(Pocket-lint) - LG makes laptops? Your surprise is not surprising. LG has made a few Gram laptops to date, but the first wave was not that easy to find in the UK. That's changed with this LG Gram 14. It's available from some of the classic laptop spots.
Portability is the big sell here. The LG Gram is extremely light, and its battery lasts for ages. You'll find some better displays at the price, though, while some laptops better at gaming. But for breezy working on the go, the LG Gram is one of the best you'll find.
- Magnesium alloy chassis
- 323 x 212 x 16.5mm; 998g
LG has followed one of the simplest strategies to making ultra-premium laptop. It says, 'forget aluminium and plastic, magnesium alloy is the key'.
The LG Gram's entire casing is magnesium-based. It's the main reason for the amazing sub-1kg weight, but is also to blame for the specific feel.
Laptop makers love aluminium because it's fairly easy to extrude, not horribly expensive and has the characteristic feel of metal. Magnesium is actually stronger than aluminium by weight, but feels less obviously metallic to your fingertips.
When you first pick up the LG Gram, you could almost believe it was a shop's dummy model. Both because it's so light and feels almost like plastic in some warmer ambient temperatures.
However, it is sleek. And after a quick touch you do realise the LG Gram feels much better than the average plastic laptop.
- 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C
- Full-size HDMI
- microSD slot
- 3.5mm jack
You might expect a stylish model like this to 'do an Apple' and leave out every connector bar a USB-C port. This is absolutely not the case. The LG Gram has a microSD card slot, two full-fat USB ports and an HDMI. It has the room for them because while the shell is very light, it's not aggressively slim.
This laptop is deliberately plain; simple-looking. It's metallic grey throughout, and the keyboard font is the only part that stops it looking like the stock image of a slim and light laptop. You can find far more flashy computers at the price, but the LG Gram, designed as it is, will fit in anywhere.
- 14-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS LCD display
- No touchscreen, glossy glass coating
- 7mm display border
There are 13, 14 and 15-inch versions of the Gram. Ours is the 14-inch, perhaps the sweet spot if you want ample screen size while not overloading your rucksack when on the go.
This is a conventional IPS LCD display. It's not a touchscreen, the display hinge doesn't let it flip all the way back to the keyboard, it doesn't have any special tricks.
However, the borders are slim, so it almost fills up the available space, top brightness is good and both colour and contrast are sound.
Keyboard and trackpad
- Two-level backlight
- Glass trackpad
Any 13 or 14-inch laptop is great for portable working. They're big enough to fit in keyboards that don't use comically shrunken keys, small enough to feel at home on tiny cafe tables, and easy to stow in those airport trays, alongside your belt and rucksack. This is a top traveller's laptop.
We're also glad LG has not followed the trend of making laptop keys so shallow and clicky that they feel as insubstantial as the volume buttons on your phone. The Gram's keys have very solid travel for an ultraportable, and a very distinct clunk on the depress. It's similar to the feel of an old-school MacBook, before Apple started its war on the laptop keyboard.
There's also a two-level backlight, and the power button at the top-right doubles-up as a fingerprint scanner for Windows 10 logins. This is the best kind of Windows Hello scanner: it doesn't eat up trackpad space or look like a dangling appendage on the surround. If you don't use it, you'll soon forget it's even there.
There's just one issue. Press down on the centre of the LG Gram keyboard, or on the top of the trackpad and you'll see a fair bit of flex. It's the main trade-off of the ultra-light style. There's no sub-frame to keep everything rigid. The Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Pro models feel much stiffer.
The LG Gram's trackpad is sound though. It has a glass top, for smooth gliding of fingertips. And while nowhere near as large as those of the latest MacBook models, it does the job perfectly well. One annoyance: the clicker is louder than average. It may annoy your housemates or partner as you click away while they try to watch Masterchef in the living room.
- Intel Core i5-8250U, quad-core 1.6GHz
- 8GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD
We let out a little sigh of relief after seeing the LG Gram 14's core specs. When you see a laptop this light that claims to last so long, there's a good chance it'll have an ultra-frugal Intel Y-series CPU, or these days even a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset (originally intended for phones).
There's none of that nonsense here. The LG Gram uses Intel's 8th generation Core i-series CPUs, which are far better at coping with games and pro-grade applications like Photoshop.
Our LG Gram 14 has the Intel Core i-8250U CPU, which has four cores and enough power to deal with those demanding apps.
However, it's clearly made for lighter stuff. The LG Gram is virtually silent when you do basic jobs like writing documents and surfing the web.
Fire up a game and the LG Gram 14 gets a little loud, and really quite warm fairly quickly. It can play something like Skyrim at 1080p with the detail turned down, even when not plugged into the charger. Performance does start to throttle under strain, though.
That's the life of a laptop with a pared-back cooling system and fairly powerful processor. If you want a portable video editing station, the Dell XPS 13 may be a better bet.
But for occasional stints of demanding jobs among lots of light work while out and about, the LG Gram is hard to beat. We'd pick it over a more restricted Qualcomm CPU model any day.
- 72Wh battery
- Claimed 21.5 hour stamina (MobileMark 2007)
- Cylindrical power socket
The battery life is a big part of the Gram's appeal. It has a 72Wh battery, a huge unit for a laptop this light.
LG claims you'll get up to 21.5 hours of use from a charge. That is, as you might have guessed, pretty optimistic, and based on a very old MobileMark 2007 test. However, real-world stamina is still great and even out-performs the Dell XPS 13.
You can expect to see around 14 hours of light-ish use from a charge, perhaps dropping to around 10 if you do some more involved tasks.
This is a laptop made with a purpose. It easy to carry around, and lasts longer than just about any other Intel Core laptop at this level. It's not out for peak performance, other than in this lifestyle sense.
Anything else to note? There are standard stereo speakers on the underside. Their output is very solid for a laptop so light, but you don't get the bass depth or treble clarity of a MacBook.
The LG Gram 14 is one of the best laptops out there if your two priorities are battery life and a having something you can carry around all day. It's unusually light and unusually long-lasting.
Dell's XPS 13 with Core i5 is the same price, offers better performance under strain and a stiffer frame. And for some, that'll be the better option. It feels more sturdy, and plays the role of all-rounder better.
However, the Gram outlasts it, and if you spend half your time in airports, maybe the 200g weight loss will mean a lot too.
Dell XPS 13
At virtually the same price, the Dell XPS 13 is the clearest alternative to the LG Gram. It's around 200g heavier and the battery does not last quite as long. Performance is more consistent, its heat handling is better, and there's much less flex to the build. It doesn't offer even a single full-size USB these days, though.
MacBook Pro 13
You can't go too far wrong with a MacBook Pro, particularly if you don't shell out for the ultra-pricey OLED touch panel. However, the 'standard' model is still significantly more expensive than the Gram, landing at £1449 for a like-for-like spec (about £250 more). MacBook benefits include a sharper display and stiffer build.
Acer Swift 5
Buy an Acer and you can save around £200. And you still get several of the same benefits. The Swift 5 weighs 970g, has the same CPU and same amount of storage. Battery life isn't nearly as good, though, and like the Gram its cooling system is also pretty rudimentary. It doesn't love being pushed for too long.