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LG Gram 17 review: lighter than it looks

Seventeen! This laptop has a 17 inch screen. It also weighs 2.98 pounds.

It’s very unusual to see a 17-inch laptop under four pounds – let alone under three. Couple that at a starting price of $ 1,499 (our model currently costs $ 1,699) and you’re looking at a pretty niche audience. However, this laptop follows for that niche.

LG has not reinvented the wheel; the 2020 Gram 17 is largely an iterative update to the 2019 model. The company has made some major improvements: the chassis and keyboard layout have been tweaked, the battery is bigger, and there’s a new 10th-generation Core i7-1065G7 under the hood. But the huge screen remains the only reason to buy this laptop, so you should only spend $ 1,699 on this if you’re sure you want to.

It’s hard to put into words the size of a 17-inch screen. The panel has a 2560 x 1600 resolution with a 16:10 aspect ratio – so it’s not only wide, but you also get an extra bit of vertical space compared to many popular laptops. Using the LG Gram 17 is more like using a desktop than a 13-inch 16: 9 screen. It is a tons of space. I almost always had two (or even three) things open at the same time and never had to zoom out.

It is also a nice looking panel. There is a bit of glare, but I had no problems working in bright environments with the medium brightness screen. Colors looked great (the Gram covers 99 percent of the sRGB range and 74 percent of AdobeRGB) and the details were sharp. Videos are huge, of course. I watched half an episode of it Dark on the Gram, and the characters looked miniature when I finished a 13-inch device.

It is of course not a perfect screen. There was some ghosting in action scenes, and it was visible enough that I probably wouldn’t want to play games on the Gram 17. (Of course it doesn’t have the horsepower to be a gaming rig anyway. More on that later.) It’s not the brightest screen there is; it reached 369 nits at maximum brightness. That’s enough for indoor browsing, but you probably want something brighter if you plan to do creative work outside or near a bright window. The MacBook Pro 16 and the Dell XPS 17 both achieve up to 500 nits. And there’s no touch support – an omission that is understandable (touchscreens carry a serious weight penalty) yet disappointing at a price of $ 1,699.

Sometimes I thought the Gram panel was too big. When working in a full screen Google document, there was so much emptiness on each side that I felt like I was wasting space. That is another reason to strongly consider whether you need this type of machine. If you don’t often work in split screen mode, you probably leave part of the panel unused – and at that point, you can get any number of 15- and 16-inch models for a lower price.

The keyboard of the LG Gram 17 from above.

LG has updated the keyboard and number pad.

However, you don’t sacrifice portability for that screen space – not even close by. Weighing 2.98 pounds, the Gram 17 is astonishingly light for its size. It’s a feather compared to the MacBook Pro 16 (4.3 pounds), the Dell XPS 17 (4.65 pounds) and the HP Envy 17 (6.02 pounds). But it’s also lighter than many smaller computers, including the Dell XPS 15 (4 pounds), the 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 (3.4 pounds), and the HP Specter x360 15 (4.64 pounds). I think the massive chassis (14.98 x 10.34 x 0.69 inches) makes the Gram feel lighter than it is because you expect it to weigh more. Wearing it feels like you’re not wearing anything.

A laptop this light usually has large caveats. Refreshingly, the Gram 17 does nothing horrible.

The battery life is exceptional. The 2020 Gram comes with an 80 Wh battery (last year was 72 Wh) and I took 10 hours out of it. (I’ve led the machine through my workload of about a dozen Chrome tabs, Slack, some Zoom calls, and the occasional YouTube or Spotify streaming, with 200 nits of brightness on the Better Battery profile.) better than I’ve got from the MacBook Pro, the XPS 15 and just about any other laptop this size. (However, the included 48W charger takes a while to charge the Gram. In an hour, the battery charged only 37 percent.)

LG Gram 17 cover.

The silver lid is quite beautiful.

The keyboard is great; it has backlighting and you can switch between “low” and “high” brightness levels with one of the function keys (although I didn’t notice a big difference between the two). The wide chassis offers enough space for a numpad, another feature we don’t see on ultrabooks every day.

LG has made some keyboard changes since last year: some keys (including Backspace, Enter, Shift and the numpad’s 0) have gotten bigger and a fourth column has been added to the numpad with large enter and plus keys. I think Backspace is still a bit small – I accidentally hit the adjacent Numlock occasionally – but otherwise the typing experience was great and I maintained my typical speeds.

The touchpad is smooth and a comfortable click. However, like last year’s Gram, it was placed in the center of the chassis, rather than directly below the space bar. That meant that my right hand often rested on the trackpad while typing and that I had occasional problems with palm rejection. It’s not a deal breaker, but it takes some getting used to.

The LG Gram 17 on the table, half open.

Despite its lightness, the Gram 17 isn’t the thinnest laptop around.

However, there are two areas where the Gram 17 doesn’t make it. The first is the design: it’s just not a viewer. LG has removed a large, visible hinge that made last year’s model look a little thick. But it’s still a fat laptop, and the chassis is made of a dark silver magnesium alloy that feels like cheap plastic. The Gram isn’t necessarily ugly, but it looks like a toy next to an XPS.

The second is performance.

The Gram 17 will get the job done for most people who are just browsing. I loaded dozens of Chrome tabs without any issues and only saw lag when multiple downloads were running or files were being copied in the background. The chassis stayed at a comfortable temperature during my daily use and I only heard the fans or felt severe heat under very heavy loads. I ran Cinebench R20 five times and the CPU remained constant in the mid 80’s without passing 90 degrees Celsius.

LG Gram 17 webcam.

There is an HD webcam, but no facial recognition.

However, if you intended to play games, the Gram is out. I tried to flee Shadow of the Tomb Raider with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 at the lowest possible settings, and the laptop achieved a meager average of 12 fps. (It was a slow and stuttering experience.) It also took 30 minutes to complete a complex export in Adobe Premiere Pro – a significantly worse result than we’ve seen from other devices with integrated graphics like the XPS 13 and the Surface Laptop 3 (not to mention the MacBook Pro or something with a GPU). Even simple photo editing in the Photos app was a chore.

These results are not unexpected and they don’t make the Gram 17 a bad laptop. It’s just important to know what you’re paying for. The Gram line is not intended to make workhorses; it is to make the lightest laptop possible. In that category, the Gram 17 has managed to rise to the top of its class.

That means there is a very specific user for whom this laptop is a great buy: you must have a 17-inch screen, you must above all ensure lightness and you should not intend to do anything that puts a strain on the integrated graphics. If you check those three boxes, the LG Gram 17 is the obvious choice for you.

If you are not, there are better options.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge