Suddenly, I'm awake. I head over to the kitchen to find my work laptop to start the day. I pick up my 2019 15" macbook pro. The cold metal grazes my arm as I carry it to my desk. I grip the binding like a book before laying it down in front of me. The edges are round and it feels like a contiguous hunk of metal. With one hand, I can open the monitor.
Whether you like Apple or their ecosystem or not, the macbook pro is the premium laptop. I've been searching for years to find something that can come close to it within the linux ecosystem.
Most of my laptops have been loaners from work and they have all been macbook pros. In the beginning I absolutely loved it. I basically get a free premium laptop everytime I get a new job. However, as the years pass, the more I've been getting bored with the Apple ecosystem. OSX is stable and it works reasonably well for a software engineer. But I like to tinker. I like to make the tool work for me, not the other way around.
Whenever I look at other laptops, my internal monologue is always asking: "but how's the trackpad?" This question causes me to hesitate when looking at other laptops. I know what I'm going to get with a macbook pro. Premium build, speakers, monitor, trackpad, and battery life. Some of these features are easy to compare without having used the laptops, others are impossible.
I love the idea behind the framework laptop. If you're looking at this review, you already know why it's a potentially industry-changing laptop. I finally caved and bought it a couple months ago and I finally received it in the mail last week.
When attempting to make this decision, I was searching online for comparisons specifically to macbook pros. So, in this article, I want to compare the two laptops in hopes that I can convince people that it does in fact compete with the macbook pro.
For these comparisons:
- I'm going to set the scale between -1 and 1.
- The macbook pro will be set to 0 for all categories.
- If a score is less than 0, then it is not as good as the mbp.
- If a score is greater than 0, then it is better than the mbp.
- If the final score for the framework is a 0 then the laptops are very close to identical.
Let's start with the question I posed above
# Trackpad (-0.2)
After all of my research, this was the one feature that I gambled on. I had no idea what to expect. I have been using macbook pros exclusively for the better part of a decade so I didn't know what to expect. All the other windows laptops I have tried had garbage trackpads. I felt an overall lack of precision when using them.
I'm happy to announce that I don't notice a huge difference between my macbook pro's trackpad and this one. It's precise, it worked well out-of-the-box on Arch using sway, and is good enough. To be clear, the mbp's trackpad is superior, especially with its gestures so tightly integrated into OSX but for basic mouse functionality, it works great.
# The Feel (0.1)
This laptop feels like a hunk of metal. I was very surprised at how nice it feels to carry. It's difficult to lift the lid with one hand but it is doable. The monitor hinge feels a little loose. When falling onto the couch while holding the laptop, the mbp's screen won't move from its original position, whereas the framework's will. Using my finger to slightly tap the framework monitor will cause it to shake quite a bit, whereas the mbp will barely budge.
Update 02/17/22: I love the way this laptop feels. I vastly prefer it over my mbp. The mbp is heavy and bulky. It's not nearly as satisfying as my framework so I'm upgrading this result. A macbook air might be comparable to the framework but I don't have one so I cannot judge.
Also, there is a little bump / ridge under the laptop to lift the chasis off the ground slightly for what I'm assuming is to help with heat management. It has a delightful side-effect of being great to grab when holding it.
# Speakers (-0.7)
The speakers on the framework are pretty bad. They are downward facing, are not super loud, and overall sound tinny. I did a side-by-side comparison between the two and the difference is substantial. Listening to a podcast with the laptop on a solid surface sounds different than when it's on my lap.
This is easily the worst feature of the framework laptop. If you want to use a framework as an entertainment device, look for something else.
Having said that, I am able to enjoy listening to youtube and podcasts just fine with it.
# Screen (0.1)
I love the aspect ratio of the framework laptop. It's great for productivity and writing code. The resolution is 2256x1504 which is great. The brightest setting seems bright to me. Because of the aspect ratio, I'm marking this as an improvement over the mbp. I pretty much have the brightness setting set to 10% virtually all day.
# Keyboard (0.5)
The keyboard on the framework is a huge improvement over the 2019 mbp. My wife has the new and improved keyboard and I find them to be comparable.
# Webcam (0.2)
The physical kill switch is a pretty great feature. I usually purchase a little plastic shield for my mbp so I can cover the webcam when I'm not using it. It has a higher resolution than the mbp so I'm giving it an edge although I haven't really needed to use the webcam very much yet.
# Ports (0.4)
The ports are swappable and it's pretty fantastic. I no longer need a dongle for USB-A or display port. I think this is a killer feature and something I absolutely love about the framework.
# Battery life (-0.2)
The battery life is meh. I anticipated as much from the reviews. There are reports that you'll be lucky to reach 8 hours of battery life. It works fine for me but it's not as good as the mbp.
Thankfully, I work from home and am able to use any macbook pro charger with it so there's always a hookup close-by for me to use. If traveling an external charger is going to be crucial.
As I have used the laptop more and tweaked the power management, I think the battery life is adequate.
Update 02/17/22: The battery life is a non-issue because I never leave the house. I'm downgrading this difference by 0.2 to reflect that. YMMV
# Fan noise / heat (0)
I don't notice much of a difference between my macbook pro and the framework.
They will both equally run hot at times but for the most part, my framework laptop doesn't spin its fans very often. To be fair, I have a dev machine that I remote into for all my heavy lifting. As a result, the most CPU intensive thing I run on this laptop is firefox.
No comment on this primarily because I have a back-end linux desktop that I use for all programming related tasks. This laptop is being used primarily for watching videos and SSHing into my desktop machine to work on side projects.
# Results (0.2)
I think this is pretty accurate to my interpretation. The biggest downsides are the speakers and battery. It's not quite as good as the macbook pro in terms of overall quality of parts used, but it is very close for how I intend to use it.
Update 02/17/22: When considering everything, having a laptop that uses linux totally blows the mbp out of the water. I'm never going back.
After using the framework laptop for awhile, I would most definitely purchase it all over again if I had to.
Because I wanted to use linux as a daily driver and the features that I care about are comparable to the mbp, I'm excited about the framework laptop. If you really don't want to use OSX anymore and figuring out how to install linux on an M1 doesn't interested you, then I think the framework laptop is an excellent laptop.
Update 02/17/22: It's decided: the framework is the best laptop I've ever owned. Ignoring the speakers, it so satisfying to use it. Sometimes I just carry it around because of how great it feels in my arms.