Upgradable Laptop Maker Framework Expands Into Chromebooks

Framework, which makes fully upgradable Windows laptops, is expanding into Chromebooks

The San Francisco-based startup is partnering with Google to develop the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition, which will launch in early December at $999.  

The product is pricier than your average Chromebook, which can often cost between $200 to $500. But Framework’s model promises to be easy to repair and upgrade, thanks to its fully modular approach.

“Memory, storage, battery, display, literally every part of it is replaceable,” says Framework Laptop CEO Nirav Patel in a video. In addition, the product is built with an array of ports that can be swapped out. All the replacement parts will be available on the company’s marketplace.

The Chromebook model features the same hardware design as the Windows Framework laptop, meaning you’re getting an aluminum casing that weighs in at 2.86 pounds, a 2,256-by-1,504 display, and a keyboard containing keys at a 1.5mm travel.

The Chromebook edition runs a 12th Generation Intel Core i5-1240P processor, which is also found in the base model for the second-gen Windows version. But one of the main differences is the operating system; instead of Windows, it contains Google’s ChromeOS

“ChromeOS supports downloading Android apps from the Google Play Store, developing on Linux with Crostini, playing PC games with Steam on ChromeOS Alpha, and more,” Framework says(Opens in a new window). “At the same time, the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition is our most power-efficient product yet with optimizations from Google and Intel that allow for long-lasting battery life.”

The device

Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition
(Credit: Framework)

In a forum post(Opens in a new window) on Hacker News, Framework’s CEO notes that another difference with the product is the mainboard/motherboard inside the laptop, which has been custom designed to run ChromeOS.  “The power optimizations are in the Mainboard electrical design, firmware, and OS, and improve both standby and in-use efficiency,” Patel says(Opens in a new window).

The Chromebook model also comes with a Google Titan C security chip, which is designed to prevent malicious code from tampering with the OS and also encrypt sensitive data. Google has pledged to deliver security updates to the Framework Chromebook edition for up to eight years.  

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If you’d like to install Windows or another OS on the laptop, Patel says it’s possible, but you’ll need to do some tinkering through the Chromebook’s developer mode, which gives you root access to the OS. “The bootloader situation is the same as other Chromebooks. It is totally possible to get into and stay in developer mode to do what you would like with the system. In practice, doing things outside of ChromeOS depends on how robust community-driven development ends up around that,” he adds. 

For those wondering if an existing Framework laptop with Windows can swap out its mainboard for one from the Chromebook edition product, Patel says(Opens in a new window): “That mainboard swap should work. You’ll likely need a Chromebook-specific Input Cover and Webcam for full functionality though, and this is an upgrade path we have done limited validation effort on thus far.”

Whether you can do the opposite is unclear. We reached out to Framework for comment.

For now, the company only plans on selling one model of the Chromebook laptop. Framework is taking preorders(Opens in a new window) for customers in the US and Canada. “We’re using a batch pre-order system, with only a fully-refundable $100 deposit required at the time of pre-order,” the company says.

PCMag Logo Hands On With the Framework Laptop: The Most Upgradable Ultraportable Ever
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