You can hot-swap a DisplayPort, ethernet, even an extra 3.5mm audio jack into your modular Framework laptop — and today, the company is finally beginning work on a full-size SD Expansion Card to go with them.
But seriously, it’s just beginning that work: the company says it’s breaking tradition by “pre-announcing” a module that may never ship. “We’ve set a target for what we want it to be, but as we proceed and learn, there’s a chance it could change or even be canceled,” Framework writes. Don’t worry: it’s not trying to cash in ahead of time; the idea is by doing it this way, Framework can take you behind the scenes.
The full-size SD card is still going strong thanks to photographers and videographers, of course, and in an official 2021 poll, the Framework community said it was the second-most requested port after a Gigabit ethernet jack. (Framework started selling that one late last year.)
So why the SD delay? In a project kickoff video, Framework content creator Hyelim Choi says the company actually wanted to build one in 2020 but decided its then-four-person engineering team should probably focus on launching its first laptop instead. In the meanwhile, full-size SD has become “consistently the most requested Expansion Card by the community,” and at least a few people have tried to DIY their own.
Each of Framework’s Expansion Card modules has standard male USB-C ports on the other end — each plugs into a recessed female USB-C port on the motherboard. That means they can be plugged into other USB-C computers as well or swapped between Framework machines… including DIY mini desktops like the one you can build with the $39 Cooler Master / Framework Mainboard Case. That one lets you build a computer by dropping in a new Framework Mainboard or swapping in one from your old laptop when you upgrade it.
I saw this Mainboard Case in person at a Framework event. Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge
Speaking of mainboards, Framework says it discovered it’s got extra 11th Gen Intel Core mainboards lying around and is now offering them at a sizeable discount: $199 for a Core i5 1135G7, $299 for a Core i7-1165G7, and $399 for a Core i7-1185G7.
If you’ve ever wanted to build your own unofficial Intel NUC, this looks like a pretty intriguing option. There are plenty of other cool things to build with a potent single-board computer, of course.