LG Gram 13 (2017) Laptop Review
Carry your computer everywhere? LG’s new light laptop was made for you
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It's been while since you had to buy a thick, heavy laptop. Unless you need gobs of power for gaming, the average laptop is light compared to the norm even 10 years ago. What hasn't been so easy is finding a thin and light laptop that didn't compromise in any other area. Recently, Apple sacrificed its keyboards and ports, and it annoyed the heck out of me when I tried the company's latest MacBook and MacBook Pro.
Even though LG hasn't been making laptops for that long, the company has found a comfortable niche with its LG Gram 13 (MSRP $999, $1,099 as tested). This ultrabook looks a lot like what you'd buy from Dell or HP, but they have a hidden ability that doesn't make itself known until you pick one up—these LG laptops are really lightweight.
Even though this laptop isn't my favorite, if you need a long-lasting laptop that's so light you feel like you've forgotten it at home, this a surprisingly good option—unless you have the money to spring for the business-grade Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
About the LG Gram (2017)
The second-generation LG Gram adds the newest 7th generation Intel processors and an improved design, all while retaining its namesake 1kg (2.2 lbs) weight. The $1,099 13-inch version we tested has the following specs:
•Intel Core i5-7200u dual-core processor
•8 GB RAM
•256 GB M.2 SATA SSD
•FHD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen with thin bezels
•Intel HD Graphics 620
•WiFi AC/Bluetooth 4.1
•Windows Hello-compatible fingerprint reader
•60 Whr built-in battery
If you like the look of this well-rounded package but want to spend less, there's a version in white that ditches the touchscreen and fingerprint reader for only $999.
What We Like
It's light, but doesn't feel too flimsy
The LG Gram gets its name from its weight, since it's only one kilogram. Even though LG has shaved every extraneous ounce from the Gram, it still manages to feel rigid and well-engineered. Trimming the fat could have left this LG feeling like a wet noodle, but it's a surefooted ultrabook design.
Trust me: the 2.2 lb weight might not seem like a big deal on paper, but it can make a drastic difference. Even the fantastic Dell XPS 13 weights in at 2.9 lbs. But pick up the LG Gram, and it's stunningly light. I almost gave myself a heart attack thinking I had left the LG at home instead of putting it in my bag—it's that light.
Most thin-and-light designs we've seen jettison ports to make tiny gains in other areas. For instance, Apple's 12-inch MacBook famously only has one data and charging port. In its 13-inch guise, the light LG gives you three USB 3 ports, one of which uses the new USB-C connector and a real HDMI.
The Gram also has an SD card slot, though unfortunately, it's of the micro variety. While I love seeing a microSD option on tablets, I think a full-sized SD card slot would be more useful on this laptop. As a photographer, I love being able to take cards from my cameras and put them into my computer without an adapter, and even though many of the cards I have are microSD, these smaller cards are a hassle to handle when you're swapping them in and out frequently.
Awesome battery life
One thing that disappointed us about last year's LG Gram was its middling battery life. This year's fixes that, and more. It seems that LG has spent a lot of time fine-tuning this Gram and it aced our battery life test while handling day-to-day tasks. In our intensive PCMark 8 Home test, the LG Gram made it to 8.5 hours, which is better than any comparable 13-inch ultrabook we've tested.
What We Don't Like
Thin bezels are nice, but the webcam suffers
This is a tradeoff we've noticed with most thin-bezeled displays such as that on the Dell XPS 13. without having a bigger top edge on a screen, there's no place for a webcam in the normal spot. So, LG has put the Gram 13's webcam into the hinge instead, pointing up at you. Let's get one thing clear—nobody looks their best with a camera looking up at them.
But, if you don't use a webcam that often, this isn't so bad. You get a very thin frame on the beautiful LG display, and our version was touch-friendly to boot.
This plasticky trackpad isn't up to snuff
The three things for me that make a great laptop are the keyboard, screen, and trackpad. Nail those basics and the rest tends to fall into place. Well, LG didn't exactly mess up here, but the trackpad leave a lot to be desired.
Now, this isn't a bad trackpad, but it's frustratingly rough to the touch. For a cheaper notebook, this wouldn't be a problem. But at this price? It's not as nearly as good as the silky-smooth glass trackpads you'll find in the Dell XPS 13, the Lenovo Yoga 920, or the MacBook Air. Responsiveness isn't a huge problem, but LG still hasn't implemented the reliable Microsoft Precision drivers, instead relying on the slightly inferior Synaptics software instead.
The best thing I can say about the trackpad is that the $1,099 version we tried had an embedded fingerprint scanner for Windows Hello logins was fast and accurate. This trackpad scrolls, taps, and clicks well enough, but it's not to the standard we expect in a premium laptop.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you need a light, long-lasting laptop
Last year's Gram wasn't that impressive when compared to the other computers out there like the Dell XPS 13 or the HP Spectre X360. This version of the Gram has finally caught up in most ways, but it still falls short. Having used the HP, Dell, and now this LG, I'd be hesitant to fully recommend the Gram. For around $1,000 there's so much choice that this LG can't help but feel like an also-ran to me.
It's not the best-ever in any one category, but the LG Gram surprised me by sustaining impressive battery life. The blend of longevity, power, and weight is what I found most exciting. The problem is that like thinness, lightness is an attribute only a few picky shoppers truly covet. I can't blame anyone for feeling like having an extra-light laptop is a less useful feature than a 360-degree hinge like the Lenovo Yoga, for instance.
The LG Gram is a competent laptop that puts mobility first and foremost. Aside from maybe the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon, there are few notebooks that successfully trim the fat like this. But, then again, the Dell, Lenovo, and HP options are nicer to use, prettier, and are built from more luxurious materials...and, in the scheme of things, they're pretty light, too.