FW16 iGPU Batch 11
1 day ago
While this is not a matter of public interest, I wish I had seen more posts about it before going ahead with the pre order, as it is not an easy decision. Below are my considerations for why the value proposition made enough sense for me to risk it. If you're on the fence, perhaps my perspective can make things clearer for you.
Disclaimer: I am a convinced Linux user and an advanced user who is not afraid to tinker and is reluctant about upgrading their hardware, so consider that I might have a bias, for full transparency.
Most of the Framework early adopter pains have subsided. 3 generations of Framework 13's prove that this company is capable of making laptops - good laptops at that - and they prove that they are willing to make up for putting out imperfect products, even going as far as providing repair guides for older boards / expansion cards or making improved parts available for order. I do expect the 16 to have some early adopter issues, I really can't see the new GPU expansion bay not needing at least some firmware tweaks at the beginning, but I think Framework is in a much better position now compared to its inception and that we can expect their second "first generation device" to carry over a lot of the expertise gained through the several iterations of the 13. Sure, the software side in particular is very new and it will take some BIOS updates to iron out a lot of things, but that's true for most laptops.
The repairability proposition is attractive. In a world where most laptops aren't really repairable and upgradable, Framework is a breath of fresh air. In stark contrast to other "repairable" laptops, Framework does not apply DRM on parts and it will not refuse to POST if you're using an unofficial battery or RAM module, which is a very attractive proposition for the long term. I come from a pretty old and repairable laptop that even came with a service manual and I have thoroughly enjoyed it - I have upgraded the parts myself to extend its lifespan, I have changed the keyboard layout, I have done myself repairs that would have cost me a pretty penny to get done professionally. I cannot wait to be able to service my laptop even more easily.
This is the laptop of reversible decisions. In most cases, when you buy an expensive laptop, you are locked into everything you chose for it forever. RAM amount, dGPU model, the ports it has, whether your keyboard has a numpad or not. Even the position of the ports! If you decide to rearrange your desk layout and now the charging port you put on the left is uncomfortable, you can move it to the right or have one at either side. It's the sum of all the small touches. The amount of things that are tweakable or upgradable after buying this machine really puts my mind at peace, since I understand that many things about the machine I am buying as configured now are not final and can be rectified later. Will I ever need a number pad or a dGPU? If that turns out to be the case, it's going to be remarkably easy to refine my decision.
The transparency of the company is exemplary. I read all the deep dives and I have been very impressed with how committed Framework is to not holding secrets on this device. As a Linux user, what really sold me on this was their article on the audio system, where they listed precisely every audio chip ane codec present and how they checked it for Linux compatibility, and how the firmware for the input modules is already available and auditable on GitHub.
The commitment to Linux is insane. As a Linux user, I really like what I see. Matt is very active on the Framework forums and on the Linux channel of the official Discord, making Framework the company with the most accessible Linux "support" available thus far. I used to think it was ThinkPad, but Framework is next level. I also liked how Framework has worked with the uBlue project - a relatively obscure distro - to make a Framework 13-ready Fedora Silverblue image available. As a Linux user, this is an example of going above and beyond that thoroughly impressed me. This is not a marketing stunt or pretending to care. There are passionate people here who really care a great deal.
The company, however small, is still a focused one and they are working on an extremely limited number of motherboard designs. Not only that but, from the deep dives, it seems like they are trying to streamline the FW16 and the AMD FW13 motherboard as much as possible. This eases the maintenance burden dramatically and makes it easier to spot and fix firmware bugs, also because users are not all scattered across 50 different mainboard designs. Much bigger companies that Frameworks have issues, to this date, maintaining all their several board designs they flood the market with every year since there are simply too many.
If you order now, you're going to end up in Batch 11. If there are any blatant and evident issues with this laptop, you'll know and you'll have an extended period of time to re-evaluate your decision and withdraw your pre-order. It's a relatively safe buy, as long as you keep your eyes open. This is also why I don't think Framework has any interest in rushing this product.
In theory, this laptop seems to have a good thermal design. I like the fact that air is exhausted from the sides, because this means that, in theory, we should be able to dock this laptop to an external monitor and keep the lid closed without causing damage to the display. This is also one of the things I really love about Lenovo ThinkPad laptops and I am very glad to find it here.
Lastly: the specs are pretty good. The 7840HS at 45W is a very powerful CPU that still manages to achieve a decent amount of efficiency and comes with very impressive onboard, integrated graphics. 2 Nvme's can be installed at the same time without an expansion bay, the audio system seems to be much improved over the 13 (but only reviews will tell) and the specifications of the onboard panel make it reasonably good for most uses.
I have focused on what I believe to be the pros of the device, since there are enough posts on the cons. The asking price is really, really expensive for one; it's not the most beautiful laptop aesthetically, the expansion bays are going to be a little bit more fiddly than good old soldered ports, it's not a risk-free purchase, you will run into early firmware bugs at the very least and some rough edges, there is no guarantee whether the company will survive or if any further GPU modules will ever be released, in all likelihood battery life will not be great (as is par for course for powerful 16" devices - though the parts seem to be pretty power hungry, especially that screen), it's not the most portable device, if all you care is performance a Legion Slim 7 Pro will probably pull higher frame rates at a lower price. All of the above is true, and you need to accept it and like it if you decide to go ahead.
This is not a silver bullet, this is not the objectively best laptop on the market. Keep your feet tethered to the ground and don't let the hype get to your head. This is a new and expensive device that could let you down, so do not rush. This device seeks to make a specific compromise. If that compromise is something that appeals to you, then I think it's a good decision to get in.