LG Gram 17 (2020) Review: Specs, Design and Price

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It is still an exercise in bargaining to purchase a laptop. One of the tradeoffs you usually need to remember is that the wider the notebook’s screen, the heavier it is. This is fundamental mechanics, huh? This was before the Gram 17, a 17-inch laptop that weighs less than 3 pounds, was launched by LG. Last year, the Gram 17 hit a stage after years of refinement, where we found it the best 17-inch laptop on the market.

The newest model does not change much from the winning formula, and still, this time around, we are not as pleased with it. Sure, the selling points are nailed by the laptop; the Gram 17 is still surprisingly lightweight, and the 17-inch screen is fantastic. However, anything else is underwhelming.

Unlike the previous iteration, the battery life of the current Gram 17 is below-average, the output of the CPU lags behind rivals, and at high volume, the speakers distort. And while the architecture of the Gram 17 merits praises for being lightweight, it loses refinement in all the wrong ways and flexes.

For those who want a large display on a compact chassis, the Gram 17 is indeed a convincing device, but it’s no longer the best 17-inch out-and-out laptop.

LG Gram 17 configuration options & price

Starting at $1,499, the Gram 17 we checked is available at select retailers. After a $250 discount, Costco sells this unit for $1,249. The Gram 17 has an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM, a 2560 x 1600-pixel display, and a 512 GB SSD.

There is a $1,849 edition that you can order from LG directly. A Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and a 1TB M.2 SSD are required for this pricier configuration.

Specs:

  • CPU: 1.3GHz Intel Core i7-1065G7
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Plus (integrated)
  • RAM: 16GB LPDDR4 (3,200MHz)
  • Screen: 17-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600)
  • Storage: 2 x 512GB SSD (PCIe, NVMe, M.2)
  • Ports: 3 x USB-A 3.1, 1 x Thunderbolt 3, combi audio jack, microSD card reader, 1 x HDMI
  • Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 Bluetooth 5.0
  • Camera: 720p Webcam
  • Weight: 2.98 pounds (1.35kg)
  • Size: 15 x 10.3 x 0.7 inches (381 x 261 x 17.78 mm; W x D x H)

LG Gram 17 Design

A compact, ultra-lightweight laptop with a dull look is the Gram 17.

LG deserves credit for using mystical materials to get the weight of a 17-inch laptop down to 3 pounds before I condemn the design anymore. This is not unobtanium; it’s magnesium alloy, a substance used in portable laptops that is increasingly common.

How bright is Gram 17’s 15 x 10.3 x 0.7-inch? It weighs, quite amazingly, less than the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (3.4 pounds) and makes it sound like a workout to lift the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro (4.3 pounds) and Dell XPS 17 (5.5 pounds).

Gram 17, aesthetically, misses the target. Remove the chrome “gram” mark from the middle of the lid of the Gram 17, and to inspire office setups, it may be mistaken for props used in Ikea showrooms. I’m not against a minimalist aesthetic. I wish LG did more about the $1,499 charge to lift the Gram 17 and make you feel better.

The Gram 17 does not give your eyes much to be pulled towards without embellishment-patterns, fabrics, trim or unique materials. Instead, large, blank surfaces of dark silver have a nice pearlescent shine to their credit. The large 17-inch panel surrounded by a relatively thin plastic bezel is exposed by opening the lid.

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There is a large deck below the keyboard with a full-size keyboard (with Numpad) and a sunken touchpad. More of the dark silver tone combined with the white Gram brand and the orange shortcut font on the deck.

Located in the top-right corner of the Numpad keyboard, the power button acts as a fingerprint reader so that you can log in with Windows Hello. Unfortunately, there is no facial recognition login option for the IR camera.

Construction efficiency is also a problem. Given how hard it flexed when I applied light pressure to the Gram logo, the Gram 17’s lid could act as a trampoline. The exact words for the keyboard, which, when I pressed on, jumped up and down. This did not disturb my typing experience, but it made me doubt this notebook’s long-term longevity.

LG Gram 17 Connectivity Ports

Other than a second Thunderbolt 3 port, no primary connections are absent from Gram 17. Two USB 3.1 Type-A connectors, a microSD card slot, a headphone/mic jack, and a lock slot are on the right side.

You will note a third USB 3.1 port, an HDMI input, and a Thunderbolt 3 port on the left side. The Gram 17 uses a regular AC jack on the left instead of charging into the USB-C slot.

Display

It is pretty marvelous to work, stream and play on such a big show. It helps to strike all the right notes with the Gram’s 17-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel non-touch panel-sharp; it’s vibrant and light.

The Gram 17’s display clocked 104% of the sRGB color gamut, according to our colorimeter. The Gram is outpaced by the XPS 17 (132%), MacBook Pro (114%), and the luxury laptop average of 119%, while not a bad result.

Likewise, at 332 nits, the Gram 17 panel is moderately light, but it is dimmer than those on the MacBook Pro (429 nits), XPS 17 (505 nits), and the average laptop (379 nits). 

Keyboard and Touchpad

About the keyboard, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, all the keys are sized and spaced appropriately, the arrow keys are isolated in an inverse T pattern, and on the right side, even a Numpad is blocked off. These characteristics make the keyboard ideal for efficiency, such as when you punch in numbers or maneuver through a thick spreadsheet.

And while they’re shallower than I would expect from a 17-inch laptop, there’s a good bounce on the keys, making it easier for my fingers to move from one access to another. As a result, I typed with an accuracy of 95% at 120 words per minute, which is a little faster than my normal 119-wpm average.

The typing experience is, sadly, let down by one dubious judgment. LG decided to center it instead of placing the touchpad immediately below the spacebar to fit the home lines.

The concerns are two-fold. The risk of unintended swipes is improved by centering the touchpad since your right palm lies directly on top of it. Much more irritating is using the touchpad with my index finger or thumb while standing on the home row; I wanted to reach awkwardly over to the right.

And that’s a shame because, when I navigated Windows 10 and performed basic motions, such as pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe to turn between programs, the 4.8 x 2.8-inch surface was easy to capture my erratic finger movements.

Audio Quality

The Gram’s dual speakers sound is nowhere near as strong as those on the 16-inch MacBook Pro or the XPS 17. It is not precisely a fair contrast, but on a 17-inch laptop, I at least predict an excellent quad-speaker system. Instead, the Gram has two ideal drivers that deform and lack some bass semblance at total volume.

When I listened to “It’s All So Incredibly Loud,” by Glass Creatures, the falsetto vocals of Dave Bayley were penetrating, and the electronic drum tones dropped flat. The audio was clean and straightforward, but the scope was lacking.

Performance

The Gram 17 quickly loaded two dozen Google Chrome tabs with an Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU and 16 GB of RAM, enabling me to search the web and listen to music via YouTube Music. And after I streamed four 1080p YouTube videos and a couple of Twitch Let’s Plays, the laptop chugged right without a hint of lag. I wouldn’t use it for gaming, but the Gram 17 fits well for heavy workloads.

The benchmark test scores of the Gram 17 are also good, but note, it uses a processor from the U series so that you won’t get the same speeds as other 17-inch laptops. On a bright note, the new Gram 17 on the Geekbench 4.3 benchmark outpaced its predecessor with a score of 15,626. (14,039, 8th Gen Core i7).

However, with a score of 3,439 on the Geekbench 5 exam, the XPS 17 (7,740, Core i7-10875H), the MacBook Pro (7,201, Core i9-9980HK), and the average laptop were demolished by Gram 17. (4,041).

In our Handbrake video transcoding test, the Gram 17 struggled, a pattern we’ve seen on laptops that use 10th Gen Ice Lake CPUs. It takes 23 minutes and 59 seconds to transform a 4K video to a 1080p resolution, although it took 19:18 for the previous model. The MacBook Pro (8:00 and XPS 17 (8:41) cut the time into thirds, while with 5 minutes to spare, the average luxury laptop (18:39) did the work. 

The bright spot comes from the fast 512 GB M.2 PCIe SSD of the Gram 17. It only took 5 seconds for the hard drive to repeat 5 GB of multimedia files for a transmission rate of 1,128.4 megabytes per second. The MacBook Pro (1,017.9 MBps) is one of the only SSDs we’ve tested to outpace the XPS 17 (620.6 MBps) and the Surface Laptop 3. (282.7 MBps). The average for the segment is 683.8 MBps.

 LG Gram 17 Graphics

A step-up from what we’re used to when we hear “integrated” is the Intel Iris Plus graphics in the Gram 17, but it’s still not enough to run challenging games.

Civilization VI of Sid Meier: Gathering Storm played at a measly 12 frames per second, which is not close to our threshold of 30-fps playability. On high settings, less challenging games, such as Dirt 3, can run just fine at 1080p.

Battery life

On our battery test, the Gram 17 lasted for just 7 hours and 10 minutes, a substantial decrease from the almost 12 hours of runtime reached by its predecessor.

By contrast, at 10:55, the XPS 17 with a 4K screen lasted for 9:05 while the MacBook Pro went the distance. The Gram 17 was outlasted even by the Surface Laptop 3 (8:00), which struggled to meet the group average (9:33).

Camera

There are excellent selfie cams on LG smartphones, so why not place one of those on Gram 17? I asked myself the same question as I looked back at the hazy, noise-filled selfie I snapped in my bedroom. Maybe it’s not that easy to place a smartphone lens in a laptop, or perhaps it’s more costly than what LG is comfortable with; whatever, the 720p webcam of the Gram 17 is not acceptable, as most of us checked. Instead, we suggest opting for an external webcam, mainly if you operate from home.

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Temperature

In our heat test, which includes playing a 15-minute, 1080p movie, the Gram 17 had no problems with such a large area to spread heat into it. Our 95-degree Fahrenheit comfort level matched the hottest part of the laptop, above the F9 key.

The underside is usually the hottest section of a laptop during our heat survey, but it’s just 90 degrees on the Gram 17. The touchpad, at a breezy 77 degrees, was perfectly cool.

LG Gram 17 Software Support

On the Gram 17, LG provides a few helpful utilities, including the LG Control Center, where you can change power management settings, the color temperature of the screen, protection settings, and get product details. It could use some upgrading because the software looks as if it were designed for smartphones in a tiny un-sizable window.

I like it to be installed into the Control Center, so you can get all the new drivers and fixes from the LG Upgrade Center software to keep the device up-to-date. If you have problems with your Gram and a tutorial telling you how to take the laptop’s best advantage, there is also a troubleshooting app.

For graphics and multimedia users who want to edit videos (PowerDirector 14, ColorDirector 5) or images, there is also a suite of Cyberlink applications (PhotoDirector). Online games like Friends Saga, Candy Crush, Farm Heroes Saga, and LinkedIn include other third-party apps you usually find in Windows 10 Home.

Conclusion

Gram 17 was a beautiful addition to fresh air last year. LG has now turned a corner after years of trying to create a competitive ultra-lightweight laptop. The new edition, sadly, seems like a step in the wrong direction. Yeah, there is a highly lightweight frame (3 pounds) on the Gram 17, and the big 17-inch screen is as sharp and vibrant as you might imagine from LG.

All else about the laptop, though, is, well, uninspired. The style is dull, missing any eye-catching features, not to mention the questions about longevity. While I have no issues with the keys themselves, they are not matched with the touchpad properly. And while the speakers blur at high volume while I’m rattling off my grievances, battery life is a failure, and other 17-inch versions offer much faster output.

Yet, the Gram 17 would be well-tailored to specific consumers, considering these limitations. It is the most genuinely compact 17-inch laptop on the market. I can imagine myself slipping into my bag and moving it from the sofa to the office for extended trips or simply dragging it around my home. Other better 17-inch laptops, such as the Dell XPS 17, are available on the market, but they cost more and are much heavier. If you like a large screen in a lightweight chassis, grab the Gram 17-there is nothing else like it.


Source@techsaa: Read more at: Technology Week Blog

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