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The competition between Intel and AMD is a tale as old as time. And here, in the unobtrusive and unsuspecting Framework Laptop 13, that competition comes to a head. Because, for the first time, this modular 13-inch machine allows you to fully swap an Intel processor with an AMD processor (or, I do suppose, vice versa). It’ll cost you as little as $449 (the price of a Ryzen 5 mainboard) and half an hour of your time.

It’s great that an AMD Framework exists, both for folks who already own an Intel version but want to upgrade and for those who are shopping for the first time and will benefit from more choice. It’s also great for me personally because it creates a controlled experiment. It allows me to put two competing chips side by side in a literally identical chassis and test them out. There’s not even a price differential: the two systems are the same price, with prebuilts starting at $1,049 and DIY kits at $849 in both cases.

Spoiler alert: AMD won. And outside of some specific use cases, the AMD Framework model is the one you should buy. 

Before I dive into the benchmark results, there is one brief caveat to be aware of when it comes to the AMD Framework’s chassis. The port situation is a little bit… complicated. 

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As you probably know if you have any degree of familiarity with the Framework Laptop, one of its highlights (and my personal favorite part) is that you can customize the quantity and arrangement of the two ports on each side of the computer, both before you buy the computer and then any time you want thanks to swappable modules. (I went for an HDMI, a USB-A, and two USB-C on this Ryzen unit.)

On the most recent Intel Framework, all four of these expansion card bays support Thunderbolt 4. Its AMD counterpart’s connectivity is a bit more of a homework assignment. You have USB4 in the rear left and rear right, USB 3.2 and DisplayPort in the front right, and only USB 3.2 in the front left. That means you can’t use an HDMI module on the front-left port, and the rear ports will have faster data transfer speeds. It’s far from the end of the world, but arranging your ports on the AMD system requires a bit more thought than the free-for-all that the Intel system afforded.

Is it Intel? Is it AMD? You’ll never know.

But that’s pretty much the only outward difference you’ll find between the Intel and AMD Frameworks. The 3:2 2256 x 1504 screen is still excellent and bright. The bezel color can now be changed, as can the keyboard (which is a great keyboard). And at just 2.86 pounds (1.3kg), the chassis remains incredibly portable for the power inside. 

Here are the benchmarks, which are going to be the most important difference here. Both my Intel and AMD test units had 16GB of RAM inside. The Intel model was powered by a Core i7-1360P; the AMD option has a Ryzen 7 7840U. Both of these systems would (as of this writing) go for $1,469 in their prebuilt forms. (You can, of course, buy the cheaper DIY kit if you’d prefer to assemble the thing yourself. Those prices will vary endlessly depending on which parts you select — and there are a lot of options.)

The numbers here lead to a clear conclusion: the AMD chip is the better performer in most cases. Intel is slightly ahead in single-core performance, which is expected — that’s Intel’s whole thing. But the Ryzen processor is far ahead of the Core i7 on multicore performance, despite the fact that Intel’s processor actually has more cores. 

And then, we turn to graphics, which is where AMD really takes the win. AMD’s Radeon 780M put up excellent performance for an integrated GPU. Intel’s Iris Xe, which hasn’t seen a significant update in a few years, had a worse go all around. On Tomb Raider, the 1360P performed closer to the 12th Gen chip in the Dell XPS 13 I reviewed than it did to the Ryzen 7; AMD’s frame rates on that title were close to 50 percent higher. The Ryzen machine was also close to a minute faster on our 4K export test. 

If you want to game, the AMD model should serve you better than the Intel one.

Does that extra power come at the cost of power efficiency? In my testing, not at all. Both of my test Framework models had a 61Wh battery, and the average battery lifespans that I saw out of the two were precisely, to the minute, identical — in both cases, nine hours and 12 minutes. (I was continuously using the device for work at medium brightness with Battery Saver on, multitasking in 15 to 20 Chrome tabs and other apps with the occasional Zoom call or Spotify streaming running overtop.) 

Ironically, this result is very good news for Intel because AMD devices across the board have been lasting me much longer this year. These both blow the 12th Gen XPS 13 (and pretty much every other high-resolution Intel laptop I’ve tested recently) out of the water. Nevertheless, to the typical person choosing a Framework system, battery life is a wash.

The Ryzen chip also did a better job of keeping itself cool. The Core i7 made frequent jumps up to 100 degrees Celsius during benchmark testing, while I didn’t even see the Ryzen 7 hitting 90 all that often. I did hear quite a bit of fan noise from the Ryzen model throughout the process, but overall, it seemed that the Ryzen 7 was having an easier time handling the tasks I threw at it. 

The expansion cards come in these cute little boxes that I’m obsessed with.

Here’s what they look like unpacked.

So what have we learned here? DIY enthusiasts have been asking when the Ryzen Framework will arrive since basically the dawn of the product’s existence. Finally, it is here — and not only is it here but it doesn’t even require buying a whole new laptop if you already have a Framework. That’s awesome, and you should absolutely try to get your hands on one. You’re getting more power and more efficiency than the Intel model affords for exactly the same price — as long as you’re okay doing a bit more thinking about which ports will go where.

Now, the bad news: the wait isn’t over. Intel Framework systems are currently shipping “within five business days,” per Framework’s website. Ryzen models just have a “Ships Q4” label slapped on them. We are currently in Q4, so I guess they could ship as early as tomorrow, but Q4 also goes until the end of December, so like, they could also ship that late. 

Not everyone has the luxury of sitting around and waiting for AMD systems to ship at an undetermined time (as the past few years have certainly taught us). So look, if you need something now, you need something now. I gave the Intel Framework laptop a nine out of 10 score because it’s fantastic. The AMD system is fantastic, too, and differences in multithreaded performance and GPU-intensive tasks aren’t always a high priority for folks shopping in the 13-inch space. At the end of the day, what matters most about both of these devices is that they offer a rare degree of user-customizability. And if you get tired of the processor you got, you can always swap in another.

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