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The Framework is the most exciting laptop I've used (pluralistic.net)
2666 points by samizdis on Sept 21, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 1408 comments

Been extremely happy with mine the past couple months. The little modular port attachments seemed like a novelty at first, but now it feels absurd that you'd buy a laptop with a bunch of "hardcoded" ports that you can't ever change.

The only real Linux related quirk I've run into so far is that you have to disable panel self refresh (it's on by default and causes stuttering). Other than that tiny thing I pretty much just installed my stuff and started using it.

One little anecdote: I got a card in the mail from Framework saying that there was a problem with the cable for the touchpad, and it had instructions on how to fix it. Contrast that to my experience with Apple where they would delete forum threads for laptop problems and spend years denying issues until legal action forced them to acknowledge it.

Anyway, I'm a fan. I'm really looking forward to when the marketplace opens up with some new parts. I really want my blank keyboard. I'm hoping 2021 will be the year I can own a laptop without a god damn windows logo emblazoned on the keys.

Maybe I need some convincing here. How is the "modular port" concept any different than a universal port with dongles (i.e., how Macs have been since 2016). To me the fact that the port attachments are recessed is little more than a gimmick. Especially as all of my devices have transitioned to USB-C anyway, dongles/"modular ports" feel more like a stopgap measure than one requiring a permanent form factor change.

I find it hilarious that we spend multiple thousands of dollars on sleek, elegant hardware and then hook up chunky plastic dongles to overcome their bad hardware interfaces.

So I love the idea of these ports (agreed, they're basically "recessed dongles").

I couldn't lose them / forget them. They wouldn't take up space in my bag while I'm traveling. I could "set and forget" them to perfectly match whatever desktop / docking setup I'm using. In five years when my wireless VR system uses some as-yet-unknown hardware interface, I can swap a single component out to support it. Seems like brilliant design to me.

The crazy thing here is that it’s not so hard to hit the standard set of “pro” ports —

USB-C x 4 (new standard blabla)

USB-A x 2

SD x 1

HDMI x 1


I applaud the modular approach but Apple’s donglevision was the pure distillation of user-hostility between the Bean-Counter in Chief and the SVP, Thin Stuff.

And all the industrial sheep who followed them. May we all recover…

And after going "all USB-C, all the time" on their laptops Apple still can't figure out how to put USB-C on a phone.

At some point you have to conclude Apple is fucking with us all on purpose, just because they can.

IMHO it’s a shame that Lightning didn’t become the standard connector for USBC. There’s a reason for that: socket fragility.

The socket is the most expensive part of the connection and when it breaks, it’s bad news. If you’re lucky and the bean counters didn’t overrule engineering over a microcent saving, the socket is on a daughter card otherwise you’re stuck with a one-port-down device, or an expensive motherboard replacement.

Instead, the Lightning connector is as stupid as it gets, worst issue is pocket lint you can easily remove with a toothpick

I'd disagree with that one, with Lightning the pins are in the connector. I've broken my iPhone before trying to get lint out of the charging port and bending the pins by accident.

USB C on the other hand has all the pins cable-side so there isn't anything to worry about ramming whatever you fancy into your phone or laptop since it's just a PCB with pads on rather than anything you can bend.

> USB C on the other hand has all the pins cable-side so there isn't anything to worry about...

Instead all the lint collects around a hair-thin port insert which has all the pins on and can be just easily broken while trying to clean the lint.

I've removed tons of lint from my two iPhones for years, and both lightning ports work like they've worked as in day one.

I think he's suggesting it's easier to change a broken cable than a hard-wired port.

In my experience a sewing pin is just about the perfect thickness to get into an USB-C port. If you're even halfway careful you can dig out all the lint without damaging anything.

I do have to say that USB-C seems to be much more lint-prone than micro- or mini-USB. I have never needed to dig out any lint on my previous phones, but have had to do so a fair few times on my latest phone.

Thanks for sharing your anecdote. Mom & Dad didn't give me a call about your phones not charging yet, but knowing that it's doable is a relief.

I don't remember digging lint out of any previous USB generations either. Only a couple of USB-A connectors, which were integrated to some smaller MP3 players (yes, I remember them!).

How much lint are you producing lol? I don't think I've ever had to remove lint balls from my devices.

I'm not some furry animal :D

It's just I'm carrying my phone in a jeans pocket, and I use an iPhone for 7 years or so. :)

I’ve had two lightning ports go flaky due to use. I expect that to accelerate now that they’ve infuriatingly removed the 3.5mm Jack.

So you’re saying that PCB [1] and those pads are more solid than the low profile pins in Lightning?

I guess only a mechanical engineer can settle the argument. Anyone?

[1] https://www.mouser.sg/new/molex/molex-usb-type-c/

The receptacle housing generally prevents you from bending the connector tongue, and even if you manage to do it somehow, AFAIK it's almost never FR4 in the receptacle (although USB-C receptacles printed directly on 0.8mm PCBs work great!). It'll generally be some sort of injection molded thermoplastic that's fairly flexible, so even if you manage to bend it, it'll spring back.

As for pins vs pads, you can make pads almost arbitrarily more durable by increasing the gold plating thickness, whereas it's really hard to make pins not bend.

I disagree. In my experience the lightning port/connector is the main pain point of the iphone. Even if you clean it out with a toothpick, it stops charging well (you have to fiddle with it and even hold it in a specific position to get it to charge), the cord falls out easily, etc. I truly hate the lightning connector. I'm not sure if USB-C will be better, but it certainly can't be worse.

+1 Also this meme: https://youtu.be/-XSC_UG5_kU

Apple can figure how to put USB-C on a phone, but perhaps does not because lightning's connector has preferable RF sensitivity profile.

Not sure if it's measured as significant, but it's the sort of thing that RF engineering concerns itself with (preventing anything from detuning antennas or otherwise raising the noise floor).

> perhaps does not because lightning's connector has preferable RF sensitivity profile

Given that literally every other smartphone on the market has a USB-C port, i'd say this is not the reason why Apple used a non-standard connector, failing (voluntarily) to comply with European interoperability laws/standards.

FYI the interpretability standards passed recently were for the charging block. Every device has to charge from a usb c port so that’s why Apple switched.

Apple switched? Switched what? I'm not up to date :)

Apple are slowly migrating to solutions that feature USB-C at some level, even if they keep Lightning on the phone itself. That's because EU authorities have signalled that they know Apple are taking the mickey, and will continue making more stringent rules until Apple play ball. E.g. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-58665809

They started giving you a USB C to lightning cable instead of the usual USB A

Lightning was shipped before USB-C was standardized, if I recall.

Sep 2012 for lightning shipped, and USB-C not ratified as a standard until Aug 2014.

Micro-USB was the standard back then. All phone manufacturers had custom proprietary (though most jack-based) connectors, but due to european regulations they all switched to micro-USB to comply with standards... all, except Apple of course who went another way.

Apple was not exactly unaware of these developments, as they have repeatedly signed the memorandums of understanding surrounding charger interoperability, according to wikipedia.

For what it's worth, Lightning is dramatically better than Micro-USB ever was, and IMHO it's still better than USB-C in terms of form factor (it's thinner, allowing for thinner ports, so thinner devices) but not compatibility (I have to have a bunch of C-to-lightning cables and a bunch of C-to-C cables).

> but perhaps does not because lightning's connector has preferable RF sensitivity profile

... or because Lightning has a commercial "preferable profile" - it's another form of lock-in, and at the hardware level no less; such an extremely desirable feature, from a commercial perspective, is very, very hard to give up. It would open the door to a world where phone accessories are effectively universal, and surely we can't have that.

Apple hates you, the person that buys their stuff. It hates you so much they will go to any lengths to force you to buy more.

Let's not kid ourselves. Apple earns money from Lightning royalties.

to your point, Apple also earns money from a 2+ year head start on shipping thin-connector phones, shipped in Sep 2012 whereas usb-c had only reached a stable design decision in Aug 2014, so would wait even longer to ship.

Come on, micro usb isn't that thick either

USB-C is about 8.4*3.6 mm²

whereas USB micro-A is 6.85*1.8mm².

The difference might not be very noticeable, but USB-C is has around 3 times the area of USB micro-A.

USB-C is actually slightly thicker than micro-USB.

And yet Samsung and Google and LG all figured it out. Maybe they have better RF engineers than Apple?

Didn't Lightning ship (Sep 2012) before usb-c was standardized (Aug 2014)?

So no idea about RF engineer comparisons, but Apple seems to have stopped waiting for consensus on what USB-C would be, in wanting to ship something thin before Samsung and Google and LG could even design something thin, by almost 2 years.

Sep 2012: lightning shipped on iPhones

Aug 2014: usb-c standard written, so no devices yet.

this ordering keeps being overlooked in comments.

USB-C has been standard on phones for 5 years now, yet new iPhones still have proprietary ports. Why?

I don't know the answer either.

I wonder if some research suggests a port change would stall phone upgrades among enough users of earlier models, and that phone upgrades are lucrative.

In itself the Lightning connector apparently is better than USB-C but just look at the market of USB-C (and also USB-A which can be connected to USB-C easily) devices, compare it to that of Lightning and it becomes obvious which is better for you and why does Apple want the other.

It makes me wonder if everything would be lightning connectors if Apple had allowed others to use it without royalties.

I think one reason why lightning works great is because it is made by Apple. Apple is expensive, and therefore, it can afford to spend the couple of extra cents needed to manufacture a good connector and install it properly.

USB has to go on devices where the port already represent a sizable fraction of the cost, and there is a race to the bottom to whoever will produce the least expensive parts, and of course, it is shit. If lightning was standard, we would probably see a lot more failures, simply because not everyone has the same quality requirements as Apple.

Of course, USB doesn't have te be terrible, but when you compare USB to lightning, you compare a mixed bag of good and bad parts to only good parts. To be fair, you should only compare USB implementations from reputable, expensive brands against lightning.

> USB has to go on devices where the port already represent a sizable fraction of the cost, and there is a race to the bottom

In this context USB-C has failed hilariously, given how much do reliable full-featured USB4 cables cost.

Changing a connector is not trivial if you have hundreds of millions of customers and a massive ecosystem of third-party vendors, each with their own roadmap.

Of course, Apple could pull it off if they really wanted. They’ve done it it with iPads. But please don’t frame it as customer trolling. We’re better than that here.

Before USB-C, the universal, international standard was micro-USB and every phone manufacturer (at least in Europe) was bound by law to implement it. Apple has changed its connectors since socket interoperability became effective and they could have adopted the standard. They just purposefully ignored the consumer-respecting standards in order to keep their 40$-connector business flowing.

According to European regulations, Apple's actions are strictly illegal, but if any law enforcement actually cared to protect people from wealthy corporations, we probably wouldn't have any climate change, tax evasion, planned obsolescence, science-denial smoking ads, corporate land grabs, companies stealing water supplies from local populations... As always, laws that protect the weak from the powerful are betrayed, while laws that protect the powerful from the weak are strongly enforced.

> Before USB-C, the universal, international standard was micro-USB and every phone manufacturer (at least in Europe) was bound by law to implement it.

That is false. The EUC program was about PSUs, not device ports, and Apple was compliant by providing PSUs with detachable cables. Furthermore the EUC never legislated on the subject, they considered that the voluntary covenant worked well enough and no legislation was necessary.

> Apple has changed its connectors since socket interoperability became effective and they could have adopted the standard.

They were already complying and the “standard” at the time (micro-usb) was bad, not using it was a good thing.

> They just purposefully ignored the consumer-respecting standards in order to keep their 40$-connector business flowing.

At this point you’re just outright lying.

> According to European regulations, Apple's actions are strictly illegal

You are, and I want to make it clear that this is an objective affirmation, high as a kite.

> The EUC program was about PSUs, not device ports

Are we talking about the same thing? You seem to reference this memorandum of understanding [0] promoted by the European Commission (and signed by Apple), whereas i reference further developments such as this vote [1] which was widely advertised in the press at the time.

I am unaware whether that vote was actually turned into a regulation, but i am fully aware that the European Commission is not the entity deciding on regulations in the EU (although it has way too much power to overrun the EU parliament).

> the “standard” at the time (micro-usb) was bad, not using it was a good thing

OK micro-USB was not the best. Still much better than using custom proprietary connectors overall. Just look at how much money/resources was saved by reusing existing cables: do you remember the hot mess we were in in the early 2000s when a phone charger broke, to find a spare compatible one?! Now i can't remember the last time i had to buy a phone charger, because there's an abundance of standard cables. It's a net win for me and my wallet, and a net win for the environment.

Also, not going with a standard you deem bad is fine... if you're working to either improve the standard or replace it with another one. Which Apple never did, as they were happy to have their custom hardware which their fanatic customers would buy no matter the price.

> At this point you’re just outright lying.

I may be misinformed on specifics, but i'm for sure not lying. If you're impying that Apple (or any multinational corporation for that matter) are good faith, you have some research to do on how industrial capitalism operates and its actual consequences on people.

>> According to European regulations, Apple's actions are strictly illegal

> You are, and I want to make it clear that this is an objective affirmation, high as a kite.

OK i'm high as a kite, maybe? Does that make my message wrong on every aspect? Apple has been known to and condemned for breaking many european regulations already [2] [3] [4] [5], often engaging in actions they knew were illegal. I'm not a lawyer so i can't comment on the technical legality of their Lightning connectors, but i can for sure as a european citizen say that they knowingly and willingly violated the spirit of the law to further their profit.

And as a pseudonymous person on a random orange forum, i can say you should take more time to correct facts with actual sources, instead of defending evil corporations while accusing your peers of lying.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_external_power_supply

[1] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20130923IP...

[2] https://www.dw.com/en/apple-fined-11-billion-in-france-for-p...

[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-51413724

[4] https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/18/apple-has-finished-paying-...

[5] https://www.politico.eu/article/apple-fined-in-italy-for-mis...

Let's be charitable here, the lightning connector appears to be more durable than USB-C, at least on the device side. There's no protrusion, whereas in USB-C the contacts are on a very thin prong that çan be damaged if something small enough manages to get inside the connector.

I'm not aware of such issues, but i'm personally still running micro-USB devices only so i have zero clue. Let me know if you have links/resources on this issue.

However, i'm fully aware these were not the arguments presented by Apple when they refused the USB standards. If Apple cared for durability, which they definitely don't [0], i'm sure a lot of people would appreciate that and maybe standards could be improved across the industry.

The fact that Apple never cared for any form of standard that i know of [1] does not give them a lot of credit.

[0] They pioneered making it very hard to replace your own battery and flipped the finger on everyone by using non-standard screws on purpose. Seriously, how can it be legal to sell a product which requires any form of tooling to change a battery?! Let's not even get started on software obsolescence on iOS/macOS...

[1] USB and VGA, sure, because they were forced on them. Maybe FireWire? But even then i'm not sure it was a standard back when Apple started using it... On the software side, apart from email, DNS and WWW clients they also don't respect any standard protocols: AirPlay, iCloud, etc.

There's a difference between charitable and naive.

I doubt the USB-C durability is a large scale problem. I follow smartphone world quite closely and have never heard/read about USB-C issues.

> I follow smartphone world quite closely and have never heard/read about USB-C issues.

This isn't an effective point as the "smartphone world" is plagued by ephemeral devices which are either susceptible to programmed obsolescence or are caught in an upgrade treadmill due to a myriad of reasons (non-replaceable batteries failing, screen problems, camera issues, hardware failing due to wear, blocked software updates, fads, etc..)

> Changing a connector is not trivial if you have hundreds of millions of customers and a massive ecosystem of third-party vendors, each with their own roadmap.

And yet not only has Apple already done exactly that for iPhones (specifically: migrating from the iPod connector to Lightning), but so has virtually every Android vendor done exactly that for Android devices (specifically: migrating from USB micro-B to USB C).

> And yet not only has Apple already done exactly that for iPhones (specifically: migrating from the iPod connector to Lightning)

That’s the point though is it not? Apple was just out of a connector switch, which required users to throw out all their old accessories and get new ones. They were not going to do that again within just a few years.

> so has virtually every Android vendor done exactly that for Android devices (specifically: migrating from USB micro-B to USB C).

Historically, Android had nowhere near the accessories ecosystem of Apple.

I believe that is why Apple is starting the switchover to USB-C, with the new iPad using USB-C:

* the dock connector lived for about 10 years, we’re approaching the 10th year of Lightning, that’s a pretty good lifecycle for a connector

* the universality of USB-C amongst Android manufacturers means there now is a large ecosystem of accessories and Apple won’t have to rebuild their ecosystem from scratch

I wouldn’t be surprised if the ipad was basically a warning shot, and Apple switched the rest of their mobile devices over to USB-C with the 2022 releases.

>which required users to throw out all their old accessories and get new ones.

Not if you migrate to the standard that every other device uses. Isn’t that the exact advantage of a universal standard?

USB type C didn’t exist back then, while USB 2.0 type micro B didn’t offer the required bandwidth.

What accessories? A charging cable or headphone adapter? Ship them with the phone. There, done. In fact, Apple used to include both, but not USB-C.

> And yet not only has Apple already done exactly that for iPhones (specifically: migrating from the iPod connector to Lightning)

I feel that only confirms my point. The switch happened ten years ago, yet many people are still being mad at Apple today over it.

> but so has virtually every Android vendor done exactly that

I think I’m failing to see your point. None of those vendors has any amount of control over the USB accessory ecosystem, or do they?

> I feel that only confirms my point. The switch happened ten years ago, yet many people are still being mad at Apple today over it.

It disproves your point from multiple directions:

1. It demonstrates that Apple has no qualms about abandoning proprietary connectors and leaving an entire connector ecosystem stranded overnight.

2. It demonstrates that said connector ecosystem has no qualms about adapting to a new proprietary connector - let alone a standardized one.

And no, I know of precisely zero people upset about switching away from the iPod connector. The only thing about which anyone is upset about is the fact that Apple chose a different proprietary connector instead of using that opportunity to standardize.

> I think I’m failing to see your point. None of those vendors has any amount of control over the USB accessory ecosystem, or do they?

The bigger players absolutely do manufacture their own accessories, but that's secondary to my point: that the accessory market readily adapted to phone manufacturers switching connectors on its own. Apple, if anything, would have an easier time for the exact reason you indicate: Apple has control over the Apple accessory ecosystem, and can use that control to put additional pressure on accessory makers.

> We’re better than that here.

What do people think they're saying by saying this? No, this has literally happened here by one of "us" so "we" are clearly not better than this. Heck, "we" have done and are continuously doing far worse than this.

In case it’s not entirely clear: I was referring to HN guidelines. Accusing others of acting in bad faith is never helpful. I will continue to remind others of the rules, no matter how often they’ve been broken in the past.

Cool. Yet this behavior (and worse) is widespread and not being punished by moderators except for the most blatantly obnoxious cases. Guidelines are only relevant to the extent that they are enforced, otherwise they're just a wish list, not a code of conduct.

Speaking of good faith, a good faith reading of their comment would be that they think Apple is intentionally maintaining a non-standard connector for their smartphone range despite knowing that switching to USB-C would be beneficial to their users.

Alleging that Apple acts in bad faith hardly seems like a violation of HN guidelines. If anything, the claim that they put the needs of the users first would seem the preposterous one as one would expect them to be beholden to their shareholders (and thus profit) above all, not their customers, and there are plenty of reasons why maintaining their own connector might be more profitable.

“Putting the needs of the users first” is but one tail end of a Gauss curve, and is certainly not at all what I claimed.

“Acting in bad faith” seems like the opposite tail end to me. There’s still a huge bell-shaped curve in between.

Accusing people of acting in bad faith is impolite. Accusing companies of acting in bad faith when there is ample evidence of their wrongdoing is one's duty as a consumer.

Ample evidence for Apple’s wrongdoing? Yes.

Ample evidence for “Apple […] fucking with us all on purpose, just because they can?” Please elaborate.

No ethernet ? WiFi is nice and all but when I get a docker-compose project that decides to pull down the internet I really love the fact that I'm on a gigabit network.

This is where it goes wrong. Everyone thinks their particular favourite port is a 'pro' essential, and we end up with Homer-cars with a thousand ports. Just use USB-C. Almost everything can go through USB-C.

But not everything can go through the USB-C cable you have on hand.

That's the annoying bit with USB-C. We may have (almost) standardized on a single plug/socket shape, but we didn't escape the essential complexity - the fact that one type of connection cannot handle all the use cases we'd like it to. We just pushed that complexity into cables. Instead of having to deal with separate data, network and graphics ports, users now have to deal with potentially separate data, network, graphics and charging cables. I'm not convinced this is an improvement, because USB-C cables are a bottom-feeder market that will not hesitate to outright scam the buyer.

At this point I'm not sure it's an improvement. I feel like the optimum point would be a small amount of standards targeting mutually incompatible applications. That, or forcing some specification requirements on USB-C, and standardize some capability labels.

I hope that this is what USB4 will bring, since iiuc, USB4 is basically the IF's name for Thunderbolt-4-capable USB-C. This was enabled by Intel contributing the TB4 spec to the committee, in a shockingly benevolent move that I guess may have been the greatest internal political feat Intel staff pulled off in the last decade.

Edit: Oh and presumably the ports on the Framework are USB4, they just can't say that yet because the certification is still in the works.

Really? Interesting if true. Is that the case with other new intel gear?

Ah it seems I was slightly off, it's TB3 not TB4, "The USB4 specification is based on the Thunderbolt 3 protocol specification." [0] But it does require: USB-PD, PCIe & DP tunneling, minimum 20 Gbit speed, max 40 Gbit speed. Stated goals to "minimize end-user confusion".

I've seen some peripherals and such with it, no laptops yet though. The spec was released in 2019, so considering hardware cycle time we should start to see more devices soon. It's pretty cool that Framework will likely be on the leading edge of that wave.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB4

> PCIe tunneling

Hell yeah, USB over PCIe over USB over PCIe here we goooooo!

The Dell XPS 13 9310 has two TB4/USB4 ports.

Is Dell still gimping them to 10Gbit/s like they used to? Considered an 13" XPS for years, but then turned to Apple because of this ridiculous decision.

They'd better not be. Thunderbolt 4 mandates 32Gbps of data.

The site says each port has 4 lanes of pcie 3.0

I do not want all my USB-C cables to be able to handle 90W. That would make them very thick and expensive.

I do not want all my USB-C cables to support the maximum 40 GBps speed (or whatever it is). That would require them to have all the 19 wires and shielding and all and again, would make them expensive and short.

And just imagine how much a 90W maximum speed 3 meter cable would cost...

I prefer having one power cable, one fast cable and then a bunch of disposable cables for general use cases.

I prefer all my cables with the same heads to be exactly the same. Why thought it was a good idea to make them different? As if someone buying the cable will know the difference.

But then you lose the flexibility of using one port in many different ways. What we need is some standard color coding or other clear visual indicator on cables to reflect their capabilities.

I've opined the same before. Just put standard-colored rings (with textures, if we want to be sight-flexible) on the cables, when they're shipped from the factory.

Standardize the colors through the IF, and bam, you can tell at a glance what a cable is capable of.

Like resistors, except I don't think cables are likely to shrink too much in the future.

You'll never get Apple to do that though. They didn't with USB-3, they didn't with mouse/keyboard, they won't put them on their cables. And since they're the premium brand, everyone else will have to follow them.

I'm not sure why you're being downvoted, those examples are all absolutely true. There's no chance of Apple complying with a spec which doesn't meet their sense of industrial design (which there's no way this would).

I will say, they're not alone. Look at Razer, for instance. Electric green is not exactly a part of the USB 3 standard.

In which case Apple is welcome to deal with their users being confused about cables. I see this as how the market is supposed to work.

If it's a cable property, then Apple can do whatever it wants with its cables. And everyone else can do what they want with theirs.

But if Apple can do it then so will all the cheap cable manufacturers and everyone else will be confused too.

Some manufacturers following an indicator spec is better than what we have now.

Which is a great solution if all you have are Apple cables, but colored rings fall off or get broken. It's like the US solution to healthcare: "don't be poor", it's not practical in real-world sense. People are going to buy (and make) whatever shit cable they want and regulations and standards don't mean a thing.

You could colour the plastic inside the connector. That would be invisible once plugged which would probably suit Apple etc.

I would have to go with the parent comment although I know what you're saying as it would reduce cost.

I think what we've learned throughout the years is that your color coding idea doesn't work out in practice due to an earlier comment stating that the USB-C market being bottom-feeder. There has to be an exact, rigid specification of USB-C cables that all of them should follow (i.e. USB4/TB4). Any more complicated than that like color coding results in giant scams by manufacturers, outright wrong, or impossible-to-find cables on an eCommerce search engine. I just don't want to deal with any of those anymore. It feels so much nicer right now to look up TB4 on AliExpress and be done with it, no more worrying or guessing.

USB-PD permits 100 W with 20 V at 5 A. If that's carried over just two round copper wires (I don't know whether it is in USB-C) they would need to be 18-gauge or thicker for safety—about 0.94 millimeters. If they're copper, that's about 7.3 grams of copper per meter, 14.6 grams including the return path. Copper is expensive: almost US$7/kg. So a 3-meter 5-amp DC or two-phase cable would weigh 45 grams and contain 15¢ worth of copper. You could drop both the cost and the weight by going to aluminum. If you were designing the system from scratch, you could use 3-phase AC to cut the weight by half again, and use 48 volts to cut the weight by another 58%.

I don't have any idea how thick the 19 wires have to be for USB 40Gbps (GBps?) but I imagine the answer is "not nearly that thick".

Cables cost about 5$, no one would give a fuck if they cost $5.15

Bottom of the barrel vendors will absolutely give a fuck and will cheap out without telling you.

The advantage of USB 2 is that it's so simple that it's very hard to screw it up. You pretty much have to intentionally do it if you want to create a dangerous cable. Even the shittiest cable will work with the vast majority of devices (it might slightly heat up, voltage may sag at the receiving end meaning it will charge slower, but it'll somewhat work).

USB-C is significantly more complex and requires active electronics in the cable itself in some cases, and the potential for higher voltages means a faulty/recklessly-designed cable could request higher voltage from the charger and blow up whatever's connected at the other end.

The chip in the cable just identifies it. Cables don't request voltages.

And the cheap cables won't have that chip, so they'll support 60 watts.

That's my thinking, yes.

Afaik, signaling frequency is typically cross-talk limited, vs diameter limited. Think more shielding, stricter tolerances over thicker.

It sounds like you could maybe make substantial progress by just separating the differential pairs (?) by a millimeter or two of dielectric, giving you a ribbon cable, with much lower crosstalk than the round kind. Bonus points if you color the dielectric rainbow colors.

I feel like it's harder than shielding and tolerances, given that longer passive cables don't seem to exist despite the very high prices people are paying for active cables.

There might be issues of attenuation; we're talking about signals in the GHz range, where you have to use waveguides instead of wires to get low losses.

> I do not want all my USB-C cables to be able to handle 90W. That would make them very thick and expensive.

The difference between the minimum and 100W is that the cables need to support 5 amps instead of 3. That's not much difference at all considering there are data wires too.

Supporting 240W requires a couple tiny components in the plug. That's also barely anything.

Cables handle 60W not by being thicker, but by allowing a higher voltage. The thickness of the cable is decided by amperage, not voltage.

So when operating at 90W the cable only needs to be a tiny bit thicker and negligibly more expensive than a normal 15W cable.

By “expensive” are you talking in the $20-30 range for a single sufficiently long cable? I don’t replace cables that often but I don’t see the big deal paying a reasonable for a high throughput cable when needed.

So the problem is that those cable aren't identifiable without special tester.

They are if you buy the right cables. Just buy cables which have the capabilities you want, and are obvious to you. It's pretty easy, as long as you're willing to put about 5 minutes into the effort one time.

Then I need to put a specification label to every cable.

Lots of angry people on this thread who don't realize cables with icons describing their function exist. You just need to look.

It's definitely an improvement, because you can still carry the one cable that does it all, and use it for everything, even the things that don't actually require it.

>and we end up with Homer-cars with a thousand ports.

And what exactly is wrong with that?

Ever seen musician's gear?

Even the cheapest, smallest mixer boards support XLR, RCA, 1/4", and often USB for audio I/O -- and have many of them.

Because yes, everyone has something essential to their flow, and number of configurations grows exponentially.

> And what exactly is wrong with that?

Honestly? Presentation. That's why I consider it a dumb argument in general. People mention "Homer's car" or equivalent memes from works of fiction as some kind of ridiculous contraptions, but don't bat an eye when a show like Star Trek does the same. The big difference, IMO, is that Homer's car is delivered to you up front, a solution looking for problem(s). Star Trek's tricorder or roundabout or a starship only happen to show a different one-off feature every episode - so the realization that the equipment is deeply multipurpose, and has all those features already present, kind of flies past people who're not into this sort of thing.

The issue for me is how silly it is to hard-code these arbitrary and often single-purpose connectors in the laptop.

A laptop should be a general computing device. So why hard-code something as weirdly specific as an SD card reader into it? Give it the functionality to have any IO device attached (USB-C) instead.

> Give it the functionality to have any IO device attached (USB-C) instead.

Because a laptop is a portable device, and carrying something with dongles dangling from it is something that nobody wants to do.

Hence the solution that the Framework offers: a device body that allocates space for USB-C dongles such that they fit flush when installed.

Now all we need is an industry standard for those.

How many additional watt-hours of battery would they have been able to fit in the laptop if they didn’t have the carve-outs for such dongles?

Say what you want about the MacBook’s lack of user-replacability, but it’s basically a tiny chip board about the same size as the iPhone’s, with a big box of batteries holding it.

> How many additional watt-hours of battery would they have been able to fit in the laptop if they didn’t have the carve-outs for such dongles?

Looking at the insides, I'm going to guess about 2 watt hours. Or they could have made it unmeasurably thinner.

> Say what you want about the MacBook’s lack of user-replacability, but it’s basically a tiny chip board about the same size as the iPhone’s, with a big box of batteries holding it.

Framework has 55 watt hours. The obsolete macbooks have 41. Both intel and M1 macbook pros have 58. Both intel and M1 macbook airs have 50.

Sounds like that lack of user-replacability isn't necessary.

Yeah I'm still waiting on the improved battery life that losing 3.5mm was supposed to give me.

Not buying it. I'll take extra 2mm for 3.5mm and usb a.

Going to get into the 1.5mm jack life

Not enough to justify cutting them out.

(The answer is of the same level as question. If you want to imply that there's a significant gain, go prove it.)

Yup, I'm singing praise to Framework here.

The sanest system I've seen in a decade at least.

I don't even need a new laptop, and I still want this one.

I guess PCMCIA was kind of like this. Of course dongles were bigger back then.

Man I loved the idea of PCMCIA back in the day. Mobile network access (EDGE, if I remember correctly) via one of them on my chunky Toshiba was awesome.

I was fascinated by PCMCIA, because I had a laptop I was trying to put OpenBSD on it in 2001 and its ethernet port was not working, so the card was a workaround. I always wondered why it didn't really take off in Europe, it was a simple and pretty compact way (for the time) to get very advanced stuff in a laptop - I guess it was expensive to produce and the name was atrocious. I believe it got more popular in Japan.

I very much enjoy multiple USB 3 ports, ethernet, card reader on my laptop and do not have to carry any dongles. And I can easily hook 2 x 4K 60P screens using built in HDMI and mini-DP ports. It also has thunderbolt 3 so I can still hook anything extra should I ever wish.

That argument would make far more sense if these anorexia laptops at least compensated for the removed ports with more USB ports. But no, you get the same pathetic 4 (at most) as always.

Even worse when they're the pathetic failure (host-side) that is USB-C, so nothing fits without a dongle anyway. Bonus points if you have to waste one of them for charging the laptop, yay!

From what I have seen, it is more the hobby/semi professional range that has all the possible connectors built in whereas in the high end it is more modular and you buy different modules dependent on the connectivity you need. Especially if you need to fit it into a rack. E.g. you might only have some DSUB 25 pin connectors, but they cover dozens of analog I/O channels on minimal amount of space.

I'm not sure a mixer is the best comparison here since its sole purpose is to combine inputs.

Yeah, and what's the point of having I/O ports on a computer?

> Ever seen musician's gear?

I guess some of those are analogue? I guess you can't squeeze those all through the same physical form factor connector. You can with digital, so let's reduce the clutter and do it!

I'm not a musician, but I've seen plenty of DJs setup their gear. It is clear that the connectors and cables are designed to be physically durable. They work in environments where even a beefed up USB cable would only last a few gigs, since building compact connectors for consumer grade electronics is at odds with the day to day reality of commercial applications.

I'm sure that other factors play a role. The economics of going digital would be terrible if it meant replacing a significant amount of equipment every time a new standard took over the market. Again, pointing to USB (since that it what everyone seems to associate with universal digital connections), we have seen three major iterations and a number of minor ones over the past 30 years. That's hardly the type of cycle that businesses want to hop onto given that a tiny operation requires thousands of dollars of equipment, where any given component may be anywhere from a couple of years old to over a decade old.

> we have seen three major iterations and a number of minor ones over the past 30 years.

... None of which broke existing functionality. I can plug a full-speed device from 2000 into a USB-3 A port and it will work perfectly (as long as there is still software support for the vendor-specific drivers that might have been necessary for non-class-compliant devices).

Except for USB, they are all analogue, and some are mutually interchangeable.

3.5mm TRS, dual 3.5mm TS, dual RCA, 1/4" TRS, dual 1/4" TS, XLR cables transfer the same kind of signal, and you can easily convert between the connector with dongles.

Mixers have all of these so that you wouldn't have to.

The utility is not thinking about where the f***ing dongle is when you just want to plug something in.

Most modern mixers support toslink (and even coaxial sometimes), especially ones that are specifically oriented towards timecode control.

my gear has toslink as well

One man's clutter is another man's treasure. I hate dongles and extra parts, give me a fuckton of different ports!

Yes, exactly, let’s suggest musicians to use USB-C, and every third cable won’t work, and they will be able to make a concert but with no guitar, exactly like the devices in front of us when we try to work.

The only insurance against “the USB-C downtime” is a subscription to Amazon Prime 24hrs delivery and another $68 (no kidding) Apple cable.

> Yes, exactly, let’s suggest musicians to use USB-C

Not sure what you mean - I said didn't really apply to analogue.

There's thunderbolt, USB 3, USB 4. External adapters of varying quality and capabilities are often inferior to even budget integrated stuff.

For example getting a 4k 60FPS HDMI dongle was going to cost me >100$, and the cheap ones I had overheated. Meanwhile a budget laptop with HDMI and integrate graphics works fine. Getting a dock with gigabit ethernet, high res HDMI, decent SD reader and a fast hub was >200$ last time I checked - and not that portable either.

Cannot agree more. USB-C is a big mess. I've quite a few of them in different specs. Some can do 100w PD, some support DP-Alt mode, some are Thunderbolt 3, and some are USB 3.0 and can allow a maximum of 2A, some even only support USB 2, however can deliver 5A. Put all those mess aside, some started to fail just after being used a couple of times.

Pro is 2xUSBC, 2xUSBA and HDMI.

That covers pretty much every common scenario when travelling.

USB-C for a connecting to a dock, HDMI for a meeting room screen, USB-A for reading a flash drive.

Homer cars is a macbook with a bunch of stupid HDMI and usb-c to usb-a dongles hanging off it so you can read a flash drive or connect to a meeting room screen.

Apart from displays which are objectively garbage though USB-C

My newest laptop gets a fairly consistent 700-800Mbps on WiFi.

Don't get me wrong I still prefer ethernet to avoid packet loss and reduce latency but download throughput isn't a problem I notice on WiFi anymore (since I'm also only on a 1Gbit/s line)

Your laptop is not magic, it will only get those speeds with the right access point and if you are close enough to it.

If you carry your laptop someplace else it might not find itself in such ideal conditions.

What a bizarre retort. It should also be fairly obvious that if you carry your laptop somewhere else you're not going to be able to reach it with the ethernet cable, either.

If you have a good WiFi network at home, that's great when your laptop is at home, but if you carry it outside your home you are at the mercy of whatever infrastructure you find there.

Usually if you need to transfer large amounts of data you can still plug in an Ethernet cable in e.g. an office.

Why not? They come up to 300 feet long, in all colors, optionally flat and thin and easily deliver more speed than any (current) WiFi can.

Because usually, you can't just throw a 100m cable through a building and plug it just into some Ethernet socket. And who wants to carry around a spool of cable?

I like how the guy’s wearing a belt of I don’t know what, 7.62x39?, and they point out the stun gun for self defense.

Labeled a cyberpunk but it looks like the perfect 90’s amateur mobile porn production studio.

Yah, well, Mondo2000, California... probably got some inspiration there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MONDO_2000 :-)

Yeah I used to be a stickler for everyone being plugged in for video calls but it really isn't necessary anymore.

I don’t know really… yes Ethernet is nice to have but in 16 years of using an MBP as my “pro” machine in a big company I needed it like twice, 14 years ago. So yeah in principle, you’re right.

I use the ethernet port on my laptop every day. Gigabit internet is far superior to my wifi.

Yeah at home my work laptop is always plugged into ethernet. I use WiFi for my phone and my old “tv watching” laptop.

Why should anyone waste the precious space in a ultrportable laptop on the newfangled and time unproven technology which Ethernet is? I want my Token Ring port back to connect to my ring in a box with a Boy George connector – to celebrate the diversity of the computing I have filled up the basement and the attic of my house with.

Prole. FDDI it is! ;-)

I'm not disagreeing with the value of a wired Ethernet connection, but both my new ThinkPads (P1 and X1E Gen 3) have gigabit Wi-Fi. Connected to my Asus RT-AX86U, I got a 935Mbps download on a speed test over Comcast.

I had heard that 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) was pretty good, and it sure looks that way so far. I have some good Cat 8 Ethernet cables, so I will experiment with that too.

Early WiFi 6E routers have been clocked at 1.8 Gbps!

Thanks to their expansion card developer program, if you're not the lone voice in the desert, someone can build one!


I have fiber optics internet connection at home, and my 4 year old MacBook Pro does consistently over 500Mbps (peaks close to 700Mbps) over WiFi. Granted, it’s still not 1Gbps, but I can’t think of any regular scenario where it would make a significant difference.

You just need a good wireless router.

I live in an apartment building, while I have a 5g router in my living room my work room is separated by a bearing wall, but even in the same room I often get random interference where the internet starts stuttering.

My desktop with ethernet is way more stable than my MBP WIFI. Also ping is noticeably lower for games.

For $15 USD you can get a USB to gigabit Ethernet adapter. Many (most?) laptops don't have Ethernet on them anymore.

Because the RJ-45 won't physically fit. So you need a dongle just for the physical connector. Therefore it may as well be an active dongle from USB-C.

Hmm, I think the RJ-45 fits well enough on my 2019 Acer Aspire laptop. With the spring-loaded flap shut, it ends up being no thicker than the HDMI port next to it.

There were also the things from lenovo https://youtu.be/ZzHAaaVVLTs?t=45

seems they're working on it https://community.frame.work/t/ethernet-rj45/2203/2

if there's a bounty on it, i'll pick it up :)

Apple did one good thing, which is make every USB-C port have the same capabilities (charging, thunderbolt). Windows laptops, especially once you get down into the budget section, are absolutely atrocious at this, you have to read little lightning symbols and can only charge from a special port...

Which came at the cost of just having fewer ports. 2 USB-C ports is a joke even if they are both thunderbolt 3 capable. One is taken by charging if you don't have a thunderbolt dock with power delivery, leaving you with effectively a single port.

I thought they didn’t do that? Has this changed for MacBooks recently?

It's always been that way on Macbooks. It's also simplified with USB 4, which means the newest Macbooks just support everything under Thunderbolt / USB 4 on every port. Older Macbooks may have had some Display Port shenanigans because of differences between DP 1.2 and DP 1.4 and whether it was over Thunderbolt 3 or USB 3.1, but all modes were basically supported.

Any port on any Macbook with USB-C can be used as the charging port, which is a big deal all on its own compared to most non-Macbook laptops that use USB-C charging.

You're right. I guess I was confused by the differences before re-reading it again


Then it overheats like hell if you connect it from the wrong side.

USB-C is much more complicated than most of us would anticipate, I would prefer to make it more specific: 2 Thunderbolt and 2 USB 3.2 gen 1. And I don't know when was the last time I used SD, let's save it for something else. And on a computer, I would prefer DP or mini-DB over HDMI.

A laptop is a computer you use on the go. I don't see how this usage pattern includes that much of external hardware to use all those ports. Smartphone, data stick - that's it.

There may be a kinda-permanent place, where one using their laptop most of the time. I don't see any problem having a dock station there with all the the ports and a power routed via single USB C or Thunderbolt port.

The problem is not the industry. The problem is people using laptops where they should use desktop computers. Which are, coincidentally, are modular and expandable through the roof.

Not everyone is rich enough to also buy a desktop computer or have space for it? Not to mention that the hassle of duplicating software and data files between a laptop and a desktop is too much work for anyone who does not actually like to spend time on tech.

If I am on a tight budget, getting a desktop instead of a laptop is a no-brainer. There are very narow field where laptop is a must, and most of this are valid for employed individuals, so the burden of providing the hardware is on employer.

...and ethernet.

Its not crazy. Its sickening.

> The crazy thing here is that it’s not so hard to hit the standard set of “pro” ports —

Given that the cheapest USB hub allows you to plug in half a dozen USB-A devices and SD cards, and given that frequently they are not used at all by anyone, why would it be preferable to add 3 dedicated ports instead of just using one of the four available USB-C ports?

The same goes to the HDMI and phone/mic ports.

In fact, nowadays you have monitors that not only support video over USB-C but also serve as USB-A hubs, which means that with a single USB-C connector you can get everything you mentioned in your example.

Insulting all Apple users by calling them "industrial sheep" may put you into conflict with having your views given reasonable consideration, not to mention the site guidelines. It's not generally okay here to call people names for disagreeing with your views.

I'm not positive, but I think they were talking about Apple's competitors rather than their users. Samsung, for example, dropped the aux port for dongles soon after Apple.

I misread, based on replies. Thanks for pointing out another interpretation, all. Apologies.

Indeed I meant most other laptop manufacturers, who copy Apple’s designs almost as cravenly as do smartphone manufacturers.

I’m a longtime MacBook user myself, and I do like my new Air, but I have two adapters plugged into it half the time.

I don't see how your original comment does not apply if it's targetted to a different group.

Even if it's companies, they are "companies of people".

Seems a bit disingenuous.

I accepted the correction from others here in accordance with a site guideline about this exact scenario:

> Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith.

I was unable to come up with a good faith and plausible interpretation; others found one that I'd missed, and thus I retracted my objection. The author apparently later confirmed their interpretation, but that was not factored into my retraction, and is not relevant to the guideline I'm trying to adhere to.

To your comment about "disingenuous", I've spent most of my life being misunderstood for making perfectly logical statements that other people decided were some sort of slander instead of trying to understand in good faith given the context that I'm a nerd with social disorders. So I'd prefer to avoid being upset with someone else over a misinterpretation when I wish others would be less upset with me about them.

Good approach, and I guess I can see my comment to be along the lines of those "perfectly logical" ones, but ignoring the social context: I try, though :)

Thanks for the honest perspective!

I think he might have been referring to manufactures trying to copy Apple's trendsetting lead, not the users of Apple devices.

I don't understand the logic. When the original usb-c MBP came out I spent $30 on Monoprice for usb-c to whatever cables and never looked back. I even still have many of those cables 3 laptops later.

People would actually comment about dongle gate in Meetups and I'd show them my usb-c to micro-usb cable... ...oh the look of shock in their eyes... "You mean... you never bought a dongle?". The concept of a cable with usb-c at one end and anything else at the other was completely foreign.

I had that complaint when working in a 5 story building and spending a third of my awake hours in meetings here and there.

That 30$ dongle become either a dangling bit you'll have on your laptop all day, it will be hiting stuff, get under the laptop, or worse case scenario stuck between the screen and the keyboard when you don't pay attention. As it'd always dangling it also become loose over time and get flacky accordingly.

Back then having a HDMI port was standard, no dongle being the norm. So yeah, having the choice between needing a permanent dongle or not, the answer is obvious.

What changed for me is WFH, otherwise I thing I'd still wish for no dongle until USB-C projectors and displays rule the world.

I have a monitor that acts as USB hub and power source, everything is plugged into it and then one single cable connects it and all of that and power to my company issued MacBook. Every meeting room used to have hdmi and DP and thunderbolt connectors but no more because every company issued laptop is now capable of thunderbolt (MacBook or dell precision series if you opt in for Linux)

If the company officially used many laptops with USB-C ports, it would make sense to have a USB-C to HDMI in every room with a projector, rather than making everyone carry their own.

Isn't plugging unknown USB-C-anything a huge security risk? It would be easy for a visitor to "forget" an evil adapter in a meeting room, and if employees are in habit of using them, boom.

Yes, I'm sure you could make one which acted as a USB-HDMI converter as well as a rubber ducky. sprinkle a few around, maybe bribe a cleaner to leave one in a meeting room, and you're set.

I think it's even easier than that; we now have cables that are normal shape and size of a USB connector that have an embedded system in them with a webserver, keyboard emulation, mass storage and wifi for a remote attacker to connect to.

It's also easier to just ask to quickly use the worker's computer to get a presentation going.

"Oh yeah sorry, my presentation is made in PowerShell instead of PowerPoint".

Yep. But so is a visitor dropping a bag of USB Mass Storage devices anywhere. Or a visitor with a proxmark grabber in his bag/suitcase.

Yes. Transition periods are always painful in that respect, worsened this time as a ton of “business” line windows laptops still have a HDMI port, same for Dell’s linux offering for instance.

When the first full USB-C Macs went out they definitely were the odd ones out in the company, and even now there’s still that split between run of the mill windows laptops and macs. Adaptors are more common, but it’s still not great.

> worsened this time as a ton of “business” line windows laptops still have a HDMI port, same for Dell’s linux offering for instance

This should not matter as long as they also have a fully functional USB-C (which I'd guess they do).

It plays more on the "why don't you just ... ?" question that raises when you ask for adapters being standard in every room.

It reminds me of asking to include decaffeinated pods in our recurring coffee orders for the espresso machine. The person had no opinion on coffee, but wasn't convinced they needed to accommodate for the minority that was concerned.

Luckily, we could always make it worse; there were times where full-sized ports were thought of standard yet we had PCs and Macs with mini-versions that were specific to the manufacturer (like mini-composite, AV-jacks, mini-VGA, mini-DVI).

I concur! I have about 3-4 different usb-c to what ever cables and one usb-c to female A port for thumb drives. My thinking has always been that having all usb-c “future-proofs” for future configurations… maybe I will have two HDMI external monitors in the future, rather than display port and DVI? Easy, just get two usb-c to HDMI cables when that scenario arises. With cables it allows for so many different configurations rather than proprietary modular adaptors that any given company might give up on, decide to sunset older versions for new ones with more features. After living what you just described for the last few years I can’t for the life of me fathom how this modular approach will gain mass appeal. USB-C with cables seems far more flexible to me.

Similarly, I bought some adapters that I carry around. I travel between a couple of locations, and I bring just one charging wall plug, and one 10-foot USB-C cable.

I have adapters that convert the usb-c to micro and lightning, to also charge my airpods, flashlight, etc. Each adapter is about 3/4" (2cm), female USB-C end, and male end of lightning/micro. I've glued them together so that it's just one little thing to take.

I hated carrying around 3+ cables, so this has been a welcome change.

It's true that I can only charge one thing at a time, but that's not an issue for me except in rare circumstances.

This sounds like a much better solution than mine. Rather than cables I should have gone with little adapters. Then I just need to take a couple usb-c cables and I can work with any legacy port.

As it stands I typically have four cables in my briefcase but at least they are still smaller than a mouse collectively.

what if I......want more than one usb port?

I bought one of these: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07QXMNF1X/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b...

One USB-C connection powers my laptop, connects to my monitor, as well as my wireless mouse and keyboard.

I love the modular laptop concept, but not for ports. For those who don’t want them hanging, these are perfectly color matched, made of the same kind of aluminum as the Air, and sit flush. I prefer it to having extra bulk to the base laptop.


That's a lot of extra steps to just having the damn ports.

Sounds like it's actually fewer steps when connecting+disconnecting to stop+start work.

I’d argue it’s less steps than preordering the framework laptop, pulling it apart and swapping modules around.

The average person can walk in to the apple store and walk out with a MacBook and usb c hub just fine.

Modules slide out, you don't need a screw driver or anything. It's all by hand. Hence the easy of use.

So no pulling anything apart. Think of it almost as each one as a game boy cartridge.

Example: my external USB mic (much better than the internal one) and my USB disk for daily local backups, connected to two different ports this morning (and many other days.)

I have this one, it's inexpensive, and works well: https://www.amazon.com/Anker-Upgraded-Delivery-Pixelbook-A83...

But toting around a dongle is exactly the problem we're trying to solve.

Oh, I was just answering how to add ports to a laptop with only one port.

Well... This is an idea I never had lol.

I did the same. I don't love using them, but it's better than keeping different cables around.

Your unwillingness to understand or empathize is a form of dishonesty. Just because you personally never needed a dongle doesn't mean such situations don't exist or that they are somehow boundary conditions.

Did you actually read my post? If your use case is so esoteric that you actually must use a dongle… I doubt either end of that cable is USB-A.

Is needing an HDMI connection to hookup your laptop to a projector at a conference or in a meeting room esoteric?

You act like these situations are unimaginable when they are literally every day occurrences for some people.

I don’t see a problem with them. The majority of users never need one and even when I use them I usually use them infrequently. I often leave them on the ends of cables. My display port cable has a usb c dongle left on it so it’s like it’s natively usb C anyway.

Sure, if you do some weird stuff or have an extreme use case, I can see why you would want more built in ports, but for the majority of users, they only plug in the charging cable and maybe video out.

1. Most people don't need to use any dongles at all

2. Most people that do need them, only need them for connecting to their own stuff, so they can just keep the dongle attached to the peripheral

And also, if you want to be able to switch out your recessed dongles, you will need to keep track of them in your bag.

I don't understand how this meme about "dongles" still exists. You know how I avoided using dongles? I just used USB-C cables.

And for the very few things that don't have a detachable cable, I use a micro USB-C adapter.

It's been several years since the release of the USB-C only MacBook Pros, this shouldn't be an issue if you put in a minimal amount of effort.

HN bubble at work, right here.

Some of my clients still have projectors with... vga ports.

Then you need ethernet and hdmi of course, regularly in the corporate world or at your friends house.

So yeah, dongle it is. USB-C dongle for sure, but still dongle.

HN bubble at work, right here.

Some of my clients still have vt220 terminals with... serial ports.

Then you need a 9600 baud modem and rj11 wire of course, regularly in the corporate world or at your friends house.

So yeah, dongle it is. USB 1.1 dongle for sure, but still dongle.

Not fair. Very few laptops have serial port (I came up with GPD Micro PC) and maybe zero have modem, but some laptops have VGA port. Manufacturers know that VGA is still used but serial/modem aren't.

These days I suspect that something like a toughbook might be the only option for those sort of ports - although that GPD Micro PC does look quite fun.

Even 10-15 years ago, proper serial ports were becoming extremely rare, but there are times when you need a proper one.

Around that time we resorted to pc card/express card serial ports for occasions when USB to serial isn't good enough, although they were relatively expensive (3-4 times more than a USB serial dongle).

(The use case in that scenario was field engineers connecting to a very wide variety of odd equipment, like fire alarm panels and door entry systems, that sort of thing - USB dongles were massively inconsistent and unreliable - different dongles would be compatible/incompatible with different kit, was a right mess).

Obviously, these days, express card slots are also quite rare.

(The alternative is hauling out my old IBM T22, which I think maybe came with Win98... mostly still works apart from the battery).

Serial is less useful as you need a serial cable, so if you're going to carry a serial cable you might as well have one with USB on the end.

If you're going into an RJ45 serial connection (like I am at the moment), then an ideal laptop would have multiple RJ45s which could be used as either 10G or serial with a standard cat5 cable (not a specially wired one).

Maybe good news: GPD Micro PC seems to have ITE IT8987E for serial port rather than USB-Serial chip. https://pc.watch.impress.co.jp/docs/column/hothot/1166289.ht...

> but some laptops have VGA port

Do any (non-specialist) laptops still have VGA ports? I had a quick look on the Dell site and couldn't find any.

In Japanese market, some latest models support VGA but mostly by domestic brand. Some models are made by Clevo or whatever, so possibly also available on other markets. Here's a list: https://kakaku.com/pc/note-pc/itemlist.aspx?pdf_Spec047=1

Those are seems to available on other markets. https://www.asus.com/Laptops/For-Work/ExpertBook/ExpertBook-... https://www.fujitsu.com/global/products/computing/pc/noteboo...

I too also throw away perfectly good gear because of a decision apple made!

Stupid analogy - HDMI, RJ45, and USBA provide the same experience as using usb-c equivalents.

I use a USB-Serial cable about once a week. I use an ethernet cable dozens of times a day.

Framework means in theory I could have a laptop (Well in theory) with say 4 ethernet / serial ports (switchable) and SDI, and that's far more useful to me than USB-C.

Exactly! And many people still need to use floppy disks and parallel ports.

That could be covered by something like this concept:

The Admin Book A4

[1] https://habr.com/en/post/437912/


For this exact reason I carry a projector(with a mira/chromecast dongle in my car whenever I have to train engineers at our partners offices).

And if you're speaking at a conference and have to use whatever is available?

All the conferences I’ve been to had dongles readily available. Most used hdmi. Once I had hastily arranged breakout room that had VGA for the Beamer. I think this is a non-issue?

I always carry it with me but usually they have some sort of screen casting tech around already. I do make it clear from the planning stages that they need to provide either one of 3 video inputs to their selected system (HDMI/DP/Screen casting) or they need to provide the computer that I can use to remote into my 13"(this is what they usually choose if they have older screens or projectors).

Then you'll take a dongle with you to that conference? Are you telling me you would always waste one of the 4? framework ports for Display Ouput X that you only use once a year?

ethernet and serial dongles are a requirement for emergency maintenance inside of datacenters. But of course not many people on hn spend time in datacenters anymare...

It's also needed for just making sure your internet is setup properly at home. Nobody cares about your speed test over wifi, but ISP's sometimes care if you can't get anywhere close to the rated speeds over Ethernet.

And of course that setup still requires Ethernet. Can't setup a wifi ap over wifi.

These should be part of the crash cart...

Wow. You must be going places with some seriously luxury crash carts ;)

I'm normally happy if the power cable for the screen is still there...

If they continued to support USB-A natively then the industry would be even slower to pick up USB-C

HN bubble at work, right here.

Framework does not even offer a VGA module, do they?

But it would be easy to make one yourself! Though fitting the port itself may be a challenge...

Yet. They are just getting started. Plus their modules have an open design.

I'm curious as to how those work out. The modules are too short to fit a VGA, serial, or ethernet port and be flush with the laptop, but I think you could make one that extends further out and above, and would still have some benefits over a dongle.

> The modules are too short to fit a VGA, serial, or ethernet port and be flush with the laptop...

I'd be fine with a pop out style port for those ports. Won't be flush while in use, but I'd happily accept that to trade off having to carry around dongles. I'd rather pack and carry a small "stick" of these modules stacked together than a bundle of dongles.

I give it three months tops before someone starts selling a Pez-like "dispenser" that stores these modules. If the module bodies were designed to stick together though, that would spark joy in my inner Marie Kondo.

Why carry a stick of modules instead of a single dongle[1] that has every port you'd need?

1: https://www.kensington.com/p/products/device-docking-connect...

There are cables for USB-C to VGA and HDMI, no dongle required.

Ethernet, OK, I will give you that.

I would argue that a USB-C to VGA or HDMI cable is just a longer dongle. What if you take your USB-C-only laptop to a remote office to do a presentation, but your six foot USB-C to HDMI cable isn't long enough to reach the port because the projector is mounted in the ceiling and has a standard HDMI cable routed to the lectern? I'd much rather have the Framework with a HDMI port on the device than struggle with a common situation like that.

> What if you take your USB-C-only laptop to a remote office to do a presentation, but your six foot USB-C to HDMI cable isn't long enough to reach the port because the projector is mounted in the ceiling and has a standard HDMI cable routed to the lectern?

I personally really like the idea of what Framework is doing and wish more laptops followed suit, but that is a trivially solved problem you identified:


Of course it's trivially solved...with a dongle for your dongle! Or you could avoid dongle-ception by using a modular laptop like the Framework, or even a standard laptop with an HDMI port; even current-gen models from Dell, Lenovo, and HP still have it as an option especially on business-oriented machines. It all comes down to what your everyday requirements and tolerances allow for.

But again, the "dongle" argument is moot and not really a reason to either consider or avoid the Framework, for me at least. It's more about the device being open and repairable, and arguments about dongles are just attempts to justify one's current USB-C only device.

> It all comes down to what your everyday requirements and tolerances allow for

Agree completely. For me, Apple's USB-C only ports isn't an issue as everything I use plugs in via one or two TB3 cables (depending on personal vs work laptop) and daisy chains from the monitor or a TB3 dock so no dongles needed at all, but I still appreciate the design choice Framework made and think it's a good strategy.

I don't see how putting a cable in my backpack is going to be better than a dongle, and I'm certainly not going to a client for the first time then complain they don't have the right cable.

Not to mention the dongle supports several ports.

But you know what is better than either ?

The framework laptop solution of letting me configure the port I want before going to my client.

Are you going to ask in advance "what type of plug should my laptop have to connect to your monitor" or bring a pocket full of ports?

USB-C to VGA? How is that not a dongle? Those protocols are in no way compatible...

Theoretically you could emulate the signal with software/drivers given that USB-C has 24 pins. But there's actually display standards/signals built into USB-C so you "just have to" convert the digital signal to analog for VGA, but then it's no longer a stupid cable and more like a dongle.


I don't understand how one USB-C to VGA cable is more inconvenient?

Never have I seen a greater push against good design. The laptop ship with USBc if you didn't pick that up.


Or, if you don't want, you can grab A VGA module out of your drawer you store all your retired dongles in, slide it into your laptop, and there you have it.

This is not about using a module vs a cable. My comments refer to using a cable instead of a dongle. People make it seem as though using a dongle is the ONLY way to, for example, connect your MacBook Pro to a TV when you could just use a cable for it.

I was going to present from my phone to a projector the other day, but ( probably due the wear and tear of putting in the charger every day for several years) it was glitchy, so I asked if I could borrow a newer phone and got a few month old, still glitchy, so I had to use a PC anyway. The plan was that I was going to walk around with my phone during the presentation...

What I'm trying to say with this story is that for example monitor cable connectors are designed to fit tightly (vga and dmi even having screws) to give a constant signal, which you don't get from USB-C unless you stand still.

I carry a battery powered projector for this reason for talking with customers, providers or partners. I use standard airport suitcases for that.

It just makes no sense spending lots of time trying to adapt to obsolete infrastructure for every person you visit. If necessary I even have a blackboard and color chalks in my car and get away with them.

When I go to the meeting room, if I don't need to use my projector, great, but I will never use VGA, too much hassle.


- some conf room don't have a projector, but flat screens, a smart white boards or some remote conf setup that needs you to plug in, and/or no walls that fits the bill for projection

- some conf rooms don't have a place to put for your projector and get a good picture. Their is own the ceiling.

- unless you buy a very good one, some conf rooms won't have the light for your projector to be readable

- it addresses only the projector problem, not ethernet, sd card, usb A, etc

- a good projector is way more expensive that a few dongles, are easier to break, harder to replace if lost/broken or if you forget it at home

Not to say it's a bad idea to _also_ have a projector.

What projector do u use?

In 2019 my new employer sent me a new MacBook pro. I couldn’t connect it to my home office monitors which had vga and dvi ports, so I asked for dongles.

Rather than try to sort out the cable confusion, they simply shipped me brand new monitors (which I wasn’t asking for). I also needed dongles to attach my keyboard and mouse, dongles for same were provided by IT.

My point: Dongles are still an issue, not everyone throws out their displays/keyboard/mouse every time apple comes out with some new version. My 2010 dell displays still work just fine, and it would be great if I could plug them straight into my laptop.

While I'm not a big fan of dongles, they make them slim enough to just leave them attached to the device. I've had one attached to my mouse for 2 years now and it doesn't add much bulk. My Samsung phone came with one so small that you can't even tell is there (other than the extra width for the USB-A part).

Why on earth would you remove ports for "thinness" just to have a cable flopping around?

Because the designers are not forced to use their prototype for 500 hours before signing it off, that's why!

Because 100% of people can enjoy the thinness 100% of the time, and only 5% of people need VGA for about 20% of their time.

I have yet to see a USB-C thumb drive in the wild.

I have one, it’s USBC on one end & regular USB on the other, just flips around in the protective sheath to whatever one you need. It’s also super fast, though I’ve never spent much for high end thumb drives to compare to.

I got it at Target. Love how easy it makes going between my USBC only MBP and other random computers.

I got a Kingston MicroDuo. Both USB-C and USB-A and it's small enough that i keep it in my wallet with the coins.

SanDisk dual drive is fantastic. Gets a bit hot, but it’s awesomely useful to have both plugs on the same drive.

Best Buy has Sandisk units.

You're being downvoted which seems a bit weird, but I agree at least for myself. I went USB-C only in my house, and it's been pretty excellent, up until my new job gave me a Windows laptop that has exactly one USB-C port and requires Mini-DisplayPort 1.4 for its display output.

Well, not everyone wants to carry a brick. Sure, Thinkpads are great because they have each port ever invented, but I still prefer a thin laptop (if you have USB-A or Ethernet ports you can't have a thin laptop) with the option of using a dongle once a month if I need it.

There are plenty of thin laptops with USB-A ports. Thinkpad X1 is both thinner than a macbook and has two USB-A ports. And there are laptops just 2mm thicker than a Macbook Air that have ethernet via some clever mechanical engineering.

I am glad Apple is pushing for USB-C, otherwise we'd still have so many devices coming out with USB-A

> I find it hilarious that we spend multiple thousands of dollars on sleek, elegant hardware and then hook up chunky plastic dongles to overcome their bad hardware interfaces.

I don't understand how anyone can come up with that conclusion. I mean, your "cheap plastic dongles" jab is actually a testament to the extent of how superb it's interoperability is. I mean, you're for some reason complaining that we are free to even plug in "cheap plastic dongles" to a high-end device when in reality this means that we can even plug in the cheapest "plastic dongles" and expect it to work. How is this a bad thing?

Back to the "cheap plastic dongles" complain, I do use one from time to time, and the reason is quite simple: I had USB-A devices which I use for years but I also have a couple of laptops which only pack USB-C ports. Should I throw away perfectly good hardware just because a random guy on the internet dislikes cheap plastic dongles? Should I base my purchasing decisions on whether a laptop supports legacy ports? Or should I just spend $10 on a dongle intended to be used occasionally and stop worrying about inane details?

Those who prefer spending their time on relevant things don't even realize that complaining about the proper etiquete of pairing peripherals with computers is a reason for anyone to waste their time. Why do you?

The point of the original comment seems to have gone right over your head.

> So I love the idea of these ports (agreed, they're basically "recessed dongles").

It's juxtaposing two types of dongles: the common, cheap, plastic ones, and the sleek, integrated ones from Framework's laptop, in order to show that Framework's aligns better with the design ethos of the device itself.

> Should I throw away perfectly good hardware just because a random guy on the internet dislikes cheap plastic dongles? Should I base my purchasing decisions on whether a laptop supports legacy ports?

Again, you're missing the point. Both of these types of dongles will support your USB-A devices without you throwing anything away in your pique. One will just look good, feel good, and integrate with the machine you're using, while the other won't.

I wouldn't think of them as recessed dongles. After installing them I haven't changed them out at all so far. It's more that you can configure things how you want. If you wanted 4 usb-c ports and that's all; just do that.

I would love it if all my devices had transition to usb-c, but they haven't. I still occasionally need usb-a and sometimes I need an hdmi out. So... that's what I have. And if I stop needing usb-a I'll get rid of it and put in another usb-c. You could even do a single usb-c port and then 3 storage attachments if you wanted. Nobody is ever going to sell a laptop like that, but for someone who really needs storage and doesn't care about connectivity that might be perfect.

If you're okay with dongles then you're probably fine. I'm not. They clutter up the workspace, occupy permanent space in my bag which is annoying, and often enough aren't around when I actually need them.

It also goes a little bit beyond that: if one of your ports stops working (e.g. rust, water damage, etc), you can just buy a replacement port and you're back on track, as opposed to "welp, I guess I'll have to do without it..."

The modular port is a universal port with dongles. Except that (1) it doesn't take extra space outside of your computer, (2) it is cheaper than mainstream dongles (Apple sells USB-C to HDMI for $70 while the Framework HDMI expansion is $20), and (3) it is fully open source and you can actually print/sell your own.

> Apple sells USB-C to HDMI for $70

Luckily, USB-C means you don't have to buy any accessory from Apple, and have the world of low cost peripherals at your disposal, like the $13 version on Amazon [1].

1. https://www.amazon.com/gp/slredirect/picassoRedirect.html/re...

The main downside is that you don't know what you get on Amazon (and I say that as someone who bought DisplayPort cables on Amazon that turned out to have the pin 20 problem http://monitorinsider.com/displayport/dp_pin20_controversy.h...).

Usb c means i can just buy the framework one to use.

And how many different $13 cables and hundreds of fake reviews do you have to wade through before you find one that works?

Efficient markets hypothesis. Apple's cable costs $70 because it's guaranteed to work.

You can also just go to BestBuy, Walmart, Costco, or Office Max and pick one up for much less than $70.

Quite the opposite, it means you can start with plenty of usbA port, and when you don't need them anymore, switch them to usbc, without changing your laptop.

It means when one port wears of, fixing it is easy, cheap, and doesn't immobilize your machine.

It means you can change your port to fit an hdmi or ethernet as needed, without having the stuff coming out your laptop, all ugly and taking space on the desk.

What upsets me about the solution is that the whole laptop is limited to 4 ports. They don't even offer the obvious "2 in 1" dongles where one dongle would contain e.g. two USB-A ports.

Many other laptops aren't modular - but they offer more than enough ports to make up for it.

You need at least 1 USB-C port for charging. If you want to be able to use an external mouse and keyboard without a hub, that's 2 USB-A ports that you need. That leaves you the choice between having one USB-C port OR HDMI for the last port. There isn't even an Ethernet option at all. And you still get the potential downsides of the ports being adapters from USB-C, if I understand correctly.

If you grab a Lenovo P14s, you can't swap one of the two RAM sticks (limiting you to 48 GB), opening it takes a little bit more work, and replacing some of the more integrated components is going to be harder (SSD is trivial). In exchange, you get 2x USB-A, 2x USB-C, HDMI, MicroSD, and full-sized (not flip-out/break-off) Ethernet. Plus an optional built-in smartcard reader, plus some proprietary docking port extension around one of the USB-C ports. Looking at the Gen 2, you can get that at around 3/4 of the price with a similar or better config (including a somewhat serious GPU) as long as you order on the weekend (when Lenovo's non-ripoff pricing is in effect), and you can also add a fingerprint reader and NFC if you want.

The Framework laptop has upgradeable RAM, but you will have to upgrade it yourself (discarding the RAM that comes with it) if you want more than 32 GB, and no matter what, it won't ever support more than 64 GB. Is supporting at most 64 GB really that much better than a laptop with 64 GB soldered in?

By the time you want to upgrade the CPU, the mainboard won't be compatible, so what's really there to upgrade?

> Is supporting at most 64 GB really that much better than a laptop with 64 GB soldered in?

Yes. Normally some people (like me) can't afford to buy the highest spec laptop. Thus, I'll be going with a lower memory and storage version of a machine, and then expect to upgrade the RAM and storage when I've got enough. That's exactly what I did with my current Thinkpad T440. And for a current gen Apple, I can either buy a 8 or 16GB machine, and the price difference is pretty significant for me.

> The Framework laptop has upgradeable RAM, but you will have to upgrade it yourself (discarding the RAM that comes with it) if you want more than 32 GB

FWIW, if I understand you correctly, AIUI you can order the "DIY" Framework with no RAM at all, so there's no need to discard anything--but also, just looked now & you can also order the DIY edition with 64GB.

> By the time you want to upgrade the CPU, the mainboard won't be compatible, so what's really there to upgrade?

The mainboard! (Well, that's Framework's plan at least.)

And the mainboards can run standalone too, so you in theory you can use it to automate your house in the future or something too. :)

(With regard to the 2-in-1 aspect, I think it's important to remember that this is Framework's first product range, they need to limit their scope to not spread themselves too thin.)

And people are already starting to experiment with hacking together their own modules, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_uOzNt-xwY who was prototyping with off the shelf "magsafe" style adapters & essentially "rehousing" a wireless mouse dongle.

So with a "universal" wireless mouse + keyboard dongle rehoused in a module you could get two of your ports at least. :)

I don't agree with most of your points, but I do (at least on initial review) agree with this:

> They don't even offer the obvious "2 in 1" dongles where one dongle would contain e.g. two USB-A ports.

I would have thought that by making the expansion ports slightly wider, including 2 USB-A would be possible.

At my side gig running livestreams, I often end up with more than 4 USB-A devices connected, unfortunately, so with USB-C charging and HDMI, I'd need a dongle to use this device even with such a 2x USB-A expansion.

- USB-A dongle for wireless mouse

- External USB-A sound card (to connect the mixer board)

- External USB-A camera

- External USB-A flash drive to load up PowerPoints etc provided by the presenter

- ... and then maybe I need to plug in my USB-A Yubikey to authenticate. Or a 2nd flash drive.

That said, using a USB-C hub/dongle for cases like mine isn't the end of the world.

I'll give a reply not seen here yet. I haven't bought the framework laptop (yet) but I can see the module appeal. There's all sorts of hacker-ish ideas that I could imagine stuffing in there and the fact that I don't need a dongle means they're always attached and ready to be thrown in a bag. My first idea:

Framework offers a 1Tb storage module for their ports! I backup my root OS via ZFS snapshot to USB every so often now. How great would it be to have a storage port that's all the recent snapshots of your important datasets. And, the possibilities are endless. The fact that they don't change the form factor of the laptop and that they're always attached is actually a big deal.

Two things:

They are replaceable when the external ports (USB-C or otherwise) wear out without the need for soldering or internal board replacement.

The design of the modules is open source, meaning that anyone can design a module that fits their needs.

Good point. For what it’s worth my last MacBook had a TB3 port physically wear out. Thankfully it was covered by warranty, but the connector saver concept is definitely compelling.

how does a port “wear out”? i’ve never heard of that

This was something that was more prominent during the Micro-USB era. The little metal "tabs" on the male end of microUSB connectors would start to wear out after a thousand+ plug/unplugs resulting in a loose connection that wasn't reliable.

With USB-C, the connector was designed consideration of a bunch of factors, one of which I would assume is lifespan of the end connectors - USB-c has thicker, more resilient plastic hooks built into the inside of the male plug and stronger mating latches in the female end of the connector.


It when You need to adjust cable multiple times until connection happen, and then work very careful to not move anything. Ports sometimes are very fragile. My old laptop has only 2 of 4 USB ports working.

Connectors are rated for a given number of connect/disconnect cycles. For USB-A it's a minimum of 1500[1].

If your laptop has a cheap connector which isn't rated for more, and you do two cycles a day (start/end of day, start/end lunch), then you'll go through the rated number of cycles in less than two years.

Doesn't mean the connector will fail right away but it might start to act up. Connectors are not forever.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_hardware#Durability

Plug it in when you get to work, plug it in when you get home, repeat for 5 years.

The modularity means you can change your workflow or peripherals without needing to find a dock or dongles long term. You can travel with the HDMI dongle in for putting a movie on a hotel TV or use with an external monitor somewhere. Maybe you need that SD card reader for most of your photo work but only on weekends or trips when you go process images immediately or need to offload them from the SD card.

Regardless, the port can be what you need it to be or just a useful USB-C, you aren't tied to whatever ports the OEM thinks you'll need forever even though it may only be valued by a small number of consumers.

That small number is still enough to drive sales for FrameWork. I'm interested if I need a better laptop and I sit at a desk with desktop in use almost all the time. This appeals to those that interested in more control over their device in configuration, expansion or modifications, and the various ports and IO options. I can't say I'd buy many of the USB modules (rarely would use most anyway) but the mentality is there and I so far have trust in the product. It's not meant to appeal to GAMERS or Enterprise execs, just those that want more control over their devices.

My devices aren't USB-C (e.g. headset, tablet) and I use HDMI cables a lot. So it's great for me. Turns out thanks to the modular port design it's also great for you!

The main advantage is that the dongles are all built into your laptop. With dongles I have a pile of them in my bag (that takes up more room), I have to remember to carry them around with me if I'm in a conference room, etc.

Being recessed means you can leave them inserted while carrying the device.

Dongles significantly spoil the portability experience.

Have you tried dongles? They barely work.

I beg for an age where monitors and drives plugged into Macbooks worked again without flickering and random disconnects you get with dongles.

These are literally USB-C to X dongles. You may prefer them to be integrated, but they won't solve any compatibility issues.

The thing is, that the dongles are integrated into the laptop body. For a portable machine, this is huge. I love my 16" MB pro and do think that 4x USB-C is great for connectivity, but having to carry up to 4 dongles with me any time I move between working at home and the office is pretty much a nightmare. The built-in dongle ports, if you might call them that, are a much more elegant solution - somthing Apple should have invented (and could have sold for a lot of money). On top of that, they seem to provide even more "dongles" than laptop ports out of the box.

It is also probably mechanically much more robust, if you plug cables into your dongle box instead of into the (motherboard mounted) port directly. If one of the dongle boxes breaks, it should be cheap to exchange.

> How is the "modular port" concept any different than a universal port with dongles ...

At least the "modular port" adapters are not dangling from the side of a laptop as the dongles do. Dongles totally ruin the esthetics of otherwise slick MacBook for me.

The thing about dongles is you don't always have it with you. The biggest change I noticed when I got a USB-C based mac is that I couldn't just plug it into every projector through the HDMI, so I had to start planning ahead more. Same with getting photos off of an SSD card

Abstracting the ports makes a ton of sense. I have some hardware laying around - headphones, e-reader - which is perfectly good, but part of me wants to replace it just because it would be much nicer to have USB-C everywhere instead of micro usb. I could see this as something which could significantly extend the lifetime of the hardware by removing those types of compatibility concerns.

My understanding is that all the module ports ARE USB-C. So the dongles are just made to fit inside the laptop instead of outside.

Absolutely agree. If I ever had to go back to a "docking station" which I'm sure many on here have used in the past I'd be ripping out my hair.

A single multi-port dongle with Hdmi, extension USB-C and USB-A makes it so that I connect 1 thing to my laptop at my desk. And you don't have to press the whole laptop on some weird device that can scrape that back of your laptop.

If more people had experienced docking stations of 10 years ago they would also be excited for these dongles.

Different users want different ports. For example, as a photographer, I need a SD card slot.

No, my workflow hasn’t transitioned to 100% USB c. I doubt it will. I will always want to plug in a HDMI monitor sometime for example.

No, I refuse to use products that require me to carry and lose shitty dongles and hubs. I refuse.

That’s also why I’ve never purchased a phone without a headphone jack, because I love listening to music on my Moondrops or whatever IEMs I like.

I assume if all your devices are usb c you realistically have no horse in this game - and that's great.

For those who have different needs than vendor provides - permanent or temporary - recessed or not, or in other words part of computer or something I need to carry/lose/forget/misplace can be a huge huge difference.

I would say it's quite similar to having a touch device with an integrated pen holder where pen disappears in the device (so it can't fall out) and not.

It is a "gimmick", but if you are frequently shuffling your laptop around, having a bag clear of dongles and "floating" stuff is a world of difference.

I mean, even thinness in laptops is a gimmick (it's actually the first thing I'd do away with to get maintainability, battery life and better cooling/performance/noise — fanless, anyone?), but it sells like hot cakes.

I don't get it either. I dock my MacBook and my monitor supports USB-C which also provides power and a bunch of other standard USB connections. I don't even really need a dongle anymore.

I think this kind of thinking is what keeping Apple sailing high.

Headphone jack gone? Get the AirPod. Oh BT drains the battery faster of already sub capacity battery? Why don’t you have a power bank yet? And yeah, keep it on you always. Isn’t that normal? Or Apple has a shiny battery pack. Maybe buy two.

Glass back breaks? Well, you gotta lose something for wireless charging. But I don’t do wireless charging. Why not? Go buy another thing.

There was this TV show and there was something like “happy to comply” in that.

Yeah - I think Apple's approach is the right tradeoff, though I admit I think it's cool from a nerd that likes gadgets perspective.

If there's enough of a market for that that they can survive that's cool, but I think there's a reason it's not the default design (that isn't some cynical one about planned obsolescence).

I think the proliferation of usb-c has finally solved the universal port issue, you can just buy a 3rd party dongle with HDMI/displayport, usb-c (with pass through charging), sd-card, usb, etc. and it works great. Meets my needs pretty well.

external dongles? Apple specifically did this to extend the revenue of their boxes. I cant stand apple any longer. Currently I prefer the HP Omen - (the support from the executive escalation support team is stellar).

but the idea of needing a FN dongle whenever I want to do something is FN archaic. Plus they are over-priced, bulky and are much prone to ultimate failure of either the port (from flexing about when youre on a soft surface like a bed or something.

I have Two AOC USB screens that I use - so I have one laptop, three screens and it all fits into my backpack. the external USB screens are the only "dongles" I want.

When a port is damaged it can be easily and affordably replaced.

The modular ports are my least favorite part as well. The fact that you have to buy one USB type c module just to be able to easily plug in your charger is crazy. Another just to have reachable USB port. Maybe 1 or 2 modular spots would be nice, but put in some standard type c ports and monitor connectors without having to pay an upcharge or include at least 2 type c modules free.

Is the "upcharge" actually significant for the USB C ports? It is like an extra $20 on a $1k computer.

It has 4 type C ports, that's what the modules plug into. So the type C port module is basically a one inch extension cable. They do recommend you buy 4 so it's $80 and not $20. Having ANY upcharge to be able to have an expectedly reachable port to plug your laptop's power supply into seems like a design flaw.

Unless they've done research that shows the type C port on the main board is a common point of failure and needs soldering to fix I don't see the point. I've had to clean lint out of ports but I've never broken a type C port on a computer.

The USB-C passthroughs are nominally $9 each, so it's not $80 to fill out the bays.

More importantly, they're also built into the price estimate already, so when it says "$999" or whatever, that's including four $9 cards. It doesn't cost you any more to switch some of them for USB-A's instead, and other choices like HDMI, Micro SD, whatever, will be an upcharge.

A more savvy (sneaky?) approach might be to say that 4 cards are included and then only quote the increase over the base price for the things like HDMI that cost more, but I suppose they wanted it to be seamless in terms of how the pricing appears if you want to order more than 4.

Obviously there's a real sense in which engineering went into having this system and the things take up space, so there's a cost to having them, but I don't think calling them an upcharge is really legitimate; they're built in to the quoted prices.

Sorry, my mistake on the price for the USB-C passthroughs, they are $9 along with the type-A modules. All others are $19.

I was looking at the DIY edition and the price is not included in the estimate so it is an increase in price to get any modules. Looks like you are looking at the prebuilt options and I see those do include 4 type C modules in the standard configurations and price. I think they should do the same for the DIY editions and let you remove them if you want.

No the type C ports are $9 each, so it is less than $20 for two. You can reach the port without a module, but sure they could throw in one or two for free I guess. You should suggest that. I know users do not like to be nickel and dimed, and the two modules probably do not increase the BOM much.

That said they may be planning for a situation where you bring your own modules or buy from a third party if you wish -- it is an open design after all. Consider the enterprise use case. An org could have a batch of USB-C modules for replacement that they source from a third party for a cheap price, and then order the laptops themselves on demand.

Framework is all about reducing waste, so only giving users what they ask for is part of that.

Not trying to be snarky, serious question: How does a design that requires everyone to purchase at least one type C module reduce e-waste? It adds manufacturing overhead, shipping overhead, etc to every laptop.

It only reduces waste if mainboard/laptops are discarded due to a failed charging port. Does that happen often with type C connections on mainboards?

It’s not only ports, you can have ssd there for example.

They are just recessed dongles.

How is the state of linux power saving (i.e., mobile battery life) in 2021? Last time I checked you could expect to get almost 2x the battery life on equivalent hardware with Windows or Mac OS.

Generally pretty good.

With tlp and a 5.10ish kernel, my T480 handles light web browsing at 3-5 W depending on display brightness (wqhd display). Heavier websites, high-res video decoding, etc. will bring it up to 7-10 W. Maybe 20 W when compiling something, or when attempting to use the (worthless) Nvidia GPU (which I leave powered down most of the time).

It has a dual battery setup with a 24 Wh internal battery and a 72 Wh external battery (I use the bulbous 6-cell, but you can get a thinner one if you prefer), so even when setting the charge stop thresholds at 80% to preserve cell lifetime, the computer easily lasts all day on battery.

That being said, it would be easy to find a random laptop that either idles at something stupid or that can't go to sleep properly because of just one wacky peripheral, making Linux power management seem bad.

Half the battle is picking the right starting point (e.g. a Thinkpad), and then setting everything up so you can actually measure the power in all of the different states so that you can actually confirm that your setup works properly before relying on it and ending up disappointed at the airport.

if you could point to how you configured your power management that would be great

"sudo tlp start" :)

Start with this. If there are peripherals you don't use (something as small as a Bluetooth adapter or as large as a GPU), figure out how to power them down, and get the computer to put them in that state by default.

On ThinkPads (and probably on others), you can monitor the instantaneous power consumption by poking around in:

There are widgets that can monitor this for you and alert you if anything seems amiss, but I just have a script that puts some text and symbols in my menu bar:


You can use this to confirm that (for example) your wifi card is actually powering down when you ask it to.

Thanks it looks neat. I'll check out your scripts - especially interested in the power draw part for myself. I had setup the 80% cycling before but that was on my n-1 installation and haven't had chance to put that back on.

I have a friend who I convinced to buy a Thinkpad and stick ubuntu 20.04 on it. Unfortunately he got a more expensive X1 one with an Nvidia Graphics card, it strangely overheats when he needs to charge it and plugs it into the AC. I suspect the power settings are all over the place. I've not had chance to get a log from him yet. How did you "power down" your nvidia card?

> How did you "power down" your nvidia card?

First I made sure X was working the way I wanted with Intel graphics. There are a handful of ways to do hybrid graphics on Linux, depending on what you want to be able to do, and how old your hardware is (including "I didn't even want this thing, just keep it powered off forever"). The Arch wiki has some pretty good guides [1] that are helpful even if you're using a different system.

bbswitch seems to work on my system, and the interface is really simple [2]. But there's also this page on acpi_call [3], which suggests that bbswitch is old and unmaintained and that newer systems do something different. From a quick scan, it looks like the Arch wiki also mentions this approach.

As far as drivers go, I know everyone likes to dump on Nvidia for their closed source mess, but on every system I've used with Nvidia hardware (desktops and laptops), I've found that the Nvidia drivers have universally been more reliable than nouveau, so that's what I use.

[1] https://wiki.archlinux.org/title/hybrid_graphics (poke around in "Related Articles" too)

[2] https://github.com/Bumblebee-Project/bbswitch#turn-the-card-...

[3] https://github.com/geminis3/nvidia-gpu-off

When I bought my T440s in 2013 (8 years ago now), I could push it to 18 hours with wifi off. And could get 10 hours plus with wifi. I seriously doubt Windows or Mac OS would have gotten much more juice out of it.

I currently use a T440S, with Arch Linux, and fairly recently replaced batteries. I feel like I only get 5 hours or so. Although if I’m on my work computer, with my T440s open next to me and I’m lightly using it throughout the day then it easily lasts all day, with like 30-40% remaining at the end of the workday. My biggest beef is that the replacement batteries these days seem bad - even brand new Lenovo brand ones degrade really fast. My assumption is that they’re not being manufactured anymore, and so a “new” battery is actually new old stock and has been sitting around for years. I am tempted to upgrade to a newer laptop.

New batteries won't lose capacity over time. A lot of "new" batteries are just knockoffs, but there's no way of knowing without opening them.

If you want good aftermarket batteries, KingSener has a solid reputation. Only go for aftermarket batteries that are upfront about being aftermarket and are open about the cells they use and well reviewed, or for sealed Lenovo batteries in original packaging.

I recently bought a brand new, sealed 72Wh original battery. It sat sealed for so long the batteries went down below 3.1V per cell and the pack locked itself. Looking at the self discharge curves I'd expect this to be the case for any actually new battery.

To make it work I had to open the battery and use a specialized charger to give it 0.1A of current until it got to 3.3V per cell, and I then programmed it to charge at 6A, after which the battery pack decided to start up.

Thanks. I’ll try that brand. I buy mine from Encompass, the official seller of Lenovo batteries. So they shouldn’t be knockoffs, nor unsealed. But, one battery went from 90% health down to 30% in the course of six months. And they’re not cheap!

Can't comment on mobile, but I've set my laptop to sleep after 10min of inactivity and 3min after lid close and it lasts the whole day (4.1Ah). I'm not using it for 8h straight, but rather a combined 3h or sth probably but with this aggressive sleep settings it easily stretches some 8h and I don't feel afraid of it just going out at the end of the day.

Nowadays Windows consumes more power than Arch Linux with KDE given a processor underclock and power saving tweaks.

On my X250 with a 72Wh external battery I can get 14h of battery life without sacrificing much of anything.

How soon PCMCIA has been forgotten.

Forgotten by hardware makers, forgotten by users.

...And Cardbus after it!

The cards were too thin - every IT department during that era had a box full of Xircom PCMCIA network cards with missing or broken rj45 dongles.

Expresscard was supposed to replace it. It's literally a pin for pin pci express slot. But the "market" spoke (more like Apple decided they were too good for useful ports) and laptops got slimmer and less able to be expanded on.

Thank you early user, Hopefully people like you would make enough sound that manufacturers come to their senses and put 'Repairability' back on the feature set.

It's not just the compute devices, I've been waiting for weeks for Samsung repair technician to arrive for fixing year old fridge. I remember going to showroom when I was a kid with my dad and the sales person used to pitch availability of parts, repair centers for the consumer electronic products.

  > absurd that you'd buy a laptop with a bunch
  > of "hardcoded" ports that you can't ever change.
This is great for multi-monitor users. Depending where in _my setup_ the other monitors are, I don't want the power and video cables, or docking port cable, to cover part of the external monitor. Being able to move the ports' locations is genius.

How are thermals though?

My xps 13 with 2 fans can get hot enough to be unconfortable, so i can't imagine how it will be with a single fan

I really wish people talked about this stuff more when it comes to laptops. Hot temps and loud fans are a super turn-off for me. I'm willing to compromise performance for a quieter, cooler runtime, but usually all I can find out about a laptop is its processor clock speed and a horribly inaccurate battery life estimate.

Most of the laptops reviewed by Linus Tech Tips consider thermals and fan noise.

Computer thermals are weird. You can ultimately choose between a gimped device that stays cool under load or a spectacularly hot, dynamically clocked CPU. I normally cut the clock speed of my CPU in half with any new laptop, since I'm really only going to use it for text editing/SSH. That alone is good enough to lock it below 40c, but there are other ways to achieve a similar effect.

on x86 at least

Loud fans and hot temps are fine for me, in isolation. But knowing those hot temps (and to a degree those loud fans) are slowly killing my laptop, and likely very quickly killing my battery, much faster than you'd imagine, yeh, it suddenly becomes a bigger priority.

For me, I've never found a laptop as good as the older thinkpads at handling temps.

I had a 16" MacBook Pro that was so hot and loud all the time that I just couldn't stand it anymore and sold it to buy an M1 MacBook Air, which thankfully doesn't even have a fan.

I don't understand how it didn't come up in any reviews, because you don't have to push it super hard to make it happen.

with most laptops one can set the fanspeed via software and let the built-in thermal throttling keep the machine from melting down.

peak performance is fine, but sustained speed takes quite a hit.

I rely on notebookcheck [1] for stuff like this--best notebook reviews I've ever read. If you go down to Emissions there's a "Temperature" subsection with pretty detailed info.

[1]: https://www.notebookcheck.net/Framework-Laptop-13-5-Review-I...

Their modular ports use a lot of space, they could have much more ports built in, unfortunately.

Yeah, being limited to only 4 ports is a complete non-starter for me especially when you are required to use one of them to charge the laptop. So practically everybody is going to end up filling one of those modular ports with a USB-C module, when they could have easily fit two dedicated USB-C ports in the same space, with no practical loss in expandability.

I think the issue with this is the number of thunderbolt ports provided by the chipset. They have to choose between having only 4 ports that all work the same way or more than that where they don't all have the same features.

In the future if another alternative to USB-C PD arrives, you could presumably swap out to that module (of course, presuming it's otherwise compatible with the internals).

Also, is there any reason to believe someone wouldn't make a two-port USB-C module provided the market for such a thing exists? Maybe off-the-shelf ICs to do this aren't available (which would make this more expensive and thus less likely), but that doesn't mean that will always be the case.

> In the future if another alternative to USB-C PD arrives, you could presumably swap out to that module (of course, presuming it's otherwise compatible with the internals).

The module itself works over USB-C PD, so the only effect of such a module would be to convert the new standard back to USB-C PD with all its limitations, plus the cost of conversion.

True, but that still might be desirable if there's a new cable standard that is otherwise compatible -- beats making the entire laptop obsolete.

As a thought experiment: If the Framework laptop existed prior to USB-C PD, it would have been a very cool feature to be able to add a USB-C PD module and effectively upgrade the laptop to support it.

It'll be interesting to see if the internal USB-C design works out in the long run. My instinct would have been to build a larger (proprietary) internal connector for the modules that included charging, constant and switched power, USB, and as many PCIe data lines as possible.

The existing ports are thunderbolt, so they may be able to do some things that basic USB PD can't

With them being modular, if what you say is true space wise, then I'd expect there to be a module with 2 ports in it eventually.

I was reading some forums on their website a little while ago and they said that seemed unlikely with a decent amount of space being used by the mounting mechanism and whatnot. It would be nice, though.

No one wants all the different ports though, they usually just want the correct ports. If you're plugging more than 4 things into your laptop at once you should be using a dock.

If Framework opens this up for other companies to make modules, you might also see something like a USB port module with an integrated Logitech wireless mouse receiver. So then your mouse isn't even taking up a port.

I know Bluetooth is a thing but you get the point. All of those tiny devices that people keep plugged into their laptop ports 24/7? This is a much better form factor for them, and you don't necessarily need to sacrifice a port for them either.

> If Framework opens this up for other companies to make modules

From what I can tell, they already did that: https://github.com/FrameworkComputer/ExpansionCards

> USB port module with an integrated Logitech wireless mouse receiver

This guy seems to be making something like that (minus the USB port): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_uOzNt-xwY

People are working on some interesting stuff. Example:

RP2040 expansion card: https://community.frame.work/t/rp2040-microcontroller-expans...

The engineers at framework seem to be very active on the forum engaging with the community.

I don't want all the different ports at once, but I definitely use more than 4 in total. My current laptop the following (and I'd love to have more):

- 2 USB-C (1 of which is used for charging, I'll probably have reason to use the other at some point with increasing USB-C adoption)

- 2 USB-A (1 for a wireless mouse, 1 frequently used for flash drives and whatnot)

- SD (used occasionally - cameras and with an adapter for micro SD in phones)

- RJ-45 (used occasionally, probably more often soon)

- HDMI (used somewhat regularly)

- Headphone jack (also built into the Framework)

So with the Framework I'd be missing out on 3 ports. I could survive with that, but it'd be pretty sub-optimal. Thankfully I shouldn't be in the market for a new laptop for 5+ years, so hopefully Framework will have more options by then.

If you don't want all the ports at once, then it sounds like modular ports is perfect? You can just attach whichever combination you need on any given day / moment. Or am I missing something?

Fair enough, that wasn't really something I was thinking of. Of course, at that point you're really just changing from having to carry around a bag of dongles to a bag of ports. Not having to remember to have to put in/bring my HDMI port to a presentation is a little bit convenient.

I'm using an external display connected via Thunderbolt/USB-C instead of HDMI so I can use the display to

- power the laptop

- plug in the mouse plug into its USB-A port

That would work if I got an external display (which I should at some point), although I think it harms the portability a little bit.

I do exactly the same, it's been really smooth that way (on Ubuntu)

Maybe a great laptop would have 4 usb-c, hdmi and sd card reader? We can be ambitious :)

My first laptop bought way back in 1993, had a scheme where either or both of the two(!) removable batteries could be replaced with a plug-in module. I had one that gave me a SCSI port and another that gave me a 2400 baud(!) modem.

It was better in theory than practice. You couldn't hot-swap modules (because this was 1993, after all) and driver support was iffy. I sold that laptop a few years later and didn't own another laptop until I bought my first PowerBook in 2002. I've kept dongles in my bag from time to time for connecting to external monitors, but most of the time I never really bothered with it.

I did like my late-90s Dell Latitude where I could replace a CDROM module bay with a 2nd hard drive or battery. It was even hot-swap if I recall correctly.

That said, these days I know exactly what I want in a laptop and most mid-spec+ laptops have an abundance of what 90% of users need.

What is a 'blank keyboard'?

What I LOVE about the Framework (don't have one yet) -- it hte "Cyberpunk-yness" of the thing....

Imagine the day when our kids are rummaging through a pile of various modules looking for just the right one to plug into their Deck.

This, to me, truly feels like the "deck" from Neuromancer of olde!

What will be great is once modules become a 3rd party aftermarket blast off..

Fiber interfaces, all sorts of other modules and the inevitable future HN post about fake dongles with spy-hardware from china, 'beware of keyloggers on foreign modules' etc...

I hope that certain elements are attached by magnets.


Can you directly attach two machines side-by-side with a USBC cable? What if you could chain multiple of these boxes together and have a second deck, which is headless and just swipe between the two desktops on the screen... One KB and Screen and two decks? I have always wanted this.

I truly think its absurd that we havent yet been able to use machines like legos - I think that these decks offer a path to that with multiple decks.

Rossmann was excited by it too:


Very entertaining, and enlightening watch.

(A comment on the initial part of the video: Lenovo's X1 Carbon Nano has good aspect ratio screen.)

How does the touchpad perform? I'd love to move away from Apple, but don't want to spend the money on a laptop to be disappointed with that aspect. My experience with non-Apple touchpads has been sub-par so far (looking at you Dell), and it's one of the factors that keeps me ensconced in the Apple ecosystem.

I am also wondering. I have seen lots of reviews on how cool the modularity and repairability is (and I love those things, too!), but not much about the day-to-day usefulness. Is the touchpad responsive? Functioning multitouch? Does the fingerprint sensor actually work?

And of all these, the touchpad is by far the most important, and like you, keeps me to my Macbook.

It looks interesting, but isn't 4 a bit too few? My thinkpad has like 8-9 ports. Cannot they put 2 external port on a single module?

Oh and also: where is Ethernet? :)

Oh, don't worry, I had the same panel self refresh problem with my Dell on Windows.

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