In general, Chromebooks are cheap and cheerful thanks to Chrome OS’s limited system requirements. While premium Chromebooks do exist, they are a niche product, with most models costing under £400 – ‘disposable’ in terms of computing, just like then CEO Eric Schmidt so back in 2010.
But the latest premium Chromebook from Framework is anything but disposable, built with upgrades and repairs in mind. Like the company’s other laptops, this is a modular entry where users can not only easily open it for maintenance, but can rearrange the ports to their liking, even magnetically attaching a different colored bezel.
This kind of post-purchase customization is practically unheard of for Chromebooks, so it will be interesting to see if there is a market for it. Are upgradeable Chromebooks a rarity because they don’t need upgrades, or just because manufacturers assume there isn’t interest? We are in the process of finding out.
Hopefully, you won’t actually need to visit the Framework Marketplace for new components for a while, given that the laptop’s insides look excellent on paper. It comes with a 12th Gen Intel Core i5-1240p processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage, making this one of the more generously specced Chromebooks out there.
The full list of modular components includes RAM and storage upgrades, replacement batteries and different colored bezels. These internal upgrades are done exactly the same way you would any other laptop: unscrew the chassis and then perform computer surgery.
But the best part is actually the modular expansion system, which lets you pick and choose the ports you want and where to put them, moving them around whenever you fancy a change. You can mix and match USB-C, USB-A, MicroSD, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, high-speed storage and more (although the Framework suggests at least one USB-C port or you’ll struggle to charge it).
Each module has a QR code attached which, when scanned via your camera app, takes you to a page full of documentation for that part. Repair guides, replacement or upgrade parts, and other information about the piece of hardware you just removed will immediately appear, making maintenance as easy as possible.
Made in collaboration with Google – as itself moved away from first-party Chromebooks just last week — the laptop promises at least eight years of Chrome OS security updates. Hopefully the upgradeable nature will mean the number continues to get longer.
Currently, the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition is only available in the US and Canada, starting at $999 (about £885). But Framework sells its Windows laptops to buyers in the UK, so it’s possible that the Chrome OS version could be available on this side of the Atlantic at some point if the company feels there’s demand.