Framework has slowly broadened its product portfolio to and an . After an initial manufacturing hiccup earlier in the year, it’s the latter that’s finally ready to reach eager pre-order customers as new mainboards make their debut. Like every other Framework release, you can pick them up as a pre-built laptop, or as the parts for you to upgrade an existing model. There are some differences, both in how they’re set up and what they can do, but don’t expect a revolution. This is still a Framework 13, after all, and it can do more or less the same thing it’s always been able to.
Given Framework’s emphasis on building a stable platform for its modular laptops, there are no changes here. Pop the hood and you’ll only notice a few differences, like a plastic retainer on the WiFi module rather than a metal one, but that’s it. At this point, I feel confident enough that I could swap out a mainboard without having to consult a manual.
Framework’s adopted the “Good, Better, Best” mode with its specs, with the base model packing a Ryzen 5, 7640U with a Radeon 760M iGPU, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. The middle-tier unit I’m testing has a Ryzen 7, 7840U with Radeon 7840U, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. Fancier types who opt for the flagship get the same Ryzen 7 7840U as the middle tier, albeit with 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD.
The only other difference is with batteries: The base model will ship with the older, 55Wh battery while the other two get the newer 61Wh model. That said, the company has also wheeled out new HDMI and DisplayPort expansion cards for more power-efficient video outputs. Those will be coming to all new laptop orders in the near future, but make their debut here with the AMD editions.
Upgrades and Compromises
Naturally, the point of Framework’s platform is that if you already have one of its notebooks, you can just swap in the AMD mainboard. Although that process isn’t as simple as it is when you’re swapping out an Intel model for one of its successors. Your existing RAM and WiFi modules will not work with the AMD board, so you’ll need to get new DDR5 DIMMs and an AMD-made WiFi module like the RZ616, which is what Framework bundles in its prebuilt editions.
Much as the laptop’s design remains the same, there are more differences on the inside, which is where it counts. If you don’t know, each mainboard has a quartet of USB-C ports that stick out of the laptop’s deck. Each one corresponds to an Expansion Card slot, letting you slide in a specific port depending on your needs for that day. So you can pop out your second USB-C port in favor of a HDMI or DisplayPort-out the day you have a presentation to give.
On Intel’s side of the fence, this is a stress free experience because all four ports are the same. Since the 12th generation board, all four support , each one with 40 Gbps bandwidth, up to 100W power draw and support for two 60Hz 4K displays. Not to mention the standard enables you to add an eGPU to your setup for extra graphics muscle.
But things aren’t as elegant on the AMD side because a) Thunderbolt is an Intel standard and b) AMD’s portable silicon has some, uh, limitations. Only the rear port on either side supports USB 4, with the front two a mish-mash of competing standards. As you can see from the graphic, the front left port supports charging, USB 3.2 and USB-A, while the front right offers USB 3.2 and video out.
To make things worse, there are no visible clues to remind you what each port can and cannot do for obvious design and uniformity reasons. I don’t blame Framework for having to deal with AMD’s mess, and it has been brave enough to . But it’s one of those issues where you’ll either need to keep a mental record, or face an error pop-up when you’ve plugged the wrong port into the wrong socket.
But then I doubt there are too many people who are looking to buy this laptop who will need regular access to a quartet of 40 Gbps connections. I suspect there won’t be too many times AMD users are cursing the skies for the minor annoyance of swapping cards over. It’s just one of those situations where you wish users weren’t left dealing with the consequences of two chip giants who won’t play nicely.
Much as AMD may not have the silky uniformity and consistency of its rival chip giant, it does have an ace up its sleeve. Those integrated GPUs are far ahead of Intel’s, giving it enough grunt to push halfway-demanding games without too much sweat. It’s worth saying, as usual, that this is, first and foremost, a productivity machine, but with AMD on board, it’ll play just as hard as it works.
In the time I had with the hardware, I played Grand Theft Auto V on high settings and got 55 fps out of this machine. Similarly, Fortnite will crank out an average of 50 fps with the settings on high, easily enough to keep you amused on work trips or in your dorm room. Synthetic tests aren’t everything, but suggest the AMD version comes out ahead in both single (by a little) and multi-core performance (by a lot) compared to the equivalent Intel model.
The issue, really, isn’t with the performance you can wring out of this machine, but how much noise it’ll make while doing it. A common complaint, from the earliest version of the Framework 13, is the excessive fan noise when it’s put under heavy load. The mainboard fan really wasn’t designed to cope with the high loads you might expect to want to put it under, making a sound I will describe as “persistent” and “noticeable” and often “quite loud.”
When announcing the AMD boards, Framework committed to price parity between Intel and AMD editions whenever possible. The Base and Performance models, on the entry and mid tiers, cost $1,049 and $1,469 whatever chip you choose. At the high end, however, there is a fairly big delta between the $1,669 you’ll pay for the AMD version and the $2,069 asking price for the Intel edition.
In the short time I’ve had with the AMD edition, I’ve been impressed with what is now possible in this chassis. The silicon out-performs its Intel equivalent, but it’s all taking place in the same body with the same, user-serviceable design. That’s a big achievement, and there are plenty of folks chomping at the bit to get one of these in their lives – the first seven production batches are already sold out, with an eighth on the way. It remains, undeniably, a Framework 13, so you will get the same flexibility and longevity that you’ve come to expect, but with a little bit more oomph.