LG Gram (2017) Review

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The Pros

Thin design; Long battery life

The Cons

Lid feels flimsy; Flat keyboard; Dimmer than average display; Poorly placed webcam

Verdict

The LG Gram is lightweight and offers long battery life, but its keyboard is flat, its webcam is poorly placed and its lid doesn’t feel sturdy enough.

It seems that every laptop maker is trying to push out thinner and sleeker notebooks, but the LG Gram ($999 to start, $1,099 as tested) is the picture of what happens when you take things too far. The laptop has over 10 hours of battery life, and its Core i5 CPU produces fine performance. However, the webcam is in the worst possible spot and the keyboard is flat. To top it off, I could feel the lid bending when I opened the notebook. I’d gladly add a fraction of an inch to my laptop for better build quality and a comfortable keyboard, and, if the Gram is any indication, you should, too.

Design: Thin, But Feels Frail

The LG Gram is very plain. From afar, it’s a rectangle with rounded corners in what LG calls “dark silver,” but is really aping the space-gray hue seen on MacBooks in a poor attempt at imitation.

Say what you will about MacBooks, hey have a rather sturdy build quality — something the Gram does not. When I opened the Gram, I could feel the magnesium-alloy lid bending. It feels flimsy around the 13.3-inch, 1080p touch screen. The base, with the island-style keyboard, is sturdier.

The point of the Gram is to be light and portable, and it sure is. It’s just 2 pounds and 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches. The Acer Swift 7 is 2.5 pounds and 12.8 x 9 x 0.3 inches;  the Dell XPS 13 is the thickest and heaviest, at 2.7 pounds and 12 x 7.9 x 0.6 inches. The Gram is still slightly thicker than the 12-inch MacBook, which also weighs 2 pounds and is 11 x 8.8 x 0.5 inches.

Despite its slenderness, the Gram still has room for a full set of ports. On the left, there is a USB Type-C port, an HDMI output, a USB 3.0 port and a traditional barrel power jack. On the right, you have a microSD card slot, a headphone jack, another USB 3.0 port and a Kensington lock slot.

Display: Darker Than Average

The LG Gram’s 1080p, 13-inch display produces vivid colors, but it’s too dark to truly appreciate them. When I watched an FHD trailer for The Fate of the Furious, I could barely make out Ludacris in an interior shot of him driving a tank, and Jason Statham’s black suit got lost in a dark room. However, when explosions occurred, I appreciated the vivid balls of orange and red.

The screen reproduces an excellent 135 percent of the sRGB color gamut, easily overtaking the ultraportable average (96 percent), the MacBook (107 percent), the Swift 7 (105 percent) and the XPS 13 (94 percent).

But those colors aren’t accurate. The Gram’s panel has a Delta-E score of 4.4 (the ideal is 0), which is higher than the ultraportable average (2.4), the MacBook (1), the XPS 13 (1) and the Swift 7 (4.1).

The panel is also not bright enough. It measured just 271 nits on our light meter, falling below the average (300 nits) and far below the XPS 13 (302 nits), the Swift 7 (319 nits) and the MacBook (327 nits).

If you’re reading late at night, you may be interested in LG’s “Reader Mode,” which cuts down on blue light and makes the screen easier on the eyes.

Keyboard and Touchpad: Flat as a Pancake

With a shallow 1.3 millimeters of travel and 70 grams of force required to press, the keyboard on the LG Gram feels flat. I bottomed out with just about every stroke of a key when I took the 10FastFingers.com typing test. I reached 102 words per minute, falling below my 107-wpm average, and my error rate jumped from 2 to 4 percent.

The function keys are even worse than the rest of the keyboard due to their spongy feedback. Whether I was turning down the brightness or bumping up the volume, using these keys felt like a chore.

The 4 x 2.7-inch touchpad is large enough to navigate and perform Windows 10 gestures like pinching-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling, but it feels cheaply made when you click. I wasn’t a fan of the placement of the fingerprint reader on the top left corner. I love being able to log in with Windows Hello, but I wish it was placed to the side of the touchpad..

Audio: Get Headphones Instead

Get some good headphones with the Gram, because the speakers are pretty weak. For starters, they’re quiet. When I listened to Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” it barely filled a small conference room, and the sound was tinny. While the vocals were clear, the keys and guitar were underwhelming, and I could barely make out the drums at all. Using the 3D FX option in the DTS Audio App helped bring up the guitars and piano, but drowned out the vocals. When I tried manually adjusting the equalizer, nothing changed.

Performance: Stronger Than It Looks

The Gram might look puny, but it’s strong enough to multitask on, thanks to its Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and  256GB SSD. I had 35 tabs open in Google Chrome, one of which streamed an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, with only a split second of lag while switching between tabs.

On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the Gram earned a score of 6,767, falling below the ultraportable average (6,925) and the Dell XPS 13 (Core i5-7200U, 7,159), but it’s better than the Swift 7 (Intel Core i5-7Y54, 5,277).

The Gram transferred 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 24 seconds, a rate of 212MBps. That’s speedier than the 186 MBps average and the Swift 7 (115.7MBps), though the XPS 13 (339.3 MBps) and the MacBook (355.9 MBps) were both faster.

It took 4 minutes and 1 second for the Gram to pair 20,000 names and addresses in our OpenOffice Spreadsheet macro. Again, this was faster than the average (5:57) and the Swift (4:45), though the XPS 13 (3:44) and the MacBook (3:11) completed the task more quickly.

This isn’t a system you’ll be using for heavy image manipulation or intense gaming. Its integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 notched a score of 57,428 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited Benchmark. While that’s higher than the average (54,115) and the Swift 7 (HD Graphics 615, 46,622), it’s lower than the XPS 13 (HD Graphics 620, 62,754).

Battery Life: Lasts All Day

I don’t quite know where they managed to cram the battery in the Gram, but it’s long-lasting. This system survived for 10 hours and 15 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which consists of continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi. The average is 8:16, and the Swift 7 fizzled out after 7:25. The MacBook endured for 9:38, but the XPS 13 lasted the longest at 13:49.

Webcam: Worst I’ve Ever Seen

LG’s 720p webcam is easily the least flattering webcam on the market — even worse than the nose cam on the XPS 13. The Gram’s camera is on its hinge, and a shot that I took looked straight up my neck and up my chin. Who cares if it’s sharp or colorful when it looks farther up your nostril than any other webcam on the market?

Heat

Despite its small size, the Gram stays pretty cool. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, it measured 81 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom, 83 degrees between the G and H keys, and 77 degrees on the touchpad. All of these temperatures fall below our 95-degree comfort threshold.

Software and Warranty

LG has a fairly comprehensive suite of software on the Gram, though quite a bit of it is redundant.

The LG Control Center provides easy access to system settings, power management, Windows security and information about your laptop. The LG PC Help app is a list of FAQs and answers (strangely, we had two different versions of this app, each with its own logo). The LG Power Manager lets you customize your battery settings, and Update Center checks for the latest update. Since Control Center does almost all of this, it would’ve made more sense to have one comprehensive app.

Otherwise, you get your standard Windows 10 bloat, including Gameloft’s March of Empires, Twitter, Facebook, Candy Crush: Soda Saga and Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition.

LG sells the Gram with a one-year warranty.

Configurations

The LG Gram we reviewed costs $1,099 and comes with Intel Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a fingerprint reader. The $999 base model has the same specs, minus the fingerprint reader, and comes in white, instead of the gunmetal of the more expensive model.

Bottom Line

The LG Gram is a superthin PC with a flat keyboard, dark screen and webcam that focuses on your chin. Sure, you get 10 hours of battery life, but why power such a miserable experience for 10 hours?

Your best bet in this price range is the Dell XPS 13, our overall top pick, which starts at $799.99 (but you should spring for the $1,100 model if you can afford it). It’s got an astonishing screen, long battery life and a comfortable keyboard, though the camera is still in an odd spot and it’s bulkier than the Gram.

The Gram’s slender build doesn’t make up for its weaknesses, and we can’t recommend it.

(laptopmag.com, https://goo.gl/8bbpQ9)

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