Review

Published on November 20th, 2016 | by Varuna Singh

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Working light – LG Gram 2016 Review

PCs and laptops continue to get faster as they also get thinner and lighter. LG focused on making this laptop light. It’s aptly called the Gram because the whole laptop weighs just under a kilo. It’s about 997 grams to be exact. That’s nothing remarkable for a tablet. The Surface Pro 4 weighs 786 grams. Add in the keyboard with the Type cover (310 grams), the 12.3” Surface Pro 4 is already heavier than the LG Gram 15” and the LG Gram is your traditional laptop and not a tablet.

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The LG Gram we reviewed comes in a nice matte Gold color. Its sleek, made of magnesium alloy and you can open the lid with one finger.  It’s fairly thin and blends in nicely but the gold color might not be for everyone.

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There are rubber grips at the bottom that are very rigid. Here’s how it looks when closed.

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Its hinge doesn’t wrap around but it revolves around a nice circular point. It’s a differentiation and doesn’t look like a MacBook Air rip-off. The LG logo at the front is simple and aptly placed. The bottom of the laptop is fairly minimal as well.  There are decent sounding speakers at the bottom and you don’t even notice them.

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The air vents (this Core i5 does have a fan) are hidden between the hinges and you don’t really see them at all. Its subtle and most of the exterior is tidy which is a plus.

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This laptop is an interesting one on many aspects. I’ll go through the different ones and conclude with some thoughts.

Screen

The LG Gram’s display has thin bezels that makes the screen look amazing. It literally fills the whole screen. If you were impressed with what Dell did on their XPS line up, the LG Gram 15” 2016 version does a great job. It’s an improvement over last year’s LG Gram when it debuted. Thin bezels are pretty much overall positive to consumers.

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The screen is, after all made by LG and they are known to make one of the best displays on the market. While their OLED displays are mesmerizing, the LG Gram’s display is clear but unremarkable. It’s a good IPS panel ¬that gives very good color gamma and very nice viewing angles. It has 83% sRGB and 65% Adobe RGB which is surprisingly a bit lower than high-end displays but LG has done some great calibration to make the screen look good.

Pressing Fn+F9 reduces the blues and makes the screen yellow! This reading mode is better for readability as well as good for getting good sleep. I didn’t end up using it a lot. The screen got a lot warmer than required.

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The panel is Full HD and unless you’re come very close to the display, you won’t notice any pixelation. Considering it’s a larger 15” panel, it’s not very sharp. You would ideally care about this if you are into photo editing or professional video production. For the rest of us, the display looks good as Windows 10 scales the OS to about 125% by default. The panel is glossy even for a non-touch display. That doesn’t change the colors too much and most of it is readable outside since the panel can get very bright.

An annoyance with the Gram is the screen. While its good, the lid of the laptop has a slight curvature to it. I’m not sure if that’s by design but some of you may find that irritating. Straight lines look bent and while watching videos, there is a curve to the whole frame.

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The lid doesn’t bounce around and generally stays in its place. Since the screen isn’t a touchscreen and this isn’t a convertible, you will rarely notice the screen wobble.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Keyboard travel is good However because of the number pad being tightly spaced, you’re going to have to get used to typing a bit towards the left. The keyboard is pleasant. The travel is a bit tough at times but I got easily used to it. The number pad is new and not a lot of people use it. However not many of us would take full advantage of it. If you work a lot with numbers, this is a great addition!

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There are a few annoying bits of the keyboard. It isn’t backlit and there is light that’s always lit when you have the trackpad on. This is the default behavior and its annoying.

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The trackpad is a hit/miss situation for me. At times, it worked well and when it didn’t it was frustrating. Right clicking or three finer swiping got cumbersome. The click feedback isn’t as even as in other laptops. I’d advise you to check it for yourself.

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Internals and hardware

The Gram has an Intel Core ultralow power i5 processor. It isn’t the lower spec-ed mobile Core m processor. It’s a 6th generation dual core i5-6200U CPU @ 2.30Ghz. That’s quite a bit of power in a laptop that’s light weight as well as thin. This processor is on the same level as last year flagship laptops. The i5 version of the Surface Pro 4 comes has a similar processor (i5-6300U) making the LG Gram get a good processor choice. The LG Gram i5 15-inch version we reviewed costs AED 4399 . LG also makes an i7 version as well.

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Performance is on par with most Ultrabook’s out there and you’re going to get a well enough performance to run some basic video editing software, Photoshop works well too. There is an intel integrated graphics chip but not a dedicated GPU on board. Intensive 3D gaming wouldn’t work very well with the LG Gram. That’s not what this is trying to be.

Settling for 4GB¬ is not recommended in a new laptop today

The RAM on the LG Gram is a short 4GB. Its DDR3 and the version of Windows 10 is 64 bit Home. I would go with an 8GB RAM for todays laptop. Especially if you are buying a new one. 4GB gets you through a browser with 10 tabs and probably 6 other applications running until you start seeing the laptop push itself. At idle, Windows consumes about 1.5GB of that RAM. LG also has an 8 GB model of the Gram and I’d strongly recommend that instead of our review unit having just 4GB.

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The LG Gram has a Samsung 256GB SSD on board that works and performs very well in a lot of the tasks I threw at it. The laptop has a USB 3 port Type A as well as the new Type C. You can’t charge the laptop with this Type C although LG’s website suggests that you can. In charger for the LG Gram is proprietary and quite small. It’s very small compared to many others out there. The USB Type C port isn’t a thunderbolt port but it does give you the benefit of a new port. LG also bundles a USB Type C to Ethernet port that makes using this laptop in those situations very easy. The device is plug and play and works as expected.

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The LG Gram has a full-sized HDMI port which keeps the sanity while projecting/extending the display. The presence of a Type A USB normal port is also a relief. The headphone jack is also a microphone jack.

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When you hold the LG Gram, it almost feels like a dummy unit

The selling point of the LG Gram is its weight. It weighs less than a kilo and its very light to hold and carry around. The housing is a magnesium alloy and NOT plastic. I emphasis that because it does feel like its plastic. Its assuring that it isn’t plastic. The alloy should make the LG Gram withstand everyday bumps and moves. The chassis isn’t particularly sturdy but has a lightness to it. The previous LG Gram felt very hollow but the current LG Gram doesn’t have that anymore. Does it flex when you apply pressure? Sure it does but not in a way that might break. In fact, when you hold the LG Gram it almost feels like a dummy unit.

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The LG Gram encourages you to carry it around you

Could LG have made the laptop better? LG could have filled in those gaps inside better. But that would mean the laptop would get heavier defeating the purpose of the Gram in the first place. But a better design could also mean less flex. It’s better than the first iteration of the Gram. It encourages me to take the laptop and carry it all around. This thing is ridiculously light.

Battery Life

So naturally you might be thinking about the battery life. Its average. Per Windows 10 calculation, a full charge should get you around 7 to 8 hours. In light use I got over 6 hours and in heavy usage i got over 4 hours in real-life. This isn’t the best battery life. Expect anywhere between 4 and 6 hours.

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Expect 4 – 6 hours of battery

The Gram has a 34.6Whr battery and while they could have added more since this 15-inch laptop has more real-estate than other 13-14″ laptops, the GRAM had to be first and foremost, light. It kind of makes you wish it wasn’t this light in the first place.

The two models in the LG gram series include: 14Z960 (14 inches) retailed for AED 3999 and 15Z960 (15.6 inches) retailed for AED 4399.

Here’s the big question – does LG’s competitive advantage with the GRAM overcome its defects? Are you better off buying another laptop? The LG Gram is a very light laptop and it performs well better than most Ultrabook. It’s got a core processor, a great screen, decent keyboard. It’s got a clickety trackpad, average battery and the 4GB RAM is to avoid. The keyboard is decent; the screen doesn’t wobble but flexes. With USB 3.1 the Gram is a very interesting option that considers the future, looks good but isn’t aimed for the professional. If you want your laptop light, get the LG Gram – it’s a no brainer.

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I’d recommend the LG Gram especially if you like your laptop light. The battery is average by today’s standards and the display is clear and bright. I’d hold off your decision if you’re looking for a gaming machine or if you’re going to be doing a lot of video conferencing since the camera is at the bottom and it gets annoying. I’ll also urge you to try out the trackpad. My experience with the trackpad was great for single touch but quite buggy for gestures with more than 2 fingers. The LG Gram is a very well performing ultraportable that’s so light, you’ll want to carry it everywhere.

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About the Author

I work with technology in Education. I also write stuff. I love design and people. @varunasingh



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