I’ve had the privilege of going hands-on with the new 14-inch LG Gram over the last month, and wanted to share my impressions. The Gram is a very lightweight traditional-style Windows laptop with a touch screen. It doesn’t do any of the fancy 2-in-one stuff that a lot of Windows machines do these days, but for those of you who don’t necessarily want or need such things, it’s a solid laptop.
The Gram’s headlining feature is its weight, or lack thereof. LG says that the 14-inch Gram weighs in at just over two pounds, which is just under 1 kilogram. Dubbed as an ultra-lightweight machine, I can vouch for the fact that this laptop is ridiculously light in the hand. If you’re used to carrying around a 15-inch or even a 13-inch MacBook Pro, you might be taken aback by the feather-like characteristic of the Gram.
But is being lightweight enough to warrant consideration? Have a look at our hands-on video walkthrough as we briefly explore what this machine has to offer.
The best wireless keyboard for the Mac?
There are several Gram SKUs offered by LG. The Gram comes in 13, 14, and 15-inch models. My model was configured as follows:
- Magnesium alloy body
- Slim bezel
- 0.7-inch thick, and just over 2 pounds
- 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7-7500U Dual-Core
- 8GB DDR4 RAM | 512GB SSD
- 14″ 1920 x 1080 Multi-Touch IPS Display
- Integrated Intel HD Graphics 620
- MicroSD Media Card Reader
- 802.11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi | Bluetooth
- USB 3.0 | USB Type-C | HDMI
- Windows 10 Home (64-Bit)
Coming from a 2016 MacBook Pro, I can appreciate the nicely appointed LG Gram when it comes to port options. There’s no Thunderbolt 3, but you do get two USB 3.0 ports, and a single 3.1 gen 1 port in the the USB-C form factor. The USB-C port is also capable of charging the LG Gram, although the machine does come bundled with a dedicated charger and charging port as well.
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You also get a full-sized HDMI output, headphone jack, and microSD slot. It is a little odd to have a microSD slot instead of a full SD Card slot, but in this age of laptops losing all of their ports, I’ll take what I can get.
I’ve noticed that some reviewers have complained about the Gram’s backlit keyboard, but I think it’s pretty decent, certainly usable for day-to-day typing. You won’t get the same sort of key stability afforded by the keyboard on the 2016 MacBook Pro, for instance, but I think that the key travel and stability of the keys are good enough to not hinder typing in any noticeable way.
The 4-inch-by-2.75-inch Elan trackpad is far from the largest in the biz, but I felt that it provided adequate room to navigate around Windows. The trackpad features a satisfying click in the lower 3/4 area of its surface and it was quick to respond to my gestures.
The trackpad isn’t the only way to navigate and interact with the Windows 10 interface, as the LG Gram comes with a touch screen. Having a touch screen is a welcomed addition, but LG needs to shore up the unstable display hinge, as you’ll find that it wobbles quite a bit whenever touching the screen. Granted, this isn’t a 2-in-one; most people are going to stick with the traditional method of usage via the trackpad and keyboard.
LG caps its Gram lineup with 1080p displays to help increase power efficiency. Because there aren’t nearly as many pixels to drive when compared to higher resolution displays, LG can use more power-conscious components.
That may be disappointing for those looking for a higher resolution screen, but the display is bright, and features good viewing angles thanks to its IPS makeup. Unfortunately, the screen is very glossy, so even at its brightest setting it can be difficult to see when there’s a glare from an outside light source.
The Gram’s built-in webcam is one of the more peculiar design decisions that I’ve seen in a while. Not only does the 720p camera struggle in low light situations, but it’s positioned on the hinge between the display and the keyboard — an awkward placement that results in less-than-ideal framing. You basically have to look down at the keyboard to look at the camera, as the camera is always below you no matter how you orient the display hinge.
The laptop’s speakers are another area of weakness, as the sound is fired downward from small ports underneath the left and right side of the machine. Sound is anemic and unpleasant to the ears when using the speakers. Fortunately, there’s the option of tapping into the 3.5mm headphone jack, or using wireless Bluetooth headphones.
So how does the 14-inch LG Gram perform? It features a power-sipping 2.7 GHz Intel i7 dual-core processor, so expect efficiency to take priority over raw power. The machine is certainly capable enough to blaze through day-to-day tasks, such as web browsing and word processing. It’s even strong enough to competently edit 1080p video.
The Geekbench scores showcase the performance limitations of the LG Gram
Just don’t expect the i7-7500U, a processor primed for efficiency, to handle much heavy lifting. Thus, applications like 3D gaming and graphics, and high bitrate or ultra high resolution video will expose the processor’s weaknesses in a hurry. Bear in mind that there is no discrete GPU and there is no option to use an external GPU box, so you’ll be relying on the built-in Intel HD Graphics 620 as well.
Depending on your needs, the efficiency may be well worth the cost to performance. Unlike its predecessor, the 2017 LG Gram does very well with battery life. I was regularly able to achieve 9-10 hours of battery life on my admittedly unscientific tests. With screen brightness adjusted close to 50%, my usage featured a mix of web browsing, music playback, and video editing in Premiere Pro.
Other performance-related notables include the 512GB SSD, and the 8GB of RAM. The 512GB SSD inside the 2017 LG Gram is one supplied by Samsung with an M.2 form factor capable of up to 540 MB/s read and 520 MB/s write.
The 14-inch version of the Gram features a maximum of 8GB of RAM, which should be enough for most users, especially since the unit is already geared towards power efficiency. If you need more RAM, you’ll have to step up to the pricier 15-inch model.
Who is the LG Gram for?
If you’re a Windows user who’s often on the go, then the LG Gram makes a great travel companion. Not only is it super lightweight, weighing less than a kilogram, its thin screen bezels allow for a generous amount of screen real estate in a relatively compact package.
Outside of the screen wobbliness, and the downright awful camera, there aren’t many glaring flaws to be found on this machine. Little details, such as an improved hinge that allows users to confidently open the Gram with one hand, score points for the machine’s design.
You’re not going to get the same quality feeling that emanates from a machine like the all-aluminum MacBook Pro, but the Gram’s Magnesium alloy body does a decent job of balancing bulk with rigidity. Its size and weight, coupled with above average battery life, make the LG Gram a compelling companion for frequent travelers who use Windows.
The 14-inch LG Gram (as configured) can be had for $1,499 from B&H Photo with free shipping and no tax in most locations at the time of purchase. Would you consider using the Gram as a travel machine? Sound off in the comments below.