LG Gram 17 review (2021)
- Incredibly light and sleek design
- Large, sharp screen
- Solid performance
- Integrated graphics not great for gamers
- Keyboard layout not optimal
- Speakers aren’t so flash
The reaction was unanimous. One by one I went around to people in the office and asked them to guess the weight of the 17" LG Gram laptop I held in my hands. I then handed it over.
"Wow!" came the typical response as eyes went wide with wonder. Everyone was caught off guard. It's that light.
I can tell you that it's 1.35kg, but you can't really perceive what that means until you hold it in your hands. My colleagues, much as I did, immediately picked up their much smaller MacBook as if to test whether their senses were failing them. Surely this sized laptop couldn't be so light.
But it is.
Of course, if that was its only killer feature, this review would end right now. But the LG Gram isn't a one-trick pony. It succeeds in reinventing the way we look at the big screen laptop by convincing students, entertainment lovers and professionals zipping between the office and home, that you can go big and stay ultra portable.
Indeed, the LG Gram not only competes with the best laptops in Australia, it could be the new master of mobile PC multitasking.
LG Gram 14" and 16" vs 17"
It's worth noting that there are smaller sizes of the LG Gram. I'm focusing on the 17" as that's the unit I walked away with to review, but I was given the opportunity to go hands-on with the other two sizes as well. I will highlight any specific differences as we go through this review, but for the most part they are identical in design and finish.
Here's how the different LG models compare:
|LCD||WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS||WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS||WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS||WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS||WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS||WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS|
|Size||380.2 x 260.1 x 17.8mm||355.9 x 243.4 x 16.8mm||355.9 x 243.4 x 16.8mm||355.9 x 243.4 x 16.8mm||313.4 x 215.2 x 16.8mm||313.4 x 215.2 x 16.8mm|
|OS||Win 10 Home Plus||Win 10 Home Plus||Win 10 Home Plus||Win 10 Home Plus||Win 10 Home Plus||Win 10 Home Plus|
|CPU||11th Gen Intel Core Processor i7||11th Gen Intel Core Processor i7||11th Gen Intel Core Processor i5||11th Gen Intel Core Processor i5||11th Gen Intel Core Processor i5||11th Gen Intel Core Processor i5|
|GPU||Intel Iris Xe Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Graphics|
|SSD||512GB NVMe m.2 Gen 3 SSD||512GB NVMe m.2 Gen 3 SSD||512GB NVMe m.2 Gen 3 SSD||512GB NVMe m.2 Gen 3 SSD||512GB NVMe m.2 Gen 3 SSD||512GB NVMe m.2 Gen 3 SSD|
|Availability||JB Hi Fi : 1 April 2021 Amazon : 1 April 2021 LG.com : 15 March 2021||JB Hi Fi : 1 April 2021 LG.com : 15 March 2021||Amazon : 1 April 2021 LG.com : 15 March 2021||JB Hi Fi : 1 April 2021 LG.com : 15 March 2021||Amazon : 1 April 2021 LG.com : 15 March 2021||JB Hi Fi : 1 April 2021 LG.com : 15 March 2021|
Australians who are unfamiliar with the LG Gram brand should know that these laptops have been available overseas for a few years. So you'll find references to 2020 and 2019 models online, but it's the 2021 model that sees Australia join the global roll out.
- Plenty of power for students and professionals
- Sharp 16:10 QHD display
- Lots of ports including Thunderbolt4
- Good battery life
The first thing I thought when I felt the light weight of the 17" LG Gram was, "What's the catch?" Surely to get a device this size this light, there must have been a compromise on the specifications side of the equation.
Yet the LG competes well with other non-gaming 17" laptops on the market. It's important to note that this isn't a laptop designed for gamers. It can play games, of course, such as Minecraft, Civilization, Roblox and others that don't strive for visual wizardry. But if you're looking to play games sporting the latest in ray-tracing, HDR and dynamic shading tech, then you're looking at the wrong device.
Indeed, the integrated Intel Iris X graphics card is suitable for multitasking business software or even design programs like Adobe, but is short of what you expect in a true gaming laptop.
Elsewhere, the 17" LG Gram comes with an 11th Gen Intel i7-1165G7 quad-core eight-thread processor clocked at 2.8GHz. It comes with 16GB of RAM too, and an 80Wh battery that has a maximum battery life of 19.5 hours (although I found it to be more like 15 hours). The 512GB hard drive is a little on the low side, but it's important to note it is a PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD, albeit Gen 3.
How does the LG Gram compare?
So, what do all those specs mean to the layman? Well, you're getting a more than decent laptop here with a great battery life despite it being so light and portable. A win! Yes, the processor is a bit dated, but at the $2,999 price point we do see it competing favourably with other 17" laptops with regards to its specifications.
It's also very generous with its ports. Again, something you might not expect on a device so light. You can expect two 4th Gen USB-A slots, two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI out, headphone jack, power port and even an SD memory card reader. Impressive. The Thunderbolt 4 in particular can allow 8K content feeds and up to 100W quick-charging without a need to lug around the full power charger.
The screen, of course, deserves special mention given it's the big ticket here. You get 17" of it after all, but it offers even more screen real estate than you might expect. Larger than the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, you get 16:10, which is an additional 1300 pixels or so of space to read websites, multitask and otherwise go about your business.
The resulting WQXGA screen offers a sharp and vibrant 2560 x 1600 resolution. With over 300 nits of brightness, it's fine for use in all environments, but a little on the dull side compared with other screens I've used. I sat it at 90% brightness, where I might usually be at 60% to 70%. The glossy screen is a little bit reflective, but not enough to distract and you can get a read on it from multiple angles as it's an IPS panel.
- You won't believe how light it is
- Lovely matte black finish
- Small screen frame with discrete camera
- Keyboard layout is awkward
The 17" LG Gram laptop only comes in the one colour: black. And it's beautiful. It's a matte black with a slightly textured finish that is very appealing. The smaller size LG Grams do come in white, which looks fine, but the black just feels a bit more boss.
I've already spoken of my love of the beautiful screen, but it is housed in a slight frame. It's pretty svelte and I don't have a problem with it, but if you like your screen extending all the way to the edge of the device, then you may be disappointed. The camera in the top frame is very discrete, to the point of being barely noticeable.
Ports are nicely spaced to avoid any complications and the otherwise stark, stickerless design is all about business over glam. It does have a backlit keyboard, for example, but it's not a kaleidoscope of neon colours.
The only thing I will say about having a laptop this big, but this light, is that you wonder how robust it is. I'm not about to drop it to find out, but would it withstand a slip off a couch or from a backpack? I suspect it's more in the psychology; we associate weight with strength. Especially as you can bend and warp the screen with only minor pressure.
However, the screen itself does sit nicely in its hinge with no wobble when typing on the keyboard. It feels sturdy and well built when opening and closing too. So I take those as signs that it's stronger than it looks.
Speaking of the keyboard, I'm writing this review with it right now and I do have an issue with the layout. For those of you, like me, considering moving up to the 17" size and the LG Gram, this could be a sticking point. You always have to adapt to a new keyboard, but it's more difficult a shift than I had anticipated.
The reason is because the addition of a number pad on the right edge means that the main keyboard is skewed to the left. Now on a smaller laptop, including the 14" LG Gram, the number pad is removed in most cases due to a lack of available width. The touchpad then sits in the centre of the keyboard below the spacebar.
This works well, because as you type your wrists sit comfortably on either side of the central touchpad. However, with the 17" LG Gram the touchpad is central to the device, not the keypad, which means that your right wrist wants to sit over the touchpad. You'll also find yourself sitting to the left of the screen, not centred in front.
When I forced myself to keep my wrist down, it just felt awkward. I didn't trigger the cursor or click the pad at any point, but I found myself trying to keep my hand raised slightly, which soon began to tire it out. In addition, not being able to sit central to the screen itself was harsh on my neck.
I did adapt to it reasonably fast, but I wonder if it's doing underlying damage writing in this unnatural position?
In my opinion, the number pad should be ditched or integrated into the touchpad. This way the keyboard could be centralised in front of the screen and above the touchpad. See the Dell XPS 17" as an example, or the ASUS Vivobook. Or at worst, the touchpad should be more central to the space bar, not the device. See the HP Omen 17" laptop.
- Screen is crisp and vibrant
- Lightning quick loads
- Whisper quiet
- Speakers underwhelming
Despite my reservations about the keyboard layout, the keys themselves are a dream. They sit higher than your normal keyboard – very much so over a MacBook – and have a very nice tactile, mechanical feel to them as you type, even despite a soft, gentle make. My only complaint is that the spaced-out keys make shortcuts involving Ctrl (namely copy and paste) a challenge.
The touchpad is fast and responsive with handy multi-touch controls and a very defined click when pressed. It's large too, which as a big human I appreciate.
I've spoken previously about the display; it's not the brightest but that WQXGA resolution is sharp and easy on the eyes. The extra screen height, which transcends all LG Gram makes, definitely gives you a sense of openness and makes you feel like you can do more and be more productive.
It's not a touchscreen, however. I'm still unsold on the value of touchscreens on laptops. Yes, it's handy sometimes to just tap in a form field or on a link, but you know what sucks? Fingerprints all over your screen. I'm not sure I would want to pay more for the luxury. Keep touchscreens to the 2-in-1 laptops.
Great for students and professionals
In moment-to-moment use, the 17" LG Gram is fast and snappy. All PCs will eventually bloat up with software and bog down, but the load into Windows and the snap as you enter the desktop for the first time is like lightning. I encountered no little micro-delays or headbutts with the CPU or RAM ceilings during general use or with design software.
Start maxing it out with a game beyond its means, or open up a bunch of high-end software apps at the same time, and sure, it starts to hit the red line and even heat up. But that's not unexpected. For the vast majority of my time with the device it was whisper quiet and a breeze to use. Plus the battery life, which was around 15 hours for me, is strong for this size machine and it recharged quickly.
It's also worth noting that, while not specifically spoken to in any of the advertised specs, the internal camera produced a quality feed. However, the speakers aren't as thrilling. They do a workman-like job, but are positioned awkwardly underneath the front bezel of the keyboard. That's a shame, as I'd anticipate many users wanting to double up its beautiful screen for streaming content when the day is done.
Should you buy the 17" LG Gram laptop?
- Buy it if you want a big screen laptop experience but need it to be highly portable.
- Don't buy it if you want to use that big screen to play the latest and greatest games.
Time hasn't been kind to the 17" laptop. I used to love using those bigger screens. They're so much easier for multitasking. They're better on the eyes. And you could happily play some games or watch some media on them without feeling like the experience was compromised.
But they were too damn heavy. The convenience of those big screens was quickly outweighed by the convenience of portability that came with improved technology in smaller laptops.
The LG Gram is big and it's beautiful. It quickly reminded me of all the things I loved about my old 17" laptops, but without the weight. Suddenly I can have size, portability and performance, making the 17" LG Gram easy to recommend.
The LG Gram is bringing the 17" laptop back, and it's doing it in style.
Pricing and availability
The 17" LG Gram comes in at $2,999 and it's not customisable; you get what you get. There are some compelling deals around at the time of writing, however. If you buy it through the LG online store you get a free 29" LG Ultrawide Monitor 29WL500-B. Whereas JB Hi-Fi has a similar deal, but a 27" LG Monitor.
Images: Chris Stead
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