First Experiences with the Framework Laptop

I’ve had the Framework Laptop for a couple of days, so I wanted to put together a few thoughts on it. I’ll start with some build images, move into experiences running Linux on the laptop, and wrap up with some general thoughts.

Unboxing and the Build Process

The box arrived on Thursday:

One laptop box with a judiciously-covered receipt.

The power adapter does have a square brick shape, but I’ve been pleased with the lengths of the USB-C cable and the A/C adapter cable. I haven’t had to give them a real test yet, but the cable length is definitely longer than what I currently have with my Yoga, and the big brick is in the middle, not the end. This has the salutary effect of not taking up several spots in a surge protector.

I ordered the DIY edition and it arrived with the WiFi card, RAM, NVMe disk, and expansion cards.

Everything all lined up and ready for installation.

Based on this image, it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to have to install these myself. By the way, one thing that was a little surprising was just how small and light the expansion cards are.

The laptop itself is about the same size as my existing Lenovo Yoga—roughly the same dimensions and weight. It’s close enough that I’m already used to it. This laptop also comes with the only tool you’ll need for any repair operation: a combination spudger and T5/Phillips head screwdriver.

Spudge away.

The bottom of the laptop shows the four expansion card slots that are available in the laptop.

The back of the laptop.

Zooming in on the expansion card slots, they’re actually USB-C slots. I have 5 cards in total: two USB-C, two USB-A, and one HDMI. These are hot-swappable, so you can pop one of these cards out and put in a different one to continue.

Here’s an example of one of the cards:

From USB-C to USB-C. That’s how I roll.

Putting together the laptop was straightforward on the whole. The interior is clean and there are QR codes for each major element, leading you to a repair and installation guide.

The only thing I had any trouble with was the WiFi card installation, and that’s because I’d never done it before. Installing the card was easy: connect the two antenna cables to the adapter, make sure you hear a “click” when each snaps in.

Working with Linux

Everything worked well on Linux except the WiFi card. Elementary OS 6 is built off of Ubuntu LTS 20.04, which is great except that it comes with a version of the Linux kernel which has a regression with the WiFi adapter I’m using. In fairness to elementary OS, my Windows 10 boot USB also didn’t include the appropriate driver. To fix this on Ubuntu or elementary OS, check out these instructions. Download the appropriate driver, delete the pnvm file, and go on with life. I have also seen some issues where the pnvm file gets re-created after installing server updates, so you might want to keep that handy.

Also, I’d recommend adding the following to your .profile file to support 3000×2000 resolution, particularly if you’re using elementary OS:

# Elementary OS sizing
# https://community.frame.work/t/using-elementary-os-on-the-framework-laptop/4453
xrandr --newmode "3000x2000_60.00"  513.44  3000 3240 3568 4136  2000 2001 2004 2069  -HSync +Vsync
xrandr --addmode eDP-1 "3000x2000_60.00"

I haven’t tried playing any graphics-intensive games, though I’m not expecting any great shakes given the integrated chipset.

General Thoughts

The build quality on this laptop so far is nice. Everything feels well put together, the keyboard is pretty good (though I’m used to mechanical keyboards, so it’s always going to be a step down). I’m pretty happy with the overall quality of everything, but again, I haven’t had enough time with it to find any big problems.

One thing of note is that the USB slots are really tight, both the USB-A and USB-C. Once you plug in a cable, it’s not going anywhere.

The camera is a pretty decent laptop webcam. It won’t beat a 4K external camera, but it serves its purpose. More importantly, it’s located at the top of the laptop and not the bottom, so you don’t get the “finger cam” of many modern laptops. Most importantly, both it and the microphone have dedicated hardware kill switches. This is way better than a software kill switch, as it means the camera or microphone doesn’t even receive power and physically cannot turn on when it’s in the off position.

Kill switches for the microphone (left) and camera (right).

Speaking of the microphone, it’s okay but no great shakes. About what you’d expect from a laptop microphone. Fortunately, plugging in a Jabra works just fine in Linux, so for any real conversations, I’ll switch to it or a proper dedicated microphone.

Battery life is acceptable. When I’m pushing the laptop, like when I was setting up OBS Studio, I get about 2 hours on Linux. When writing blog posts or doing other non-intensive work, battery life is more like 3 hours, maybe a little more. It’s definitely not an all-day battery, but good enough when I’m working between places. For longer trips, I bought a separate battery pack which would suffice for the better part of any flight…assuming long flights ever happen again…

One thought on “First Experiences with the Framework Laptop

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