Hands on: LG gram 15

LG's latest PC is an impossibly thin ultrabook for everyone

LG is a massive company, but it’s not known for its computers. The company decided to change that by bringing its LG Gram 14 to North America – the first laptop ever sold by the company on our shores. We were blown away by its lightweight chassis, which weighs about as much as Apple’s MacBook Pro, yet has space for a 13-inch display and full sized keyboard.

Now LG is bringing a 15-inch versions which pulls the same trick. Its suave gold chassis is built from a magnesium-lithium alloy that’s far lighter than either aluminum or plastic. The result? A total weight of just 2.2 pounds.

If you all care about is weight, you’ve found your next notebook.

That’s absurd. Dell’s XPS 15 weighs about 3.9 pounds, which (as far as we know) made it the lightest 15-inch laptop yet. LG’s Gram 15 absolutely shatters that record. In fact, it’s lighter than every 13-inch or 14-inch laptop we’ve ever reviewed, with the obvious exception of its 14-inch predecessor.

The 15-incher feels impossibly light in-hand. Were it not for the fact it had a working screen, I’d suspect the floor models were in fact dummy units. They’re not, of course – and in fact contain Core i5 and i7 processors. The feather light weight confuses the expectations usually associated with laptops this size. Most people consider them desktop replacements – good for an occasional jaunt across town, but too heavy to comfortably carry all day. But the Gram 15 is different. It’ll happily tag along for hours of work, so long as you have a bag large enough to carry it.

If you all care about is weight, you’ve found your next notebook. You won’t find anything that beats the Gram 15. Those who care about performance, however, may be a bit disappointed. While the Core processors are sure to be as powerful in LG’s rig as in any other, the company’s spec list, which includes 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage, is otherwise unimpressive. In fact, the Gram is likely to be near the bottom of its category in terms of overall performance. The company has also refused to quote battery life, and given its weight, we can understand why. 2.2 pounds is too light to include a large battery along with everything else.

LG’s mundane hardware extends to the display, which is a 1080p panel. While I thought it looked nice on the show floor, it won’t stand out against the long list of competitors that offer 4K resolution. OLED has appeared in other brands’ lineups as well, though it’s only found in 12-inch and 13-inch systems so far (along with a 30-inch monitor).

The keyboard and touchpad, two crucial components on any large notebook, are passable. I thought the keys offer plenty of travel, but the chassis allows some flex, which can make furious typing feel vague and mushy. As for the touchpad, well, it’s also middling. It does the job, but isn’t notably large, or exceptionally responsive.

Pricing remains a mystery, and availability is vaguely quoted as mid-2016. It’s also doubtful that the Gram 15 will be expensive, because the 14-inch version starts at a reasonable $900. But the lack of information makes it hard to say how the system will stack up. And at least for the moment, it’s impossible to excuse its meager hardware with an affordable MSRP.

LG’s Gram 15 is remarkable, but it’s a bit of a one-trick pony, and raises an interesting question. Is there a point at which shaving weight from a laptop becomes undesirable? As materials become lighter, the tradeoffs between size and weight are being pushed to new extremes – and sometimes, it may hold true that bigger is better.

Highs

  • Unbelievably light
  • Attractive gold exterior

Lows

  • Mediocre hardware
  • No 4K option
  • Many details remain unclear
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