Got a DIY project in mind that requires a bit more horsepower than an Arduino offers? The creators of the Framework laptop, which is designed to be very easily upgradable and modifiable, are finally selling the laptop’s mainboard as a standalone single board computer that simply needs memory and a power source.
The downside to devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops getting thinner and thinner is the manufacturing tricks and compromises needed to shave millimeters of thickness away. The original MacBook Air was a marvel to behold as Steve Jobs removed it from a manilla envelope during its original reveal, but the novelty of an ultra-thin laptop quickly wore off for users wanting upgrades. To achieve that level of thinness, components like RAM were permanently soldered to the laptop’s mainboard, making repairs difficult and pricey to perform as well.
The creators of the Framework laptop took an entirely different approach, prioritizing customizability and making the machine easy to crack open with a screwdriver-spudger tool that was actually included with it. Adding and removing functionality was as easy as popping out and inserting assorted expansion packs, and the Framework’s mainboard was engineered to be easily swapped out to accommodate newer processors down the line. Part of the design that made that possible was the mainboard essentially being a standalone PC, and as the company promised last year, it’s finally available for sale all on its own.
Three versions of the Framework mainboard are now available, all with Intel 11th-gen processors: $399 for an Intel Core i5-1135G7, $549 for an Intel Core i7-1165G7, and $799 for an Intel Core i7-1185G7. Again, you’ll need to supply the memory and storage, but from there you’re welcome to cram the mainboard into any DIY project you can imagine.
Framework has even released a GitHub repository that includes detailed documentation about the mainboard, as well as well as 3D models allowing users to create VESA-mount holders for attaching the board to a back of a screen, or a small form factor standalone case, using a 3D printer.