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LG Gram 17 review

A 17-inch laptop might sound heavy, but this LG Gram isn't the burden you'd think

lg gram 17 review feat
LG Gram 17
MSRP $1,699.00
“The LG Gram might come with a 17-inch display, but it’s a surprisingly portable laptop.”
Pros
  • Lightweight design
  • Big time battery life
  • Efficient processing for general productivity
  • Thunderbolt 3 support
Cons
  • Slow SATA 3 SSD
  • No dedicated GPU for the price
  • Doesn't feel robust

Outside of gaming, 17-inch laptops have become a rarity. We want our laptops to be sleek and portable, which quickly rules out most 17-inchers.

The LG Gram 17, though, isn’t like most laptops of this size. It’s thin, sleek, and shockingly light. Our $1,700 review unit came with a quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM, and a spacious 17-inch 2,560 x 1,600 resolution display.

Does that make the LG Gram 17 worth it? Or should you just take that money and go for a smaller 15-inch laptop instead? Let’s find out.

Light, but with a flex

As the name of the laptop and the branding on its dark silver colored lid suggests, the LG Gram 17 is extremely light. Coming in at 2.95 pounds, it beats out some of the most popular 15-inch laptops, including the Dell XPS 15 (4.2 pounds) and the MacBook Pro (4 pounds). Compared to 17-inch laptops from HP which come in at 5.4 pounds, it is almost feather light.

That’s all thanks to a metal alloy design, which is a mix of nanocarbon and magnesium. It is important because it gives the Gram 17 a look and feel of metal, but the portability of plastic. In fact, the Gram 17 is so light so that we were able to throw it in a backpack and commute without even feeling a heavy burden on our back. Go ahead, try doing that with a traditional 17-inch laptop.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Unfortunately, the design material does come with some flaws. Though LG says its Gram 17 is tested against MIL-STD-810g military standards to ensure maximum durability, we felt some flex in its chassis when pressing too hard on the function keys above the keyboard. That also carried over to the display lid, which bends to the left and right when put under pressure.

The other areas of the LG Gram 17 are sturdy. The hinge easily supports its massive 17-inch screen with minimum wobble between movements and the lid pulls open with just one hand. LG even manages to reduce the overall footprint of the laptop by slimming the side bezels and packing in the display in just a 15-inch frame.

The Gram 17 is so light we were able to throw it in a backpack and commute without feeling a burden back.

That’s something that you can’t quite find with other large-screen 17-inch Windows devices. It makes the Gram 17 easy to carry and use when out and about, not having to worry about it taking up too much space in your lap. If you’re a New Yorker, that means the massive screen won’t be jamming up against the person next to you on the train.

But all that lightness doesn’t suggest LG had to give up on ports. The Gram 17 is sporting a healthy collection of modern and classic connectivity. On the left side that includes USB A, HDMI and a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port. On the right, that adds up to a microSD card slot for more expansion and two USB-A ports. Wi-Fi is backed by 802.11 A/C (2X2), and there is also Bluetooth 5.

All this means you can kiss the dongles goodbye. Thunderbolt 3 is also a plus, as it was missing on last year’s LG Gram 15 models and the LG Gram 14 2-in-1. You can now plug in an external GPU for gaming and power up to two external displays for the extra oomph.

Keyboard that takes getting used to

Laptops like the XPS 15 or the HP Envy 17 feature spacious keyboards, but the LG Gram 17 presents a bit of trouble. In a weird design choice, LG opts to keep the touchpad smack in the middle of the chassis, and not slightly off to the left side like most laptops with number pads. That means that both the G and H keys are slightly off center with the touchpad.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

When typing, we needed to move our hands away from the touchpad to ensure that the mouse wouldn’t be dragged with one hand. The keycaps also feel a little soft and shallow for our fingers but produce a satisfying click feedback when typing. Key travel is rated at 1.2mm and our usual typing tests didn’t cause us to see any pains of bottoming out when speeding through writing articles in WordPress. We got to 69 WPM in Bing’s built-in typing test without breaking a sweat.

In a nod to Apple, the Gram 17’s black on silver look resembles the MacBook keyboard. Two levels of backlighting get the job done when typing in the dark. We also didn’t notice any light bleeding, but it would have been nice of LG added the one more extra level of brightness for more comfort.

In a nod to Apple, the Gram 17’s black on silver look resembles the MacBook keyboard.

The touchpad is about the same size as what is in most 15-inch laptops and comes with support for Microsoft’s Precision drivers. It’s plenty clicky and retracts very deep into the chassis of the laptop. Dragging is also a breeze, as its slick surface allows for easy navigation across Windows 10. We did wish it was bigger to take more advantage of the available 17-inch space, but that might have placed it too close to the notches for the laptop lid.

Also of note is the integrated Windows Hello fingerprint reader in the keyboard. It’s right above the number pad and doubles in with the power button. That allows for quick and easy logins, without having to worry about passwords. It worked precisely 99 percent of the time. Unfortunately, with all the slim bezels, there’s no Windows Hello IR camera onboard the LG Gram 17. Instead you’ll find a standard HD webcam.

A spacious, but super glossy display

LG’s Gram 17 packs a pixel-punching 17-inch IPS display at a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. That might not be as sharp as the 4K panel found on board configurations of the XPS 15, but it still is vibrant, sharp, and sporting a spectrum of colors.

In our testing, the Gram 17 picks up 70 percent of the Adobe RGB gamut with an average contrast of 930. Color accuracy is also excellent, rated at 1.81, and the brightness gets up an eye-popping 395 nits. Lower is better, so that puts it ahead of the Dell XPS 15’s 3.32 average color error. It still falls short of the MacBook Pro 15’s excellent 0.61 average color error.

Putting those numbers into the real world, the 17-inch display is great option for productivity and content creation. Not only is it plenty spacious for opening multiple windows side by side, but images and text in webpages are sharp. That’s due to its glossy finish, which gets plenty bright but also stays very reflective.

Best example? When web browsing in a brightly lit office, we needed to turn up the brightness past 50 percent on the Gram 17 just to avoid seeing our reflection in the screen. Still, that doesn’t mean you should give up on it. When watching episodes of South Park, colors were vibrant and crisp, making this excellent multimedia machine.

Audio is provided by DTS Headphone: X processing, with two speakers on the undersides of the LG Gram 17. It features 11.1 channels of audio, and when listening to Coldplay’s Paradise the beats were especially rocking. We didn’t notice any loss in the bass or muffled sounds.

Web browsing workhorse

Most laptops featuring Intel’s latest Whiskey Lake processors have put up good performance and efficiency, and the Core i7-8565U on board the LG Gram 17 Is no different. The quad-core processor and 16GB of RAM pack plenty of power, and the LG Gram 17 passes most of our general testing with flying colors.

Single-core Geekbench 4 scoring came in at 5,026 and the multi-core score at 13,952. This makes it faster than the Core i7-6820 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, as well as the Core i7-8750H XPS 15. Running on the same chipset, it falls a bit short of the Asus ZenBook 15 but tops it with multi-core scoring. The higher multi-core scores mean for slightly more efficiency when powering through intensive tasks or workflows.

In more demanding tasks, the LG Gram 17 does struggle a bit. It sports a slower 512GB SATA SSD, so it lagged slightly behind both the Asus ZenBook 15 and the XPS 15 in Handbrake encoding tests. Those systems sport faster PCIe NVMe SSDs. The read and write speeds in our Crystal Disk Mark tests are also slightly disappointing and the Gram 17 barely manages to top out the speeds in 15-inch systems we have reviewed. Priced at $1,700, it’s really a shame to see LG cheap out and not go for a PCIe drive. In 2019, no high-end laptops should really use a SATA drive rather than PCIe.

At the end of the day, the LG Gram 17 is still good enough for most people. We never experienced any slowdowns when browsing in Google Chrome with 18+ tabs open, even when hooked up a 4K monitor. Yes, the storage might be slow, but the processing power is there for web browsing, multimedia and general office work.

But, where’s the dedicated GPU?

Most of the 15-inch laptops we’ve compared the Gram 17 with so far come with options for discrete graphics, but there’s none on board this lightweight machine. Instead, you’re stuck with Intel’s integrated UHD 620 graphics, so you’re definitely not going to play Fortnite. You will be limited to Microsoft Store games and lighter indie games.

As the 3DMark score shows, the Gram 17 doesn’t come close to 15-inch laptops with dedicated entry-level GPUs. We verified this with Rocket League. When we played the title on 1080p High Quality settings we got to 29 frames per second. It wasn’t an enjoyable experience. 1080p Performance upped the frames a bit and smoothed out the overall experience, but it still doesn’t top out what you can get with a laptop with a GTX 1060 graphics card at under or the same $1,700 price.

Ditch the charger, the battery just won’t die

The battery on a typical laptop can last you about nine or ten hours when browsing through the internet, but not the LG Gram 17. Its four-cell 4 cell 72-watt-hours lithium ion battery comes with a powerful punch, lasting longer than most 15-inch laptops we have tested.

LG claims that the Gram 17 can get up to 19.5 hours of battery life. When we lopped a 1080p trailer it ran for about 15 and a half hours before a shutdown. That’s a bit far off from LG’s claim, but it’s still really impressive. That’s less demanding than our most intensive Basemark testing, which lasted for roughly 5 hours. Finally, in our iMacro testing, the Gram 17 also pulls in front, lasting for roughly 12 hours.

We’ve longed praised Dell XPS 15 for its all-day and 10 hour battery life, but the Gram 17 breaks that record. Lasting for 15 hours in our least demanding tests, the battery on board holds on for as long as its smaller siblings, both the Gram 14 2-in-1, and the Gram 15. It even easily beats out the Asus ZenBook 15’s typical 9 hour battery life. Nothing can’t beat the 15 hour record set by the Microsoft Surface Book 2, but it comes close. LG clearly knows how to pack plenty of juice into its laptops, and we hope others laptop makers can follow suit.

Our Take

The LG Gram 17 is the lightest 17-inch laptop we’ve ever seen, which is quite the accomplishment. Combined with long battery life, it is a great laptop for the traveling business person or someone who doesn’t always have access to a secondary monitor for multi-tasking. But its flexible panel, lack of a dedicated GPU, and slower SATA SSD are deal breakers for the $1,700 price.

Is there a better alternative?

Though most modern 17-inch productivity laptops can match the specs of the LG Gram 17, a better alternative would be a 15-inch laptop like the Dell XPS 15. It sports dedicated graphics, an option for a 4K panel, and faster storage, making it a better overall value.

If you must have the 17-inch size, another alternative would be gaming laptops like the Dell Alienware 17 R5, or Dell’s newest Alienware Area 51m. Though these laptops sport more graphical power and faster processing speeds, they still are bulky and a bit flashy. Otherwise, the Gram 17 is your best bet.

How long will it last?

The LG Gram 17 is backed by a standard one-year warranty. That includes parts and labor. With an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM and support for Thunderbolt 3, it will last the test of changing technology. Only the nanocarbon and magnesium material might hold the laptop back as it makes for too much flex in the keyboard deck and display.

Should you buy it?

No. If you love the idea of a 17-inch screen, the LG Gram 17 might be a good choice. For most, though, $1,700 is too much to pay for a 17-inch laptop without a dedicated GPU, fast storage, and robust build quality.

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