Home Tech Framework Laptop 16 review: the ultimate in modular PCs

Framework Laptop 16 review: the ultimate in modular PCs

by Elijah
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Framework Laptop 16 review: the ultimate in modular PCs

Framework is back with the new, larger and more powerful Laptop 16, which is its most ambitious device yet: a highly modular and scalable 16-inch machine that can transform its layout and power in minutes. It’s unlike anything else on the market.

Featuring hot-swappable components, the laptop can be customized in a multitude of ways, transforming from a fast but quiet workhorse by day to an LED-studded gaming PC by night.

Costing from £1,399 (€1,579/$1,399/AU$2,319), the 16-inch machine further improves on the ideas that made its little brother the Laptop 13 such a success. Virtually everything in the laptop can be taken apart and replaced with varying degrees of ease.

Expansion cards insert into the side of the laptop with one click to instantly add USB-C, USB-A, HDMI, DP, Ethernet ports, a microSD slot, expandable storage or a headphone jack. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

It features the same brilliant port expansion system as its sibling, allowing you to fit up to six small cards to provide any combination of ports, card readers, or expandable storage on the sides of the machine. Most cards cost under £20, so they’re cheap enough that you can keep a collection of them for different tasks, sliding them in and out as needed.

Additionally, the keyboard, numpad, trackpad, LED modules, and standoffs simply snap into place via magnets on the top deck. Without tools, you can position the trackpad or keyboard left, right, or center, add a separate numpad or macro pad to each side, or simply replace the keyboard entirely with another language or layout in seconds, even when the laptop is running.

By diving inside, the Framework’s components, including memory, storage, and wireless cards, can be removed using a single screwdriver. You can expand the storage or RAM or even upgrade bits yourself, unlike many other laptops where the parts are soldered in place.

The AMD Radeon RX 7700S graphics card module simply inserts into the back of the machine to instantly add more power to the laptop. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

But the Framework’s piece de resistance is the large expansion module that hangs behind the screen. It allows for much more powerful upgrades like a module containing an AMD Radeon RX 7700S discrete graphics card.

Once the machine is turned off, these modules simply slide in and out, held in place by a few screws under the keyboard, taking just a few minutes to add much more power or reduce the size and weight of the laptop as needed.

For now you have the choice between just two modules, the AMD graphics card or a smaller one by default with just fans for cooling. But Framework has opened up the system to third-party developers to create alternative plug-ins beyond just graphics cards and intends to offer graphics upgrades later, similar to the CPU upgrades it sells for laptop 13.


The keyboard is available in different languages ​​and backlight colors, shown with the full RGB option in US English with two LED matrix spacers on each side. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Framework is also useful to use. The chiclet-style backlit keyboard has a satisfying 1.5mm of key travel and holds up well to rapid typing. Its frame flexed more than a regular laptop, but its operation wasn’t mushy. The trackpad is large, smooth and precise. The screen is a nice LCD with QHD resolution and a 165Hz refresh rate, but it doesn’t support HDR and is definitely not as good as the miniLED or OLED displays you might get on high-end competitors.

The speakers are serviceable, being loud enough for general use, but they pale in comparison to the best you get from Apple, Dell, or Razer. The fingerprint sensor in the power button is excellent. The 1080p webcam and mics are solid for video calls and have switches at the top of the screen to turn them off for privacy.


  • Screen: 16-inch 2560 x 1600 LCD (189 PPI; 165 Hz)

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 (7840HS) or 9 (7940HS)

  • RAM: 16, 32 or up to 64 GB

  • Storage: 250 GB to 4 TB and more

  • Chart: AMD Radeon 780M or RX 7700S (8 GB)

  • Operating system: Windows 11

  • Camera: 1080P

  • Connectivity: Wifi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, 6 hot-swappable ports, fingerprint reader

  • Dimensions: 356.6 x 270 x 18 mm or 356.6 x 290.2 x 21 mm

  • Weight: 2.1 or 2.4 kg

Lots of power, but only when plugged in

Framework’s compact 180W USB-C power adapter is one of the first available and is necessary to get the full performance of the Laptop 16. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Laptop 16 is available with a choice of AMD Ryzen 7 or 9 series chips, both with Radeon 780M integrated graphics, which is a pretty powerful combination without adding the discrete graphics module. Framework sells the machine in pre-built configurations with plenty of storage options and 16 or 32 GB of RAM, but it can take up to 64 GB if you add your own.

As tested under Windows 11, the predefined “overkill” model with the Ryzen 9 (7940HS) chip, 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage, the Laptop 16 indeed works very well, with or without the RX expansion module 7700S installed. It manages to stay cool and mostly silent during office work such as word processing, browsing, editing photos, or taking video calls. In high-end gaming, the fans can actually get very loud, which is normal, but it means headphones will be needed to hear what’s going on.

In terms of raw performance, the Ryzen 9 chip ranks among the fastest machines and has some of the best integrated graphics available. The RX 7700S is powerful enough to support high graphics settings in most games at 1080p resolution, but struggles with ray tracing or maintaining frame-per-second performance above double digits. It therefore only manages to keep pace with the more affordable chips of its rival Nvidia. The AMD card is certainly fast enough for creative work such as photo or video editing, but if gaming is the priority, you can get a run for your money with your competition.

The big downside is that the highest performance is only available when plugged in, causing battery performance to decrease by up to 70% depending on what metric you’re measuring. This is the same case as other PCs, but not Apple’s latest Mac laptops.

Battery life is quite short compared to the best 16-inch laptops, but about in line with most gaming PCs managing less than three hours of gaming, around six hours of office work with the graphics module installed or closer to eight hours without it.


The Laptop 16 is well built but has a bit more flex in places, like the lid and deck, compared to its premium competitors. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Framework rates the battery to maintain at least 80% of its original capacity for at least 1,000 full charge cycles. It can easily replaced with all the rest of components, including RAM and SSD. The laptop was awarded 10 out of 10 for repairability by iFixit specialists.

Framework sells replacement parts and upgrades through its marketplace, but also supports third-party parts. The laptop contains recycled aluminum, magnesium, and plastic in most components.


DIY editions of the Framework Laptop 16 are starting £1,399 (€1,579/$1,399/AU$2,319) without RAM, storage, ports or software. Pre-built models start at £1,699 (€1,919/$1,699/AU$2,819). The optional AMD Radeon RX7700S graphics expansion bay module costs £400 (€450/$400/AU$660).

For comparison, the Laptop 13 costs from £1,049the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2 starts at £2,069the Dell XPS 15 starts at £1,499the Razer Blade 16 starts at £2,700 and the Apple 16-inch MacBook Pro is starting to £2,599.


The Framework Laptop 16 is the holy grail of large-screen scalable and modular laptops. It offers unparalleled flexibility and is every DIYer’s dream.

The basic design is solid. It is neither too thick nor too heavy for this size of machine. The screen is pretty good, the speakers are usable, and the trackpad and keyboard modules are good. The fact that you can swap ports, keyboard, trackpad and other modules in seconds without any technical knowledge is wonderful, while the large expansion slot on the back offers real potential.

The performance of the base laptop is also excellent, but so far the available AMD Radeon RX 7700S graphics card is a bit disappointing. It’s not a terrible GPU but it can only match low-end models, which means the Framework isn’t the best gaming PC. You can definitely get much faster traditional gaming laptops for much less money.

And this is the biggest problem with the Framework. It costs too much for the power and features it currently offers if you ignore its modular and repairable design. That makes it less of an instant recommendation than its 13-inch little brother. But the Laptop 16 remains a triumph. It’s truly unlike anything else on the market.

Benefits: swappable ports, modular keyboard and trackpad, optional graphics card expansion, repairable and upgradeable, excellent performance, thoughtful design, good fingerprint scanner, good screen and webcam.

The inconvenients: very expensive, available graphics card is low end for gaming, no touchscreen, no HDR or miniLED/OLED option for screen, relatively short battery life, keyboard and body have more flexibility than their high-end competitors.

Optional dot-matrix panels can replace the spacers on either side of the keyboard, but for now they’re more fun than function. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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