As laptops have gotten thinner and lighter in recent years, they’ve also gotten harder to upgrade or repair. It’s always been rare to find a laptop with an upgradeable CPU or GPU, but these days it’s increasingly difficult to find one with a user replaceable battery, memory, or storage.
Swiss PC maker Prime Computer is bucking that trend with the launch of a new PrimeBook Circular laptop that uses a series of “easily replaceable computer modules,” allowing you to repair or upgrade the computer over time. But the idea isn’t entirely unique – Prime Computers appears to be using Intel’s NUC P14E Laptop kit, which uses replaceable Intel NUC Laptop Element modules.
The 3.3 pound PrimeBook Circular will ship with a 13.9 inch, 3000 x 2000 pixel IPS LCD touchscreen display, a 77 Wh battery, an anodized aluminum chassis, a glass trackpad, a fingerprint reader, and an HD IR webcam.
At launch, it will ship with an 11th-gen Intel Core “Tiger Lake” processor, but the modular design should allow you to upgrade the processor in the future, assuming Prime Computer puts out new modules down the road. At the very least, if you buy a PrimeBook Circular with an entry-level processor today, you may be able to upgrade to a more powerful chip in the future without the need to buy a whole new computer.
At launch, these are the module options listed on the Prime Computer website:
- Intel Celeron 6305 / 4GB RAM / Intel UHD graphics / Intel AX201 wireless
- Intel Core i5-1135G7 / 8GB RAM / Intel Iris Xe graphics / Intel AX201 wireless
- Intel Core i7-1165G7 / 16GB RAM / Intel Iris Xe graphics / Intel AX201 wireless
In a press release, Prime Computer also suggests that a Core i7-1185G7 module will be available.
As spotted by Linuxium, the laptop shell seems to be an Intel NUC P14E BKCMCN1CC1DU1 laptop kit, which does indeed support modules with to an Intel Core i7-1185G7 processor.
That means the processor, memory, and wireless chip are all on the same module, so if you want to upgrade one component you’ll have to upgrade them all at the same time buy purchasing an entirely new module. While it’d be nice to be able to replace individual components, at least this system does allow you to keep a laptop’s display, keyboard, camera, and other parts in use for years, while swapping out the guts.
The notebook also uses an M.2 slot for solid state storage, which should make it easy for users to upgrade or replace the SSD on their own.
Ports include HDMI 2.0b, Mini DisplayPort 1.4a, Thunderbolt 4, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 3.5mm audio, and Gigabit Ethernet, and the laptop comes with a 65-watt USB-C power supply. Prime Computer says the notebook comes standard with a 3-year warranty, but there’s an option to extend that warranty to 5 years.
Unfortunately the company hasn’t actually said how much the PrimeBook Circular costs or exactly when you’ll be able to buy one. But it’s nice to see another laptop that’s designed to be repaired and/or upgraded at a time when some companies are moving in the other direction, making it difficult to upgrade or replace components even on desktop computers.
Meanwhile if you’d prefer to buy an Intel NUC 14PE Laptop shell without the Prime Computer branding, they’re available for around $660 to $740, depending on the retailer. You’ll need to supply your own Compute Element though. Those sell for around $275 and up.