Surface Pro 7+ vs Framework 12th gen?

on Wholesomedonut's blog

Very similar specs, wildly different philosophies

So let me explain

I'm at a point in life where frankly, I tend to use computers more for work and learning than gaming. I do have a gaming desktop, but frankly it's more-or-less a console at this point. The GPU is 5 years old, most of the games I play are twice that age (except Deep Rock Galactic, and now Stray), and it's only in my home still just because a lightweight, portable device for business and personal use doesn't overlap much with a machine strong enough to hold its own with games and maintain a sense of separation.


Enter my Microsoft Surface Pro 7+. I have the base model, with 8GB RAM soldered-on, and a 128GB M.2 2230 NVMe SSD, powered by an Intel i5-1135g7 processor.

Some of you might look at those specs and cringe. But frankly, I've never needed more than 8GB of RAM and it's 2022. The only exception is when I used my machine as both a server host and a daily driver, and that's why my basically-gaming-console-but-not desktop has 16GB of cheap DDR4 RAM; and nowadays I don't even need to do that because I have a dedicated dual-CPU server tower.

And in this corner, a tinker nerd's dreamboat!

The Framework laptop is a fairly new contender in the realm of ultralight, portable laptops for home and business use. It first came to light in 2021, heralded as an openly repairable platform, with intimate details and repair guides being published by the company of the same name.

The design philosophy of open repairability speaks volumes in favor of the Framework, even if the Surface is, in my opinion (and perhaps datively) an objectively better machine in the majority of use cases and configurations.

The whole gimmick of the product is that the mainboard, RAM, storage, keyboard, screen, and the four interchangable USB-C adapter ports can be easily changed, configured, modified, or replaced on the fly by your Average Joe Consumer. And anything else inside the device is also probably replaceable, comes with an easy-to-discern QR code for precise identification of part numbers, and a guide online on how to do it.

Framework just upgraded to the new hotness.

Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake CPUs have made their way onto the newest iteration of the Framework. These CPUs come with a higher level of efficiency, continue the generations-long tradition of MOAR CORES, FASTER PLS that fly in the face of Moore's Law, and also sport the new DDR5 generation of system RAM.

Just like the previous 11th-generation Intel chips that powered the original Framework laptops, you've got a choice between an entry-level, mid-tier and professional-grade CPU. Really, the only difference is a few cores, a bit of clock speed, and the fact that only the most expensive CPU you can put on a Framework mainboard comes with a vPro-capable AX WiFi card onboard. The Average Joe Consumer will probably be just fine with the low-tier i5-1240p, and that's definitely the one I'd intend on getting for myself if I got this device.

Here's a comparison between the 12th-gen Alder Lake i5-1240p CPU, and the 11th-gen Tiger Lake i5-1135g7. I'll give you a spoiler, the Alder Lake is basically better in every way by a pretty decent margin. But I'm not sure my workflow or capability is going to change much just because I can now do the same things I'm already doing that much faster on a Framework as compared to my current Surface.

So what's the point of this review if you've only ever used a Surface?

Frankly, I'm trying to figure that out. Thanks for sticking with me this far as I type my words into a Markdown file.

At this juncture, I'm strongly considering migrating to a Framework. I view my computers - in fact, most of my stuff - as potentially liquid assets. I don't see it as a big deal to put the $100 down payment to hold down my Framework's sale until it ships in September, refresh and close a sale on my Surface sometime in mid August for a decent price, and then get ahold of my Framework a week or two after.

I'd do that, because I think having a machine that is designed from the get-go to be opened, serviced, and upgraded by the end-user with nothing more than a Philips 0, a Torx head, and a spudger, would be pretty neat.


In terms of performance, resolution, and even stock pricing, my noob-tier Surface Pro 7+ seems to be pretty even with the new 12th-gen Framework laptops. I'd be trading an ultralight 2-in-1 device with insanely good battery efficiency for an open platform that I can fix, finagle, and modify - while being given a promise that I'll be able to upgrade the mainboard in the future. And at least for first-generation Framework owners, the company came through on that promise 100%.

I'd have to charge the Framework more often. It'd probably get hotter if I did hard work on it. And I can't just take the keyboard off when I feel like wandering around using the thing as a notepad. Those things make me sad. And they'd be some of the prime contributors to keeping my Surface and letting the "GRUG SEE SHINY" effect wear off about the Framework yet again.

But by the same token, I can stick a new 2280 stick into a Framework's M.2 slot on demand, instead of having to find a proper 2230 SSD for the Surface (this version is indeed upgradable) and making sure it's heat shielded properly. 2280's are more available and frankly cheaper per GB in a lot of cases. I can also pop the whole top off the Framework, see exactly what's labeled what, and get new pieces sent to me through the whole warranty lifetime. And it's simple enough in terms of design that I'd be able to do this myself without worry of breaking something. I wouldn't have to send it out to some random guy in some random contractor's shop somewhere, hope they know what they're doing, and spend weeks without a device.


The design philosophy of open repairability speaks volumes in favor of the Framework, even if the Surface is, in my opinion (and perhaps datively) an objectively better machine in the majority of use cases and configurations. What good is a Surface Pro when you straight-up cannot do your work with only 8 GB of RAM? You'd have to buy a whole new device. With a Framework (as with many other laptops) you pop the case off and put a bigger SODIMM stick in, et voila. Problem solved. Do you need to upgrade your CPU for whatever reason, or switch around what ports are available on your chassis? You can get a brand-new mainboard that's trivial to install. You can get new form-fitted adapters, and switch them out to your hearts content.

Overall I think the Framework is a viable option for people who want a laptop that is repairable and proven to be commercially viable in the short term. Longevity of the platform is obviously still in question, because this whole product line has existed for less time than Covid's made social and political discourse a pain in my ass. Just because it's a young company and a young product doesn't mean it isn't trustworthy or capable as a device in the here and now.

I'll have to keep you lot posted on whether or not I actually Do The Thing.