Looking for a New Laptop

In June 2023 I decided it was time to get a new laptop. Myfanwy, my most recent laptop, has been a very solid computer. However, she is eight years old, ancient in computer years. I don’t need my computer to do much, usually, and Myfanwy has met most of my needs. Except, back in June I was trying to use SketchUp to figure out some patio options and it was too much for my poor laptop1. This, combined with Rio slowly destroying my laptop’s bezel by persistent gnawing — she loves the rubber edge — finally pushed me over the edge into looking into a new laptop.

Normally, I buy refurbished units so I probably wandered over to Dell’s Outlet to take a look at what they had on hand. I can’t remember my exact train of thought but at some point I decided I wanted a laptop where I wouldn’t have to guess if all the components were Linux compatible. This led me to the System76 laptops which I was half-way talking myself into until Jaeger asked if I’d seen the Framework laptops. Apparently they’re very popular among his coworkers, at least the ones that don’t have Macbooks. I took a look and was intrigued. I really liked the idea of a laptop that would let me easily upgrade parts. However, I didn’t want a 13″ laptop. I like my laptops big and my phones small. Lucky for me, Framework was in the midst of trying to create a 16″ laptop.

One thing led to another and in July I preordered a Framework 16. I ordered the same day it was announced and ended up getting in the 5th batch. The modular options were my downfall and I went a little crazy when ordering the options. It’s officially the most expensive computer I have ever bought and it costs more even than many Macbooks. What I ordered:

  • The base Ryzen™ 7 7840HS system
  • 180W Power Adapter (theoretically, one could get this somewhere else but it didn’t feel worth it)
  • Both the Graphics Module (AMD Radeon™ RX 7700S) and the Expansion Bay Shell (so I could slim it down when traveling)
  • 1 32 GB of Ram (this leaves another slot free if I want more later)
  • 1 TB SSD (I wavered a bit about whether I should get larger but at the moment it’s more than I need and I can upgrade later if necessary or get a second drive)
  • The basic keyboard
  • A numpad and spacers for when I don’t want the numpad (this is flat out just an indulgence but it might be useful when I balance bills and I am not docked for some reason)
  • Expansion ports: 2 USB-A, 2 USB-C, MicroSD, HDMI, ethernet, and headphone jack (I can only use 6 at one time but I wanted the option to slip in MicroSD, HDMI, and ethernet as needed. I’m still debating though if I should get more USB-C ports.)

Back in July the Framework 16 was estimated to ship in Q4 of 2023. However, it was a brand new product and the timing slipped. This wasn’t particularly surprising but I was disappointed I didn’t get a fancy laptop to play with over winter break. They did start emailing bi-weekly emails explaining exactly where they were in the process and I found them interesting to read.

During the delay, I started creating a migration plan for what I was going to move to the new laptop. In addition to replacing Myfanwy as my primary laptop, I initially thought it should also be able to run Windows. Anna is my 14-year-old all-in-one and currently my Windows computer for the rare occasion when Linux won’t work (i.e. iTunes and the occasional special PDF doc that needs a digital signature). Anna is barely functional at this point and it’s time for her to retire. Doing some sort of dual boot on the new laptop made sense. I had almost decided to go with two hard drives: one for Linux and one for Windows so I wouldn’t have to deal with partition nonsense, when Jaeger proposed an alternate option: a shared Mac Mini. He was already thinking about getting a Mac Mini both so he could have a personal computer that ran iTunes and so he could have a computer that ran his code. If he was getting a Mac Mini as a supplemental computer, it made sense to just buy one big enough to handle any reasonable iTunes needs I might have also2.

In January Framework shipped out review laptops and the reviews started coming in toward the end of the month. There was a fairly wide, range of reviews. Everyone thought the concept was fascinating but not everyone was convinced the novelty was worth the price. Some people questioned whether they wanted to cancel their preorders (which one can do without penalty). However, based on what I could see, it still met what I was looking for in a laptop.

Once the review models hit I started haunting the Framework community forums to keep an eye on when customers from the various batches received their computers. The very first report of a customer getting their Framework 16 computer happened on February 2 with more getting them by the first full week in February. However, there were numerous complications such as the factories shutting down for Lunar New Year and bottlenecks with specific configurations. In particular, “International English – Linux” keyboards were delaying shipments for some Batch 1 customers3. While waiting for the delayed components to arrive, Framework started shipping Batch 2 computers for those who didn’t have delayed components.

One advantage I’m anticipating with the Framework laptop is the ability to add relatively cheap add-ons to my Birthday/Christmas wish lists. For example, it’s designed to easily switch out the bezel. I don’t really love the colors currently available but I suspect that more colors will be added later4

Today Framework sent out an update saying that batch 5 should ship before the end of Q1. I’m tempted to take the day after it arrives off work so I can dedicate time to setting it up5. I have my USB drive ready with Ubuntu, I have a name for the computer, and I have a plan for what software I want to install and the files I want to transfer. I think I’m ready.

  1. I’ve been using SketchUp for years to model our houses and Myfanwy has been getting progressively worse at being able to handle it.
  2. I have not completely given up on the iPhone SE. I have hopes that someday there will be an iOS audiobook app that meets my needs. If that happens, I want iTunes to be able to backup the phone locally.
  3. As an aside, they do not currently offer a Dvorak keyboard. I’m not convinced I’d want one even if they did offer it but I was a little surprised it wasn’t an option given how many other custom keyboard options there are. Possibly they expect people with alternative layouts to get one of the blank keyboards. However, while poking around I learned that there were more people, at least on the forums, who were interested in Colemak keyboards, which I hadn’t heard of before.
  4. The 13″ currently has black, gray, green, lavendar, orange, and red. Red might be interesting but I’d really prefer a blue.
  5. Though, I have concerns it may arrive right before Julian’s birthday party, on the 23rd, which would be very bad timing.