The Framework is the most exciting laptop I’ve ever used

Sustainable, upgradeable, repairable and powerful.

Cory Doctorow
8 min readSep 21, 2021


A Framework computer, disassembled.

Update 22 Sept 2021: This article erroneously described the Framework laptop as the first system to receive a 10/10 from Ifixit. A few other laptops have received this rating. I regret the error.

The Framework laptop is one of a small number of laptops to ever score a 10/10 from Ifixit for repairability. But it’s no thick-as-a-brick throwback the size of a 2005 Thinkpad — it’s approximately the same dimensions as a MacBook.

Mine was delivered at the end of Aug. I got it set up by the first of September and have been using it ever since. Yesterday, I put my 2019 Thinkpad on my pile of “laptops to refurbish and donate.” I’ve bought a new Thinkpad almost every year since 2006. I think that’s over.

I switched to Thinkpads as part of my switch to Ubuntu, a flavor of GNU/Linux that was designed to be easy to use for laypeople. My Unix systems administration days were more than a decade behind me when I made the switch.

I loved Thinkpads…at first. Not only were they rugged as hell, but they had an incredible warranty. For about $150/year, IBM guaranteed that a service tech would come to your home or hotel room, anywhere in the world, within 24 hours, and fix your machine.

Prior to my Thinkpad switch, I’d been a Powerbook user and a prisoner to Applecare. I made a practice of buying two Powerbooks at a time and keeping them in synch so that when one inevitably broke down, I could leave it for weeks or months with Apple and use the other one.

I was a heavy traveller then (I was EFF’s European Director, on the road 27+ days/month — I even stopped plugging in my fridge because it was costing me $10/month to keep my ice-cubes frozen), and a dead laptop meant that I was beached, unable to do any work.

I loved Macos, but the Powerbooks were really shitty machines, with incredibly poor build quality and a captive repair chain that was run in a way that made it clear that its managers understood that its customers had no alternative.

Switching to Ubuntu was disorienting…at first. It was a lot like the time we renovated our kitchen and moved everything around, and I spent a month reaching for a cutlery drawer that wasn’t there. But then, one day, I just acclimated and never noticed it again.

So it was with OSes. If you’re noticing your OS, something’s wrong. With Ubuntu, I got a GUI that was similar enough to Macos that I could retrain myself, and when things went wrong, I had access to an (admittedly esoteric but) incredibly powerful suite of command-line tools.

This turned out to be an ideal combination. When everything worked, the UX was effectively identical to my Macos days. When things went wrong with my hardware, I never had more than 24h downtime — even when some of my RAM went bad while I was in Mumbai!

And when software got wonky — something that happened with the same approximate frequency as I experienced with Macos and when I was a CIO administering large heterogeneous networks of Mac/Win systems — the recovery tools were far superior.

But it wasn’t to last. IBM sold its Thinkpad division to Lenovo and everything started to go to shit. The actual systems acquired layers and layers of proprietary crap — secretive Nvidia graphics cards, strange BIOS rubbish — that made installing Ubuntu progressively harder.

The hardware got worse, too. When I lived in the UK, my Thinkpads always shipped with a UK keyboard. I’d order a US keyboard for <$20 on Ebay and swap it myself — I even managed it one-handed while holding my then-infant daughter in my arms. Took less than a minute.

By 2015, Thinkpads required a full disassembly with multiple specialized tools and tape-removal to fix the keyboards. Also, the keyboards got worse — I had to have three keyboard replacements in 2015, and I couldn’t perform any of them,

Things really came to a head in 2019. That was the year I bought and returned two Thinkpads because I couldn’t stabilize Ubuntu on them. The third, a giant, heavy Carbon X1, took three months and several bug-fixes by Lenovo’s driver team before it worked.

Still, I was ready to buy another Thinkpad by last spring. What else was I going to buy? I wanted something maintainable, and I loved the hardware mouse-buttons and the Trackpoint. But Lenovo was estimating 4–5 months to fulfill orders, so I closed the window and bailed.

Then I saw Ifixit’s teardown of a Framework laptop. They described a computer whose hardware was fully user-maintainable/upgradeable. The system opens with six “captive” screws (they stay in the case) and then every component can be easily accessed.

There’s no tape. There’s no glue. Every part has a QR code that you can shoot with your phone to go to a service manual that has simple-to-follow instructions for installing, removing and replacing it. Every part is labeled in English, too!

The screen is replaceable. The keyboard is replaceable. The touchpad is replaceable. Removing the battery and replacing it takes less than five minutes. The computer actually ships with a screwdriver.

All this, without sacrificing size or power — it’s so similar to a Macbook that a friend who came over for dinner (and who knows about my feelings about proprietary Apple hardware) expressed shock that I’d switched to a Macbook!

The computer performs as well or better than my 2019 Thinkpad, but it doesn’t need the Thinkpad’s proprietary, ~$200 dock — a cheap, $60 device lets me easily connect it to all my peripherals and my desktop monitor, over USB-C. No drivers or configuration needed!

Installing Ubuntu was (nearly) painless. I had been loathe to upgrade the version of Ubuntu I was running on the Thinkpad, lest I kick off another cascade of brutal, tier-2 bug-hunting in the system’s proprietary drivers. As a result, I ran the 2018 “Long Term Support” OS.

When I installed Ubuntu on the Framework, I used the latest version — the Framework ships with a very up-to-date wifi card that the older version of Ubuntu couldn’t recognize. Then I simply dumped all my files over from a backup drive.

Jumping three years’ worth of OSes in one go, moving over my preferences and configuration files from a Thinkpad, did not work perfectly. A single trackpad config file didn’t play nice and I had to hunt it down and delete it, and then everything else was literally flawless.

The hardware is also nearly flawless, though I do have a few minor caveats. The computer ships disassembled: you have to open it and install your RAM, SSD, and wifi card. The first two were easy — the third was a major pain in the ass.

The standard wifi card antenna cables are absurdly fiddly, and the Framework documentation wasn’t clear enough to see me through. However, when I tweeted to the company about it, they responded swiftly with a video that demystified it.

Another caveat. I really miss my Thinkpad Trackpoint (the little nub in the middle of the keyboard) and the three hardware mouse buttons on the trackpad. I’m finding it really hard to reliably hit the right region on my trackpad to get the left-, center- and middle-buttons.

I’ve drawn little hints on in sharpie, and I’m working with Canonical, who make Ubuntu, on remapping the button areas. But judging from the Framework forums, I’m not the only Thinkpad expat who’d like to swap the keyboard and trackpad.

But the good news is that if anyone wants to make that keyboard and trackpad, I can swap them in myself, in minutes, with one tool.

That tool — a small screwdriver — is also sufficient to upgrade the CPU or replace the screen, speakers, webcam, etc.

These are all just fine. The webcam and mic both come with hardware off-switches (not just covers, but actual electrical isolation switches that take them offline until you switch them back). The speakers are loud enough.

The screen is sharper than the one on my Thinkpad (though it’s glossier and a little harder to read in direct sunlight).

I haven’t even mentioned the ports! The Framework has four expansion ports that fit square dongles for HDMI, Ethernet, various USBs, etc.

The Framework site lets you buy as much or as little computer as you want. If you have your own RAM or SSD, you just uncheck those boxes. If you don’t bother with Windows (like me), you save $139–200.

Having used this system for nearly a month, I can unequivocally recommend it! However! Most of my use of this computer was from my sofa, while I was recovering from hip-replacement surgery. I haven’t road-tested it at all.

But I’ll note here that if it turned out that a component failed due to my usual rough handling, I could replace it with a standard part in a matter of minutes, myself, in whatever hotel room I happened to be perching in, using a single screwdriver.

It’s been a long time since I owned a computer that was more interesting with its case off than on, but the Framework is a marvel of thoughtful, sustainable, user-centric engineering.

A Framework laptop with its case removed.

It puts the lie to every claim that portability and reliability can’t coexist with long-lasting, durable, upgradeable, sustainable hardware.

I started buying a new laptop every year as a reward to myself for quitting smoking.

The environmental consequences of that system weren’t lost on me, even given my very good track-record of re-homing my old computers with people who needed them.

But with the Framework, I’m ready to change that policy.

From now on, I can easily see myself upgrading the CPU or the screen on an annual basis, or packing in more RAM. But the laptop? Apart from the actual chassis falling apart, there’s no reason I’d replace it for the whole foreseeable future.

This is a beautiful, functional, sustainable, thoughtful and even luxurious (Framework offers a 2TB SDD, while Lenovo has been stuck at 1TB drives for years and years) computer.

Based on a month’s use, I am prepared to declare myself a Framework loyalist, and to retire my last Thinkpad…forever.

Cory Doctorow ( is a science fiction author, activist, and blogger. He has a podcast, a newsletter, a Twitter feed, a Mastodon feed, and a Tumblr feed. He was born in Canada, became a British citizen and now lives in Burbank, California. His latest nonfiction book is How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism. His latest novel for adults is Attack Surface. His latest short story collection is Radicalized. His latest picture book is Poesy the Monster Slayer. His latest YA novel is Pirate Cinema. His latest graphic novel is In Real Life. His forthcoming books include The Shakedown (with Rebecca Giblin), a book about artistic labor market and excessive buyer power; Red Team Blues, a noir thriller about cryptocurrency, corruption and money-laundering (Tor, 2023); and The Lost Cause, a utopian post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias (Tor, 2023).