LG Gram: A champion in the featherweight category

There is perhaps no name more befitting this laptop other than Gram. While it’s nowhere near a gram, its lightness surprised me as I unboxed it. It looks like any other ultrabook, but weighs nothing like one. Weighing it at only 970g, I wonder if it’ll float like a feather if I drop it! (No, joking, please don’t try that.)

Picture of LG Gram showing its log and some IO ports

The laptop is surprisingly plain, with only a small logo at its top left corner. I’m a huge fan of minimalism, but this feels a little too simple. Perhaps a larger logo or one situated near the centre would make for a better branding.

Theres a decent amount of I/O given its size. Or rather, Apple could do more than just fitting 2 sad USB Type-Cs, and LG proved this point well. Other than its proprietary charging jack, it has one Type C USB 3.0, two Type A USB 3.0, one MicroSD card slot, and a HDMI port. Oh, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, Apple. With power delivery over USB Type C as an option, you can even charge your computer with any compatible adapter. For its size, LG did a really good job in fitting all the useful IO ports.

LG Gram

Time to actually open up the laptop. The hinge is very light, and its base is extremely stable, allowing you to effortlessly lift open the screen with one hand.

The screen immediately impresses me. The LG Gram fits a 14-inch screen into a typical 13.3-inch frame, giving you as much real estate space as they could squeeze into the laptop. This has been a staple feature for many high end laptops like Dell’s XPS 13, so I was pretty glad to see this nearly bezeless screen.

The unit we reviewed had an i7-7500U CPU, which is the standard low voltage CPU that most laptops and ultrabook carry. That’s sufficient for almost all of the work I need to do anyway. There’s 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD, which is pretty decent. Of course, being such a light and thin ultrabook, we weren’t expecting a dedicated graphics card inside, but Intel’s built in graphics HD620 is good enough for the occasional candy crush downloadable from the Windows Store, or for general multimedia like binge watching drama. Of course, it doesn’t handle AAA titles like Battlefield, but you’re probably buying the wrong laptop if you want to game on the Gram.

Speaking of binge watching drama, we put to the test LG’s claim of having a battery lasting “from Singapore to New York”. As unscientific as this test is, I set it running overnight looping videos on repeat. Video was on lowest brightness, and laptop on its extreme power saving mode. When I woke up, the laptop was still running strong about 7 hours in. The laptop still had about 35% juice, so maybe I need to sleep a little longer next time. That said, it definitely didn’t last as long as they claimed, but that’s perhaps because other applications were running that might have impacted its battery life, or because VLC Media Player was just more demanding. But suffice to say, it could last you a whole day in school or work even if you forgot your charger!

I would attribute the insane battery life to very good optimisations. Gram doesn’t use Windows’ Power Management, but implements their proprietary version called LG Power Manager. There’s an interesting one-click “Hibernate Mode” battery saver, which automatically enables a lot of settings that squeezes every drop of battery from the computer. And no, the word “hibernate” is a misnomer here. More like Marathon Mode.

Of course, battery life and awesome screen aren’t the only things you would need for a binge watch session. Unfortunately we didn’t really like the speakers on the Gram. Sounds are muffled at the lower and higher ranges, and acoustics really depended a lot on the surface and angle your laptop is placed on. The software that came with the laptop (DTX Audio) didn’t help, and perhaps even made things worse for a couple of songs.

Top view showing keyboard

Enough procrastination, let’s get back to work. Keys on the keyboard are spaced at just the sweet spot for my fingers. The keys are just the right size. Its key travel is not exactly the best, but understandable given the thickness constraints. However, for people like me who do heavy typing, it’s still best to grab a mechanical keyboard at your workstation. On the go however, such a keyboard is more than sufficient. The backlighting for the keyboard also works extremely beautifully under low light conditions, though it would be better if there is an ambient sensor to adjust lighting automatically. Here, I’d just like to give a bonus mention to the thought put into designing the power button. By depressing it inwards, it helps prevent mispress and causing the computer to go to sleep, a problem I often face with my daily driver.

As for trackpad, I don’t like how the trackpad is not level with the rest of the laptop, but that’s probably a result of what I came to expect after using a macbook years ago. There’s sufficient feedback and travel distance when clicking the trackpad, though. There’s elegant support for multi-touch gestures – the Elan touchpad works perfectly on Windows, getting it one step closer to a MacBook. However, and this is an opinion I have for almost all Windows laptops, the acceleration curves seem to be unnatural – once again, as compared to a Mac – as it decelerates too quickly. I can never seem to get the correct trackpad speeds: it’s either too slow or jerky and flashes by in a pop, so I usually end up resorting to using a portable wireless mouse anyway.

 

Overall, the LG Gram is a champion of its own right in the lightweight category. Reviewing this laptop made me realise how far we’ve came since the clunky notebook era, and for its weight, the Gram performs exceedingly well at the tasks its designed to do. A perfect match, I’d say, if you’re looking for a laptop that is extremely portable and work-oriented. There’s some quirks here and there like a less than stellar key travel, but that’s just some tradeoffs that you have to accept on notebook that’s no heavier than a traditional one made of paper.

 

Cover image by LG.
Insert images by LG and myself.

Update 21 Nov: The laptop supports power delivery over USB Type C, which we missed in an earlier version of the article.

 

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