Astoundingly light for a 17-inch laptop. As compact a footprint as possible for the screen size. Outstanding battery life. Excellent display. Comprehensive port selection.

Boring, plain design. Feels flimsier than the alloy body suggests. Uncomfortable touchpad. No touch-screen option. Relatively pricey.

LG's Gram 17, astonishingly light for a 17-inch laptop, delivers excellent battery life and a glorious screen. But the relatively high price, the plain design, and some quibbles with the keyboard and touchpad keep it from stardom.

The LG Gram 17 handles some of the most important aspects of a laptop with aplomb. It is—by far—the lightest laptop with a 17-inch screen we've ever tested, as well as the longest-lasting away from a power outlet. Unfortunately, it accomplishes the first feat in a chassis with a ho-hum design and aspects that are flimsy in spots. The result is a laptop that doesn't feel like it justifies its $1,499 asking price, and one that would merit a lower rating were it not for its light weight, large high-quality display, and outstanding battery life. If these three factors are what matters to you, the Gram 17 is a no-brainer. It simply maximizes screen size while minimizing weight.

Let's put it the most charitably we can: The LG Gram 17's aesthetic is "plain." It's a featureless, dark-gray slab made of a magnesium-carbon alloy, and not a particularly sleek-looking one. It mimics the wedge shape of the Apple MacBook Air, with edges that taper toward the front of the laptop.

Unlike the MacBook Air, however, the Gram is not actually a wedge. It's the same thickness throughout (0.7 inch), so the wedge styling looks stodgy from certain angles—in fact, the wedge-like cutaways into the sides of the chassis appear to make the laptop bulge outward at the bottom when looked at from the side. The 0.7-inch thickness classifies the Gram 17 as a relatively thick laptop, too. It feels chunkier in hand than a quick glance would suggest.



The thickness belies just how astonishingly light the Gram 17 is, though. It weighs 2.95 pounds. That's not far below the 3-pound line we draw at calling a laptop an ultraportable, but nearly all other ultraportables have 13- or 14-inch screens. That the Gram 17 manages to slide in just below 3 pounds with a gigantic 17-inch screen and a 0.7-inch girth is incredible. It's even more astounding the first time you pick it up, since the overall look doesn't do credit to the engineering feat within. My eyes widened when I wielded the Gram 17 for the first time. Plus, the lower half of the body is surprisingly rigid. (The screen portion, in contrast, flexes too much.)

As amazing as the lightness is, the concept is relatively simple. LG has achieved an under-3-pound weight for the Gram 17 in part by following the tried-and-true method of reducing the laptop's screen-to-body ratio. When you open the display hinge, you notice the lack of borders around the screen right away. This is a 17-inch display in a body that's typically used to house a 15-inch one.

Measurements confirm this. The Gram 17 is 15 inches wide by 10.5 inches deep, in line with many 15-inch laptops we've tested recently, such as the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 2-in-1. LG is far from the only manufacturer pursuing this shrink-the-chassis strategy, with Razer applying the same concept to its 17-inch Blade Pro 17. The latest Blade Pro 17 measures 0.7 by 15.6 by 10.2 inches (HWD), down from its predecessor's 0.88 by 16.7 by 11 inches.

As light as the Gram 17 is, you can find a lighter ultraportable without too much trouble if you're willing to settle for a smaller screen. LG itself makes a 15-inch Gram 15 that weighs 2.4 pounds, for instance. So one of the primary motivations for buying a Gram 17 is its expansive display, which is, fortunately, excellent. It's a relatively rare WQXGA screen, with a super-fine but not-quite-4K resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels and a 16:10 aspect ratio. I found colors to be brilliant, the text sharp, and the maximum brightness level far more than I needed in a brightly lit office.

This screen, which supports in-plane switching (IPS) technology to make it viewable from extreme off-center angles, is the only one that LG offers for the Gram 17. Initially, that might concern perceptive buyers who seek a lower-resolution screen based on the assumption that powering fewer pixels results in better battery life. With the Gram 17's excellent battery life, however, that's hardly a concern. It lasted more than 17 hours on our battery-rundown test, a feat that's almost as astonishing as its under-3-pound weight. (More on that later.)

The screen lacks support for touch input, which means that your primary means of interacting with the Gram 17 will be its keyboard and touchpad. That's unfortunate, since both have uncomfortable and clumsy aspects. There's plenty of room on the keyboard deck for a dedicated number pad, which LG nicely includes on the Gram 17, but the number-pad keys and all of the rest of the keys are squished toward the center of the laptop. Some of the keys have been narrowed from their standard widths, most notably the oft-used Enter and Backspace keys. I found myself missing Enter and Backspace with frustrating frequency, hitting the minus (-) key or the number 4 instead. The narrowing also affects the number-pad keys, which are 14mm wide versus 16mm wide for the main letter keys.

The cramped keyboard is even more puzzling since there's plenty of vacant space on either side of the layout on the keyboard deck, with not even a speaker grille to occupy it. Two 1.5-watt stereo speakers are located on the bottom of the laptop, which produce dimensional but rather tinny audio quality. You might not be able to tell they're positioned facing away from you, but you will notice the lack of bass. Adding woofers or larger speakers would have added weight, though, so you could justify the tinny audio as a fair compromise.

The touchpad has some issues, as well. Its size is generous enough, and its accuracy is adequate, but the clicking mechanism is mushy, with the pad itself extending deep into the chassis when you press on the lower left and right corners. Even when I was simply moving the cursor around the expansive screen, I felt considerable give in the touchpad's hinge. This should not happen on a $1,500 laptop.

The best part of the Gram 17's input methods is its accurate fingerprint reader, which is built into the power button on the upper right of the keyboard. It never once failed to recognize my registered print, which meant I never had to enter my Windows 10 PIN or password to log in. The HD webcam lacks IR sensors for face recognition, so your fingerprint is your only option for bypassing your password on the Gram 17.

At publication time, the Gram 17's only configuration options are its memory and storage amounts. Our review unit has with 16GB of memory and a 512GB Serial ATA SSD. The entry-level version, sold only at Costco, halves the amount of both of these, while LG's top-end $1,799 config comes with 16GB of RAM and a faster 1TB PCI Express NVMe SSD. All versions have an Intel Core i7-8565U processor with a 1.8GHz base clock speed and Intel UHD Graphics 620.

All versions of the Gram 17 come with a relatively generous selection of input/output ports. This mix includes a microSD card slot, a 3.5mm headphone connector, three USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a single USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, a power connector, and a full-size HDMI output. Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi handle wireless connections.

All of these components suggest a PC that's ready to connect pretty much every peripheral and perform most essential computing tasks with aplomb. To find out, I tested its computing performance against other similarly sized and similarly priced machines, based on the criteria that the Gram 17's primary skills are its large screen and light weight. If you know you want a big screen, the laptops in the chart below, our comparison set, offer it in a variety of flavors.

The 17-inch Acer Nitro 5 is an entry-level gaming rig, the Asus ZenBook 15 is a general-purpose ultraportable, the Acer Swift 5 challenges the Gram 15 for the title of lightest 15-incher, and the Dell Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1 not only has a ton of screen real estate but also a 360-degree hinge that lets it convert into a titanic tablet.

The most objective measure of overall performance with productivity applications is our PCMark 10 test, which simulates tasks such as word processing, spreadsheet jockeying, web browsing, and videoconferencing. The Gram 17 scored the lowest on this test, hampered in no small part by its high-resolution screen. (Everything else equal, a higher-resolution screen can result in a lower PCMark score.) In real-world use, however, the slight shortfall in benchmark score didn't reflect a laggy laptop; I found that I could install, start, and switch between apps with lightning speed and no hangs or sluggishness.

It's also interesting to note that the scores on the PCMark 8 Storage test, which runs similar tasks to PCMark 10 but focuses solely on boot-drive performance, were all roughly the same. This suggests that you don't need to spring for the Gram 17's faster 1TB NVMe drive option if you're worried about reading and writing a lot of data. For workaday data accesses, you'd be hard-pressed to notice the difference between the two kinds of boot drive.

Although the Gram 17 doesn't make any claims to be a content-creation or gaming powerhouse, it performed reasonably well on our multimedia editing tasks, which include rendering a 3D image in Cinebench and applying filters and effects in Adobe Photoshop.

If you plan on gaming or creating multimedia content with any frequency, however, there are plenty of competing laptops in the same price range that are heavier but perform far better on these tasks, such as the Asus ZenBook 15 and the Nitro 5.

The difference is even more pronounced when it comes to graphics pep and games. Many 17-inch and 15-inch laptops in the $1,000-plus range come with dedicated graphics processors, which helps explain why the Gram 17 performed near the bottom of our 3DMark and Superposition gaming tests in this test group. It's not out of line for a laptop based on Intel UHD integrated graphics, but it's tepid for a machine that costs this much.

Take our 3DMark testing. This suite measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting...

Our Superposition test, meanwhile, renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes...

The numbers speak for themselves. A dedicated GPU (and the cooling hardware it would need) would add weight to the Gram 17 and likely affect battery life, though. These two things are central to the Gram 17's whole rationale, so you'll just have to make do with the Intel integrated graphics, which is the same one that powers most smaller ultraportable laptops.

As noted earlier, the Gram 17's battery life, as measured by our video rundown test, is exceptional, however...

The Nitro 5 and Inspiron 17 7000 2-in-1, both with dedicated GPUs, performed far worse. Extra kudos are due to this machine considering its native resolution is well higher than 1080p.

With the Gram 17, LG seeks to combine two aspects of modern mobile computing that inherently don't mix: a large screen and a light carry weight. Without a doubt, the company succeeds in that quest, as the Gram 17's excellent display and incredible under-3-pound weight demonstrate.

Some important aspects of the laptop experience are casualties, however. I typed only a portion of this review on the Gram 17's keyboard before my struggles with the Backspace key caused me to abandon the effort, and I longed for a touch screen to free myself from the clumsy touchpad. Although the chassis is made of metal alloy and has passes MIL-SPEC reliability tests, it feels cheaply made, even though it isn't. It's as if the Gram 17 were originally a much sturdier laptop and had parts excised until its weight became acceptable.

Under certain usage scenarios, the Gram 17's deficiencies will seem like trivialities. If you need to display a presentation at a trade-show booth with no power outlets in a different city every week, the Gram 17 is a dream machine. Just beware that the laws of physics suggest it shouldn't exist at all, and LG is only able to get around them by making some significant compromises.

Bottom Line: LG's Gram 17, astonishingly light for a 17-inch laptop, delivers excellent battery life and a glorious screen. But the relatively high price, the plain design, and some quibbles with the keyboard and touchpad keep it from stardom.

Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of a few startups. Before that, he occasionally dunked waterproof hard drives in glasses of wate... See Full Bio

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