This modular Chromebook can be upgraded and easily repaired

·2-min read
Users can pick and choose which ports to fit to their Chromebook  (Google)
Users can pick and choose which ports to fit to their Chromebook (Google)

Generally, Chromebooks are cheap and cheerful thanks to Chrome OS’s limited system requirements. While premium Chromebooks do exist, they’re a niche product, and most models cost under £400 — “disposable” in computing terms, just as then CEO Eric Schmidt said back in 2010.

But the latest premium Chromebook from Framework is anything but disposable, built with upgrades and repairs in mind. Like the company’s other laptops, this is a modular entry where users can not only easily open it up for maintainance, but can rearrange the ports to their liking, and even magnetically attach a different coloured bezel.

This kind of post-purchase customisation is virtually unheard of for Chromebooks, so it will be interesting to see if there’s a market for it. Are upgradable Chromebooks a rarity because they don’t need upgrades, or just because manufacturers assume there’s no interest? We’re about to find out.

Hopefully you won’t actually need to visit the Framework Marketplace for new components for a while, given the laptop’s internals look excellent on paper. It comes with a 12th-generation Intel Core i5-1240p processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB of internal storage, which makes this one of the more generously specced Chromebooks out there.

The full list of modular components includes RAM and storage upgrades, replacement batteries and different coloured bezels. These internal upgrades are done exactly the same way you would with any other laptop: unscrew the chassis and then perform computer surgery.

But the neatest part is actually the modular expansion system, which lets you pick and choose the ports you want, and where to put them, moving them around when you fancy a change. You can mix and match USB-C, USB-A, MicroSD, HDMI, DisplayPort, Ethernet, high-speed storage and more (though Framework does suggest at least one USB-C port, otherwise you’ll struggle to charge it).

The Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition is only available in the US and Canada (Google Chromebook)
The Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition is only available in the US and Canada (Google Chromebook)

Every module has a QR code attached which, when scanned via your camera app, will take you to a page full of documentation for the part in question. Repair guides, replacement or upgrade parts and other information about the bit of hardware you’ve just removed will immediately pop up, making maintenance as easy as possible.

Made in partnership with Google — which itself moved away from first-party Chromebooks just last week — the laptop promises at least eight years of Chrome OS security updates. Hopefully the upgradable nature will mean that figure keeps getting longer.

For now, the Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition is only available in the US and Canada, starting at $999 (about £885). But Framework does sell its Windows laptops to UK buyers, so it’s possible that the Chrome OS version could be available on this side of the Atlantic at some point if the company senses there’s demand.