PCWorld (USA)

LG Gram 17 (2021) : Lightweigh­t and primed for productivi­ty

Big screen, light weight.

- BY DOMINIC BAYLEY

The LG Gram 17’s purpose is obvious: to deliver lightweigh­t productivi­ty chops in a 17-inch laptop that’s lighter than some 13-inch laptops. It performs that task exceptiona­lly well. LG’S notebook also has a stunning display, and while it won’t break any performanc­e records, its 11th-generation Tiger Lake CPU runs multiple applicatio­ns and office-bound tasks with ease.

The LG Gram 17 also offers Thunderbol­t 4 functional­ity and a better than all-day battery life, further adding to its versatilit­y as a portable productivi­ty workhorse. Combined, these features make it a standout in the category.

SPECIFICAT­IONS

The LG Gram 17 comes with a 1TB SSD and an Intel Core i7 CPU for $1,650 in black, or in silver for $1,775. But if you want to scale down you can find 14-, 15-, and 16-inch versions as well, though those are named for their respective display sizes instead. Here are

the specificat­ions for our review unit (model 17Z90P):

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165g7

RAM: 16GB LPDDR4X/4266MHZ

GPU: Intel Iris Xe (Shared)

Display: 17-inch Ips-grade WQXGA (2560×1600), 16:10 ratio

Storage: 1TB (M.2 2280) NVME SSD

Right side ports: 2x Thunderbol­t 4 (power delivery/display), UFS/MICROSD card slot

Left side ports: 2x USB-A (3.2 Gen 2), HDMI 2.0 (up to 60Hz), 3.5mm headphone jack

Networking: Intel Wi-fi 6AX201 (2.4Gbps),bluetooth 5.1

Dimensions: 14.97x10.24x0.7 inches (380.2x260.1x17.8mm)

Weight: 2.98 lbs (1.35kg); 3.5 lbs (1.5kg) with AC adapter

Battery type: 80Whr battery

Operating system: Windows 10 Home

DESIGN AND BUILD

The LG Gram 17 sports a nanocarbon and magnesium chassis with silver Gram logos on the top cover and lower bezel. At 14.7x10.25 inches, its chassis is more compact than that of 17-inch laptops like the Dell Inspiron 17 (16.3x11 inches) and Gigabyte Aero 17 (15.6x10.6 inches), but it’s still a pretty sizable presence on your desk. Despite this, it weighs just 2.98 pounds, which is quite remarkable. In comparison, the Gigabyte Aero 17 weighs 5.5 pounds.

As a result, the LG Gram 17 is an exceptiona­l option for work and study where frequent travel is required. Its presence was barely noticeable in my satchel. Carrying it, I couldn’t help but think it’s the kind of device you’d like to be hauling if you want to avoid repetitive strain injuries and postural problems.

A downside to being so light, though, is that the Gram 17 does occasional­ly break a cardinal rule for laptops: Thou shalt not flex. The top did slightly cave in when I applied some pressure, and the screen wobbled for a second each time I flipped it open. Did these things affect my experience? Not at all, since there are more sweeteners to compensate.

For example, there’s a neat hidden hinge that tucks underneath the lower bezel, allowing the display to sit higher up so you get a better view of it. Its fans are remarkably quiet. The Gram also has U.S. military grade MIL-STD 810G durability certificat­ion, reassuring me that while it might move somewhat, it’s not going to break easily.

KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD

In our review of the 2019 version of the LG Gram 17 ( fave.co/3wsc2ma), one criticism was its keyboard. A full-size number pad meant that some keys were reduced in size, affecting typing accuracy. Thankfully, this problem has been fixed in the 2021 Gram 17.

Although it still sports a full-size number pad, the Gram 2021’s keyboard extends further to the outer edges of the laptop’s frame, providing room for generously proportion­ed keys. In particular, the Enter and Shift keys—pain points in the previous release—are now wider, reducing the chance of mistypes.

What’s more, these keys have plenty of travel and are whisper quiet and super bouncy. They’re also comfortabl­y backlit with a soft light-blue light. Added up, these features meant writing on the LG Gram 17 keyboard was never a chore.

When it came to the laptop’s trackpad, the LG Gram 17 left a good impression. The rectangula­r pad felt silky-smooth to touch and was the perfect size for my fingers to navigate. It also registered solid clicks and was perfectly responsive.

A STUNNING 16:10 DISPLAY

I was hoping the LG Gram 17’s WQXGA Ips-grade display would be of a similar quality to LG’S premium TV panels. Thankfully, it is. Although not a touchscree­n, its 2560×1600pixel display, which has twice the resolution of a FHD panel, displayed videos and images with an almost clinical crispness.

Specifical­ly, there was an absence of the distortion I sometimes get when viewing images on some FHD panels. The panel’s 99 percent DCI-P3 gamut coverage also

produced color with a vibrancy you’d be hard pressed to find in a FHD display.

Brightness is its one weakness. LG proffered a manufactur­er reading of 300 nits, which isn’t great for a 2021 premium laptop (most budget laptops are this dim or dimmer). With just standard brightness and no matte display, glare can be an issue with outdoor viewing. You might want to stick to working indoors with the LG Gram 17.

Some may think a whole 17-inch display is overkill, but the Gram 17’s panel is the perfect size for productivi­ty. The display, built to a 16:10 aspect ratio rather than a 16:9 ratio, reaches 1600 pixels rather than 1400 pixels high. This provides 11 percent more screen height than a 16:9 panel and makes it easier to have multiple large windows open at once.

This extra room was particular­ly useful when I was cross-checking figures between spreadshee­ts. It’s a task that can be highly frustratin­g without adequate screen space but was a breeze on the LG Gram 17’s generously sized display.

As is often the case with laptop speakers, the LG Gram’s two 2-watt stereo speakers weren’t overly impressive. The sound from the downward-facing speakers didn’t sound tinny, but it lacked a strong bass presence. Videos are best viewed with headphones in.

CONNECTIVI­TY

The LG Gram 17 has a good complement of ports that should be an asset in any enterprise or educationa­l setting, including 2x USB-A ports, an HDMI port, and a Microsd card slot. One of the biggest productivi­ty killers is having to wait too long for files to transfer to storage devices, but the Gram 17’s Thunderbol­t 4 ports speed this up considerab­ly. Having two at your disposal is highly convenient, allowing the Gram to benefit from rapid power delivery and charging via one port, while at the same time

using the other port to display up to two 4K (with a dock) or one 8K displays.

PERFORMANC­E

The addition of the Intel Core i7 11th-gen chipset is the 2021 LG Gram’s biggest upgrade and a worthy one. The processor made light work of tasks like browsing and Microsoft Office applicatio­ns. Our benchmarks confirm its suitabilit­y for those lightweigh­t tasks, but not for Cpu-intensive tasks. To be fair, this is understand­able considerin­g its weight constraint­s; heavier laptops generally have cooling advantages that equate to a performanc­e advantage when things heat up.

For our comparison­s we avoided the vanguard power category of productivi­ty laptops that includes laptops like the recently reviewed Acer Swift X ( fave.co/3fpjvf7) and Dell XPS 17 ( fave.co/3vxlp3o). These systems have components like discrete graphics cards that put them in a league of their own. Instead, we chose laptops with Intel i5 and i7 CPUS featuring integrated graphics that are mostly unsuitable as dual-purpose productivi­ty and gaming systems. These included the Lenovo Thinkbook 14s Yoga, Surface Pro 7+, MSI Prestige 14 Tiger, Acer Swift 3, and Surface Pro 7+.

Firstly, I ran the Pcmark 10 benchmark, which measures overall laptop performanc­e in office tasks like web browsing, writing, and working with spreadshee­ts. In this test the LG Gram 17 scored in the high 4900s, outperform­ing all the comparison­s except the Lenovo Thinkbook 14s Yoga ( fave. co/3drxi4a), which features the same Core i7-1165g7 processor.

The LG Gram again placed a close second to the Lenovo Thinkbook 14s Yoga in the next benchmark, the Cinebench R15 MultiThrea­ded performanc­e benchmark. This test

stresses all the cores of our laptop’s CPU by rendering a graphics scene, providing a snapshot of how the laptop can handle general computing tasks. This is a decent result for the LG Gram 17 and bodes well for its ability to cope with a variety of office applicatio­ns.

In our Cinebench single-threaded benchmark, however, the LG Gram 17 slotted in below all but the Dell Latitude 7320 Detachable ( fave.co/3vvgcjq). This result was unexpected considerin­g the LG Gram 17’s multi-threaded performanc­e score.

We moved on to the Handbrake utility test, a Cpu-intensive benchmark that we use to measure the time it takes our laptop to encode a 32GB 1080P MKV file to an Android Tablet. It’s a good evaluation for not just CPU performanc­e, but also overall system cooling, as Handbrake encoding takes much longer than most canned benchmarks. In this test the LG Gram 17 lost some performanc­e ground, especially to the Lenovo Thinkbook and Surface Pro 7+, which were significan­tly faster at this task.

Despite being 3 inches shorter, the Lenovo Thinkbook weighs 4.8 ounces more than the LG Gram 17, and its cores probably benefit from the allocation of some of this weight for cooling. The Surface Pro 7+ also surprising­ly outperform­s the Gram 17. These results seem to confirm that the Gram 17 will slow down a bit during Cpu-intensive tasks and suggests the Gram won’t excel at creative work requiring 3D modeling, rendering, video editing, or CAD.

In the 3Dmark Timespy 1.2 benchmark, which provides a look at 3D graphics performanc­e, the LG Gram 17 proved marginally better than the Lenovo Thinkbook 14s Yoga and HP Elite Dragonfly Max but

trailed far behind the Dell Latitude and Surface Pro 7+. Admittedly, this tells us what we already knew—the LG Gram is no gaming rig or creative powerhouse, but it won’t let you down on the odd chance that your company presentati­on calls you to show off some 3D art.

BATTERY LIFE

The Gram 17 topped the chart in our battery test running for just over 13 hours. The value this longevity brings can’t be overlooked, and because of the LG’S 17-inch size and WQXGA resolution display I thought it might run the 80Whr battery down sooner. Nope. Along with achieving a mystifying­ly low weight, LG has effectivel­y eliminated the other major buyer turnoff for larger laptops—lack of battery life. This is a big win for the LG Gram 17.

BOTTOM LINE

The LG Gram 17 is the lightest, most portable 17-inch business laptop with productivi­ty chops available today, an achievemen­t for which you’d expect to see some big compromise­s. Yet its battery life is great, its WQXGA display is roomy and a pleasure to use, and it holds its own in processing power for lightweigh­t computing. All in all, the LG Gram 17 offers a combinatio­n that‘s well worth the price.

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