Framework 13 AMD: First Impressions

When I heard Framework was finally releasing an AMD-based version of their 13-inch laptop, I was excited and almost instantly pre-ordered. The Framework’s build quality and design is excellent. Unfortunately, I experienced something similar to this ongoing issue when using an external display, which is a dealbreaker.

The Configuration

I recently sold the desktop I built in 2019 to a friend, and with the prospects of AMD’s 7040 series with RDNA3 graphics on the horizon, was really optimistic that I could return to a simple, single-laptop setup with one of those chips. In addition, I have always supported the right to repair, and was very excited by the radical repairability of Framework laptops. When Framework launched the Framework 13 with AMD 7040 series, it was my time to jump in.

Of course, I purchased the DIY edition. I configured it with the following components.

ComponentPrice ($)
AMD Ryzen 7 7840U Chassis/Mainboard1031
DDR5-5600 - 32GB (2×16GB)160
Input Cover Kit - US English99
Power Adapter - 60W - US/Canada49
Ethernet Expansion Card39
Bezel - Black39
HDMI (3rd Gen) Expansion Card19
DisplayPort (2nd Gen) Expansion Card19
USB-C Expansion Card (×2)18
USB-A Expansion Card9

This totaled $1592.44 after tax.

When it arrived, I was thoroughly impressed by the high build quality, the thoroughness of the assembly guides (which included easy links to update drivers and everything), and how easy it was to assemble.

It really took all of 20 minutes.

I brought my own NVME SSD, and was able to quickly set up a dual boot of Windows 11 Home and the officially supported Fedora 39.

I updated all the drivers for Windows, and the BIOS was already on 3.03.

I was impressed with the display and a big fan of the unconventional 3:2 aspect ratio.

I couldn’t have been more excited.

Fan Noise When Gaming

The 7840U APU has newer RDNA3 cores than the RDNA2 cores that power the Steam Deck. So, I had fairly high expectations, even without a dedicated GPU.

While it can handle many games fine, my experience differed from others in that even with the game mode enabled in the BIOS, the fans spin up quickly and are loud. I found this very distracting and a little concerning, as I suspect a relatively long session would probably start thermal throttling (but I didn’t test that). The fan was loud enough to be heard through my headphones.

The Dealbreaker

Then, I plugged it in (via DisplayPort in slot 3) to my LG 38GN950-B (3840×1600, 144Hz) display, and saw these consistent visual artifacts. Note that not all the slots are created equal, but slot 3 is rated for display output and USB4.

Needless to say, this issue is far too disruptive and distracting to be acceptable.

I could get this to sporadically go away if I lowered the refresh rate or changed resolution, but not consistently. This also occurred both in Windows and Fedora 39, both fully updated. I set the BIOS’s iGPU Configuration to UMA_GAME_OPTIMIZED. I tried disabling scatter/gather with amdgpu.sg_display=0. I could go deeper down this rabbit hole, but unfortunately I bought this machine as a primary work machine, and not as a fun gadget to tinker with on the side.

Given that the AMD 7840U should support all of these resolutions:

  • 7680×4320 @ 60 Hz
  • 3840×2160 @ 240 Hz
  • 3440×1440 @ 360 Hz
  • 2560×1440 @ 480 Hz
  • 1920×1080 @ 600 Hz

I suspect this is a software/firmware issue, not a hardware one. The support forums have examples of similar issues [1, 2].

Unfortunately for me, this external display is core to my workflow. At time of posting, there doesn’t seem to be a working workaround. So, despite my excitement for the chip, and loving the laptop and its design, I don’t have time to wait for the software fix and will be be sending this one back to Framework.

Framework’s Return Process

Framework’s return policy is very reasonable, and I’m happy to report it was smooth and simple. I requested a return, heard back that very same day, got a shipping label, packed it back in the box it came in, and sent it off. It only took a handful of days and the money was back.

Conclusion

Would I still recommend Framework? Yes! I still resoundingly support their vision and what they’re trying to do. But, if you’re not ready to live a little bit on the bleeding edge, perhaps wait a couple of months before getting this model, especially if you have a similar external display. With a chip this new, give it some more time for them to work out the kinks. As Nirav Patel, Founder at Framework, notes:

We (without intending to) ended up being among the first to ship a Ryzen 7040 U-series laptop, which means Linux support is early and depends on having the right kernel version. As others have noted in the comments, we were in a similar place when we were one of the earlier ones on both 12th Gen Intel Core and 13th Gen Intel Core, and both matured rapidly.

I have confidence that the Framework team will indeed have these kinks worked out soon.

But, for me, I’ve become convinced that desktops are probably the best fit for my workflow (remote worker who is almost always at his desk), and have already ordered parts for a new workstation build soon.

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