, upgradable productivity notebook—is designed specifically for people who want to extend the lives of their laptops with upgrades and repairs. It’s slim and powerful enough for most daily computing at work and at home. More importantly, its customizability and forward-thinking design make it incredibly versatile and (hopefully) long-lasting. You’ll still need to be comfortable working with computer parts, but its combination of user-friendly engineering and practical how-to guides make everything from upgrading memory to swapping out a broken display possible without buying a new PC, or even turning to a repair shop. “Framework” is a fitting name: It is a computer, but also a vision for a more sustainable, consumer-friendly future for the world of computing.

The philosophy behind the Framework is simple: When you buy a PC, it belongs to you, which means you should be able to upgrade or repair it however you please. Though many are comfortable sending in their machines and hoping for the best when there’s a problem, there are times when it would make more sense to repair a laptop, rather than replace it. Many issues with laptop wear—shorter battery life, slower processing, and so on—could be fixed with incremental upgrades and replacements. Even the nightmare scenario of a cracked screen or a coffee-fried motherboard could be solved for less money if you had the tools and expertise to crack the case open and swap out some parts.

Unfortunately, this often isn’t possible with modern laptops. In pursuit of streamlined designs, deeply striated product lines, and increased profits, many laptop manufacturers have made the upgrade and repair processes impossible for most people. Even basic upgrades, like installing a higher capacity SSD, are often hidden behind special tools and specialized knowledge about that machine in particular. Certain manufacturers, including Microsoft and Apple, are changing their policies around user repairs in response to pressure from consumers and governments advocating for the “right to repair,” but we’re a long way from giving people the freedom to fix their own tech.

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