I’ve read a lot about what it’s like to use, hold and type an LG Gram, but that didn’t detract from the impressive first impression it made when I first used the new Gram 17 – especially this larger model. The Gram 17 has a grand 17-inch screen, but it’s only three pounds, which is light enough to carry with one hand. The keyboard is a joy to type on with a surprising amount of dexterity and travel distance in the keys, and the battery life lasts an entire day, even a second. It’s a quiet laptop, and even under pressure, the fans weren’t loud enough for me to hear it once.
The Gram communicates its biggest selling points – lightness and longevity – so effective that it surpasses some persistent minor issues. These include a keyboard layout that is difficult to adjust. For example, the num lock is too easy to accidentally press because it’s right next to backspace, and the single function key is too far from the most essential function row buttons, making it tricky to adjust the volume with one hand to fit. Finally, the large trackpad isn’t always good at palm-rejecting. These are important things for any laptop to get right, let alone a laptop with a ton of extra real estate to use to avoid errors like this.
This new model for 2021 is mostly a spec update, not a design overhaul compared to the 2020 version. But it is a good update. Inside LG’s only $ 1,799 Gram 17 configuration (it’s been available for $ 1,699 since the end of March), there’s now an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 quad-core processor that promises better performance and longer battery life – and actually delivers beyond the 2020. model, my colleague Monica Chin reviewed. Additionally, this model’s faster 4,266MHz LPDDR4X RAM, of which it has 16GB, likely plays a part in that speed boost. It’s not a drastically different computer to use than before, but it can hold its own more reliably this time around.
While running my usual collection of about 10 tabs in Microsoft Edge for work, with Slack and Spotify together, the performance didn’t falter at all. This is the bare minimum of laptop competency tests, so for something more demanding I exported a five minute 33 second test file from us Verge video team via Adobe Premiere Pro. Last year’s model took 30 minutes to do this, but this one did it in about 11 minutes. That’s not the bull’s eye for laptops that put more of an emphasis on power, usually at the expense of weight, but it’s an improvement enough to justify the Gram 17’s price a little more easily. Razer’s Book 13 with the same processor fared about a minute faster with this test, but the Gram is on par with the latest Dell XPS 13 and Asus ZenBook 14.
The battery is also puzzlingly good – and better than before. Using that same batch of apps I mentioned earlier, the Gram 17 lasted an entire workday and well into the next, about 12 hours or so later. If you’re looking for a laptop that can run all day without a charger, whether you’re on video calls or not, this is one for your shortlist. It has the same 80Wh battery as last year’s model, which is still impressive considering the Gram 17’s lightweight profile.
Also similar to the 2020 version is USB-C charging. LG now has a 65W USB-C power adapter instead of the 48W charger that came with the previous model. It can be charged faster with the included block (which is no bigger than a compact power bank), but it still takes a few hours to refill it completely.
That’s a summary of the biggest changes in Gram 17 this year. There are also a few smaller tweaks that I liked. The layout of the ports has shifted in a more logical layout. On the left side is a Thunderbolt 4 port (it can be used for charging, data or connecting to a display), a USB-C 4.0 Gen 3 port, a headphone combo jack and an HDMI port. On the right side you will find two USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports in addition to a microSD card slot and a Kensington lock.
If you’re looking for 17-inch laptops, you’ll struggle to find anything lighter than the Gram. It is 2.98 pounds, which is slightly heavier than the 13-inch MacBook Air. The Dell XPS 17 is one of LG’s main competitors in this area, but the base model weighs in at over a pound and a half. If you get an XPS 17 model like the one we reviewed in July 2020, it weighs nearly two gram 17s at 5.53 pounds. That extra weight provides more power and a dedicated GPU in the Dell, but if you just want a large, portable display for productivity, the Gram is more than capable.
As my colleague Monica Chin mentioned in her review of the LG Gram 17 from 2020, this laptop looks dull. It still doesn’t stack up alongside the XPS 17’s high-end design, which features an aluminum chassis. The Gram has a sturdy magnesium alloy-clad body, but it looks and feels tacky. That said, there’s nothing technically flawed about the design, and it seems better than most black aluminum laptops I’ve tried to resist fingerprints. Some people may prefer that the design doesn’t stick out much even with the backlit keyboard on.
A small thing that I would like to offer LG with this model is the option for a matte display. It’s rare for ultrabooks to have them, but I find it hard to stay focused on what’s going on on the screen when I can see a reflection of all the events in my apartment staring at me. Wherever you use this laptop, glare can be a big problem, just like a TV. This does not alter the fact that the Gram 17’s display is sharp and vibrant. It’s a non-touch WQXGA (2560 x 1600) IPS display from the company’s in-house display division, and everything looks excellent with a DCI-P3 color gamut of 99 percent. If a touchscreen is important to you, LG’s Gram 2-in-1 laptops have it covered. LG was one of the first Windows laptop manufacturers to go to a 16:10 aspect ratio, and the Gram 17 has one too. It gives you a little more vertical space to work with on the screen compared to 16: 9 screens. It’s most beneficial for productivity (you’ll see more information at once, so less scrolling is needed), but you’ll have black letterboxing for most of the full-screen videos you watch.
The Gram is short on bloatware, which I like to see. It comes with Amazon’s built-in Alexa, although it must be activated before you can use the service. Some other pre-installed apps include McAfee LiveScan and a range of CyberLink creator creation tools. Compared to some other laptops I’ve used recently, such as Acer’s Predator Triton 300 SE, the Gram doesn’t slide popup notifications in your face, seemingly every time you use it.
There are few 17-inch laptops to choose from and even fewer models as lightweight as this one. This year’s LG Gram 17 is unique in that it’s more powerful than ever, but it doesn’t give up on portability. Oddly, the only competition it currently faces comes from within LG. The 16-inch Gram is lighter and cheaper, but has the same design, screen size, port selection, battery capacity, and specs (aside from significantly less storage) for $ 1,399. You can find one with the same 1 TB storage as the Gram 17 for $ 1,599. If the Gram 17’s $ 1,799 price is too expensive, at least you have an alternative that will likely yield the same great results.
But if price isn’t an issue and you want a surprisingly portable and powerful laptop with an extra-large screen, the Gram 17 is in a class of its own.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge