I hope my headline is an overstatement, purely for job purposes, but in this week’s Vergecast artificial intelligence episode, we explore the world of large language models and how they might be used to produce AI-generated text in the future. Maybe it’ll give writers ideas for the next major franchise series, or write full blog posts, or, at the very least, fill up websites with copy that’s too arduous for humans to do.
Among the people we speak to is Nick Walton, the cofounder and CEO of Latitude, which makes the game AI Dungeon, which creates a plot in the game around what you put into it. (That’s how Walton ended up in a band of traveling goblins — you’ll just have to listen to understand how that makes sense!) We also chat with Samanyou Garg, founder of Writesonic, a company that offers various writing tools powered by AI. The company can even have AI write a blog post — I’m shaking! But really.
Anyway, toward the end of the episode, I chat with James Vincent, The Verge’s AI and machine learning senior reporter, who calms me down and helps me understand what the future of text-generation AI might be. He’s great. Check out the episode above, and make sure you subscribe to the Vergecast feed for one more episode of this AI miniseries, as well as the regular show. See you there!
Piaggio Fast Forward, a subsidiary of storied Italian automotive firm Piaggio, has launched its second robot, a compact version of its cargo-carrying bot Gita named Gitamini.
The form and function of Gitamini remain the same as that of full-sized Gita (the name is Italian for a small trip or outing). The robot consists of two large wheels, a central trunk, and a machine vision system that it uses to identify and follow its owner. Gitamini weighs 28 pounds and can carry up to 20 pounds in its interior for 21 miles. That makes an interesting comparison to Gita, which can carry more — 40 pounds but only for 12 miles.
Gitamini uses an array of cameras and sensors, including radar (not available for the original Gita), to navigate and follow its user. To activate this follow mode, you simply stand in front of the Gitamini and tap a pairing button. The robot will then lock on to you using vision only (no GPS or Bluetooth are utilized) and will follow you at speeds of up to 6mph.
The robot’s trunk can be locked and its follow mode disabled, but there are no active theft mitigation features. When asked about this, Piaggio Fast Forward’s CEO Greg Lynn told The Verge that it was “unlikely someone could get away with walking away with it unnoticed” as it’s such a noticeable object. “A stolen Gita isn’t of much use to anyone as it uses a secure connection to a phone to be unlocked, updated, and used,” says Lynn. “We have yet to learn of a Gita being stolen or broken into while being used or when parked.”
The Gita has always been a bit of an odd product. It certainly looks fantastic, and videos suggest it works more or less as advertised (though it’s noisier than you might expect). But it’s not clear exactly who’s going to spend thousands of dollars on something that only carries a few bags and is stymied by steps and stairs. Gitamini doesn’t change any of these basic annoyances, though it is at least a little cheaper — it costs $1,850 (and will be available to buy from October 15th at mygita.com) while the launch sees the price of the original Gita drop to $2,950.
When we asked CEO Greg Lynn about the robot, he declined to share any sales figures with us but said there were Gita robots operating in “half the states in the US […] with a focus on the Southern belt where outdoor weather is more friendly year-round.”
“Most of the consumer Gitas are being used to replace car trips for neighborhood errands in a variety of communities, and they are used outdoors for round trips of a mile or more,” said Lynn. Though, he noted that the company had some business customers, too. There are currently Gitas in eight airports in the US (including JFK and LAX) and a number more in planned communities, like Water Street Tampa in Florida and Ontario Ranch in California.
AI research company OpenAI is releasing a new machine learning tool that translates the English language into code. The software is called Codex and is designed to speed up the work of professional programmers, as well as help amateurs get started coding.
In demos of Codex, OpenAI shows how the software can be used to build simple websites and rudimentary games using natural language, as well as translate between different programming languages and tackle data science queries. Users type English commands into the software, like “create a webpage with a menu on the side and title at the top,” and Codex translates this into code. The software is far from infallible and takes some patience to operate, but could prove invaluable in making coding faster and more accessible.
“We see this as a tool to multiply programmers,” OpenAI’s CTO and co-founder Greg Brockman told The Verge. “Programming has two parts to it: you have ‘think hard about a problem and try to understand it,’ and ‘map those small pieces to existing code, whether it’s a library, a function, or an API.’” The second part is tedious, he says, but it’s what Codex is best at. “It takes people who are already programmers and removes the drudge work.”
OpenAI used an earlier version of Codex to build a tool called Copilot for GitHub, a code repository owned by Microsoft, which is itself a close partner of OpenAI. Copilot is similar to the autocomplete tools found in Gmail, offering suggestions on how to finish lines of code as users type them out. OpenAI’s new version of Codex, though, is much more advanced and flexible, not just completing code, but creating it.
Codex is built on the top of GPT-3, OpenAI’s language generation model, which was trained on a sizable chunk of the internet, and as a result can generate and parse the written word in impressive ways. One application users found for GPT-3 was generating code, but Codex improves upon its predecessors’ abilities and is trained specifically on open-source code repositories scraped from the web.
This latter point has led many coders to complain that OpenAI is profiting unfairly from their work. OpenAI’s Copilot tool often suggests snippets of code written by others, for example, and the entire knowledge base of the program is ultimately derived from open-source work, shared to benefit individuals, not corporations. The same criticisms will likely be leveled against Codex, though OpenAI says its use of this data is legally protected under fair use.
When asked about these complaints, Brockman responds: “New technology is coming, we do need this debate, and there will be things we do that the community has great points on and we will take feedback and do things differently.” He argues, though, that the wider coding community will ultimately benefit from OpenAI’s work. “The real net effect is a lot of value for the ecosystem,” says Brockman. “At the end of the day, these types of technologies, I think, can reshape our economy and create a better world for all of us.”
Codex will also certainly create value for OpenAI and its investors. Although the company started life as a nonprofit lab in 2015, it switched to a “capped profit” model in 2019 to attract outside funding, and although Codex is initially being released as free API, OpenAI will start charging for access at some point in the future.
OpenAI says it doesn’t want to build its own tools using Codex, as it’s better placed to improve the core model. “We realized if we pursued any one of those, we would cut off any of our other routes,” says Brockman. “You can choose as a startup to be best at one thing. And for us, there’s no question that that’s making better versions of all these models.”
Of course, while Codex sounds extremely exciting, it’s difficult to judge the full scope of its capabilities before real programmers have got to grips with it. I’m no coder myself, but I did see Codex in action and have a few thoughts on the software.
OpenAI’s Brockman and Codex lead Wojciech Zaremba demonstrated the program to me online, using Codex to first create a simple website and then a rudimentary game. In the game demo, Brockman found a silhouette of a person on Google Images then told Codex to “add this image of a person from the page” before pasting in the URL. The silhouette appeared on-screen and Brockman then modified its size (“make the person a bit bigger”) before making it controllable (“now make it controllable with the left and right arrow keys”).
It all worked very smoothly. The figure started shuffling around the screen, but we soon ran into a problem: it kept disappearing off-screen. To stop this, Brockman gave the computer an additional instruction: “Constantly check if the person is off the page and put it back on the page if so.” This stopped it from moving out of sight, but I was curious how precise these instructions need to be. I suggested we try a different one: “Make sure the person can’t exit the page.” This worked, too, but for reasons neither Brockman nor Zaremba can explain, it also changed the width of the figure, squashing it flat on-screen.
“Sometimes it doesn’t quite know exactly what you’re asking,” laughs Brockman. He has a few more tries, then comes up with a command that works without this unwanted change. “So you had to think a little about what’s going on but not super deeply,” he says.
This is fine in our little demo, but it says a lot about the limitations of this sort of program. It’s not a magic genie that can read your brain, turning every command into flawless code — nor does OpenAI claim it is. Instead, it requires thought and a little trial and error to use. Codex won’t turn non-coders into expert programmers overnight, but it’s certainly much more accessible than any other programming language out there.
OpenAI is bullish about the potential of Codex to change programming and computing more generally. Brockman says it could help solve the programmer shortage in the US, while Zaremba sees it as the next step in the historical evolution of coding.
“What is happening with Codex has happened before a few times,” he says. In the early days of computing, programming was done by creating physical punch cards that had to be fed into machines, then people invented the first programming languages and began to refine these. “These programming languages, they started to resemble English, using vocabulary like ‘print’ or ‘exit’ and so more people became able to program.” The next part of this trajectory is doing away with specialized coding languages altogether and replacing it with English language commands.
Codex also has the ability to control other programs. In one demo, Brockman shows how the software can be used to create a voice interface for Microsoft Word. Because Word has its own API, Codex can feed it instructions in code created from the user’s spoken commands. Brockman copies a poem into a Word document and then tells Word (via Codex) to first remove all the indentations, then number the lines, then count the frequency of certain words, and so on. It’s extremely fluid, though hard to tell how well it would work outside the confines of a pre-arranged demo.
If it succeeds, Codex might not only help programmers but become a new interface between users and computers. OpenAI says it’s tested Codex’s ability to control not only Word but other programs like Spotify and Google Calendar. And while the Word demo is just a proof of concept, says Brockman, Microsoft is apparently already interested in exploring the software’s possibility. “They’re very excited about the model in general and you should expect to see lots of Codex applications be created,” he says.
Amazon has updated the Alexa app on iOS so that you can access the voice assistant right from your home screen via a new widget. Everyone can use the assistant to remind specific members of your household to do tasks through a new “assign reminders” skill.
Due to the somewhat restrictive nature of the widgets on iOS, the new Ask Alexa widget isn’t so much Alexa itself as it is a link directly to the iOS app. But if you have the Alexa widget placed on any of your screens and you’ve already given the Alexa app permission to use your iPhone’s mic, you’ll be able to start making requests with a tap.
And now those requests can get a bit more granular. Amazon’s given Alexa the ability to assign reminders to specific members of your household if they have a Voice Profile set up on the same Amazon Alexa account. So if you say “Alexa, remind Jeff to take the lasagna out of the freezer at 10AM,” Alexa will be able to deliver the reminder to the right person, at the right time, through the Alexa app. You can add profiles to your Alexa account in Settings under Your Profile, and Amazon says you can assign relationship nicknames to each one, like mom, dad, daughter, etc.
Alexa picks up new features and skills on a monthly basis, but Amazon also announced plans in June to open up Alexa even further to third-party developers. Among many new APIs, developers will be able to create custom widgets for the Echo Show.
While there are big companies that do accept cryptocurrencies as payments, Amazon is not one of them, perhaps because of its unpredictable volatility. Yet the company is about to change its attitude towards cryptocurrencies and even plans to develop a special cryptocurrency and blockchain strategy.
Business Insider has found an Amazon job listing that seeks a leader who will develop the retailer’s Digital Currency and Blockchain strategy as well as a product roadmap. The future employee of Amazon will be a part of The Amazon Payment Acceptance & Experience Team is responsible for ‘how Amazon’s customers pay on Amazon’s sites and through Amazon’s services around the globe,’ which pretty much implies that one of the world’s biggest retailers will start accepting cryptocurrency as payments sometimes in the future.
Indeed, Amazon has confirmed to Business Insider that it is going to accept cryptocurrencies, but did not reveal when exactly this is set to happen.
“We are inspired by the innovation happening in the cryptocurrency space and are exploring what this could look like on Amazon,” a statement by Amazon reads. “We believe the future will be built on new technologies that enable modern, fast, and inexpensive payments, and hope to bring that future to Amazon customers as soon as possible.”
Amazon used to be pretty sceptic about cryptocurrencies back in 2017 due to lack of demand, but as more people start using cryptocurrencies to keep their savings or make investments, there are obviously enough parties interested in using various digital coins for payments and avoid their conversion to real money.
What remains to be seen is how Amazon plans to mitigate volatility of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin that can fluctuate significantly even during a week. Perhaps, the company will simply convert Bitcoins to real money quickly. Alternatively, it may attempt to make some additional profits by waiting till a digital currency goes up in price.
But no matter what Amazon will do with cryptocurrencies it gets as payments, the very idea that such a large retailer will accept cryptocurrencies increases their value and makes some of the holders richer.
In an interview with Gamingbolt – CEO and creative director at THE PARASIGHT, the developer behind Blacktail, gave some great insights about Microsoft’s next-gen budget offering, the Xbox Series S. Kapron believes that the Series S is an ambivalent piece of hardware.
The Xbox Series S is a drastically weaker console when compared to its bigger brothers such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. In terms of raw TFLOPs, the Series S just has a third of the graphical grunt of the Series X. Thus, many seem to have doubts regarding its future, and whether it would be able to hold it’s own in next-gen titles. Kapron shares the sentiment to some extent, but also seems grateful that budget gamers can now get into next-gen gaming with the Series S.
“I think Series S is a very ambivalent piece of hardware. On the one hand, it makes the new generation much more affordable. On the other hand, everyone has doubts as to whether it won’t be a ball and chain, especially when the next gen will kick off for good. Personally, I think that despite the obvious difference in the target resolution in the future, we may also witness setting scaling between series X and S.”
Restoration Hardware (RH) closed the most recent trading day at $685, moving +1.48% from the previous trading session. This change outpaced the S&P 500’s 1.02% gain on the day.
Heading into today, shares of the furniture and housewares company had lost 0.32% over the past month, lagging the Retail-Wholesale sector’s gain of 0.19% and the S&P 500’s gain of 3.01% in that time.
RH will be looking to display strength as it nears its next earnings release. On that day, RH is projected to report earnings of $6.45 per share, which would represent year-over-year growth of 31.63%. Meanwhile, our latest consensus estimate is calling for revenue of $972.26 million, up 37% from the prior-year quarter.
For the full year, our Zacks Consensus Estimates are projecting earnings of $22.62 per share and revenue of $3.68 billion, which would represent changes of +26.86% and +29.23%, respectively, from the prior year.
Any recent changes to analyst estimates for RH should also be noted by investors. These revisions typically reflect the latest short-term business trends, which can change frequently. With this in mind, we can consider positive estimate revisions a sign of optimism about the company’s business outlook.
Based on our research, we believe these estimate revisions are directly related to near-team stock moves. We developed the Zacks Rank to capitalize on this phenomenon. Our system takes these estimate changes into account and delivers a clear, actionable rating model.
The Zacks Rank system ranges from #1 (Strong Buy) to #5 (Strong Sell). It has a remarkable, outside-audited track record of success, with #1 stocks delivering an average annual return of +25% since 1988. Over the past month, the Zacks Consensus EPS estimate remained stagnant. RH currently has a Zacks Rank of #3 (Hold).
Looking at its valuation, RH is holding a Forward P/E ratio of 29.85. This represents a premium compared to its industry’s average Forward P/E of 15.56.
Meanwhile, RH’s PEG ratio is currently 1.7. This metric is used similarly to the famous P/E ratio, but the PEG ratio also takes into account the stock’s expected earnings growth rate. The Retail – Home Furnishings industry currently had an average PEG ratio of 1.45 as of yesterday’s close.
The Retail – Home Furnishings industry is part of the Retail-Wholesale sector. This group has a Zacks Industry Rank of 18, putting it in the top 8% of all 250+ industries.
The Zacks Industry Rank gauges the strength of our individual industry groups by measuring the average Zacks Rank of the individual stocks within the groups. Our research shows that the top 50% rated industries outperform the bottom half by a factor of 2 to 1.
You can find more information on all of these metrics, and much more, on Zacks.com.
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During last week’s unrest, a well-known family business, Dumakude Hardware at Ma Afrika in Merlewood was looted and torched.
The newly renovated hardware was fully stocked with building materials. After being repeatedly looted last Monday (July 12), the building was set alight later that day.
The owner, Yaasir Mahomed took over the business from his father, the late Imraan Hansbhai Mahomed who was well-known in the community.
A social media post doing the rounds in the community stated that the store and building was the legacy of one of the most generous and helpful men in Port Shepstone (the late Mr Mahaomed) and that he gave generously of his time and experience, as well as carried out charity work in the surrounding communities.
“We have not as yet calculated the cost of the loss,” said Nabeela Mahomed, Yaasir’s wife.
“We are grateful to those who were so generous with their time at the clean-up event last Sunday.”
If you follow technology news and policy at all, you may have heard about the right to repair — the idea that, by law or simply because it’s the right thing to do, companies that make products should provide the instructions so that people can repair and extend the life of their devices. What would the ideal device look like in that scenario?
It would probably be a lot like the Framework Laptop. The first device from Framework, the notebook (starting at $999 pre-configured or $749 for the barebones DIY Edition we tested). is designed to be easily upgradeable, with the possibility of replacing the motherboard without tossing the whole laptop. It also allows for customizable side ports through a number of expansion cards that fit into the chassis. In theory, you’ll be able to consistently update this laptop rather than replace it entirely, reducing waste and getting precisely the laptop you want. It’s much easier to upgrade and fix than the best ultrabooks currently out there.
In my time with the DIY Edition (plus sampled components and expansion cards loaned by Framework), I was surprised at just how well this first-generation product seemed to come out. Yes, I have qualms with the reflective display and the plasticky trackpad. But I also got the motherboard out in less than 20 minutes. While it’s promising that Framework is preparing to ship the first units (a hurdle that many companies haven’t passed), the company will really have to exist and thrive for a few years in order to see the Framework Laptop’s full potential.
Design of the Framework Laptop
On the outside, the Framework Laptop doesn’t look like anything special. Inside, it’s making a statement. In most of our reviews, we separate out the overall design of a notebook and how you upgrade it. But on the Framework Laptop, you can’t talk about one without the other.
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At first glance, this laptop is largely like any other. Ironically, it’s a bit of a MacBook clone. The silver lid has the Framework logo on it in black, but since it’s not highly recognizable, it makes the laptop look a bit like a movie prop. Framework says the chassis is made from a combination of post consumer recycled aluminum and plastic, and it doesn’t feel as premium as some metal notebooks, but it also doesn’t seem cheap. There’s a small groove to open the lid, but it’s not deep enough to open with one handed use. Sometimes my nail would catch, but ultimately I needed two hands to unfold the laptop the majority of the time.
When you lift the lid, you’ll see the 13.5-inch 3:2 display and a no-frills chiclet keyboard, along with a fingerprint reader. But the big detail is on the sides: there are no ports other than a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The rest come from a series of expansion cards that you choose to fit into slots on the sides of the notebook. The fingerprint reader worked well enough, though I did find that it sometimes got surprisingly warm to the touch. I wish Framework also found a way to use infrared for Windows Hello facial login on the Laptop.
At 11.68 x 9.01 x 0.62 inches and 2.87 pounds, the Framework is proof as any that yes, you can still make a thin, portable notebook that can be repaired or upgraded by its owners. The popular Dell XPS 13 is 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches and 2.8 pounds, while the Macbook Pro with Apple’s M1 processor (and everything soldered down) is 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches and 3 pounds. The HP Spectre x360 14, a 2-in-1 with a 3:2 aspect ratio like the Framework, is 11.75 x 8.67 x 0.67 inches and 2.95 pounds.
Framework’s Expansion Cards
When you order the Framework Laptop, you have to select four “expansion cards” that fit into USB-C ports on the mainboard and close gaps in the chassis. Our review unit came with every possible option, and my go-to was to put a USB Type-C port on each side of the laptop for easy charging, along with a USB Type-A port for legacy peripherals and an HDMI output. Other options include extra storage, a microSD card slot and a DisplayPort output.
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Framework has pointed out that you can plug cables directly into the USB Type-C ports on the mainboard, in the recessed slots, and when I tried it, it did work. But the ordering process suggests you buy four to fill them in and ensure that the size of the recession doesn’t keep you from plugging anything in (I had a USB-C hub that didn’t quite fit, so I couldn’t plug it in without an expansion card). Sadly, there are no cheap fillers with no electronics if you don’t want to buy that many expansion cards.
The cards are hot swappable, though you’ll want to at least close the laptop to take them out. You remove them by pressing a small button to release the lock and then pull the card from the system. It takes some getting used to, but once you have it done a couple times, it’s not terribly difficult.
As of this writing, USB-C and USB-A port cards are $9 each, while MicroSD, DisplayPort and HDMI are all $19 a piece. A 250GB expansion card is $69, or you can get 1TB for $149.
These are effectively just a series of form-fitting dongles. Heck, I even tried plugging the USB Type-C card into my MacBook Pro, and it worked as a passthrough. It also read the 250GB expansion as a USB drive, just like the Framework Laptop itself.
For the most part, they all worked as expected. The one issue I had was plugging my Thunderbolt 3 dock into the laptop. For some reason, the PC wouldn’t support its own display and an external monitor. To do that, I had to grab the DisplayPort or HDMI cards. Weird.
Building the Framework Laptop
We specifically reviewed the Framework Laptop DIY Edition. The chassis is the same as any pre-configured Framework Laptop, but you need to install the RAM, storage and Wi-Fi module yourself. Additionally, it doesn’t come with an operating system. You can order these parts with the notebook (Framework is happy to sell them to you) or bring your own if you have them.
Framework includes a screwdriver in the box with a two-sided bit (one side is Torx 5, the other is a Phillips Head 0). The handle of the screwdriver slowly tapers down into a spudger. It’s not a fancy tool by any means, but it’s a nice touch and it helped me get the job done.
To open the laptop, you need to loosen five captive Torx screws. You then flip the laptop over, open the lid, and you can pull off the keyboard deck, starting with the right-hand corner. It’s held on with magnets and comes off easily, but be careful not to pull too powerfully, as you need to leave a ribbon cable attached to the touchpad (it’s pretty lengthy, so you’ll be fine).
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Inside, almost everything — the speakers, storage, memory, battery, and touchpad — or the spaces for them, are labeled with names and QR codes to determine what can be replaced and provide instructions to do so. During my testing, most of the QR codes didn’t work, though I’m told they’ll be live before customers receive them. I was provided with key instructions from the company that should be working before it launches.
The instructions, which looked a lot like iFixit teardown instructions, were largely clear, especially if you have any experience upgrading a laptop or desktop. The storage is an M.2 PCIe SSD, and the RAM are standard SODIMM slots (The instructions also guide you into which side you should plug your RAM into if you went single-channel, though we don’t advise that if you can help it).
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As part of the review, Framework loaned us a 1TB WD Black SN850 SSD, a pair of 16GB DDR4 3200 RAM sticks (a total of 32GB) and an Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 networking module.
For me, the biggest difficulty was that networking card. The instructions for that one were split into two steps and weren’t completely clear. For instance, a bracket and screw to remove aren’t mentioned until you’re supposed to put them back. Additionally, snapping on the antennas was a bit of an exercise in frustration, but hopefully you have more nimble fingers than I do, dear reader.
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The processor is already installed in the mainboard, and the battery and everything else is preinstalled. Next, you close it up and insert your four expansion slots to add your ports.
The last part of your build is to install your operating system of choice, so you’ll need an installer on a USB drive. I put on a copy of Windows 10 Home, though you could also opt for a distribution of Linux. This laptop will run Windows 11 when it is released.
There are some additional tricks for customization. For instance, you can very easily remove the bezels around the display to replace it with alternate color options. It attaches with magnets and requires no tools to remove. However, while Framework has hyped different colors like orange, white and red on its website, there is no indication as to when they will be available or what they will cost. In theory, there will be a Framework Marketplace for others to share expansion cards and add-ons, with claims that “community parts will come later in the year.”
There’s a small part of me that wishes the DIY Edition of the laptop, which Framework claims also has an easilyupgradable keyboard and display, came even more disassembled, so I could get more intimately familiar with it.
Framework Laptop DIY Edition Specifications
Intel Core i7-1165G7
Intel Iris Xe Graphics
32GB Crucial DDR4-3200 (2 x 16GB)
1TB WD Blacnk SN850 M.2 PCIe SSD
13.5-inches, 3:2, 2256 x 1504
Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210, Bluetooth 5.2
3.5 mm headphone jacks, four expansion slots of your choosing
1920×1080, 60 fps
Windows 10 Home
11.68 x 9.01 x 0.62 inches / 296.63 x 228.98 x 15.85 mm
2.87 pounds pounds / 1.3 kg
Price (as configured)
$1,523 plus the cost of ports, $1,049 if you bring your own parts
Note: in the table above, the price as configured uses prices for RAM and storage as listed on Framework’s website at time of publication. It also includes a power adapter ($49, you can bring your own and skip it). Ports range from $9 for USB Type-C to $149 for an extra 1TB of storage.
Replacing the Mainboard on the Framework Laptop
Framework’s biggest, most forward facing promise is that when it comes time to upgrade, you’ll be able to replace the mainboard. Unlike some previous attempts at upgradeable laptops that use desktop processors in a socket, it’s still soldered here. The board, after all, was the ultimate limitation on those platforms, like the Alienware Area 51-m, which needed a new system for a new generation of Intel chips. By replacing the board, you get a new, socketed mobile processor so you can keep it thin; You get a new cooler worthy of that processor. You can also replace the four USB Type-C ports that the Expansion cards plug into as newer, faster versions come out.
It means throwing out less of the system, and replacing what you can yourself.
Here’s the rub: those boards don’t exist yet. It’s a promise that maybe one day, you could upgrade to a new Intel generation (or maybe AMD! Framework hasn’t announced anything).
So to test this, we simply went in and removed the mainboard we had, and then put it back and reassembled the machine.
The whole thing takes 10 to 15 minutes, tops. Opening the laptop is extremely easy, and you don’t even need to remove any screws. The big issue here is really disconnecting everything: the touchpad, battery, speakers, audio flex cable, display and webcam from the board, as well as removing the Wi-Fi module, RAM and SSD you installed when you got the machine (or that came pre-installed if you bought it that way). Only then can you unscrew the five Torx T5 screws holding the board in and simply lift it out of the system.
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On the one hand, Framework has made this extremely easy. Many of the cables have extra loops or pulls to make them easy to remove and put back later. Its guide is clear, and every screw that needs to be loosened or removed uses the same T5 screwdriver that comes with the computer. If you’ve ever tinkered in a laptop of your own or built a desktop, you’ll be able to do this just fine.
But on the other hand, I could still see this being intimidating to newcomers. And while yes, enthusiasts are more likely to do this kind of thing, the Framework laptop is also being pitched as an environmentalist choice. I do think, with the instructions, most people can do this. But Framework will also need a collection of local shops willing to help with this process.
That is, once new boards come out.
Productivity Performance on the Framework Laptop
Like any barebones machine where you could bring your own parts, the Framework Laptop has to be tested with a caveat; The parts here are the ones Framework supplied, and if you use a different SSD or RAM, you may get different results. The CPU should be similar unless you get a different one, but that’s the case with testing any desktop.
As configured with an Intel Core i7-1165G7, 32GB of RAM from Crucial and a 1TB WD Black SN850, the Framework was a handy performer, without issues running multiple browser tabs (32GB of RAM will do that for you), fast transfer speeds and a smooth overall Windows 10 experience.
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On Geekbench 5, a synthetic, overall performance test, the Framework Laptop earned a single-core score of 1,597 and a multi-core score of 4,695. It had the highest single-core score of the bunch, but it was edged out by all of its competitors on multi-core workloads. The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga was very close, while the Dell XPS 13 outperformed.
On our file transfer test, the Framework Laptop copied about 25GB of files at a rate of 1,789.85 MBps. That’s significantly faster than any of its competitors, but it’s also using an SSD that one typically finds in expensive gaming desktops, rather than most ultraportables. This is, however, one of the two SSD options Framework offers in its configurator (The other is the WD Black SN750).
The capable equipment, 32GB of RAM and that faster drive, may have also helped on our Handbrake test, which transcodes a 4K video to 1080p. It did so in 12 minutes and 49 seconds, handily beating the rest of the field. The system’s fan is quite loud during this test, but it did get results. The next closest competitor was the HP Spectre x360 15 at 18:05, though perhaps with these kinds of parts it would come closer.
For graphics, we ran 3DMark Night Raid, which is a benchmark for laptops with integrated GPUs. Again, the Framework Laptop performed exceedingly well here at 15,992. The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, the next best, hit 14,014.
On productivity notebooks, we also use Cinebench R23for 20 runs to check performance over time. The Framework Laptop started with a score of 5,446.43 and eventually settled in the high 5,200’s by run five. The processor ran at an average clock speed of 3,289.69 with an average temperature of 83.8 degrees Celsius (182.84 degrees Fahrenheit). An output report from HWinfo suggests that each of the processors’ cores intermittently throttled throughout the test.
Display on the Framework Laptop
The Framework Laptop uses a 13.5-inch, 3:2 screen with a resolution of 2256 x 1504. This is the same size and resolution of Microsoft’s 13.5-inch Surface Laptop 4.
Unlike the Surface, however, Framework isn’t using a touchscreen. The company told me that “the ergonomics are… not ideal for a touch screen” in a clamshell laptop, but could consider it in the future if it wouldn’t interfere with repairability. I’m told the mainboard can support a touch screen in the future if the company wishes to add one.
Our review unit’s panel was bright and vivid, without any issues like defective pixels or backlight bleed. It was, however, surprisingly reflective for a non-touch display. I could often see myself in the screen, though surprisingly it didn’t get much worse from other viewing angles.
One video I checked out during my time with the notebook was the trailer for Eternals. A blue temple and lush green forests looked good, even if they didn’t pop tremendously.
Keyboard and Touchpad on the Framework Laptop
Framework’s keyboard offers 1.5 millimeters of keyboard. That’s a metric I used to deem as ideal a few years ago. But most laptop manufacturers, in slimming down their notebooks, have taken every millimeter they can, including from keyboard travel.
For better or worse, I’ve gotten used to the hard strike when bottoming out on a laptop keyboard. If you’re like that, this keyboard may feel slightly mushy. Still, I hit 109 words per minute on it with my usual accuracy.
I wish that Frameworkhad gone with an inverted T-pattern for the arrow keys, rather than half-side up and down keys. Additionally, the F12 function key opens Groove music, which isn’t exactly useful.
The touchpad is nice and wide, but it does feel a bit cheap, particularly when you click it down; There’s a bit of flex in the chassis if you click too hard. Windows precision drivers are pretty standard at this point, and gestures worked without fail.
Audio on the Framework Laptop
The speakers on the Framework Laptop are quite serviceable. Like most ultraportables, there’s not much in the way of bass, but when I listened to The Killers and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dustland,” the vocals were clear, and the instrumentals, especially strings, were prominent.
Some ultraportables can get a bit louder than this one, but it filled enough of my apartment with sound that I wasn’t particularly worried about it.
Heat on the Framework Laptop
We took skin temperature measurements while running our Cinebench R23 heat test to see how hot the Framework Laptop may get under heavy load.
The center of the keyboard, between the G and H keys, measured 46.2 degrees Celsius (115.16 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s notable that all of the main components are literally right below the keyboard, as shown above. The touchpad measured 35.1 degrees Celsius (95.18 degrees Fahrenheit). These numbers are, in my experience, a bit higher than other ultraportables.
On the bottom, the hottest point measured 53.4 degrees Celsius, right on the vent.
Webcam on the Framework Laptop
Framework touts a 1080p webcam that works at 60 frames per second. Major laptop companies, take notes.
This webcam is noticeably sharper than the usual 720p options on most laptops from major vendors. In still photos and videos, I could make out every hair on my head and in my beard, as well as the bags under my eyes (Note to self: sleep more).
The colors, however, were a bit off, not so much that I wouldn’t use the camera, but it added a bit of redness to my face, and the green shirt I was wearing appeared a bit more vibrant to the lens than it did to my eye.
To the right of the camera, there’s a kill switch that cuts power to it for privacy. This is an alternative to a physical cover To the left, there’s a separate switch to mute the microphone at the hardware level.
Software and Warranty on the Framework Laptop
At least on the DIY Edition, since you bring your own operating system, there’s no bloatware other than what comes with a standard Windows install. Framework says that’s the case for the standard, pre-built Framework Laptop, too.
So you may want to uninstall TikTok or Roblox or Hidden City: Hidden Object Adventure if you don’t want them, but that’s a Windows problem.
Framework sells its laptops with a one-year warranty.
Can I Trust This?
Right now, the Framework Laptop is up for pre-order, with the notebook scheduled to ship in “batches” throughout the rest of the year. This is in response to the ongoing component shortage, and Framework claims that there’s just one chip it can’t get a steady supply of.
Framework has a good idea here, and seemingly noble intentions. As the right to repair movement grows, the Framework Laptop is one that’s designed to be upgraded with you, match your needs and reduce e-waste.
But Framework is also a new company, and this is its first product. It will take time to see how successfully it rolls out its laptop, how well its customer service holds up and, perhaps most importantly, if it does manage to issue platform updates, open a marketplace and provide all of the upgrades that make this laptop fulfill its promises. Those aren’t there yet, and we don’t have all the details.
What I can tell you is that the product does exist. I’ve tried it. This article exists based on actual, hands-on experience.
But like with any pre-order from an unproven company, you’ll have to do your research and assess how comfortable you are spending your money.
Framework Laptop Configurations
You can get the Framework Laptop as a complete machine starting at $999, or the DIY Edition we tested, which starts at $749.
Among the completed laptops are the $999 base model (Core i5-1135G7, 8GB RAM, 256GB, Windows 10 Home, Wi-Fi 6), a $1,399 performance option (Core i7-1165G7, 16GB memory, 512GB storage, Wi-Fi 6, Windows 10 Home) and a $1,999 professional version (Core i7-1185G7, 32GB memory, 1TB storage, Wi-Fi 6 with vPro, Windows 10 Pro).
The SSDs in the Framework Laptop are variations of the Western Digital SN730, which Framework says is a version of the WD SN750 for laptop manufacturers.
All of those prices, however, assume four USB-C expansion cards by default. Once you change them, costs may change. These all include a charger and a screwdriver.
The DIY Edition is slightly more complicated. You can choose from a chassis with the Core i5-1135G7 and $749, Core i7-1165G7 at $1,049 or Core i7-1185G7 for $1,449.00.
You don’t need any parts from there, but Framework is happy to sell them to you. It offers two different Wi-Fi 6E chips, up to 64GB of RAM in various single or dual-channel configurations, a number of WD Black SSDs up to 4TB and downloads for Windows 10. A quick perusal of the prices suggests Framework charges slightly more than you’d pay separately, but nothing offensive. Windows 10 codes are downloads and cost the same as getting it from Microsoft.
Our laptop was configured with an Intel Core i7-1165G7, 32GB of RAM (2 x 16GB), a 1TB WD Black SN850 SSD and a USB-C power adapter. I installed Windows 10 separately. If you were to put it together that way, it would cost $1,523 — and that’s before you choose which expansion cards you want.
The fact that the DIY Edition doesn’t come with a charger is a mixed bag. On the one hand, that’s catered to enthusiasts more likely to already have a USB-C charger than the average person, and you could get one elsewhere cheaper than $49 elsewhere. But for those who don’t have one lying around, it feels like a bit of a tax, especially if you’ve otherwise configured it with parts that bring the total to more than $1,000.
Framework isn’t just selling a laptop — it’s selling a promise. The laptop half is quite solid. It offers a tall, bright 3:2 display, decent build quality and a keyboard with 1.5 mm of travel. The swap out ports, while effectively just custom dongles made to fit this laptop, do work as promised.
And yes, the Framework Laptop is definitively easier to upgrade than some other notebooks. Unlike other thin laptops that have started soldering RAM or making it so you can’t remove the battery, this laptop is extremely easy to open and even includes the tool to do so.
In those areas, I do think that those who have already placed pre-orders will be satisfied. It’s not perfect, however, with a reflective display, a cheap-feeling touchpad and some high external temperatures when under heavy workloads.
But sticking the landing on this promise requires more than a good laptop. It requires fulfilling all of the orders placed — which Framework may very well do! But it’s also launching during a component shortage, and this is a first time product. The laptop also relies extremely heavily on the eventual launch of new mainboards with faster processors in the future. If that doesn’t come, the Framework Laptop will be another laptop you eventually replace.
I hope Framework pulls it off, because the right to repair is important, and we can be preventing tons of e-waste from ending up in landfills or the ocean. And if a small company can do it, maybe they’ll convince larger manufacturers to compete. But tons of well-meaning laptop companies with good ideas have also struggled. We’ll see soon enough, as the company starts shipping its laptops in earnest throughout the summer.
Atom Computing adds itself to a growing list of quantum systems makers with pedigreed founders, funding announcements, and a market that even the big players haven’t mastered. With no acquisition/cash-out goals apparent, no established market to chase, and competitive differentiation so nuanced, what’s the game?
If the last five years revolved around AI chip startups, expect the next five to shift to another upstart—the quantum device makers. If the neural network hardware startup crush taught us anything, it’s that it’s hard to challenge the largest chipmakers. We suspect a similar situation with the emerging quantum systems makers.
There are already existing large-scale players in the ecosystem (IBM, Google, and Microsoft) and more established startups, including D-Wave, are also worth mentioning. But even between all of these companies there is so little of practical, real-world value happening on these machines that they do not yet represent any upset to the traditional computing world.
Nonetheless, plenty will try. As with AI hardware, it’s easy to cloak real technical merit in magic-science speak and not have to explain technical differentiation. Without any benchmarks or even functional high-qubit devices that can operate at large enough scale to warrant a multi-vendor comparative effort beyond qubit count (itself not adequate in measuring performance) quantum startups can make almost any claim.
This is not to say the devices are invalid or worse, not even real/functional. It’s to say that it’s a tricky time to enter the quantum startup world in hardware. It’s not as simple as saying “it’s still too early” it’s that the market potential in the next five to ten years could still be minimal in reality. For those who do go the quantum route, how many companies are needed? And is it likely users will look to those with the most established, long-running quantum software stacks and hardware devices.
The quantum startups that cannot compete on time in the space, and who aren’t at liberty to/can’t explain what they do exactly, how it’s different from existing approaches, and how their software works in technical detail do have one last trick up their collective sleeves. Make waves by big, famous hires and raise a lot of capital on the power of those big, famous hires. That happened in the latter stages of the AI hardware game (and has in other areas in IT for years before that).
All of this was to introduce was a sideways way of introducing yet another quantum hardware maker into the space. There’s definitely some magic science speak here, and there’s definitely some funding and pedigree. But there are also a few things worth noting that take this company beyond a few others we’ve watched crop up with no real descriptions of what they do, how it’s different, how they make it, who will use it and how, etc.
This upstart is Atom Computing. Instead of calling a qubit a “qubit” they’re calling them “atoms”. They are one of several companies we’ll see in the coming year or two basing quantum systems on spin qubits. When we got the advance press release on Atom’s news that it’s raised $15 million, this sentence caught our eye: “Atom Computing is the first company to build nuclear-spin qubits out of an alkaline earth element.” We asked the startup’s CTO, Dr. Ben Bloom, what in the hell this means.
Our qubits are made of Strontium-87. There are more than 70 levels in our atom that have lifetimes of 10 seconds+. With our first-generation system, Phoenix, we’ve figured out how to control a subset of those levels that are intrinsically stable, made out of different configurations of the nucleus of an alkaline earth atom. This allows us to write quantum information into a scalable system that is shielded from the outside world, without having to resort to dilution refrigerators or other tricks.
So spin qubits. Got it.
From the press release (emphasis ours): “The company’s first-generation quantum computing system, Phoenix, is currently capable of trapping 100 atoms in a vacuum chamber with optical tweezers. Phoenix is able to rearrange and manipulate their quantum states with lasers. The system demonstrates exceptionally stable qubits at scale, with coherence times that are orders of magnitude greater than ever reported.”
When asked about whether there is room in the market for another quantum hardware maker, Atom Computing CEO, Rob Hays tells The Next Platform, “Even with incredible advances in computing performance in the exascale era, there are still mathematical problems, complex simulations, and AI models that still can’t be effectively solved with supercomputers alone. Quantum computers offer a new paradigm in computing that allow a massive continuum of solution space to be explored in parallel with a relatively small number of qubits and new quantum algorithms. We expect quantum computers and classical HPC clusters to be mated together to reach new heights in computing performance and solve these difficult problems together.”
Hays comes to the quantum startup world from the enterprise IT segment. Before Atom, Hays was Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for Lenovo’s Infrastructure Solutions Group and spent 20 years at Intel, where he was Vice President and General Manager of Data Center Group Strategic Planning.CTO and co-founder Ben Bloom spent a year at another quantum hardware startup, Rigetti Computing and two years prior to that Intel as a module and yield integration engineer.
Atom Computing has been around for almost four years with Bloom as CEO until Hays stepped into the role this week. The company secured more than $15M in Series A funding which includes investment from Venrock, Innovation Endeavors, and Prelude Ventures. In addition, the National Science Foundation awarded the company three grants.
When asked how there is market room for another startup in the quantum systems space, Bloom tells us, “Atom Computing is dedicated to building useful, gate-based quantum computers, where every Atom equals 1 qubit. We believe the only way to build a scalable quantum computing system is to try new and exciting things. Our point-of-view is that long-lived, high-coherence, scalable systems are the only way to build a successful quantum computer. It’s about demonstrating performance at scale. We are committed to showcasing technical milestones and benchmarks that actually matter for creating a universal quantum computer.”
But here’s the question: what are the technical milestones and benchmarks that actually do matter in this nascent space?
In quantum at this moment, there is tremendous device diversity, but on the micro-level. There are differences in how qubits talk to one another, how tolerant to noise they are, how usable the software stack to interface with them has become and so on. Further, for people used to following systems, we have been trained to think in core counts and clock speeds. Qubit count doesn’t mean a thing if they can’t function together and a qubit, (or “atom”, or whatever you’d like to call it to make it sound different) so competing on that doesn’t work either.
Every quantum startup wants to come out of the gate looking different. It’s nearly impossible when even our smartest readers have a difficult time explaining in any level of technical detail what makes D-Wave’s approach different than IBM’s and so on. The opportunity for a marketing-driven startup to sweep in, blind VCs and the media with science-magic-talk and hyperbole is great.
Companies like Atom Computing and those who will surely follow with their own quantum hardware story are doing something difficult (stable spin qubits, for instance) have an equally tough challenge ahead: communicating past the first funding round about how, where, and why they’ll shave out any kind of market reach.
Unlike with the AI chip startups where it was clear in some cases companies were built for acquisition/cash-out, the big companies aren’t buying quantum startups. They have their own problems getting their own hardware/software stacks to work. So, again with the title: what are quantum hardware startups thinking?