LG gram 15

When LG first launched its ultra-light LG gram line of laptops back in 2016, we were hugely impressed that the firm had created a 15-inch laptop that was no heavier than a 13-inch model. It was an incredible sight to behold (and hold).

However, in 2018, the value prospect of a featherlight 15-inch laptop with a seriously premium price and few other features has lost of bit of its luster. That is, in the face of laptops that may not be as light, but bring forth far more power and versatility for the same amount of cash or less.

If you truly crave a 15-inch laptop screen experience from a device that you’ll barely feel in your backpack, then the LG gram 15 is an excellent bet. Just know that there are other, more versatile options out there that do more for less.

Price and availability

LG has just one, single configuration of the 15-inch LG gram, which will either please you for its simplicity or infuriate for its lack of choice you may be used to. The laptop goes for $,1999 (about £1,499, AU$2,639) and includes everything seen in the sidebar, plus some features worth digging into.

There is also a 14-inch version of the 2018 LG gram available, which has the same processor and half as much memory and storage inside. Luckily, it retains all other features of the 15-incher, including the fingerprint reader and 1080p touchscreen for 22% less cash at just $1,549 (about £1,159, AU$2,049). (It also has one fewer USB 3.0 port.)

Honestly, the 14-inch version may be a far better deal, losing just 1.6 inches of screen space on the diagonal for still-ample storage and a just-fine amount of memory. However, either price is a lot to ask of a laptop with an only Full HD screen and no dedicated graphics.

Just look at the Huawei MateBook X Pro, a 14-inch laptop with dedicated Nvidia MX150 graphics connected to that very same Intel chip, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD for less than either LG gram model at $1,499 (about £1,119, AU$1,999).

Meanwhile, the latest Dell XPS 15 at $1,499 (about £1,119, AU$1,999) nets you a stronger H-series, 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics that outclass either aforementioned laptop. Plus, Dell’s high-end notebook features just as much RAM and an 1TB SSD ends up undercutting the LG gram 15 by 100 bucks or quid.

At that point, whether you should buy the LG gram 15 weighs heavily on how important a mega-light 15-inch laptop is to you, as it’s beset on either side by arguably stronger options.

Design

Not much has changed about the LG gram 15 design since we’ve last reviewed the laptop. The nano-carbon magnesium frame is still present, albeit now clad in a deeper, tarnished bronze color on the lid and base. 

Of course, the laptop is incredibly light still, otherwise it would have to change its name. There is a lot to be said for having a laptop of this size feel like essentially nothing in your backpack.

The gram’s keyboard remains spacious, punchy and deep in travel – it feels substantial and comfortable despite the lightness you may otherwise associate with weakness. As for the touchpad, it’s just fine. It tracks well and offers a satisfying click when pressed, but perhaps it could be a bit larger.

For such a light device with razor-thin bezels, LG has also managed to include several ports – not to mention a webcam in the space where it should remain on all laptops: above the screen. The webcam is serviceable but rather pixelated for a 720p resolution.

LG gram 15

Display

Naturally, just beneath that tiny webcam is the star of the show: the 15.6-inch, 1080p IPS touchscreen. This display is straight up gorgeous, making all sorts of movies and photos look fantastic.

LG employs incredibly thin bezels to fit such a screen inside a 14-inch wide frame, so it’s laudable that the firm manages the proper webcam position. While the screen isn’t very wide on the horizontal, it’s viewing angles certainly are.

However, the display could be a bit brighter when maxed out – either that or a matte display coating to avoid sun glare. At least the touch response is spot-on, and the single hinge is fantastic for putting up just the right amount of resistance under our fingers.

With Intel’s Kaby Lake Refresh, Core i7 U-series processor inside, the LG gram 15 is prepared to handle almost any task with aplomb. That said, this laptop doesn’t bring forth the power profile that many may expect from a laptop with a 15.6-inch screen. 

This is clearly a laptop aimed at a very specific user more worried about getting 15.6 inches of screen out of a device that weighs lighter than many 13-inch laptops. However, laptops like the MateBook X Pro weigh just a half-pound more for far more power and sharpness.

The gram 15 puts forth some impressive numbers in every benchmark, indicative of a jack-of-all-trades machine. You could get some serious spreadsheet work done on this laptop while running several apps, thanks to the 16GB of memory and quad-core processor.

You may even be able to do some basic gaming and video or image editing with this laptop, but not nearly as much as you will on the MateBook X Pro or new Dell XPS 15, the former of which can do so for less cash and with a far sharper screen.

LG gram 15

Battery life

However, the MateBook X Pro doesn’t come close to the LG gram 15 in battery life over video playback, with the latter laptop’s result in the TechRadar video test beating Huawei’s by more than six hours. The two laptops are much closer in parity when involved in multiple tasks, as evidenced by PCMark 8.

While we have yet to fully test the latest XPS 15, Dell is promising up to 21 hours of battery life. We’ll have to see in a full review, but it seems like these two laptops will be neck-and-neck in that endurance test.

LG gram 15

Features and software

LG has admittedly loaded the gram 15 with quite a bit of software, but much of it is rather useful for users. An LG Easy Guide app helps users learn how to use the laptop’s exclusive features as well as general best practices in Windows 10.

The LG Control Center offers fine-tuned control over several system settings in one place, like screen, sound, network and hardware features such as a silent mode for the laptop’s cooling fans and toggling activation of the touchpad and touchscreen. Meanwhile an LG Update Center pulls gram 15 exclusive software and drivers from LG’s servers.

LG didn’t stop at software when it comes to unique features: the Gram 15 also sports a fingerprint reader embedded into its power button. Once set up, it’s incredibly fast and gets you into Windows 10 in an instant – even from a cold boot.

However, while the bottom-facing speakers are plenty loud, they’re no better than most 13-inch laptops – even with DTS:X audio tuning software at play. Simply put, bigger, top-firing speakers will always be best in 15-inch laptops. Good thing there’s a headphone jack.

LG gram 15

Final verdict

The LG gram 15 carries out the series’ namesake for ultra-light, large-screened laptops with style and impressive engineering. This laptop packs all of the features you’d expect from a 12- or 13-inch ultralight laptop but with a 15.6-inch screen.

That’s nothing to scoff at. However, there are laptops available out there, like the Huawei MateBook X Pro, that sacrifice just 1.6 inches in screen size and half a pound in lightness for a far more powerful and versatile device. Likewise, the upcoming Dell XPS 15 for 2018 touts even more graphics power and the promise of even longer battery life.

There’s nothing glaringly wrong with the LG gram 15. It has just become an awfully niche laptop in the face of new challengers that have managed to cram far more power into laptops that aren’t that much heavier or bulky, somewhat weakening the value proposition of an otherwise stellar laptop.

Joe Osborne
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