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.

This article has been updated to reflect that the PrimeBook Circular is based on Intel’s NUC P14E Laptop Kit and NUC P14 Laptop Element modules

press release via NotebookCheck

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11 replies on “PrimeBook Circular is a modular, upgradeable laptop designed to last for years”

  1. I find the ram options limits the appeal of the laptop alot. The framework laptop has the edge there. But I am happily surprised about the trackpoint! Will definitely keep an eye on it.

  2. Will the replacement batteries be OEM and not too expensive? Dell, HP and Lenovo are not incentivized to do this… solve this one problem and make a decent quality device and you have my business. No need to make it future-proof.

  3. Like Framework (which has existed for a while), Primebook also fails to offer AMD Ryzen APUs in their products. Maybe they will offer something in the future but at this point I fail to see the need for another modular laptop company. Also, it would be nice if one of these companies would innovate and offer a 13 inch thin and light convertible laptop with modular replacement parts. It’s crazy that the only 13 inch convertible worth a damn is the Asus Flow X13 series and it has mostly soldered components.

  4. I don’t really like being able to only charge via USB-C on laptops. Compared to a barrel jack, it always makes me much more worried that I’m going to break the port on the computer or wear out the cord. I know it’d probably take a while to wear something out, but putting in another USB-C port instead of the mini-displayport would help me not worry about longevity so much.
    I like that they put physical mouse buttons and a pointing stick on there at least.

    1. Would not surprise me if this is built on some offshoot of Intel’s NUC products.

      At least the promo material i can find looks eerily like rebranded NUC products.

      1. Indeed. And the Intel NUC P14E Laptop kit (BKCMCN1CC1DU1) is available from around $750 to which you add the element (e.g. BKCM11EBV716W is an Intel Core i7-1185G7 Processor with 16GB LPDDR4 Memory) for another $700.

    2. Hi!

      The plug life consideration is a bit out.

      USB-C connectors meeting spec are rated for 10,000 plug/unplug cycles. Dell and HP do not rate their barrel adapters. Common barrel adapters are rated for about 500 cycles.

      1. Maybe a lack of a rating doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not robust. Perhaps they’re so simple a rating wasn’t necessary to inspire confidence. And I suspect laptop connectors might be a bit tougher than common adapters.
        In any case, I do know that I’ve never had a laptop with a barrel jack which damaged the cord being used often while plugged in. Lenovo power cords with the square plug eventually fray their outside mesh, and I’m seeing my Nexdock 2’s usb charger start to only work when the cord is at certain angles (I use it on a phone mostly).

        I know, you’re not really supposed to actually use a laptop while plugged in these days, it’s not cool. It’s just a habit because I don’t want to bother planning around what battery level my laptop is at.

        At least you could use a generic USB-PD adapter (even one that replaces your wall sockets!) these days with a connector in it, and get new relatively more expendable cords every time one wears out, but that still feels wasteful. And at least with a second charging port, you’re not necessarily screwed if you drop the laptop while its plugged in.

  5. Hmm, well that’s better than a lot of what’s available, but seems like it’s a ways from the Framework, which has their nice little usb-c modules as well as easier upgrades of individual components…

  6. I like the idea and the aspect ratio. It looks like a nice solid design. For a modular computer though, it doesn’t make any sense that the memory is not user-replaceable.

    @Brad there’s a minor typo in the article title.

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