“LG's Gram 15Z970 packs loads of performance and features in an incredibly thin and light package.”
- Crazy thin and amazingly light
- Brilliant screen and colors
- Strong processor performance
- Long-lasting battery
- Type-C port is only USB 3.1 Gen1
- Power connector feels fragile
- Slow storage read/write speeds
LG introduced its next generation of Gram-branded ultra-thin laptops in February of 2017. They aim to bring the thin-and-light form factor to the next level by offering LG’s lightest designs yet. The latest refresh spans six models in three screen sizes weighing between 2.07 pounds to 2.40 pounds. On top of that, the refresh promises high performance backed by a long battery life. Our LG Gram review unit, the 15Z970 model, packed a seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7500U processor, 16GB of system memory (DDR4), a 512GB solid state drive, and a touch-enabled 15.6-inch display with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. All of this is backed by a 60 Watt hour battery promising up to 12.5 hours of up-time. The price? A hefty $1,600, making it the most expensive and powerful LG Gram in the new 2017 batch.
Ultra-slim on an entirely new level
Let’s not beat around the bush here: the LG Gram is incredibly thin and light. It’s about as heavy as your typical ceramic dinner plate, with its weight equally distributed throughout the device, instead of the weight mostly residing in the battery area. Its overall dimensions are 14.1 x 9.0 x 0.6 inches, which is on par with the competition, but not remarkably svelte.
While the laptop sports a clamshell form factor, the screen can bend back up to 150 degrees, enabling you to easily share the on-screen content. Adding to this factor is the use of a panel based on In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology that’s known for its rich colors and wide viewing angles.
The laptop boasts a dark silver magnesium alloy body. The lid is highly polished, while the bottom sports a fine metallic carbon-fiber-like finish, as does the keyboard area. The rounded hinge connecting the display to the laptop body measures roughly around 0.50 inches in diameter, which plays host to the built-in 1MP webcam and microphones. Yes, that means you’ll have to deal with the dreaded “up-the-nose” camera angle.
Of course, because this laptop is so thin and light, it may not be the ideal computing solution for students. It honestly feels like a toy, despite the fact it is built from durable materials. The LG Gram is ideal for controlled environments like the home office, airplane trips, business meetings, and so on, where having a super-thin and super-light device is necessary.
Packs plenty of ports despite a super-slim design
Despite its thinness, the LG Gram 15 provides several outputs for peripherals and video. On the left side, users will find the power connector, one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, one HDMI port, one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port, and two LEDs for power/battery and storage access.
Despite its thinness, the LG Gram 15 provides several outputs for peripherals and video.
One note about the power connection. It felt wobbly and frail, and during our testing the slightest movement of the laptop caused the plug to unseat and push the device onto battery power. We recall this same issue occurring with LG’s previous model of Gram. We’d like to see LG switch to a different connector, or just use USB Type-C.
On the right side of the laptop, users will find a Micro SD card slot, one headphone jack, one USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A port, and one USB 2.0 Type-A port. Notice that this laptop doesn’t include an Ethernet port for wired networking. That’s because LG is routing the connectivity through the Type-C port, and provides a Type-C to Ethernet adapter in the box. Unfortunately, this arrangement’s speed is capped at 100 megabits per second (Mbps), rather than the normal Ethernet maximum of one gigabit per second.
Those seeking a fast network connection will need to switch over to the laptop’s Wireless AC component, supporting wireless speeds of up to 867Mbps. That means it has two internal outgoing antennas and two incoming antennas (2×2), locking it to 867Mbps even if the laptop is connected to a 3×3 or 4×4 router. This component also supports MU-MIMO technology, and includes Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity.
The Gram 15Z970 will light up your life
As for manual input, the touchpad is just over four inches wide and under three inches deep. It features a glassy smooth surface and two seemingly invisible “mouse” buttons. It felt extremely precise in our testing, as the slightest touch gracefully moved the cursor across the screen. Unfortunately, there’s no indication that it’s Windows Precision Touchpad compatible, which means it lacks support for every multi-touch gesture available to Windows 10. Yet we have no complaints about its responsiveness, or a lack thereof.
Moving up, each squared keyboard key is lit with a white LED underneath. The backlighting is activated/deactivated by pressing FN + F8, which also provides two brightness levels. This backlighting provides just enough brightness to barely illuminate the fonts and key borders so they’re easier to find in any lighting condition. It’s not extraordinarily bright in normal office use, but does provide great illumination in low-light scenarios.
Each key, when touched and pressed, feels rather firm in its place. The keys are responsive, so it doesn’t take too firm press to input a letter. The keyboard layout itself feels wide enough to not cause any input issues unless you’re a professional wrestler.
The LG Gram 15Z970 also includes a touchscreen. Using Paint, we verified that it accurately tracks ten simultaneous inputs, making this laptop fun when drawing with fingers directly on the screen. Still, because the LG Gram is a clamshell laptop, this feature seems somewhat unnecessary, pushing users to reach across the keyboard rather than use the built-in touchpad.
The biggest selling point is the screen
The LG Gram comes with a 15.6-inch 1080p panel. While respectable, that resolution won’t turn heads in 2017. Of course, the quality also depends on the color spaces the panel supports, and how much. In the case of the LG Gram laptop, we discovered that the panel supports 81 percent of the sRGB color space and 60 percent of the Adobe RGB color space. It also has an average color accuracy of 1.58, making it slightly better than the HP EliteBook x360 G2, but nowhere near as accurate as the most recent MacBook Pro 15 with the cool touch bar.
Screen brightness came in at 302 nits, which is average for laptops with IPS screens. That means the screen is tolerable outside on an overcast day, but reading bright pages and documents may become visually annoying. In a normal office environment, the screen is extremely clear, with deep blacks and brilliant, rich colors. The screen has a contrast ratio of 830:1, which puts it between the latest MacBook Pro 15, and the Asus Zenbook UX330UA.
The screen doesn’t stand out in any one area, but it also lacks any serious weakness.
The display provides wide viewing angles, meaning no matter the position of your head relative to the screen, the image doesn’t wash out.
Despite its mundane resolution, we were pleased by the LG Gram’s overall display quality. Its solid color accuracy, good contrast, and reasonable maximum brightness meld together for a pleasant experience in movies and games. The screen doesn’t stand out in any one area, but it also lacks any serious weakness.
Thin laptop, thin speakers
Of course, with a great screen, you need great audio to fully enjoy your media. The laptop includes two one-watt speakers, which are mostly invisible. The quality of the sound is very treble-dependent, so you won’t hear high levels of bass.
Lots of horses under that super-thin hood
As previously stated, the meat of this new LG Gram laptop is the Intel Core i7-7500U processor. It’s a two-core chip with as base speed of 2.7GHzm and a boost speed of 3.5GHz. In a single-core test, the laptop scored 4,253 points in Geekbench 4, placing it just under the latest HP Spectre x360 15 laptop performance-wise, and slightly above the Surface Book with Performance Boost. Meanwhile, the LG scored 8,495 points in the multi-core test, showing that it outperforms the HP Spectre x360 15, and the recent Samsung Galaxy Book.
We also tested how fast the processor can convert a 4K movie trailer using the H.265 video codec. We did this using the open-source Handbrake software, and saw that the processor could transform the 420MB trailer in 1,017 seconds. By comparison, the Surface Book with Performance Boost converted the same trailer in 983 seconds whereas the Hp Spectre x360 15 did the same in 1,018 seconds.
Hard drive performance
Backing the laptop’s Core i7-7500U processor is the M.2-class Samsung MZNLN512HMJP solid state drive, connected via a SATA 3 interface. The specifications state that it has a sequential read speed of up to 540MB per second and a sequential write speed of up to 520MB per second. We saw that to some degree in our tests — an average of 520.3 megabytes per second (MB/s) in reading data, and an average of 513.4MB/s while writing.
Compared to the competition, LG’s laptop read speed lags the Lenovo Yoga 720 13 (2,060MB/s), the HP Spectre x360 15 (1,280MB/s), and the Surface Book with Performance Boost (1,003MB/s). The same goes for its write speeds, although it performs better than the Samsung Galaxy Book and Acer Spin 7.
Still, from pressing the power button to the Windows 10 login screen, the boot process takes under seven seconds at best, and around 10 seconds from the time you choose to shut down Windows 10 until the power LED goes out. The drive’s lackluster speed will only be a concern under heavy load, a situation this laptop is unlikely to see, anyway.
The LG Gram’s graphics are powered by Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 620, which can produce a resolution of 4,096 x 2,304 through the HDMI port. This graphics component isn’t meant for high definition PC gaming, but it does crank out okay frame rates in games played at 1,366 x 768. For high resolution video, however, the HD Graphics 620 should work just fine.
To see the capabilities of the built-in graphics component, we put it through grueling 3DMark tests built to push graphics to their limits. In the Fire Strike test, the laptop scored 1,012 points, which is higher than what we saw with the Samsung Galaxy Book and the Lenovo Yoga 720 13.
The battery that seemingly lasts forever
A good laptop needs a great, long-lasting battery. LG promises up to 12.5 hours with its latest Gram refresh, and we saw nearly that when looping a 1080p video until the battery fully drained (12.31 hours). That’s impressive for a laptop measuring just 0.6 inches thick and weighing a mere 2.4 pounds, and will seem like the laptop will never die for customers moving from thicker, heavier laptops that only have three or four hours of battery uptime.
Overall, the LG Gram 15Z970 outperformed the Samsung Galaxy Book, the HP Spectre x360 15, and the Lenovo Yoga 720 13 in that specific battery test. Meanwhile, in our browser test, the LG Gram’s battery lasted for eight hours and four minutes. It outperformed the Surface Book with Performance Boost, the Samsung Galaxy Book, and the HP Spectre x360 15 laptops. Not bad.
Not much bloat
LG didn’t install tons of bloatware to bottleneck performance right out of the box. The Windows 10 apps already installed include Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Fallout Shelter, Asphalt 8: Airborne, March of Empires, Sling, Facebook, Twitter, and so on. On the software front, LG pre-installed four programs: LG Control Center, LG PC Help (Easy Guide, Troubleshooting), LG Power Manager, and LG Update Center.
One thing we’d like to note is that within the LG Control Center panel, users will find a toggle for instant booting. When switched on, this feature will automatically boot up the PC when users open the lid. It’s off by default, and merely eliminates the steps of opening the lid and pressing the power button.
The LG Gram is covered by a one-year parts and labor warranty. That means if there’s something wrong with the device out of the box for exactly one year starting from the moment users make the purchase and register the product, LG will cover the repairs, including all shipment costs. The battery is a different story though, as LG will only cover it for six months.
The LG Gram 15Z970 is a crazy-thin, crazy-light laptop pushing the ultra-thin envelope without sacrificing performance. It feels like a toy playing host to powerful components, and a brilliant 15.6-inch screen. Based on our tests, it performs admirably, as it should for its hefty $1,600. We weren’t too thrilled with the power connector, though. Moreover, we would have preferred a wider color space and a solid-state drive that accessed the super-fast PCI Express interface rather than the traditional SATA storage interface.
Is there a better alternative?
We saw that the LG Gram 15Z970 outperform the HP Spectre x360 15, Samsung Galaxy Book, and the Surface Book with Performance Boost in multi-core testing. However, in our single-core tests, it fell behind the HP Spectre x360 15.
The same goes with the graphics performance, although to be fair, the Spectre x360 15 model we tested had a discrete Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics chip, whereas the LG Gram 15Z970 relies in a slower Intel HD graphics component residing within the Core i7 CPU.
Customers searching for better display than what is offered on LG’s laptop may want to check out the the HP Spectre x360 15, the Surface Book with Performance Boost, and the Lenovo Yoga 720 13. Still, the LG Gram 15Z970’s screen isn’t bad.
How long will it last?
The LG Gram 15Z970 sports the latest components, so it should last for a couple of years before becoming obsolete. We’re concerned about the super-thin form factor, though, as it simply doesn’t feel sturdy enough for everyday travel and possible damage stemming from bumps and drops.
Should you buy it?
Honestly, $1,600 seems like a lot of money for this laptop. A similar stack of cash will buy a Dell XPS 15 or HP Spectre x360 15-inch. While neither is as thin or light, those systems otherwise compare favorably. The Dell offers quad-core processor options and fast graphics, while the HP provides 2-in-1 versatility in a robust chassis. LG’s incredibly light design is nice to have, but it’s not as compelling as faster hardware or a better display.
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