The world's most DIY-friendly laptop just got a big upgrade

Framework Laptop open on blue background showing parts being removed
(Image credit: Framework)

The Framework Laptop is getting an overhaul this week, as the company behind this DIY-friendly laptop is releasing a new version with an upgraded lid, improved battery performance and the latest 12th Gen Intel CPUs.

This is exciting news because the Framework Laptop was already a great all-around ultraportable when it debuted in May 2021, and now Framework has had time to make some improvements based on feedback from early adopters. 

In our Framework Laptop review from 2021 I enthused over the fact that Framework actually delivered on its promise of selling a laptop that's more repairable and accessible than anything on the market. That the Framework Laptop is also as portable as a MacBook Air, powerful enough to handle most work tasks and power-efficient enough to last 10-plus hours on a single charge make it one of the best laptops on the market, especially if you care about your right to repair and tinker with devices you own. 

For all these reasons and more, the Framework was easily my favorite laptop of the year in 2021 — and now there's an upgraded model available for 2022.

Framework Laptop on a desk with screen bezel removed

The Framework is an excellent ultraportable, and almost every component can be easily replaced. It even comes with a free screwdriver/spudger tool (at left) designed to unscrew all the case screws and gently pry up components. (Image credit: Future)

As of today (May 19), Framework is selling a new version of the Framework Laptop via its website. Pre-orders are underway, and the company plans to ship laptops out in batches based on when you order, so act fast if you want one sooner rather than later. 

This new model comes with the new Intel Alder Lake CPUs, an upgrade over the 11th Gen chips in last year's version. The new chips should deliver a boost to both performance and power efficiency. 

Framework has also made some subtler improvements, including optimizing standby battery life (though you'll have to use Linux to see the biggest benefit here) and improving the top cover by switching to a different assembly method (full CNC vs aluminum forming). That latter change should make the laptop much more rigid and sturdy. 

The company is also planning to release its first Ethernet Expansion Card later this year, which should be welcome news for anyone who's been aching to plug their Framework into a high-speed Internet connection.

If you're not familiar with it, the Expansion Card system is another cool feature of the Framework Laptop: Four slots on the sides of the laptop (two to a side) can be filled with Framework Expansion Cards, which are sold by the company and sport either a port or a bit of additional storage. They cost between $10 to $150 apiece, and they allow you to do cool tricks like swap out your USB-C ports for USB-A ports if you need to use older accessories, or briefly swap your 1TB storage Card out for an Expansion Card with a microSD card reader when you need to pull photos off your digital camera's memory card.

Framework Laptop disassembled on desk but still running, somehow. What a cool laptop.

All the components inside the Framework are clearly labelled. If you're feeling really bold you can even pull out the mainboard and build your own PC around it. (Image credit: Future)

Along with these upgrades, the Framework Laptop is getting a $50 price increase, up to $1,049 from the original model's starting price of $999. That doesn't seem like too big a hike, and one of the cool things about Framework's business model is that you can order a DIY "build it yourself" version of the laptop that's significantly cheaper. 

You can get one of these kits for the upgraded Framework Laptop packing 12th Gen chips for as low as $819, which is also about $60 more expensive than the $749 starting price of last year's Framework Laptop DIY Edition.  

However, keep in mind you're effectively covering part of the cost of labor yourself by putting the pieces of the laptop together. (Don't worry, Framework's design work and documentation makes this a reasonably feasible effort even for fools like me.) You'll have to either provide your own RAM, hard drive, and operating system or pay Framework a bit more money to send you some.

Framework Laptop animated gif showing process of upgrading the CPU to new 12th gen model

(Image credit: Framework)

Because of the Framework Laptop's highly modifiable design — the laptop is easy to open, almost every part is designed to be easily replaceable, and they all have QR codes which take you to guides on how to repair them and links to buy replacements — you can buy an upgrade kit you can use to upgrade your current Framework Laptop to the new hardware. 

Framework is selling the new chips and lids as either individual units or packed together Upgrade Kits on its Framework Marketplace, so you don't need to buy a whole new laptop to enjoy the experience of upgrading to this year's model.

Framework Laptop outlook

While today's announcement covers a relatively minor refresh of the Framework Laptop, it delivers some welcome upgrades and suggests that Framework's industry-defying product is more than a flash in the pan.

When the Framework Laptop launched last year I was immediately enamored with its remarkable design and DIY ethos, but I had real doubts about whether there would be enough demand to keep Framework afloat. But now that a year has passed and Framework appears to be thriving, with an active community of enthusiasts and a storefront full of cool upgrades and replacement parts, I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about the future of one of my favorite laptops.

Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.