Framework is now selling the soul of its modular laptop and the potential for PC projects is endless

Ever wanted to build your own laptop from scratch? Or mini PC, all-in-one, or even portable gaming PC? Now, I’m not talking about picking some parts from a custom list in Derek’s SuperGood System Builders, or Origin PC, or whatever. I’m talking about taking a motherboard PCB, a chassis, some ports, memory, monitors, everything and putting them together yourself. This is what Framework is now offering in the US and Canada (by Ars Technica) now as it is offering its Intel Tiger Lake based motherboards to buy for its own.

We have already written about Laptop frame before, essentially, is a machine specifically designed to be as open as possible for the user to upgrade or repair themselves, using only a screwdriver for help. The smart part of this is that everything is fully modular, offering not only repairability but user customization as well.

It’s a good time too, considering all the Right to Reparation talk going on.

But this is the first time it actually makes the main motherboard available, and not just replacement modules and keyboards, etc. This is important because the motherboard is basically a machine on its own. While the recent post on the Framework blog states, “All you have to do is insert memory, plug in a USB-C power adapter, and press the little built-in power button and you’ve got a computer on.”

And that means you’re not restricted to just building a laptop around it either. You can build a mini-PC, connect it to the back of a monitor for a tasty all-in-one PC experience, or even build a small Steam Deck-like laptop.

Sure, you can take a tiny Raspberry Pi board and build a tiny system around it – with its own enthusiastic community and about a billion potential projects – but all of that is based on weak Arm silicon. The newly released Framework board features 11th Gen Core i5 or Core i7 Tiger Lake SoCs with Iris Xe graphics and a whole world of easy-to-connect modules to create whatever you want with it.

I’m actually typing this on a similar system right now. My main PC’s power supply blew up and I’m still waiting to replace the part so I have my Razer Blade Stealth 13 docked as my current work machine. This sports a Core i7 1165G7 SoC and I’ve actually disabled the discrete GTX 1650 Ti GPU as I’m happy with the few games I make on this machine running on Iris Xe graphics to improve battery life.

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(Image credit: Frame)
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frame motherboard

(Image credit: Frame)

So yes, you can realistically build a slimline PC that actually has the Framework’s motherboard game. You’ll need to add storage and memory and a few modules to expand your port offerings to add external monitor and USB support, but all are easily selected and installed from the Framework Marketplace.

It also offers some simple chassis designs for home 3D printing (you all have 3D printers at home too, right?), so you can VESA mount the system or house it in a small case. All projects are open source and available on GitHub right now.

The boards themselves start at $399 for the i5 version, with $549 and $799 i7 SoCs offered as well. Today they are only available in the US and Canada, but Framework promises to open the Marketplace in the UK, Germany, France, Netherlands, Austria and Ireland soon.

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