- Framework’s Chromebook is just as repairable as its regular laptops.
- The Framework’s modest specs suit ChromeOS.
- It will probably outlast any other Chromebook.
Framework, maker of modular, ultra-repairable laptops, now makes a Chromebook. It costs $999 and might be the best value Chromebook you can buy.
Chromebooks are cheap, basic, almost disposable computers that offload much of their work to the cloud. The Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition, or Framebook as we shall name it, is the opposite of disposable junk. It might seem crazy to spend this much when you could get a similarly-performing Chromebook for much less, but in the end, it’ll probably save a lot of money and be a lot more fun to use.
“Chromebooks require much lower computing power and memory, rarely needing more than 4GB of RAM, ideal for those who require only basic tasks such as word processing, Internet browsing, and email. In comparison, a laptop using a more demanding OS would likely require twice as much power,” technology expert Daivat Dholakia told Lifewire via email.
The big difference between a Chromebook and a MacBook or a Windows laptop is where your apps are running. Windows and macOS are both heavyweight, complex operating systems that can do pretty much anything and without an internet connection. The Mac is exceptionally well-equipped out of the box, with apps for editing photos, making videos, and even recording and playing music (with GarageBand).
Chromebooks require much lower computing power and memory, rarely needing more than 4GB of RAM…
A Chromebook, on the other hand, is pretty much a web browser with some underlying support. If you’re writing a document, it’s happening in Google Docs, in the cloud. This reduces the needs of the machine because much of the heavy lifting is done on cloud servers. Conceptually, it’s like a cloud gaming service, where the game is played on a remote machine, and your local computer does nothing but display the video.
All this means you can run ChromeOS on much more modest hardware, which is one reason Chromebooks are so cheap. The downside is it requires a constant internet connection to do anything, but that’s about it.
Framework’s computers are modular and repairable, and their relatively basic specs are perfectly suited to Chrome. You can also customize them in a way that’s just not possible with something like a MacBook. For instance, not only do you get four ports, you can choose exactly what ports they are; you could choose four USB-C ports, but you might prefer to replace some of those with an HDMI port, MicroSD slot, Ethernet, good old USB-A, or DisplayPort.
And because the whole point of this modular laptop is to let you swap components in and out for repair or upgrade, you can change anything at a later date. Try that with a MacBook Pro. If you don’t like the HDMI port on the side, too bad because you’re stuck with it.
Framework also lets you add extra storage, more RAM, and even swap in a new mainboard and CPU. However, the CPU swap isn't currently available for the Chromebook version.
“This is definitely a niche machine, but if you’re part of that niche, this machine is heaven,” said tech analyst, advisor, and ex-Apple marketing director Michael Gartenberg on Twitter.
Who Is This For?
If you’re not in the market for a Chromebook, then walk away now. No matter how repairable and upgradeable this is, it’s not for you. Buy a MacBook Air and enjoy having an absurdly powerful machine with all-day battery life until you have to either recycle it or pay hundreds of dollars for its repair.
But if you’re thinking about Chromebooks, then this might be the best option, as long as you don’t mind paying a grand up front. Over the years, you’d spend the same on more disposable Chromebooks, and while it may all work out the same in the end, you’ll have used far fewer of the planet’s resources on your journey.
Most of a computer’s carbon emissions come from making it and delivering it to you. Repairing and upgrading avoid that cost several times over. And while switching between Chromebooks is easier than swapping Macs or PCs because everything is in the cloud, there’s one other huge advantage to using one computer for ten years: you won’t lose all the cool stickers on its lid when you dump it, and buy a new one.