Framework Laptop

November 14, 2021

I recently purchased the framework laptop for personal use and have been dailying it for almost a month now. It's spec'd as follows:

The install process was super easy, except for hooking up the tiny connectors for the wifi module. I also recently got an M1 max macbook for work and the build quality is honestly not far behind. It's respectable considering it's almost 3x cheaper than the macbook. There are a couple things I would like to see improved however:

  • The hinge feels a bit too stiff and wobbles a bit more than I'd like. Compared to the macbook hinge, it feels lacking.
  • The venting is also a bit lacking and the CPU feels like it's choking at times (though this is probably the consequence of the CPU choice -- more on this later).

I have Arch linux on it with my own bespoke installer and almost everything just works.

I'm coming from a Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 5 so my thoughts will be baselined from how the Framework laptop performs against it.

What Works Well

The display is great (though glossy) and the 3:2 aspect ratio is great. I am running a wayland based window manager and the HiDPI is not an issue -- I had no problems with scaling. I also love the manual kill switches for the webcam and microphone.

The keyboard is also solid and I don't feel any sort of flexing. I do want to re-iterate that the build quality is great considering they optimized the laptop for full repairability.

The Framework team is fairly active on their community forum which is great to see. Some examples:

What Doesn't Work Well

The CPU is super power hungry and I've seen it temporarily pull ~42W of power on on occasion which spikes the CPU temps to 100C. For sustained load, it seems to maintain a steady ~28W of power draw and usually hovers around 80C. This wouldn't necessarily be an issue, but the fan is quite loud when it kicks on and it tends to kick on more often than I'd like. (Numbers were pulled from s-tui.)

The tiger lake CPU doesn't suspend well. Technically tiger lake on the Framework does support deep sleep which you can enable by toggling the method in /sys/power/mem_sleep, but it seem to cause resuming to take an absurd amount of time (10+ seconds). You may as well just poweroff the laptop at that point. For reference, mine boots around 12 seconds pretty consistently:

$ systemd-analyze
Startup finished in 7.670s (firmware) + 249ms (loader) + 1.129s (kernel) + 288ms (initrd) + 3.025s (userspace) = 12.364s 

The current (and default) suspend setup eats a significant amount of power. Anecdotally, it drains 2.5% to 3% of the battery per hour. This is a huge regression from my Thinkpad which could stay suspended for a week and I still wouldn't have to worry about battery life. This is probably my biggest complaint of the laptop.

Concluding Thoughts

I think the Framework laptop is great, but unless you absolutely need a laptop today -- I would recommend you wait until there is a better CPU option. The thermal load combined with the suspend issues make the tiger lake a really annoying option as a laptop CPU.

If Framework is able to continue to grow their marketplace and start supporting more CPU and other components, I think there's zero reason for me to purchase another laptop. I would love to be able to swap the CPU/mainboard at some point in the future.