LG’s Gram series are one of the most popular portable laptops in South Korea. More often than not, weight and portability is an important deciding factor when purchasing a laptop.
However, portable laptops tend to have smaller screen sizes, and can feel a bit confined when editing large documents. LG’s answer to this problem was simple : make the display bigger, giving birth to the LG Gram 17.
It really is one of a kind, since it is the only portable 17 inch laptop currently on the market. (17 inch laptops are usually bulky and built for gaming)
Early Gram models did have some issues such as short battery life and poor thermal management due to its limited weight. But LG kept revising the Gram series and many of its drawbacks have been solved in recent models.
Let’s find out if the new LG Gram 17 is any better than last year’s 15 inch model, and if the increased screen real estate makes a difference in usability.
Pros : Weight / Battery / Upgradability / Ports
Mehs : Thermal / Price / Coil Whine
Cons : Sound / Camera / Requires large backpack
[ Index ]
1. Specs & Price
2-1. Design & Ports
2-2. Durability & Internal
3. Keyboard & Trackpad
4. Display & Sound
5. Performance & Thermal
[ 1. Specs & Price ]
It’s hard to evaluate the pricing of LG Gram 17, because it’s the first of its kind. It’s not a budget laptop by any means, but its unique 17 inch 16:10 display in a portable form chassis seems to justify its price tag.
(Images shown below are pricing charts based on South Korean market)
There certainly are pricier laptops, such as the XPS and Thinkpad series, but they tend to have better build quality and design than the LG Grams.
However the LG Gram 17 blows its competition away when it comes to upgradability, a rare feature in portable laptops. This means users don’t have to opt for expensive SKUs just for more RAM or SSD.
Since the performance gap between i5-8265U and i7-8565U is mininmal, we recommend the i5 SKU, and upgrading the RAM later down the road.
[ 2-1 Design & Ports ]
The overall design language of LG Gram series didn’t change much during the last few years. A simple, light magnesium alloy chassis in a traditional clam-shell form factor. Not the prettiest laptop, but nothing to complain about.
White colored models tend to have minor discoloration issue during long term use, so we usually recommend the grey version.
LG tried to minimize the overall size of the Gram 17 by reducing the display bezels, and they seemed to have done a pretty good job at it. The Gram 17 has a similar footprint to a 15.6 inch gaming laptop.
Even though 1.34kg isn’t necessarily a “gram” weight class, it still is a very portable weight. It feels feathery light in a backpack.
However, regardless of its weight, the sheer 17 inch size makes it difficult to pack the laptop in most backpacks. A large backpack will be a must in order to carry the LG Gram 17 around.
Port selection is excellent, despite being a thin and light laptop. The Gram 17 has all the legacy ports and a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port. Nothing to complain here.
[ 2-2 Durability & Internal ]
The Gram 17 has been MIL-STD certified, which means it is shock, dust, liquid resistant to a certain extent. However, do not rely on the certification too much since it still is a thin and light laptop.
The chassis is made of magnesium to keep the weight down. Magnesium may feel less premium than aluminum, but its flexibility gives the laptop more resistance to physical shock damages.
The top lid has more flex than we would prefer due to its material choice, and the LCD display can be damaged if too much pressure is applied to the laptop.
The hinge has excellent balance. It can be opened with one hand easily, and the screen doesn’t wobble too much during normal use. (Despite its large and 16:10 aspect ratio display)
We didn’t try to actively scratch our review unit, but magnesium chassis tend to be quite vulnerable to scratch damage during long term use.
Opening the back panel of the laptop wasn’t too difficult, but there are either small covers of rubber feet under every single scres, making the process a bit tedious.
Just be careful not to rip the rubber feet during removal and you should be fine.
After removing the rubber feet and flaps, the rest of the process is more or less the same with other ordinary laptops. The soDIMM RAM slot and m.2 SSD slots are directly visible, and most users should be able to replace those components without too much trouble.
Please check the link below for a detailed disassembly guide of the Gram 17.
We were concerned about the small heat pipe and single cooling fan thermal solution, especially when there seemed to be plenty of space left inside the laptop.
Sure, we know that this decision was made to keep the weight of the laptop down, but better thermal management or a bigger battery would have been nice. (Even if it meant a little bit more weight)
[ 3. Keyboard & Trackpad ]
The keyboard quality is just average. Key travel and spring-back time was just fine. The plastic key caps don’t feel premium by any stretch, but are very serviceable.
It would have been nice to have a full sized number pad, since there seemed to be enough space for it. However, LG seems to use the same keyboard components as the 15 inch Gram models to keep the cost down.
The trackpad quality is on par with the keyboard. It is just average, but not in a bad way. Nothing special here, but it gets the job done. Most users will be able to adapt to Gram 17’s keyboard and trackpad easily.
The fingerprint scanner is embedded in the power button. It seems to be a much more practical location compared to the old models. (The fingerprint scanner used to be on the corner of the trackpad)
However, there seemed to be an issue with the fingerprint sensor after we installed the Aorus Gaming Box eGPU drivers. It simply did not work after installing the eGPU drivers. We could solve this problem by uninstalling the eGPU drivers and reinstalling the fingerprint driver.
[ 4. Display & Sound ]
Display quality is quite good. The Gram 17 has a 99% sRGB color gamut and a maximum brightness point of 360 nits.
The 2K screen resolution is a good balance between FHD and UHD. High resolution is usually not needed for small display laptops, but the extra 2K resolution was noticeable on the larger 17 inch display.
Thin bezels and the 16:10 tall aspect ratio made the LG Gram 17 a joy to use for Word or Excel editing. Taller screens tend to be better when it comes to productivity, but less so when watching videos.
It would have been nicer to have a matt display, since the Gram 17 doesn’t support touch. The glossy display has some screen reflection under direct light, but it wasn’t too bad.
Gram series always had sub par speaker performance, and it seems to remain so again. We understand that speaker quality is directly related to size and weight, so we will not bash on it too much. Just don’t expect excellent music from it, and consider using headphones or a bluetooth speaker.
The 720p front facing camera is extremely grainy and is just barely enough for Skype calls.
[ 5. Performance & Thermal ]
Since most portable laptops with a U-series processor cannot utilize the CPU’s maximum turbo boost due to thermal limitations, thermal management capacity of a laptop can sometimes be more important than the raw specs.
However, LG’s Gram series usually have below average thermal management because of its thin and light form factor. Dave2D, a famous YouTuber also pointed out this fact before.
Thermal management may not be an issue under light loads, but it becomes the performance bottleneck when it comes to heavy tasks such as video editing and eGPU use.
Fortunately, the Gram 17 has better thermal management compared to its smaller variants just because of its sheer abundance of space for airflow inside the chassis.
eGPU performance wasn’t the best we’ve seen, but definitely better than previous Gram models. Light tasks were a breeze as always.
We used the LG Gram 17 as a portable laptop during the day, and a compact gaming rig in the evening with an eGPU. We didn’t feel the need to use a desktop for most tasks, except video editing and some triple A gaming titles.
It was totally usable without an additional display, thanks to its 17 inch internal 2K display.
There were 2 minor issues with our eGPU setup. One was the aforementioned fingerprint driver issue, and the other is that CPU performance tanks when using the Thunderbolt 3 port for charging and eGPU connection at the same time.
This problem can be fixed by plugging in the charger when using an eGPU connection. We did not experience this problem with any other Thunderbolt 3 laptops.
[ 6. Battery ]
2018 LG Gram series boasted some impressive battery life results, thanks to its large 72Wh battery. However, the battery size remains unchanged on the Gram 17, and overall battery life takes a hit because of its large display. Battery life of the Gram 17 isn’t bad by any stretch, but it no longer is at the “unbelievably long” category.
Our review unit lasted about 6 hours and 30 minutes at 75% brightness, performing light to moderate workloads.
Since the large display is a big battery hog, reducing the brightness affected the battery time by a larger margin than other smaller laptops.
Our Gram 17 consumed about 16.8W under light load when set to 100% brightness, compared to 12.8W at 50% brightness.
Power consumption stayed at 0.9W on standby mode, so we can expect good standby power efficiency and battery life.
Power usage spiked to 35~46W when performing heavy tasks or playing games. We can expect about 2 hours of battery life when performing such tasks with Gram 17’s 72Wh battery.
The 45W DC in charging time was just average. We could juice up the laptop by 41% in 1 hour.
However, we don’t think charging time will be an issue in most use cases. The charger is on the compact side, making it easy to carry around if need be.
USB-C charging is also possible if the user wants a 1 cable-charge-all solution.
A faint coil whine was audible from time to time while charging the laptop, but it wasn’t to the point of being annoying.
[ 7. Conclusion ]
We were satisfied with our experience with the Gram 17. LG has definitely brought the thin and light laptop to a whole new size category.
The larger display definitely proved to be a blessing in, and we did not feel the need to plug an additional display for most use cases.
Thermal management could have been better, but it was just enough for an eGPU connection.
A thin and light with plenty of screen real estate by day, and a gaming rig with an eGPU by night use case was very viable here.
Sure, low powered U-series processors have its limitations, and it may be somewhat difficult to fit the Gram 17 in a backpack for everyday carry, but there wasn’t much more to complain about during our testing period.
Even though the Gram 17 isn’t the most premium laptop on the market, we can say that is is one of the most balanced one out there.