The Last Gaming Laptop You’ll Ever Need? Framework 16 Review

The Framework 16 is the most unique laptop I’ve ever tested! It offers an unprecedented level of customization, repairability and upgradeability. Take this for example. This is a Radeon GPU that you can just slot in the back, making laptop GPU upgrades fast and simple. The design looks professional and the finish feels nice and premium. The bottom shell is magnesium alloy and although the lid is CNC aluminum, that didn’t stop there being more lid flex than I was ready for. It felt kind of floppy when twisting it, so I guess just don’t do that, because it was

perfectly fine using it normally. There’s no screen wobble, even when typing hard, and it feels perfectly fine when opening the lid, so yeah, it’s not a problem in practice. There is some keyboard flex when pushing down hard, which isn’t that surprising considering you can remove the keyboard, more on that shortly, but it didn’t seem too different compared to many other laptops I’ve tested. I seem to have a similar amount of flex underneath the keyboard as Alex in the LTT review, so maybe it just doesn’t bother me as much. My configuration has AMD’s Ryzen 7 7840HS

processor and the optional Radeon RX 7700S graphics module. This costs an extra $400 USD and isn’t required, but it’s an upgrade option if you ever want to add

more GPU power. Installation of the graphics module is as simple as taking off the magnetic keyboard, undoing some screws, sliding out the expansion bay and slotting in the graphics module – all of which is documented in-depth on Framework’s website. From start to finish I was able to go through the whole process in just over 2 minutes, and I had a camera awkwardly sitting between me and the laptop.

It’s a little thicker at the rear with the graphics module installed, and overall it feels a bit bigger compared to most other 16 inch gaming laptops I’ve tested. It’s heavier with the graphics module installed too, as it contains extra cooling for the GPU. Fortunately the 180 watt Type-C GaN charger is on the smaller side. Alright here’s where things start getting fun. You can pick where the keyboard and touchpad go based on your personal preferences. Basically you line it up with the dotted lines and just slide them into position and let magnets do the work, it’s

super easy to change any time, even with the laptop running. Everything connects with these 8-pin connectors, which use USB 2.0 and are rated for 10,000 cycles, so change away. You can put the keyboard in the middle with some spacers on the sides, or you can put the keyboard on the left or right. You can either put the spacers in the empty spot, which are available in different colors, or even with LED lighting strips that can be customized to show things like battery life, current time or alerts, or you can add in a numpad or RGB

macropad based on whatever you prefer. The software for managing the light strips feels super early. It didn’t work very well, but I assume that will be updated. The same goes for the touchpad. You can put it on the left, right, or in the middle based on your preference. I think it works best having it centered with regards to the letter keys, but the fact that you can decide for yourself is a whole new level of customization I’ve never seen before. My only complaints are that the numpad has white backlighting only, so if you spend $50

extra to upgrade to the RGB keyboard that mine has then they don’t match. The Macropad does have RGB, and by default the keys are mapped to a numpad, but the keycaps are clear so it can get quite bright. And sometimes the fit of the spacers is a bit janky and not perfectly flush with everything else, but it’s not really a problem unless you’re a perfectionist. Keys can be customized with via, so through a browser without any software needed, but there are also a number of shortcuts built into the keys for cycling through effects and granular

adjustment. Possibly too many to remember, but they’re listed here on Framework’s website. There are a number of built in effects for the RGB keyboard with much more customization compared to most other laptops, and all keys and secondary functions get lit up. Key brightness is adjusted between three levels by holding function and pressing the spacebar, while the numpad is adjusted separately by pressing enter with numlock off, but it’s far dimmer in comparison to the RGB keyboard. You can’t customize both together. As for functionality, typing on the keyboard worked well. It has 1.5mm of key travel and

I had no problems with it, though I prefer keys with a slightly clickier feel. The glass touchpad might not be as big as some other laptops, but it was still nice to use, worked well and clicks anywhere. There’s a fingerprint scanner built into the power button, which I found to work fast and accurately. The power button was kind of bright by default, but you can customize it between three different brightness levels in the BIOS. The ports are super interesting, because Framework has an expansion card system that allows you to pick the ports you want and

customize the layout, to a degree. Basically you pick up to 6 expansion cards which connect to the laptop with a Type-C connection. They’ve got options for USB Type-A, Type-C, HDMI 2.0b, full size DisplayPort 1.4, MicroSD card slot with normal full size SD slot option coming soon, and 2.5 gigabit ethernet, though that one sticks out a little. You can even just straight up install extra SSD space with these modules. This image from frameworks website shows what all the slots support. So you can have Type-C charging with up to 240 watts on either side, you just have

to use ports 1, 2, 4 or 5. The display outputs are also closer to the back, but the tradeoff is only the rear ports have faster USB 4 if that’s something you need. So you can use Type-C to charge the laptop on either side, which is great, and I confirmed that you can still charge the laptop even without the Type-C expansion card installed. Yeah, it’s a bit more awkward to connect the power cable for charging, but hey this does mean that you can still charge the laptop without spending $9 USD on a Type-C expansion card.

And same goes for data transfer, I could install a really thin USB stick. If you’ve got the discrete graphics expansion bay installed, there’s an additional Type-C port on the back which can be used as a display output, and it’s the only one that connects directly to the discrete graphics. I confirmed data transfer works on this, but Framework don’t seem to specify what version of USB it uses. You can also connect the expansion cards to it if you want to use HDMI or DisplayPort instead of Type-C. All of the expansion cards on the side, whether you’re

using DisplayPort or HDMI, always connect to the integrated graphics of the processor. As HDMI is 2.0b, we were limited to 8-Bit 4K 60Hz. I also had a problem with the monitor and HDMI cable I’ve used to test hundreds of laptops without issue. Basically the expansion card keeps appearing and disappearing in device manager and the screen doesn’t get a signal, and this happens with both the latest drivers from AMD, and the slightly older package provided by Framework. Other monitors and TVs I have worked fine though. Getting inside is easy and requires taking off the keyboard, touchpad

and spacers. Then you simply pull out the cable listed as step number 1, loosen 16 screws in the labeled order with the included TR5 screwdriver and pull off the metal mid plate, as documented on their website. It’s cool that you don’t need any fancy pry tools to open it up, and that there aren’t any screws visible externally, despite how much customization is on offer. Inside we’ve got the battery down the front, two DDR5 memory slots in the middle towards the right, Wi-Fi 6E card up the top on the left, and the 2 M.2 storage slots

below that. There’s room for a shorter 2230 M.2 SSD underneath the longer 2280 slot. I confirmed my 4TB 2280 SSD with chips on both sides could fit, but that was with the 2230 slot empty, as I don’t have a drive that size. Considering that the expansion bay design is open source, I’d expect someone to make an M.2 expansion option, given that there are 8 lanes of PCIe Gen 4 connectivity available for the GPU module. The speeds from the installed 512GB PCIe Gen 4 SSD were great, but this will vary depending on the SSD you choose

when ordering or install yourself if you buy the DIY version. Wi-Fi speed was excellent, the second fastest result I’ve ever measured and only beaten by Lenovo’s more expensive Legion 9 gaming laptop. Alright, so I’ve got this graph where I attempt to give points based on how upgradeable a laptop is, and if we go purely based off of my normal scoring system, it ends up about the same as most other laptops, slightly better. This is kind of arbitrary though. For context I give a point per M.2 storage slot and RAM slot, which is why MSI’s Titan

is up the top. Framework gets an extra point for the upgradeable GPU, but loses half a point for one of the M.2 slots only supporting smaller drives. But perhaps something like this is more accurate once you account for everything else, like the option to upgrade from a white to RGB keyboard in future, or change the ports, or easily swap the screen to some future panel. There are just too many options and it’s difficult to do a fair comparison based on past metrics, because the Framework 16 is in a league of its own here. The speakers

are found on the left and right sides towards the front. I thought they sounded ok. There’s some nice bass, but they’re a bit muffled and weren’t as clear as I’d like. The latencymon results were excellent. Most gaming laptops I’ve tested in the last few years failed poorly here. The Framework 16 is powered by a 85Wh battery. There’s no built-in software, but with a dynamic refresh rate set Windows should still automatically lower the screen’s refresh rate when you unplug the charger to help save battery. Battery life was great, lasting for just over 9 hours in the

YouTube video playback test without the graphics module installed and the screen at 60hz, though I’d expect it to be much the same as that workload shouldn’t run on the discrete graphics anyway. The battery test with the game running used the graphics module though. Framework notes that the battery will drain in heavy workloads due to the smaller 180 watt Type-C charger. After our game benchmarks it lowered about 5% over a couple of hours, but with idle periods in between games to charge. During my thermal testing, so a heavy combined CPU and GPU stress test, it lost

about 15% after a couple of hours, so not ideal, but not an issue with multiple hours of heavy use. Let’s check out thermals next. There are three heatpipes over the Ryzen processor which is covered by a liquid metal pad. There are two cooler master fans in the expansion bay shell, and they’re a little bigger in the graphics module. The graphics module also has some heatpipes covering the GPU, which are physically separate to the CPU cooling. Most gaming laptops share heatpipes between the CPU and GPU, but that’s not the case here. There are holes directly above

the air intake fans on both the shell and graphics module, as well as vents above the keyboard at the back. Air gets exhausted out of the left and right sides, but also out the back with the graphics module installed. Right now in February 2024, the Framework forums seem to indicate that they don’t plan on making any special software in order to customize things like fan speed or CPU and GPU power limits. But I’ll be extremely surprised if we don’t see some sort of community software option coming soon. Instead they’ve suggested changing the Windows power settings,

so we’ve done all testing with best performance enabled for all tests that had the charger connected, or best efficiency to improve battery life. I’ve got the temperatures with the expansion shell installed below, so without discrete graphics, and the results with the graphics module installed above, so with the RX 7700S GPU. The internal temps were fine at idle, but warmer with the discrete graphics installed and actively driving the screen. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU stress tests which aim to represent a worst case full load scenario. Running with the lid closed

in a docked scenario was only a little warmer on the GPU, but otherwise there aren’t any problems if you want to dock the laptop and load it up. The cooling pad I test with, linked below, was able to lower temps by almost 3 degrees Celsius, and as you’ll hear soon it also resulted in less fan noise. These are the clock speeds during the same stress tests. There’s barely any difference with closing the lid or using a cooling pad, because thermals were not a limitation in this particular workload. The CPU clock speed is lower with the

integrated graphics loaded up as they share a power budget. If I stop the GPU workload the CPU would max out at 4.6GHz over all 8 cores. We can see here the processor was using 54 watts with the CPU and GPU under load, but it lowered to around 40 watts when I paused the GPU load. The RX 7700S runs at around 80 watts with the CPU under load at the same time, but if I stop the CPU load then a GPU only load is able to run at 100 watts, which is what AMD’s spec sheet says

is the maximum. It’s possible that thermals will be even better than what I’ve shown here, because I was told a few weeks ago that Framework’s thermal module supplier has improved their soldering process on the vapor chamber, which lowers thermal resistance. Apparently the change was only intended to improve manufacturing yield, but it actually ended up improving thermals a bit too. Now that said, although this is a slightly earlier model, it’s still what Framework considers to be a representation of what you as an end customer might actually buy because it performs as expected. But yeah, basically it’s

possible that you might get something that performs a little better in terms of thermals. The CPU settled in at 54 watts in a CPU only workload like Cinebench, with the GPU now idle. It’s scoring about the same as a number of other Zen 4 laptops that we’ve tested. The higher tier Ryzen 9 7940HS is much the same when it comes to multicore performance, only seeing a small boost to single core performance for the most part. Multi core performance depends on how much power the chip gets fed. Framework also offers this laptop with that chip, but

it’s a $200 USD upgrade, so based on what we’re seeing from other 7940HS results here, I’d say that’s probably not worth it for most of you. CPU Performance lowers if we unplug the charger and instead run off of battery power, but it’s now one of the better results out of the same selection of laptops. In fact many of the 8 core Ryzen laptops are now on the upper part of the graph, ahead of Intel options with more than double the core count. Basically this means that generally speaking, AMD laptops are more power efficient and offer

better performance while running on battery power. Of course that’s not always the case, as we can see here, but the Framework 16 is doing a good job compared to most others. Most laptops I test are in the low 30 degrees Celsius range on the keyboard at idle, and the Framework 16 was mostly below this with just the expansion shell – so no discrete graphics. It’s a little warmer with the discrete graphics connected, but not by much and still cool. There appears to be a hot spot near where I’ve plugged in the charger, but it barely

feels warm. It’s only a little warm to the touch If I run a CPU and GPU stress test with the expansion shell, not bad at all. But it’s actually cooler in the same workload with the discrete graphics connected, and that’s because the fans are doing more work now to keep it cool – let’s have a listen. The fans were off and completely silent when idling, with or without the discrete graphics. It’s a fair bit louder with the stress tests running with the discrete graphics connected, but it’s still inline with most other gaming laptops tested, normal

stuff. Along with lowering temps slightly, the cooling pad also allowed the fans to run a bit quieter too. The Framework 16 is using a taller 16:10 screen, which means more viewable screen space as there are more pixels vertically compared to a standard 16:9 panel. Most other laptops that have gone the 16:10 route don’t have this thick bottom chin down the bottom, but this might just be required in order to accommodate the extra depth of the laptop to get the GPU in the back. I don’t know, I’m sure some of you won’t like it, but I

don’t think it looks that bad. And it also means that the screen is actually raised up a little, which is beneficial if you’re staring at the screen for hours on end you don’t have to tilt your head quite as far down. The screen looks great. Color gamut and screen brightness are excellent for both gaming and even content creation. Framework advertises it as a 500 nit panel, and we hit this at full brightness, which is a great result compared to a lot of other laptops. 300 nits is the bare minimum I want to see, but 500

definitely looks better. Backlight bleed was fine in my unit, but this will vary between panels. Framework’s spec sheet says the screen has a 9ms rise and fall response time. I measured closer to 11ms if we’re talking about going from white to black and then black to white, but 7ms once accounting for more data points. It’s only beaten by other laptops that either have overdrive modes or use OLED, but it’s not bad at all either. Ideally we want 6ms for transitions to occur within the 165Hz refresh window, but we’re not far off. Honestly, for most people

this is perfectly fine for gaming, no problems. The total system latency is the amount of time between a mouse click and when a gunshot fire appears on the screen in Counter-Strike 2. This is our first time showing CS2 results after moving from CS:GO, but it’s the fastest result that we’ve recorded so far. Despite not having a super fast screen or top-end specs, Framework excelled here for some reason. The Framework 16 has Smart Access Graphics – which is AMD’s dynamic MUX solution comparable to Nvidia’s Advanced Optimus. The Radeon software lets you use it, or the standard

hybrid mode aka optimus on. We couldn’t find a way to force it to always only use the discrete graphics. This works ok for the most part, but it feels a little more clunky compared to Nvidia’s solution. It took longer to swap between GPUs and there was just less stability during our testing with more crashes or things not running properly. There’s a 1080p 60 FPS camera above the screen with privacy switches for both camera and microphones, but it does not have IR for Windows Hello face unlock. Here’s how the camera and microphones look and sound, and

this is what it sounds like while typing on the keyboard. Alright let’s find out how well the Framework 16 performs in games. All testing has been done with the RX 7700S. Cyberpunk 2077 was tested with our own custom test run, and I’ve got the Framework 16 shown by the red highlight. At 1080p it’s similar in average FPS compared to a number of RTX 4060 gaming laptops. That’s still the case at the higher 1440p resolution where we’re more GPU bound, and the 7700S in the Framework 16 was 16% faster compared to the lower tier 7600S in

ASUS’s TUF A16. Red Dead Redemption 2 was tested with the game’s benchmark, and this is a game that I’ve found to prefer AMD’s Radeon graphics over Nvidia’s GeForce. This is why the 7700S in the Framework 16 is able to beat a number of RTX 4070 gaming laptops, and even come within range of Razer’s far more expensive Blade 16 with RTX 4090. The Blade is further ahead at 1440p as the GPU does more work with more pixels to produce, but the 7700S was still beating a number of RTX 4070 gaming laptops – a great result. But

then on the other hand, some games like Control prefer Nvidia graphics, which is why the 7700S in the Framework 16 was now beaten by the RTX 4060 laptops. At 1440p it’s quite close to the RTX 3060 from a few years ago, granted that has less VRAM, but just goes to show that some games prefer Nvidia and others prefer AMD, which is why we test a mixture. Here are the 3DMark results for those that find them useful. As for content creation, like the games it’s close to RTX 4060 and 4070 laptops in Adobe Photoshop and DaVinci

Resolve, however as is usually the case, Radeon graphics generally don’t do as well in other workloads like Adobe Premiere or Blender. It’s using Insyde BIOS, just like a Clevo laptop. There’s a little customization available, but not a whole lot in the way of tuning. I was surprised that there wasn’t a MUX option to force the laptop to run only on the discrete graphics. If I had to guess, that might be problematic to handle if you’ve got it enabled and then remove or swap the graphics module. Linux support was tested with an Ubuntu 23.10 live CD.

By default the keyboard, touchpad, camera, speakers, and Wi-Fi all worked fine. Keyboard shortcuts for screen brightness, key brightness and RGB effects and volume all work. A great result, and not at all surprising considering they designed it with Linux in mind. Pricing and availability will change over time, so check the link below the video for updates. And if the Framework 16 has a good sale, we’ll be sure to add it to our website. We update that everyday to include all of the latest sales, so make sure that you check it out regularly to save money

on your next gaming laptop. At the time of recording, the do it yourself version without any SSD or RAM starts from $1399 USD, with an extra $200 getting you the higher tier Ryzen 9 7940HS processor. But honestly, from my personal experience, I don’t think it’s worth spending that much money for most people, unless you really want the slightly better single core performance. You’d probably be better off saving that money today and putting it towards a CPU upgrade in future. The graphics module adds an extra $400, but if you want both to have the option of

swapping between them then it’s $500 to get it in addition to the expansion shell. The 180 watt power adapter costs an extra $79, but given a lot of people already have good Type-C chargers I think it’s good to have the option of not being forced into buying it if you don’t need it. And hey, considering the combined CPU and GPU workloads could drain the battery with the 180 watt charger, maybe you might want to look for a 240 watt charger anyway, as this laptop can apparently support that. The pre-built option costs more as it comes

with RAM, storage and Windows installed. If I spec it out to what I’ve tested in this video, at the end of the day we’re looking at close to $2200 USD – definitely not cheap. I mean for that amount of money it’s possible to get a much better performing gaming laptop with RTX 4080 graphics and nicer feeling build quality. So with the Framework 16 you’re really paying a premium for the customization and promise of future upgradeability. If you’re just after good FPS for the dollar, then you’d be better off spending half that amount on a similarly

performing RTX 4060 gaming laptop. The Framework Laptop 16 is certainly unique, offering levels of customization and repairability that I’ve never seen from any other laptop. If these things are important to you and you want the option of adding in discrete graphics for gaming or other workloads, then this is by far the best option right now. Future CPU, GPU and even port upgrades are definitely promising, but this isn’t the first time that we’ve heard of laptops attempting to provide this. Now to be fair, Framework does at least have some track record with the Framework 13, as

they’ve been providing CPU upgrades for that. So if we will see next gen CPUs and GPU just slot right into this laptop then yeah that’s going to be awesome. This just might be the last laptop that you ever need to buy if all goes to plan. Just be ready to pay for those benefits, because they do not come cheap. And there are plenty of other new gaming laptops coming out this year, check out this video next to find out everything that’s on the way!

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