When you read a laptop review, even if the new laptop looks identical to last year’s model, the company has usually sent the reviewer an entirely new product to set up and test. For this review of the Framework Laptop 13—for all intents and purposes, a brand-new product and the third iteration of Framework’s original repairable, upgradeable laptop PC—Framework’s PR team sent me a box full of parts that I could use to upgrade the laptop I reviewed last year.
So this is a review of the 2023 iteration of the Framework Laptop 13, but it’s also a review of a box full of parts. We won’t regurgitate everything we said about the Framework Laptop last year (or the year before that) except to comment on how the design of the system is aging and how the various new components change the experience.
The big takeaways? If you’re considering a Framework Laptop for the first time, the company has fixed many of the things about the laptop that we listed as cons last year, especially the battery life. If you’re upgrading an older model, at least one or two of the components in that jumble of parts we got is worth considering as an upgrade. And in either case, you might want to wait for the upcoming AMD Ryzen edition—at least, as long as the computer you’re currently using can get you by until “late Q3,” when those laptops and mainboards are currently slated to ship.
|Specs at a glance: Framework Laptop 13 (2023)|
|OS||Windows 11 22H2|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-1370P (6 P-cores, 8 E-cores)|
|RAM||32GB DDR4-3200 (upgradeable)|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe (integrated)|
|SSD||1TB Western Digital Black SN850|
|Display||13.5-inch 2256×1504 non-touchscreen in glossy or matte|
|Connectivity||4x recessed Thunderbolt ports with customizable “Expansion Card” dongles, headphone jack|
|Price as tested||$2,079|
This round of upgrades for the Framework Laptop 13 (previously just the “Framework Laptop” but given the “13” as a retronym to distinguish it from the next Framework laptop) includes a new motherboard with 13th-generation Intel Core CPUs on board. But there are a bunch of cheaper products you can consider if you want to spruce up an existing Framework Laptop without springing for a pricey new board: a new larger battery, a redesigned hinge, new display bezel colors, louder speakers, and a matte screen option, in addition to pre-existing upgrades like a redesigned lid and the full array of expansion cards.
Given the option to get a whole new laptop or components I could use to upgrade last year’s review loaner, I opted for the box of parts, which came with the highest-end Core i7-1370P board, the matte screen, the new hinge, the new speakers, and the bigger battery. The iFixit-style replacement guides for each component are well-illustrated and easy to follow; dealing with tiny wires and ribbon cables might still be a bit intimidating for neophytes, but if you have any experience building a desktop or upgrading the RAM in one of your older computers, you ought to be able to handle everything here.
If anything, the way the Framework Laptop is designed makes it easier to replace a bunch of parts at once than to do it one thing at a time—many of the steps you need to follow to replace the display panel, for example, also need to be followed to replace the hinge. All told, it took me around an hour to do all the upgrades, with the display panel and hinge being the most finicky (mostly because of cable routing) and the battery being the simplest.
There’s also one other upgrade, one that you might not need to spend money on. Framework announced that it had made a change to the way its HDMI and DisplayPort Expansion Cards work; apparently, when mixed and matched with ports other than USB-C, these display outputs could “keep subsystems powered” whether they were in use or not, potentially consuming extra power. There’s a firmware update that will fix this issue for DisplayPort Expansion Cards. Updating the HDMI Expansion Card is possible but requires soldering.