The 17in version of the LG Gram has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it’s just as impressive as last time
- High quality display
- Amazing battery life
- Nippy CPU performance
- Tinny speakers
- Slow SSD speeds
There aren’t many 17in non-gaming laptops floating around but, with the LG Gram 17, here we are. Last year the South Korean firm put out a 15in version of this laptop, simply called the LG Gram, and it was one of our top-rated laptops of 2018, with phenomenal battery life and a stunning, high-quality display. Suffice to say, expectations for the LG Gram 17 were high.
LG Gram 17 review: What you need to know
Fresh into the Expert Reviews labs from South Korea, the LG Gram 17 is a 17in ultrabook with a gorgeous 2,560 x 1,600 IPS display and an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8565U processor. It runs on 16GB RAM, has 512GB SSD (SATA 3) storage and, despite its unusually large dimensions, weighs only 1.33kg. You won’t find a 17in laptop any lighter or sleeker. The LG Gram combined a glorious 15.6in screen with a slim chassis, yet still managed to amaze us with its epic battery life. That’s a challenge for a 15.6in laptop, but a near-impossible task for a 17-incher, where the screen is a massive power draw. The big question is: can LG repeat last year’s feat of laptop engineering?
LG Gram 17 review: Price and competition
There’s only one model of the LG Gram available at the time of writing, which makes my job as a reviewer – and your job as a potential buyer – a great deal easier. It’s not uncommon for a laptop to come in a dozen potential configurations and prices, making the LG Gram 17’s simple offering a real breath of fresh air. LG is charging $1,699 for the Gram 17, although you can expect the UK price to drop down a bit thanks to good old currency conversion; the first LG Gram was $2,000 but launched in the UK at £1,449.
Pinning down the LG Gram 17’s rivals is trickier. All the 17in laptops we’ve reviewed in the past couple of years have been dedicated gaming notebooks, and so can’t really be compared in terms of either price of performance. Drop down to 15in laptops, though, and there are a number of ultrabook competitors on the market. Of course, there’s the original LG Gram, which launched at £1,500, but that only has an FHD display to the Gram 17’s 2K panel, and its Intel Core i7-8550U processor is considerably slower.
Consumers eyeing the LG Gram 17 might also consider the latest Dell XPS 15, which we reviewed at £1,879 – it’s a stunning and outrageously powerful machine with an i7-8750H processor and an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti GPU. The Dell XPS 15 remains one of our very favourite laptops, although admittedly the model we reviewed is a touch pricier than the LG Gram 17.
LG Gram 17 review: Design
The svelte and lightweight design of the LG Gram 17 is one of its biggest selling points. As the photographs here attest, it is a lovely-looking laptop, and it’s equally pleasant to hold. It’s deceptively light for its size and it surprises everyone who picks it up. I mentioned the impressive weight to size ratio earlier; to reiterate, this is a 381 x 266.7 x 25.4mm (WHD) 17in laptop that weighs just 1.33kg. That’s astonishing compared to a laptop like the Dell XPS 15 or 15 2-in-1, both of which are over 2kg.
That said, the added screen size makes the Gram 17 less commuter-friendly than the original LG Gram, which also weighed less at just 1.09kg. Smaller bags may struggle to accommodate the Gram 17’s’ extra dimensions, as was the case with the laptop sleeve in my work backpack. You might want the protection, too. The LG Gram 17’s chassis is made of an extremely light metal alloy (nano carbon mixed with magnesium), but while the base feels good and study, the laptop lid is extremely flimsy. It looks fine but can be wobbled like a piece of cardboard. The hinge is well-engineered, however, and the screen lifts smoothly with a single finger.
It’s not quite an edge-to-edge display but I think the bezels are still sleek, especially on the sides. The LG winking logo sits below the display, with the HD webcam sitting top and centre. That’s a point over the Dell XPS 15, the camera on which still sits awkwardly underneath the display to create the notorious double-chin effect. LG doesn’t offer any alternative colours besides the plain silver finish you see here, which is disappointing – the dual colour scheme of the XPS 15 is more interesting.
The port situation on the Gram 17 is unchanged from the smaller model. On the left are an HDMI 2.0 port and USB-C slot with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. There’s also a power port and a lone USB 3.1 socket, with two more of the latter on the opposite side which sit next to the MicroSD reader, 3.5mm audio jack and a security lock slot.
Poor audio quality was the original Gram’s only real let-down. Unfortunately, it’s much the same here. The downward facing speakers are pressed right up against the laptop’s resting surface, which increases the volume but worsens the sound quality. Music sounds muffled and messy and the more instruments you have the worse it gets. Differentiation between bass levels is practically non-existent.
Laptop speakers are never going to give you the best audio quality in the world, but you really won’t want to watch a film or listen to music unless you’ve got a good pair of headphones or external speakers handy. It’s a shame, really, because the viewing experience on that display is so wonderful.
LG Gram 17 review: Keyboard and touchpad
With those large dimensions there’s a luxurious amount of space for the keyboard, touchpad and palm rest. If anything, it’s a bit too far of a stretch to the keyboard from the bottom edge of the base. I do like the keyboard, though, and would be perfectly happy to type on it all day. Key spacing is nice and the layout (complete with NumPad) is pretty standard. Holding it side by side with the first LG Gram, they’re identical. The fingerprint reader incorporated into the power button is still here, too.
The touchpad, meanwhile, is generously sized and actually wider than on the 15in LG Gram. Silky smooth and ultra-sensitive, it’s as good an experience as you’d hope for on a premium laptop. The diving board left and right clickers work perfectly well, too. Overall, it’s just a well-machined bit of kit.
One annoying feature, carried over from the previous Gram, is LG’s use of an on-screen window which pops up on the display every time you hit Caps Lock on or off. It sits smack bang in the middle of the screen for three seconds before fading, and there’s no obvious way to turn it off in keyboard settings.
LG Gram 17 review: Display
The main attraction here is, of course, the stunning 17in IPS display, which has all the attributes you could possibly want on a screen: vibrant, crisp, vivid and with a high contrast ratio to boot. It might not be 4K, but the HDR video-streaming capabilities are arguably of more importance. The 2,560 x 1,600 resolution is more than adequate for a panel of this size, and because of the display’s quality, you can have a genuine movie experience with this laptop. And that’s coming from a cinema snob who normally refuses to watch a film on anything smaller than a 50in screen.
Diving into the numbers, the display remains just as impressive. It has an 89.6% sRGB gamut coverage and a highly accurate Delta E average of 1.54 – almost every colour is dead on, apart from some shades of black. The 1554:1 contrast ratio helps images ‘pop’ right out and the maximum brightness 397.3cd/m2 is more than adequate for nearly any environment, bar perhaps direct sunlight. I do wish the panel was less reflective, but that’s honestly my only quibble and a minor one at that.
Like the LG Gram that came before it, the Gram 17’s display is best-in-class. The Dell XPS 15 has a higher sRGB gamut coverage of 95.5%, but its 3.21 Delta E average makes it less suitable for professional photo and video editing than the Gram 17. It’s worth noting for gamers that this is a 60Hz panel, so if you’re after smooth 144Hz performance you’re better off reading our roundup of the best gaming laptops.
LG Gram 17 review: Performance and battery life
The LG Gram 17 isn’t the speediest laptop on the market but for its price, it does a perfectly fine job. Under the lid is a quad-core 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8565U with integrated Intel UHD 620 Graphics, plus 16GB RAM. In tests it performed respectably, achieving an overall score of 90 in our 4K mixed media benchmark. That’s a notable improvement on the LG Gram’s total of 74 but it clearly has nothing on the incredible speeds of the Dell XPS 15 or 15in MacBook Pro. Mind you they are more expensive, the Pro especially.
LG has skimped on with the 512GB SSD storage, which is SATA Type 3. The industry standard for premium laptops has progressed to PCIe, and SATA 3 really shows its age in file sequencing tests. In the AS SSD benchmark the LG Gram achieved a sequential file read speed of 518MB/s and wrote files at 468.4MB/s. These are pretty appalling results, as the chart below highlights. Take the Dell XPS 15, for example, which managed speeds of 2,292MB/s and 1,009MB/s in the same benchmark tests.
Gaming on the LG Gram 17 is hardly a revolutionary experience. The laptop only has the integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU to fall back on with just 1GB of RAM, so you can’t expect the world. It can run some games to a decent level; at 1080p DiRT Showdown’s benchmark ran at an average of 28fps on high settings, and at 720p that went up to 43fps. It’s more suited to the likes of Minecraft and The Sims rather than Battlefield V or Apex Legends, but on low settings, it can get away with more demanding titles.
The Razer Blade Stealth 13, which has Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics in addition to an i7-8565U chip (the same as in the Gram 17) achieved GFXBench results roughly double that of the Gram 17 (see chart below). That goes to show how far a proper GPU and 4GB of GDDR5 will take you.
One trait I’m glad the LG Gram 17 shares with its 15in predecessor is battery life, which is nothing short of incredible. It’s also nothing short of 11hrs 16mins, which was how long it lasted in the Expert Reviews standardised battery rundown test. The first LG Gram was the third longest-lasting laptop we’ve tested – see more in our best laptop battery life article – and the remarkable stamina of the LG Gram 17 places it a close fourth. The power efficiency of this laptop is a real achievement, even more so considering the added display size and the more powerful CPU. If you want a plus-sized laptop that lasts all day, the LG Gram 17 is clearly the device for you.
LG Gram 17 review: Verdict
There’s little negative to say about the LG Gram 17. Apart from its slow sequential SSD speeds and sub-par speakers, it really is the full package, combining an elegant and lightweight design with nippy performance and battery life to write home about. As for the 17in display, it truly is something else. If you don’t mind the increased surface area then the Gram 17 improves on the first LG Gram in every single department, and the larger screen sets it apart from its rivals when it comes to watching video content. I don’t yet know what the UK price of LG Gram will be, but I can say that it’s a phenomenal laptop that’s more than deserving of your attention.