LG Gram review: A lightweight 15in laptop with plenty of oomph
The lightest 15in laptop we’ve ever tested, and the longest-lasting too
Big-screened laptops get a bad rep. Devices fitted with 15in displays are bulky beasts, and aren't as backpack-friendly as their 13in counterparts. They certainly aren't kind to the spine, either.
Case in point: Dell's recently-launched XPS 15 2-in-1. An exquisite laptop in every respect - despite the horribly-placed Page Up and Page Down keys - its 2kg heft is far from ideal for the daily commute.
Almost half the weight of Dell's flashy hybrid, LG's appropriately-named Gram laptop bucks this trend; although it's still packed with high-end internals and fitted with a massive 15.6in display, it's astonishingly light for a laptop of this size.
LG Gram review: Design
If you haven't twigged already, the Gram's raison d'etre is that this laptop is significantly lighter than its similarly-sized competition, weighing a paltry 1.09kg. No other 15in laptop is as commuter-friendly, and especially when compared to the XPS 15 2-in-1 - which weighs twice as much - this makes all the difference. At 17.7mm thick, it's also pretty slim, although the XPS has a very slight edge in this department.
On closer inspection, however, you begin to spot how LG managed to shave off the pounds. Constructed from a "nano carbon magnesium" alloy, the chassis feels rather flimsy, and much more like plastic than its aluminium-heavy counterparts. The laptop's lid, in particular, is capable of bending much further than we'd like.
Still, that's the trade off you're forced to accept for a laptop this light, and LG offers some reassurance on its website, saying that the Gram's "military-grade" chassis has passed a total of seven industry-standard durability tests.
Despite its lack of bulk, the Gram is generously-equipped with ports. On the left edge you'll spot the Thunderbolt 3-powered USB-C port, an HDMI output, a regular-sized USB Type-A port and a DC charging connector. A further two USB Type-A ports sit next to each other on the right side, along with a microSD card reader and a 3.5mm headset connector. LG also includes a USB-C to Ethernet adapter in the box.
LG Gram review: Keyboard and touchpad
The Gram's backlit full-sized chiclet-style keyboard is well-spaced across the width of the laptop, with a dedicated numpad on the right side. The typing action is crisp and consistent across the keyboard, but individual keys are rather small for our liking.
The large, glass-topped trackpad's surface is nice and smooth, not to mention perfectly responsive. It performs Windows 10's laundry list of multi-touch gestures without breaking a sweat.
LG Gram review: Display
The Gram's massive screen might be its biggest positive. Measuring 15.6in from corner to corner - with skinny bezels on all four edges - the touch-enabled panel is terrific, capable of covering 96.9% of the sRGB colour gamut. In layman's terms, that means colour performance is on a par with what you'd expect from a professional monitor with a four-figure price tag.
Brightness isn't bad either. Our X-rite i1 display colorimeter measured 308cd/m2 at maximum brightness, which is perfectly decent for the morning commute or a dimly-lit office. The screen resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 translates to a pixel pitch of 141 PPI and everything looks perfectly sharp with a contrast ratio of 1,029:1.
Sound isn't quite so impressive. Laptop speakers are never going to be the last word in hi-fi, but the downward-facing stereo speakers here are particularly limited, with nothing at all in the way of lower-mid or bass response and unavoidable tinniness at high volumes. This makes it very unpleasant to listen to music or watch Netflix, driving you to hook up some headphones fast.
LG Gram review: Performance and battery life
Running the show is Intel's quad-core, eight-thread Core i7-8550U processor, clocked at 1.8GHz and capable of boosted clock speeds up to 4GHz. It's paired with 16GB of 2,400MHz DDR4 RAM. In our demanding 4K benchmarks, the Gram scored 113 in the image-editing test, 75 in the video test and 60 in multitasking. Tally up the scores and the Gram reaches an overall result of 74 - a decent effort for a laptop this skinny and light, but some distance behind the XPS 15 2-in-1, which nearly doubled its score. It's on par with Microsoft's meaty 15in Surface Book 2, however, which is no mean feat.
As for real-word usage, we didn't have any issues with the Gram's performance when tackling heavy-duty applications such as Adobe Photoshop, and temperatures were comfortably low through the lightweight casing.
Storage speeds are slightly disappointing. The 1TB M.2 SATA SSD in our review unit produced sequential read and write speeds of 499MB/s and 427MB/sec according to the AS SSD benchmark. These are far from the fastest speeds we've encountered, especially for a PCIe SSD.
Thankfully, it's a much better story when it comes to battery life. In our video rundown test - with the display set to 170cd/m2 and airplane mode engaged - the Gram managed an impressive 11hrs and 23mins before needing a recharge. That's miles better than its similar-specced competitors, and in fact, it's one of the best results we've ever seen in our battery tests; LG is certainly doing something right.
LG Gram review: Verdict
It isn't faultless, but the Gram is a worthy large-screened ultraportable, giving you all the advantages of the form factor without the usual back-wrecking, shoulder-aching weight. It's excellent value, too; Apple's entry-level 15in MacBook Pro is almost 1,000 more expensive, while the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is more than 200 more expensive and the 15in Surface Book 2 is around the same price.
The LG Gram's 15.6in display is as accurate as the very best professional-grade monitors, it lasts up to two days on a single charge, and performance is as good as many other modern laptops. Squeeze all that inside the lightest 15in laptop to date, and the Gram is a surefire success.
The LG Gram’s 15.6in display is as accurate as the very best professional-grade monitors, it lasts up to two days on a single charge, and performance is as good as many other modern laptops. Squeeze all that inside the lightest 15in laptop to date, and the Gram is a surefire success.
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