If you've an eye for modular technology, you may have been keeping up with Framework's brilliant dive into the DIY laptop scene. Our Dave seems to think this is the "future of gaming laptops" (opens in new tab) and although he may well be onto something, Framework has decided to bring us a svelte, and highly customisable Chromebook, ahead of the modular gaming monster we were dreaming of.
Framework laptops are highly modular. You have the option to completely upgrade the system as you go, just as you would your desktop PC. Only there's also the potential to have any combination of ports jammed in the sides, too. Want just USB Type-C sockets? Go for it.
With Framework even selling its CPU mainboard separately (opens in new tab), there's a lot of potential for modders—some hero even turned a Framework laptop into a tablet (opens in new tab) with the parts available.
A few months back, Framework brought DIY 12th Gen Intel upgrades to its laptops, and now the company has partnered with Google to create the 12th Gen Framework Laptop Chromebook Edition. It doesn't look like you can swap out the CPU on this one—it's certainly not been referenced as yet—but as Framework founder Nirab Patel says in the company's announcement vid: "The laptop has enough performance so you can play Steam games natively."
Nebulous, I know, but I'm sure it'll play the Sims 4 at the very least via the Steam on ChromeOS Alpha.
The base Chromebook Edition may not come with a discrete mobile GPU, but an Intel Core i5 1240P alone may not be as bad for gaming as you might expect. With just four Performance cores, eight Efficient cores, for a total of 20 threads across the lot, it's certainly no high-performance CPU. The 80 Intel Xe GPU execution units aren't going to play Metro Exodus on ultra settings anytime soon, either, especially not at the laptop's native 2256 x 1504 pixel display. But there may still be some fun times to be had on the road with the efficient-running Chrome operating system.
There's also something to be said about a 12 MB L3 cache, and the ability to boost from 1.70GHz base CPU frequency and 30W sustained performance, to 4.40GHz and 60W in turbo mode. The Core i5 1240P has even managed to outperform the i7-1260P in multi-thread workloads according to Notebook Check (opens in new tab)'s Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Pro tests.
Essentially, as is the same with Chromebooks across the board, the focus is on productivity. And now with Framework's help Google has extended that focus to DIY heads.
"The pre-built configuration comes with 8GB of DDR4 and 256GB NVMe storage and can be upgraded to up to 64GB of DDR4 and 1TB of NVMe storage," the press release notes. That's a little disappointing considering Intel's 12th Gen CPUs should be compatible with DDR5 memory, but I guess you can't have everything. At least not without spending the big bucks.
If the idea of rifling around in your laptops innards, Google style, is something you're interested in exploring, the Framework Chromebook Edition comes to preorder in the US and Canada today, with the base config going for $999. That feels like a lot of cash, considering we wouldn't recommend a gaming laptop with less than an RTX 3060 for that price, but all this modularity has got to count for something, right?
Shipments start in late November/early December and you're looking at a fully refundable $100 deposit when you pre-order. You can also get on the waitlist for replacement parts and modules for the Chromebook Edition today at the Framework marketplace (opens in new tab).