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commit 077a80395c9486273235aab77ae710777b4fe802
parent 49db761bb3d139af15e2de82bb67be4821ed5d3a
Author: Jake Bauer <jbauer@paritybit.ca>
Date:   Fri, 16 Sep 2022 22:23:32 -0400

*

Diffstat:
Acontent/garden/plots/framework-laptop.gmi | 21+++++++++++++++++++++
1 file changed, 21 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)

diff --git a/content/garden/plots/framework-laptop.gmi b/content/garden/plots/framework-laptop.gmi @@ -0,0 +1,21 @@ +# Reviewing the Framework Laptop + +* Excellent repairability compared to most other modern laptops +* Excellent resolution 200DPI display +* Good company ethos and so far track record (offering standalone motherboards and top case lids for upgrades) +* The selection of ports is okay, but the whole modular port idea isn't really that compelling (more below) +* Screen/lid is flimsy and doesn't feel like a quality part compared to Dell XPS or MacBook + +## A Digression About Modular Ports + +While at first the idea of modular ports seems really cool and compelling, I would liken it more to a gimmick than a useful feature. The big issue with these ports is that you're not only paying extra money for what are essentially recessed, single-purpose USB-C dongles ($12 a piece for USB-A and C, $25 for display connectors or SD card, $51 for ethernet (prices in CAD)), you're also quite limited in terms of the number of slots available. + +There are only 4 available expansion slots on the Framework. One of them must be USB-C if you wish to charge so that leaves 3. Many people will likely want to be able to charge from either side of the laptop, as this is a convenience of most modern laptops, so that likely leaves 2 free ports for most people. Many will then choose one USB-A and one HDMI or DisplayPort as this is a relatively universal set that will let you plug your mouse, keyboard, or USB stick into the USB-A port and maybe hook up the laptop to an external monitor or projector using the display connector. + +So, that's likely 2 USB-C, 1 USB-A, and one HDMI/DisplayPort. Not a lot of I/O. Compare this to the latest 14" MacBook Pro which has 3 USB-C ports, an HDMI, a dedicated charging port, and an SD card reader. The latest Dell XPS 15 has 3 USB-Cs and one SD card slot, which is about the same level of I/O as the Framework. My Dell Latitude has 3 USB-As, HDMI, compact ethernet, one USB-C, a dedicated charge port, and a micro-SD card slot; tons of I/O (and if we got rid of the compact ethernet and barrel plug in favour of another two USB-C ports, it could be as thin as the Framework too). That's not even counting that you can buy 250GB or 1TB storage dongles, which is a really cool idea since it's basically like an integrated USB thumb drive or spare hard disk that you can plug and unplug from your laptop, but you lose a whole port of I/O if you keep them plugged in. Also, if you use them like regular USB thumb drives, well, a regular USB thumb drive is going to be way more convenient since you won't have to fiddle with a latch on the bottom of the laptop just to disconnect the drive. + +These modular ports end up being much more inconvenient compared to an all-in-one dongle which might have 2 USB-A 5Gbps ports, 2 USB-C ports, HDMI, and a card reader in one simple, inexpensive package not much larger than two of the Framework expansion ports combined ([Here's an example on Amazon](https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Upgraded-Delivery-Pixelbook-A83460A2/dp/B07ZVKTP53/ref=sr_1_4)). If you want to switch up your ports instead of just picking a loadout and sticking with it, you end up with a lot of these expansion cards (one for Ethernet, another USB-A, maybe a different display connector, etc.) you have to carry with you. It's way less convenient to carry around a box of the Framework ports to be able to reconfigure your ports on the fly when you can just carry around a single dongle that has all the extra ports you might need, even if you don't use some of the ports on that dongle. Yes, you're not going to have a dongle hanging off your laptop with the built-in, swappable ports but that doesn't matter if the I/O in the laptop is too limited anyways because there simply aren't enough ports for what you need. If we had enough ports on the Framework laptop in the first place, we wouldn't need a dongle at all. + +Then there's the argument that these ports allow for upgrades of existing ports or changing to a new port standard. If you can upgrade an older SD card slot to one that supports faster speeds, that's way better than having an old and now less useful SD card slot built into the computer. This is definitely an advantage of the modular ports and why I don't want to see them disappear but, at the same time, an increase in speed also needs to come with a motherboard that supports it. If Framework has 4 recessed USB-C ports that are all 20Gbps, you're limited to that no matter the speed supported by a new dongle. Now, this is still nice because you can just upgrade your expansion ports and motherboard and keep the rest of the laptop (battery, screen, keyboard, etc.) which is undoubtedly good, but there's also no reason that we can't also have built-in, denser I/O. Even 5Gbps USB speeds, HDMI 2.1, or DisplayPort 2.0 are fast enough for most people's uses today and have been for a decade or more (those display standards support high refresh rate 8K video with HDR, which is far beyond what most people really need). They don't really need to be upgraded every couple of years, or even every decade. Who's to say USB-C will continue to be the standard for the next several decades either? + +Really what I'm saying is that, while the modular port idea is kind of cool, the level of I/O available for the Framework is less than I want and I'd much rather also have way more, denser I/O on replaceable boards (which would allow easy repairability and also allow you to upgrade your ports to a newer standard!). We can keep one or two of these expansion slots and at the same time have a collection of two USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, and a display connector just built into the laptop, like how we used to do it with PCMCIA cards. That's a level of I/O sure to garner a lot of praise from the press and users, while keeping the parts that are good about the expansion slots.