A subtractive review of the Framework laptop

Posted on Apr 15, 2022

In audio, there’s this thing called subtractive synthesis, where you take a signal and subtract parts of it until you come up with a sick Acid Techno bass sound. Or some other sound, whatever. I’m going to review my Framework Laptop in the same way. In this analogy, the initial signal is going to be “a perfect laptop for me”, and I’m going to subtract things from that until the final sound is “the Framework laptop as perceived by me”.

None of this makes sense unless I communicate to you what “the perfect laptop for me” is, otherwise you don’t know what the subtraction is taking away from.

The perfect laptop has the following characteristics:

  • Keyboard is at least usable, ideally feels great to type on.
  • Screen is bright, mid-high DPI. No stupid aspect ratios like 16:9, and God forbid it be 1366x768. Matte finish best finish.
  • Easy to repair. Easy to find parts for. Upgradable.
  • Battery lasts for at least 8-10h.
  • No discrete GPU. Desktops have that.
  • Good Linux support.
  • Somewhat usable speakers.
  • Decent pointer input device. I don’t use the mouse much, but it’s good for it to be nice when I need to use it.

With that in mind, let’s go one by one and see what the diff is.

The keyboard

The keyboard is definitely usable. Definitely better than the keyboard that I have tried in the vast majority of laptops, definitely better than the keyboard of any Apple laptop that I have tried. But not as good as the keyboard on my Thinkpad x230. The x230 has this extra “click” to it that I quite like.

The keys have good travel distance. The feeling when they bottom out is not super hard, but not spongy either. The size of the key caps is good, at least for my hands. The amount of force you have to apply to the keys in order to actuate them is reasonable. It is on the heavier side however, and I would even go as far as to say that it is slightly heavier than, say, Cherry MX browns. Just much less distance than that of course.

Overall, it is definitely a good keyboard. I do not mind using it for long periods of time.

So, we started with “Keyboard is at least usable, ideally feels great to type on”, and what we actually got is “keyboard is definitely usable. Feels good to type on, but wish the keys had a bit more click to it”. Still, that’s a win as far as I can tell.

The screen

It’s just great. The 3:2 aspect ratio is absolutely the best aspect ratio that I have ever used on a laptop. There’s space for everything, even for those shitty websites and shitty webapps that place a fuckhuge toolbar at the top and leave no space for the content.

It is vivid, bright, and high-enough DPI. Fonts look great. Can’t see pixels.

There’s one problem, however. The finish is incredibly reflective. Like, stupid reflective. You could replace the mirror in your bathroom if you hung this laptop over your sink. I solved it with this screen protector, so it wasn’t a big deal. A screen protector is a good idea anyway.

This is not specifically related to the display, but to the hinges, perhaps. The screen wobbles. If the laptop is on a rigid surface and you shake it, the screen does not damp the energy properly or something, and instead wobbles back and forth. This is annoying, especially without a matte screen protector.

From “Screen is bright, mid-high DPI. No stupid aspect ratios like 16:9, and God forbid it be 1366x768. Matte finish best finish” to “Screen is bright, mid DPI, has an excellent 3:2 ratio and looks great with a matte screen protector on”. Works for me.

Repairability etc.

Obviously the repairability on this thing is pretty damn good. It’s very easy to open, there’s no fucking glue, there’s no rivets, and there are no unreasonable designs. The screen bezel is held only by magnets! I cannot tell you how much time I wasted removing glued screen bezels from MacBooks back when I used to make a living repairing stuff.

It’s also fairly upgradable. You can swap out the memory and the hard drive. The CPU is soldered in though, but I don’t care about that.

There’s one concern in this section: Finding parts. Right now the official part store only seems to ship to the US. I know that is likely to change soon. The other thing is that if the company goes bust finding parts will become a bit of an absolute nightmare. But hopefully they’ll be around for the years to come.

I wanted “Easy to repair. Easy to find parts for. Upgradable” and I got “Easy to repair. Hopefully Framework will be around to provide parts. Pretty upgradeable”.


This is definitely one of the weaker aspects of the laptop. I can get around 7h depending on what I’m doing, on Linux, with carefully configured power management. For example, I’m writing this on Neovim, with Spotify open playing some music, LibreWolf with a bunch of tabs open, and I can see the battery reports a discharge rate of ~6W. That’s pretty well power-managed IMO.

What is the problem, then? The battery just isn’t very big at 55Wh. For example, a laptop I used to use a while ago, a MacBook Pro Retina from 2015 has a 75Wh battery, and is similarly sized (albeit full of glue!), and the ThinkPad x230 that this Framework is replacing has a 9-cell 94Wh battery that lasts 16 or so hours.

Wanted “Battery lasts for at least 8-10h.”, got “Battery lasts for 6-7h, might need a power bank if this bothers you”.

Linux support

Pretty good. But not perfect. There are some things that don’t quite work very well yet. Luckily the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 that I got at work has similar hardware so we can compare and see if the issues are specific to the Framework or if it’s just that Tiger Lake support in Linux is not quite there yet.

The thing that probably bothers me the most is that it takes a good 10s to wake from deep sleep. I’m not sure why. This happens with the X1 too.

Another thing that is not great is that the Thunderbolt DisplayPort link is very unreliable. What I mean connecting a USB-C to DP cable directly, not using the official DP module. Sometimes you need to connect the cable 5 or 6 times for the link to be detected, and sometimes when the laptop wakes from sleep or DPMS screen off, my 4k monitor (BenQ PD3200Q) is put into 30hz mode. Again, the exact same thing happens to my X1, so who knows. I’ll keep updating the kernel :)

Other than that, power management works. Display works fine. Touchpad is supported with gestures and such if you’re into that. Fingerprint reader works fine with PAM. Thunderbolt works (spotty as mentioned). Audio works (requires a small tweak to enable TRRS microphones). Camera works.

From “Good Linux support”, to “Usable Linux support”. Oh well.


The speakers are actually pretty nice. For a laptop. Not as good as most Apple laptops. But I can watch videos on this thing and understand everything that is said. I can listen to music in the background without the quality of the audio bothering me. They are loud enough for most situations, unlike my x230 which had stupidly quiet speakers.

So, yeah. “Somewhat usable speakers”. Tick.


The trackpad is great. It’s multitouch, pretty big, responsive and generally very usable. Fully supported by libinput.

Not going to lie though, I kinda miss the physical buttons that ThinkPads have for usage with the TrackPoint. I used to press those with my thumb. I’m not a big fan of TrackPoints themselves however so I don’t miss that.

Wanted “Usable”. Got “Usable”. Right.

Closing remarks

If you’re thinking that I’m happy with it, you are right. I am. It’s a nice laptop. As I mentioned there are things that I don’t quite like about it. Probably the screen wobble is the thing that bothers me the most, but overall I think it’s a good use of my money, for various reasons.

Speaking of money, I paid about £1000 for it, which I think is a pretty good price for what I got.

  • £750 for the DIY i5-1135G7 model
  • £36 for 2x USB-C connectors, 2x USB-A connectors
  • £50 for a 500GB NVMe drive
  • £109 for 32GB of 3200MHz DDR4
  • £20 for the matte screen protector

I did not get a charger because I already have loads of USB-C chargers, and it is great that Framework lets you not buy things you already have. Reusing stuff is important and sustainable.

Other than the fact that it genuinely is a decent laptop, I want companies like Framework to succeed. So I am happy that I bought this from them and I wish them success in the future.

We need more Frameworks and less Apples, Samsungs, and LGs.


  • 202-04-21: A section wrongly said “Alder Lake”. It now says “Tiger Lake”.
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