“Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door,” so the saying goes. What about a gaming laptop? Framework, which is known for its modular laptops is now bringing the gospel of swappable components to gaming laptops with the Framework Laptop 16. And I for one say bring it on! If the company can deliver on the hype, this could be a major game changer (pun definitely intended) for gamers.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars every few years to have the most powerful system your money can buy, you could potentially spend hundreds to upgrade specific notebook components, extending the life of the laptop in a potentially more environmentally friendly way. Pre-orders for the 16-inch system will start this spring with the ship date slated for late 2023.
This isn’t our first rodeo with Framework. In fact, we reviewed the company’s 13.5-inch Framework Laptop DIY Edition system which earned 3.5 stars. We noted that while the laptop delivered middling performance, it was chock full of promise and it looks like Framework is looking to capitalize. With the Framework Laptop 16, the company is targeting gamers and content creators, both groups sporting notoriously demanding needs that don’t necessarily intersect. It’s a tall order, but Framework thinks it’s up to the task.
One of the biggest challenges Framework faces is the thing that’s ultimately its claim to fame. Swappable gaming laptop components beyond the SSD has been the holy grail for many companies, especially when it comes to the CPU and GPU. Dell tried it for a very short period with the Alienware Area-51m, promising that DIYers could change out the components at will and those that weren’t as handy could reach out to Alienware and they’d send out a support rep to perform the swaps. It’s a promise that was short lived and quickly went the way of the dodo.
And although Framework will only have the GPU to contend with, it’s still a big hurdle to overcome since components can change size from year to year. To address this problem, Framework founder Nirav Patel says that the laptop will shrink or expand as needed. The company made sure to create room within the frame to house current and future GPU modules. But we’re not just talking about the module, but the actual laptop’s dimensions.
The company is looking to allow consumers to swap out the standard keyboard deck for an extended rear vent. In addition, you can configure your keyboard, touchpad and whether or not you want a num pad. Unfortunately, I can’t go into exact specs yet, as Framework has yet to release that information. But the possibilities are seriously tantalizing.
Other key features to take note of is that the Framework Laptop 16 mainboard which Patel says will allow a connection over PCIe x8 which should be able to provide sufficient power to the display while keeping in mind the unique constraints gaming laptops possess. The biggest constraint space which is why “it wouldn’t make sense to put a 300-watt GPU into a relatively slim form factor.
But outside of a new GPU, that spare bay can be utilized for other purposes. To that end, Framework’s is pulling back the curtain on that bay and granting access to the company’s developer community so they can create their own modules. To give an example, Framework has put out a dual M.2 SSD that offers up to 16TB of additional storage. And my head is just swimming with the possibilities of what could come down the line from both Framework and their community,
Overall, I’m excited for the Framework Laptop 16, the promise is too appealing to turn my nose up at it. The idea of a laptop with a 16-inch display, configurable keyboards and swappable GPUs could change the way we purchase and interact with gaming laptops. The ball is in Framework’s court and I’m hoping for a slam dunk.