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Framework Laptop 16, 6 months later

by xyonent
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Framework 16 Redux Sean Hollister 1.jpg

In January, I spent two weeks using the Framework Laptop 16, the most modular notebook ever. It’s a gadget geek’s dream. You can swap out the keyboard, touchpad, ports, and even the entire independent GPU. It can transform from a sleek work laptop into a decent gaming machine in just two minutes. It charges with the world’s first 180W USB-C power adapter.

But back then, I gave the Framework Laptop 16 a 5 out of 10. It had a lot of blue screens, glitches, felt a bit unstable in places, and ran hotter and noisier than its performance would suggest.

Six months later, with a new unit and new firmware, I’m feeling a bit better. Not enough to fully recommend it, but enough to raise my score to 6 out of 10, which I define as “good, has some issues, but some redeeming features.” But while the laptop is more stable, most of my other complaints still remain.

I spent another month with the laptop 16, replacing various parts. Completed a pre-order and Selling laptops to the publicLuckily, in the last month, this computer has only failed once – the “Windows doesn’t seem to have loaded correctly” error was never reproducible. Aside from a very annoying quirk of not sleeping when the independent GPU is up, this computer has been a faithful companion for work and play. Verge Live blog, edited Videos on social media channelsand has written stories including this one.

We also uncovered a mysterious issue where our gorgeous 2560 x 1600 screen suddenly looked washed out. This was due to AMD’s Vari-Bright setting, which tries to save battery when the integrated GPU is in control. We turned it off and the screen has been bright and colorful ever since.Jedi: Survivor Looks great.)

To correct the colors, turn this off. This can be found in the AMD software under Gaming > Display.

But the heat and noise! ​​In my original review unit, the AMD Ryzen 7940HS warmed up to over 90 degrees. This replacement came with a slightly less powerful 7840HS, which peaked at 100.8 degrees while playing games, and also peaked at 92.5 degrees while writing in a web browser. The keyboard and touchpad don’t get too hot, but my fingers often get sweaty while working with this machine. The Laptop 16 runs quietly when unplugged, with Windows set to power saving mode, or with the discrete GPU removed. But with the full dGPU package, it doesn’t seem to have a sufficient cooling solution for everyday use.

The fan noise was still loud enough, even through the laptop’s subpar speakers, that my wife once again came over to check on me. “Oh, that’s your laptop. For a second I thought you were vacuuming in the living room,” she said. After browsing a few websites with the laptop plugged in, the temperature exceeded 70°C and the fan spun up to an audible level.

This was not present in the original unit, but occurred frequently in the new unit.

They fixed some of the issues, like the large SSD disappearing after waking from sleep, but there are still issues I can’t find. Twice the touchpad suddenly stopped scrolling and no longer accepted button presses until I physically removed it from the system and reinserted it again. Even when I had the charger plugged in, I kept getting the Windows message “Connecting a USB device to this port may have limited functionality.”

After a month, I decided I could live with the lid flex and uneven surface caused by the Framework’s modular spacers and touchpad. They’ve all been slightly straightened out on the new unit, which is a small price to pay for the unprecedented modularity and repairability you get here. I just wanted to let you know that the flex and gaps haven’t been completely fixed, and you’ll still experience occasional rough edges on your fingers and wrists.

The lid still has more curvature than I would like.

The spacers may still bulge, but if you are careful it is possible to bend the metal spacers flat. Strengthen.
The stitching seen from the worst angle. Strengthen.
My orange spacers were not wide enough to fill the gap. Strengthen.

But I don’t know if I could live with the heat or noise this laptop makes, or the strange issues it has when trying to put it to sleep with the discrete GPU active. (“The system won’t suspend if you have a program that has the dGPU active,” spokesman Eric Schumacher confirmed in an email.) I put the laptop back in one morning, only to find that the battery had completely drained because the laptop started up after I closed the lid. I’ve experienced similar behavior many times if I leave it plugged in. You shouldn’t have to close apps and check the GPU in Task Manager to ensure it goes to sleep.

This is a groundbreaking machine. As I said at the beginning of my first review, no company has ever made a laptop this ambitious before. I hope this idea comes to fruition. Personally, I want to buy a laptop that is great for work and play; one that I can upgrade and repair for years, like their 13″ machine. I see the potential with this machine. But I’m reviewing a laptop, not a crowdfunding campaign for the laptop generation. Personally, I’d wait for future revisions of the Framework Laptop 16.

Granted, I know there’s no guarantee Framework will go ahead with the upgrade if this laptop sells poorly, and the company has never said it would let you swap out the Radeon RX 7700S for a more powerful GPU in the future. But CEO Nirav Patel said in April that the future roadmap for the 16-inch model was healthy, so I’ll take him at his word.

Photo: Sean Hollister/The Verge

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