(Pocket-lint) - One of our most common responses to a friend who says they want a big-screen 17-inch laptop is: "no, you really don't". Such devices are usually big, bulky and heavy.
However, the LG Gram 17 flips this idea on its head. It is none of those things. And its big display is categorically better in many respects for playing games, watching movies, or crunching through those giant soul-draining spreadsheets.
The Gram 17 is lighter than most 15-inch laptops. Heck, it's lighter than some 13-inch ones. And despite that it still has a lot of power and great battery life too.
This sounds like a kind of magic, doesn't it? The only major issues here are that it doesn't have a true performance-led processor - the kind you really want for serious video editing - and the screen is annoyingly reflective.
But like the original LG Gram 17, this 2020 release stands alone as a truly portable giant-screen laptop.
- Redesigned hinge
- New CPU
- Larger battery
We reviewed the last version of the Gram 17 mere months before this one. So what's new?
LG fixed one of our main complaints - that the laptop had a dated processor. The hinge has been redesigned too: it's lost a chunky barrel for a cleaner look. The battery life is also longer-lasting, able to last a good couple of hours more than the last model.
- Dimensions: 80.6 x 262.6 x 17.4mm / Weight: 1.35kgs
- Dark Silver magnesium shell
The LG Gram 17 is not a brand new line. It has been around in the UK since 2019, but it is probably new to many of you.
It's a slim, light and minimal-looking laptop, a completely different proposition to every other 17-inch laptop you can buy today. For example, Dell's Inspiron 17 comes with an optical drive and weighs over 3kg, enough remind many of us about our first "work laptop" - the stuff of lower back pain nightmares.
You can't blame the LG Gram 17 for any back twinges. It weighs 1.3kg, which is the standard for a slim 13- or 14-inch model, not a 17-inch one, and it's almost 500g lighter than the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
How has LG managed this? Smart design and magnesium. But mostly magnesium. Magnesium alloys are used in almost every single ultra-light laptop, because they are lighter than the aluminium alloys used in Apple's MacBooks, for example.
Apple does not stick with aluminium because it's a techy conservative, though. The LG Gram 17's shell doesn't feel quite as nice as that of a MacBook Pro. You don't get the same cool-to-the-touch charm, or the unbeatable density that makes it seem you could use a MacBook to chop down a tree (don't try this at home).
Some might find the LG Gram 17 insubstantial. And LG actually warned us to expect a little flexing, which is fairly common in light magnesium designs. Still, this laptop impresses. There's just a little flex to the screen, and if you press the centre of the keyboard hard you can get it to bend slightly. But given its specs, the LG Gram 17 is still impressively rigid.
We've seen this in previous Gram laptops. They are tougher than they at first appear. LG tries to prove this by abusing the poor thing with a bunch of military-spec ruggedness tests. These involve low and high temperatures, simulated dust storms and a blast with salt water, but the one that matters most is shock. The LG Gram 17 was dropped from a height of 1.2m 26 times without dying. We guess that means it may have died on the 27th attempt, but that's not a bad score card.
- 80Wh cell
- Cylindrical charger
- Up to 18.5-hour battery life
The LG Gram 17 is an unlikely road warrior, but battery life rather than drop-readiness completes this picture. LG says the battery lasts up to 18.5 hours. But, as is so often the case these days, these figures are based on a scenario where the laptop is left doing nothing half of the time.
Our own testing - streaming a YouTube video at mid-level brightness until the screen checks out - shows the Gram 17 lasts a smidge under 13 hours. This is well over the eight hour gold standard for a full work day.
It will also give you scope to do a little more than light browsing and writing documents without it lasting less than eight hours.
Battery life has always been a strength of the Gram series. But there's no real magic to it: LG uses much bigger batteries than most of the competition. This one has an 80Wh cell, proving low weight does not have to mean a small battery and poor stamina.
- 17-inch IPS LCD, 2560 x 1600 resolution
- Plastic glossy finish
- Non-touch display
One element stops this being a note perfect large-screen travel laptop. The LG Gram 17's display is very reflective, even more so than some glass-screen glossy laptops.
Its surface is plastic, and there's no coating to take the edge off reflections. Use the Gram 17 in front of a bright window and you may see more of it than what's on your screen.
Why plastic? It helps lower the weight, of course, and also assists with the rugged factor - as plastic won't shatter like glass.
However, the real question is why LG uses a glossy finish instead of a matte one. How it looks is the simplest, most likely, explanation. There's a shiny charm to a glossy screen, and the LG Gram 17 is a lifestyle laptop after all.
Other sides of the laptop's screen quality are excellent. It's very bright, colour depth is good and contrast is high for an LCD panel.
Screen resolution is relatively good too. Most 17-inch laptops have a 1080p screen but the resolution here is 2560 x 1600. The image looks sharper and cleaner, handy for applications that cram a lot of information into view. It doesn't hit the 4K standard that Dell pushes in its XPS line-up though - even in smaller screen models.
Despite the good colour and great contrast, the gram 17's display shape seems as though it's made for applications rather than "content" like movies and games. It's a 16:10 aspect ratio screen, taller than the usual 16:9. This helps make it seem an even bigger canvas for your apps, but leaves you with black bars when watching movies.
That is an observation, not a criticism. This kind of display would be brilliant for something like music sequencer app Ableton, which can seem uncomfortably squished when used on a small-screen laptop.
Like other Gram laptops, the LG Gram 17's screen only folds back to the classic amount, not flat, and this is not a touchscreen. There's no stylus either. This is a laptop more than a creative tool - the latter a concept Microsoft is keen to promote in its Surface lines if that is what you are after.
- 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 USB-C
- 3x USB-A 3.1
- 1x HDMI
Still, there's a real sense LG has thought about what a 17-inch laptop user will actually want and need. For example, there are much more than just USB-C connectors on its sides.
You get three full-size USB ports, a full-size HDMI port, and a microSD card slot. Most photographers would prefer a standard SD card slot, but these days we're lucky enough to get any kind of memory card reader.
The USB-C is also Thunderbolt 3 compliant, meaning it's an ultra-high bandwidth connection, ready for things like higher refresh rate 4K monitors.
The LG Gram 17 has a fingerprint scanner too, one built into the power button. However, the webcam does not support Windows Hello, so you can't unlock the laptop with your face.
Its webcam is basic, with a 720p sensor, and its picture has the oil painting-like look of limited hardware trying to deal with image noise when you use it indoors.
Keyboard & Trackpad
- Two-level keyboard backlight
- NUM pad with fingerprint scanner
- Textured glass touchpad with integrated buttons
We get the feeling the LG Gram 17's webcam would be better if it were actually designed in today's Zoom obsessed world. However, the other basics are great, and better than you might expect.
For example, while the keyboard looks just like that of a slim 14-inch laptop, with a NUM pad tacked on the side, its key depress is deeper than most. Their actuation feel is fairly smooth, not clicky, but each tap comes with a solid hit of feedback.
Typing away does cause some resonance in the shell, which you don't feel in a laptop made with heavier materials, but it's a fair trade for the Gram 17's low weight.
The standard typing keys are shifted to the left a little, in order to make room for the NUM pad, but we have not found this particularly off-putting for typing. It doesn't matter if your palm grazes the pad either as the LG Gram 17's cursor takes a break as you type.
LG also sidesteps the more common complaint of laptops with NUM pads by using this quietly clever tactic. The touchpad still sits dead centre. It's not shifted to the left, as it is in almost every other laptop with this keyboard arrangement. The result? It feels great, with none of the awkward arm stretching you'd otherwise need to do.
The pad itself is also a class act in most other respects. It has a glass surface, for an ultra-smooth finger glide. However, it bends at its edges more than those of other similiarly priced laptops. Still, this is only obvious if you go looking for it. And that's part of our job in this review.
- Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU
- 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
The LG Gram 17 does not have the same kind of processor you'll find in some large-screen laptops. Yes, it's an Intel. Yes, it's a Core-series chipset. But its Intel Core i7-1065G7 is a processor made for low power consumption and low heat generation, not pro-grade performance.
Apple's MacBook Pro 16, for example, has an H-series processor. And that is why it is a real "Pro" laptop, great for video editors, graphics professionals and anyone who needs a workstation rather than just a laptop. However, a Core i7 MacBook Pro 16 costs much more and weighs much more too.
If you're not yet sure whether you need that kind of power, you probably don't. The LG Gram 17 runs Windows 10 and everyday apps perfectly. Its 512GB SSD also offers very fast read speeds (up to 3369MB/s, with writes of 1930MB/s).
The Core i7 CPU has one of Intel's Iris Plus GPUs, which is better than the UHD 620 graphics chipset of the previous Gram 17. It lets you play Skyrim at 1080p and Medium graphics settings.
The Witcher 3, more recent and better-looking, is just barely playable (low standards required) at 1280 x 800 resolution with visuals set to their minimums. You'll see frame rates of 20-26fps out in the wilderness, 15-22fps in towns.
This isn't bad for a laptop made for light work, but the LG Gram 17 is begging for an Nvidia MX350. That's a low-end graphics card suitable for light laptops like this. It would let you play for more demanding titles. Intel suggests this Core i7's baked-in graphics chipset can replace an entry-level card, but in reality it is simply not as good.
LG says it has improved the Gram 17's cooling system since the last version, by increasing the size of the fan. This is important as temperature determines how long a laptop like this can use its Turbo mode. It doesn't take much for the fan to turn on, though. Downloading something while browsing seems to do the trick, and we could hear it spinning away almost all the time during testing - but it's rarely loud.
The LG Gram 17 stands alone. It's the only 17-inch laptop made for those after a big-screen portable rather than a huge, powerful workstation.
Some may say, who wants that? But the Gram 17 is great for anyone who uses a monitor most of the time and finds the switch to a laptop screen a major downgrade. This laptop is light, its battery is fit for all-day use and more, while both the keyboard and trackpad satisfy.
Any downsides? Well, the screen is a little too reflective, and a low-end graphics card would enhance those off-the-clock hours. But can't have it all at this price.
LG offers something different to the competition here, without relying on any gimmicks or tech that few will actually appreciate. As large laptops go, this one is in charge.
MacBook Pro 16
If the MacBook Pro 16 were the same price as the LG Gram 17 it'd be hard to recommend the LG as strongly. The Mac has a much more powerful CPU and although it's significantly heavier (at 2kgs) it is still fairly portable. It has amazing speakers too, the best found in a laptop. However it costs around four figures more cash - money wasted if you're part of the Gram audience that doesn't spend half their time editing video or doing other CPU-straining stuff.
Dell XPS 15
The entry-level XPS 15 is the version closest to our LG Gram 17 in price. It is more of a true performance machine as it uses one of Intel's H-series CPUs, not the low voltage kind seen here. However, the screen and battery are smaller, and the laptop is around 500g heavier. Laptops like this are why there's space for the Gram to exist, great as they may be in their own right.