After being released in the US at the start of 2018, LG has finally felt it necessary to bring the Gram laptop to the UK. Getting its name from the fact that it weighs less than a kilogram (most of them do, anyway), the Gram is designed to offer great laptop performance without all the extra weight that can affect the portability of other machines. Being someone who reviews technology products from time to time, LG let me spend a few weeks with the Gram to try all that for myself.
Short version? It's a lovely little laptop that does everything LG says and more, but if you want more detail than this all you have to do is read on.
Design & Specs
The main point to make about the LG Gram is that it weighs less than a kilogram. Well, the 13- and 14-inch models do. The 15-inch models weight slightly more on account of their bigger screen size ruining everything. Still, that's an impressive achievement, and you only need to pick the thing up to realise just how light it actually is. Someone more skilled than me could easily juggle these without having to worry too much, or frisbee them a significant distance down the street.
The other is that it isn't made of the flush smooth metal as most premium laptops. The chassis is still made of metal, but it's duller, more matte, and not as flashy as some appearance-driven people might like. Well this model was anyway. There's a silver version that's also available, which looks much brighter, but it's still not MacBook-level shiny. Not that it matters, because do you really need a laptop that's also a mirror? I highly doubt it.
Keyboard-wise, there aren't many surprises. The smaller models naturally skip the number pad, so if you want one of those you'll have to fork out the money for the larger (more expensive) models. I like that LG hasn't copied Apple's keyboard design, a trap some other big companies have fallen into recently, but I'm undecided on the F-bar tools. Having to hit the Function button before doing something like alter the volume or brightness is kind of a pain, but the same is true for trying to refresh or one of the other things the function keys do normally. I suppose this all depends on what you're used to, and how quickly you can acclimatise to a different set of keystrokes.
Port-wise we have two USB-A ports (one on each side), an HDMI port, a microSD card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, a single USB-C port, and a proprietary charging port that's mostly redundant. The USB-C isn't Thunderbolt as far as I can tell, but it does let you charge the battery. I'll go into that in a bit more detail later. The power button also doubles as a fingerprint scanner, which is a nice touch, and gave me absolutely no trouble during my time with the Gram. Well, aside from when I forgot what was registered and tried to unlock the thing with the wrong hand.
In terms of specs, things are a little different dependent on the model, but the 14-inch Gram comes with 8GB of RAM, a quad-core i7 chipset with 1.8GHz clockspeed (up to 4.0GHz boosted), up to 256GB of solid state storage, a 14-inch 1080p display, dual speakers, DTS X headphone tuning, and a battery life that LG says will last up to 21.5 hours. An i5 chipset is also available if you want to save some money.
The 13-inch model is mostly the same, barring the fact it only seems to be available with an i5 chipset (1.6GHz, up to 3.6GHz boosted) and promises up to 22.5 hours of battery. The 15-inch model has a touchscreen, a 512GB SSD option, and only gets a maximum 16.5 hours of battery according to LG.
Nothing too fancy in there, but there are no real red flags in the hardware, either. Obviously you're not likely to get nearly that much battery life out of them, which is a shame, but more on that later on.
The first thing I noticed, to my sheer delight, was that the LG Gram does not have a touchscreen. Or at least most of the 2nd gen models, including the 14-inch model I reviewed, do not. It turns one of the 15-inch models (15Z980-H.AA75A1) does, as do the 1st gen models original released in the US. Why? I have no idea, to be honest, but I love it. There's no sarcasm there, because I've found that touchscreen laptop displays end up being more burden then helpful, and every single one I've used has wound up with the feature disabled after a few days.
The display is also rather thin, compared to some other machines, but there's more to it than that. It's also slightly flexible, so you can bend it around ever so slightly. While this doesn't offer any meaningful functional purpose, it does offer the Gram some extra durability. It doesn't bend very much, and is limited by the outer casing, but having that extra give is an awful lot better than cracking or shattering. The thinness also helps shave off the grams that keep the Gram under that coveted one kilogram weight.
Other than those two things, there's nothing much to say about the display. It's full HD, which is the bare minimum you can expect from a premium laptop, and it maintains the usual 16:9 aspect ratio typical of most modern devices. There are some hefty bezels, but as mentioned before they're not so unsightly that you should worry about them.
There are no complaints to be had about the way the Gram runs. There's some decent hardware inside, after all, and you can tell. I didn't suffer any lag when I was using the Gram, which was generally set to right in the middle of the battery/performance ratio bar that Windows 10 has now. In fact the only issues I had to contend with are the fact that my Wi-Fi signal doesn't cover the entire flat, but that's not LG's fault. That's Virgin Media's fault for sealing a faulty extension cable inside my wall, forcing me to keep my router in the most inconvenient place possible. Also my own laziness for not replacing the range extender that broke.
The keyboard was good; I didn't have any of the normal readjustment issues that are common when you swap between laptops, and they too were nice and responsive. No slamming your fingers down into the keys to make sure the strokes registered, and pissing off everyone in the immediate area with your incessant clickity-clacking.
The one flaw that I did notice was that trying to right-click on the trackpad wasn't very consistent. In fact, there were times where I'd be in the very bottom corner of the pad and it would still register as a left click. It was weird, and maybe I was just doing it wrong, but since I'm more of a proper mouse person it didn't matter so much. It may well matter to you.
Overall, though, the LG Gram's performance is great, and the only issues I faced were because of other things.
There's not much I can say about the audio other than 'it's good'. It's not the fancy quad speakers that some high-end laptops have started pumping out, but two is good too. It's better than having one, after all, and if any company tried to peddle a laptop with a single speaker they should be laughed out of existence. The sound is loud, clear, and the speakers are very discreet. In fact, you look at the Gram and you can't see them. They're on the side, in case you're wondering, and they don't get muffled that easily. Well, not unless you're working in bed and the laptop itself sneaks into your duvet (or whatever it is you use).
The sound is customisable too, if that's your thing, but even in their default setting they work just fine. Not audiophile fine, but normal non-snobby person fine.
The first point to mention with battery is that the Gram can be charged in two different ways. As previously mentioned it has a USB-C port which can be used for charging, as well as a proprietary charging cable that comes in the box. It's that annoying trend a lot of laptop makers are doing right now, offering USB-C but behaving as though there isn't a more convenient option for people. After all, I have two other laptops at home that only charge via USB-C (I'm a tech journalist, what do you expect?), and I gravitated towards using the same chargers I'd normally plug in.
I asked an LG executive why they'd done this at the Gram's UK launch event, and he said the proprietary cable was faster than USB-C. In my testing that wasn't true, and both my USB-C charger/cable combos had faster recharge estimates than the proprietary cable. For the record those chargers were a MacBook fast charger and a generic charger/cable pair, both of which have a maximum output of 20V/4A. I understand having lots of ports (adaptor-free ports are good!), but I see no reason why LG couldn't have swapped the proprietary charging port for another USB-C.
But as far as batteries go, this is quite a good one. From a general use perspective the Gram has a well-rounded battery life, and during my day-to-day use I found it lasted quite well. Not an entire working day, but on middle performance/battery settings it would get to roughly three or four o'clock before popping up and shouting at me that the battery was low. Generally speaking, that was with mid-level screen brightness and the keyboard backlight switched on.
Obviously my usage isn't going to be the same as everyone else's, so I had to put it through a rundown test. Thankfully, the Gram performed absurdly well after I set everything to minimum, switched on the battery saver, and slapped on a 24-hour YouTube video to stop it falling asleep. I set it going, went to bed, and woke up the next day to find that it hadn't run out of juice. In the end, it died almost as soon as it hit the 16 hour mark, which is really good – especially given the Gram's size and weight. It's not as good as the 21.5 hours LG claims the 14-inch model can hit, but still pretty damn impressive. Plus when have laptop battery estimates ever been remotely true?
The main selling point of the Gram is that it's incredibly light as far as laptops go, to the point where it feels wrong when you first pick it up. Plus it manages to pack in plenty of power to get your stuff done. Battery power and performance power, that is. We can all handle an extra few hundred grams if it means being able to get shit done and not have to worry about finding a plug socket. Fortunately you don't need to. Not with the 14-inch model at any rate, I can't speak for the other two though I imagine there won't be too many surprises.
Prices range from £899 to £1,249, and while that's obviously not cheap it's more reasonable than some of the other laptop makers out there. You know the ones I mean. Yes, you can get cheaper machines without having to sacrifice that much, but you can easily be duped into paying more for less. You could do a lot worse than this, especially since a new model is due to be announced at CES. So you might be able to get one for a slight discount, provided the new one makes it here.
- Very light, less than a kilogram unless you get the 15-inch model
- Prices start at £899, and go up to £1,249
- 16 hours of battery life on the 14-inch model, which is great but not quite the 21.5 hours promised
- Plenty of ports, including charging USB-C
- It still has a proprietary charger, which is totally redundant and seems to be slower than USB-C
- No touchscreen on the 13 and 14-inch models. I think that's brilliant, but you may disagree
- Good sound, but it won't please any audio snobs
- The monitor bends a bit, and which I find incredibly cool