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Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Framework Laptop 16 is a big step for upgradability

OPINION: Laptops are expensive, some are extortionately so. Framework represents a glimmer of light in a tech world that’s trying to get you to upgrade your device every year. The new 16-inch model has laptop gaming in its sights.

Many a technology manufacturer is keen to tout its environmental chops but you know what would go a long way there, and help consumers get as much value as possible out of their devices? Offering reliable and affordable device upgrade programmes. That’s Framework’s deal and, after proving its worth with a few generations of 13-inch upgradeable laptops now, it’s moving up to something more complex, and more appealing.

The innovation in question is the Framework Laptop 16. It builds upon what’s gone before with the smaller Framework laptop; that’s upgradeable mainboards, memory and storage, swappable ports, replaceable keyboards and more. It’s a wondrous concept that’s aided by some reasonable pricing, e.g. £449 to upgrade to a 13th Gen Intel Core i5-1340P or £19 each to switch between HDMI and MicroSD expansion cards. 

And, it works because Framework has proved that it’s committed to this mission, having done this for several years. We’ve seen some other manufacturers – think the Alienware’s Area-51m (via The Verge) – promise the world and fall short in fast fashion.

The Framework Laptop 16 has a modular design
Framework Laptop 16

Now, the Framework Laptop 16 is stepping up to fill the shoes of upgradeable gaming laptops that haven’t made this vision a reality – albeit in a much more understated style than a behemoth like the Area-51m. The new 16-inch model will add graphics expansion cards to Framework’s repertoire, and I’m very excited.

The new addition is called the Expansion Bay System and it will bring swappable GPUs to high-performance notebooks. You’ll be able to switch up the graphics module with no need to change anything else about the laptop. Graphics chips are expensive and gaming laptops with dedicated GPUs are expensive, so the idea of being able to completely modernise your gaming experience with far less investment than would be required on a whole new product is a win for consumers and the environment.

The upgradeable graphics module will certainly be the highlight, but the 16-inch laptop will have more in its locker, owing to its larger size. The less eye-catching addition is the boost up from four swappable port modules to six for the 16-inch. What’s really cool is what you can do with the bottom half of this device. Not only can you opt for a Numpad module or go without, but you can choose which side the Numpad goes on. This also applies to the trackpad, with modular spacers meaning it can sit in the centre, to the left, or to the right. As a neglected left-handed human, Framework, you’re a good’un.

A huge caveat has to reign in our shared excitement here but I’m hopeful. Framework is yet to announce who it will work with on these graphics cards – Nvidia, AMD, or otherwise. The manufacturer is well-equipped in the processor department, currently offering Intel and AMD options there. As such, I don’t yet have pricing for the modules or the full Framework Laptop 16 system. These key factors remain up in the air, but Framework has a history of fair pricing thus far. What I do know is pre-orders open this Spring, with shipping slated for late 2023.

Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon. 

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