Small PC makers are bringing some open source ethos of sharing ideas and making products better into laptop designs.
A small hardware shop called Framework last week launched a modular laptop that can be upgraded by just replacing parts as opposed to replacing the laptop. The Framework laptop is optimized for the Fedora distribution, and tweaks are being made to bring full hardware support for Ubuntu 22.04.
Do It Yourself
Buyers can opt for the $819 barebones build-it-yourself model, and buy the Wi-Fi, storage and other components separately. You can assemble all the components at your home with a screwdriver.
The Framework DIY model is built with a base of the Intel’s 12th Gen Core processors, which is based on a new smartphone-like chip design that mixes in “E-cores” or efficiency cores for mundane workloads like antivirus scans, and P-cores or performance cores to crunch power applications like video processing.
The Linux community is using the modular Framework laptop to fix issues on hardware compatibility with Intel’s latest chips. Linux users faced battery life issues on the previous Framework laptop based on Intel’s older 11th Gen Core chips, but the Fedora OS on the new laptop resolves those issues. The new Framework laptop also supports Windows 11.
The Framework laptop comes amid growing support for a movement called right-to-repair, in which users are able to repair and upgrade devices at home. Companies like Apple have made it impossible to repair smartphones or upgrade components like batteries, and are charging hefty premiums for support package and replacement parts. In 2019, Apple started locking iPhone batteries via software to discourage repair.
U.S. President Joe Biden is backing the right-to-repair movement. Microsoft, Google and Samsung also announced support and are providing tools for users to repair devices at home. Framework believes that the modular upgradeability gives more choice to customers and reduces e-waste.
The right-to-repair idea is also backed by Linux PC maker System76, which is also upgrading its PCs with Intel’s 12th Gen chips. The laptops will start shipping late this month and in June. The new Gazelle, Darter Pro and Oryx laptops will have GPUs from Nvidia and Intel.
System76 will also ship new Linux-based Thelio and Thelio Mira desktops with the new generation of Intel chips. The desktops have open hardware designs, which are shared on the company’s Github page. Home PC builders can use design files as a reference to build Linux rigs at home.
Support for New Chips
Mainstream PC makers are lagging on bringing Linux support to PCs with new Intel and AMD chips. Dell’s XPS laptop, which is optimized for Ubuntu Linux, has been a favorite among Linux developers, but a model with the 12th Gen chips is not yet available. Most laptops with the new Intel chips are designed for Windows, but the chipmaker has said that it is working on improving Linux support.
AMD’s latest laptop chips, Ryzen 6000, which is in some Lenovo ThinkPads and Acer’s new TravelMate, embed Microsoft’s Pluton security chips. The Linux community has raised concerns about the Pluton chip — which is a Trusted Platform Module to prevent chip-level hacks — as a way for Microsoft to exert more control over PCs. But Microsoft has denied that, saying it is in fact taking steps to bring Linux support to Windows 11 PCs.