Ultralight laptops are nothing new, but it’s unheard of to find a 17-inch laptop this light. If you want a spacious screen and a laptop that’s effortless to lug around it’s tough to beat the LG gram 17.
One of the more unique laptop lineups of the last few years is LG’s gram series which encompasses a range of ultralight laptops. The gram laptops offer high-end internals, great battery life, and—true to their name—the lightest possible weight LG can manage. Previous years have seen 13-, 14-, and 15-inch models, but LG unveiled the 17-inch variant in 2018.
What makes the 17-inch variant remarkable is that it weighs in at 2.95 pounds. To put that in perspective, Dell’s much-loved (and tiny) Dell XPS 13—one of the top-rated lightweight laptops around—weighs 2.65 pounds. For a scant 0.3 pound increase, the gram 17 gives you a radically bigger screen and a spacious keyboard.
I recently purchased the LG gram 17 and have been using it as my sole computer for a month. It marries a lot of what I’ve been desiring in a computer: a giant screen (large enough that I don’t even bother with an external monitor anymore), enough power for some of the heavier tasks I use a computer for, and great battery life. More than anything else though, the lightweight makes make it super easy to keep in my backpack without straining myself, and it makes it a joy to get the laptop out of my bag and start working.
Design: Plain, But Serviceable
The LG gram 17 is an unassuming laptop, with the light gray exterior letting it blend into most coffee shops and libraries. The left side of the laptop houses a barrel plug charging port, a USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 port, an HDMI port, and a Thunderbolt 3 port that can also be used for charging. I would have gladly done away with the barrel charging and HDMI ports in exchange for more Thunderbolt 3—or even USB-C 3.1—ports, but alas.
The right side includes a Kensington lock slot, two USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, a 3.5mm headphone and microphone jack, and a micro-SD slot. Included in the box is a USB-C-to-Ethernet dongle, though this only goes up to 100Mbps.
The display is a 16×10 aspect ratio unit, with a resolution of 2560×1600. This is about a 2K resolution, and I think it’s the sweet spot for what LG wanted to achieve: text and images are plenty sharp, but with less cost and power consumption than a 4K panel. Viewing angles are great, and there isn’t much glare under bright lights.
The webcam is above the screen, as it should be. The webcam doesn’t offer Windows Hello authentication, but more of that in a moment. The webcam’s resolution is disappointing at only 720P, so you may want to use an external camera for your video conferences.
Heading down from the screen and webcam you’ll find the keyboard and trackpad, and I love the layout LG included here. The keys are well spaced, and there’s ample space for the number pad. The arrows keys aren’t jammed into other symbols, so it’s easy to feel those out when I need to navigate around a document. There are two levels of backlighting (plus off), and I didn’t see any issues with the lighting being uneven. The inclusion of the number pad means the trackpad isn’t centered below the letter keys, but I adjusted quickly enough.
In the upper-right corner of the keyboard deck you’ll find the Window Hello-compatible fingerprint sensor nestled in the power button. There’s no delay between pressing my finger down and the laptop unlocking, and the power button is far enough out of the way that I haven’t accidentally pressed it.
I do wish the trackpad was larger, but this is enough room to navigate and use gestures. Those gestures come courtesy of Microsoft’s Precision drivers, which some laptop manufacturers (cough HP cough) still don’t include. The gestures and navigation speed are customizable via the Settings app, and the trackpad has just the right amount of click. While I’ll always prefer my trusty trackball, the trackpad is great enough that the trackball isn’t mandatory.
What’s Inside: Top Tier Parts, But Integrated GPU
The inside of the laptop is even more important than the outside, and LG doesn’t disappoint here. This is using an Intel Core i7-8565U quad-core processor, which is nice and zippy for everyday use. Even with more intense applications like editing photos or ripping and converting Blu Rays, the laptop doesn’t disappoint. The GPU is the integrated Intel UHD 620, so if you want to use this for gaming, you’ll need to spring for an eGPU enclosure or save the gaming for a dedicated desktop machine.
The unit comes with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, 8GB of which is soldered to the motherboard. It also ships with a 512GB m.2 SATA SSD, though the two m.2 slots also allow you to use NVMe drives. The back panel comes off with some screws, you just need to remove some rubber feet and plastic disks to expose the screws.
Networking is handled by the Intel Wireless-AC 9560 card, which also provides Bluetooth 5.0 support. Wi-Fi speeds are great, once you get the right drivers (more on that later).
Everyday Use: An Absolute Delight
What makes this laptop stand out from the competition is just how much of a joy it is to use. The lightweight means I’m not straining my pack by keeping it in my bag all day, and it’s not heavy or awkward to use when I’m at home. The spacious screen gives me plenty of room to work: I have my Google Doc for this piece pinned the left side of the screen, while the spec sheet and other information from LG’s site are pinned to the right. I can comfortably type and read, without having to squint or strain my eyes.
Speaking of typing, I’m a big fan of the keyboard on this machine. The letter keys are well-spaced, and offer just enough resistance for my personal taste. I mostly ignore the number pad, but there’s plenty of room for it.
There’s also plenty of room on the keyboard deck for some speakers, but instead, they’re on the bottom. I didn’t notice any distortion, even at max volume. The volume is loud enough for me to fill my one-bedroom apartment with some tunes, and gets low enough to comfortably watch Netflix in bed.
A 16:10 screen means this offers a bit more vertical space than most laptops with 16:9 screens. Again, that makes it great for productivity, since you can see more lines of text or more rows in an Excel sheet. Brightness on the screen is odd though: the dimmest setting is bright enough that I can comfortably use it in the daytime, while max brightness is eye-searing. The good part of this is it means I can enjoy the battery savings of having the screen at its dimmest.
LG adds some software out of the box, most of which is useful. Microsoft Office is pre-installed, but there’s no trial: you’ll need an Office 365 account or license key to use it. You’ll see notifications for LG’s Reader Mode, which doesn’t offer anything different than Windows 10’s own Night Light. LG Update Center is used for checking BIOS and other driver updates, while the LG Control Center is used to set the Function key lock and change a few other on-device settings.
LG quotes the battery life at “up to” 19.5 hours, but I’ve been averaging closer to 12 of typing in Google Docs, browsing the web, or streaming video from Plex or Netflix. This is still above other 17-inch laptops I’ve used, which is even more impressive given the size and weight of the gram. There’s more room inside that would have let LG include a bigger power pack, but that would have made the machine heavier. Everyone’s needs will vary, but I think LG struck a nice balance between low weight and long battery life.
This is strictly a clamshell laptop, and doesn’t even feature a touchscreen. This didn’t bother me at all, but if you like to use a stylus for note taking or content creation, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
What Needs Work: Port Selection and Initial Setup
Despite my joy with this laptop, there are a few things I’d change. I already mentioned the port layout, but it’s worth repeating. Shipping a laptop with a barrel charger in 2019 is just silly, and I’d love to be able to charge the laptop from either the left or right side like most Chromebooks can.
My biggest frustration with this laptop was the out-of-box network driver. It makes getting the laptop up and running more work than it should be, and even once you get all the updates installed, it’ll lead to a frustrating experience. Grab the newest network drivers from Intel’s site before doing any additional setup, and you’ll be much happier.
Should You Buy It? Yes!
The LG gram 17 retails for $1,700, while other 17-inch models from Dell, HP and others can be up to $1,000 less if you find the right deal. Those cheaper models have their own compromises, be that in the specs, the weight, or battery life.
Before getting the gram, my computers were a Google Pixelbook and a Dell Inspiron 17. I took the Pixelbook most places since it was nice and light, but the smaller screen made me less productive when I sat down to work. The smaller screen also made watching movies and TV shows on it less than ideal. The 17-inch Inspiron had the opposite problem: it offered me enough room to work, and the big screen was a joy to watch video on. But it strained my back every time I brought it with me, and it was awkward to lug around when I was using it at home.
The gram 17 is the perfect middle ground for me. I’m going to reiterate this: it’s effortless to keep this in my bag all day, and it gives me ample room to work once I sit down for a few hours. The ability to cart around a lightweight laptop that meets every one of my needs is amazing.
Lest you think I’m kidding about how big of a game changer the gram has been for me: I was able to sell my home desktop and monitor, the Inspiron and Pixelbook, and just have one computer to keep charged, updated, and with me everywhere I go. Decluttering and keeping only the things that “spark joy” is quite the rage right now and the LG gram 17 has definitely made me pretty joyous at the decreased clutter and increased utility.
How much someone values weight and other factors is up to them, but for me, the combination of great battery life, powerful enough hardware to do what I need to, a great screen, and the light weight make this well worth the asking price. There are minor quibbles I have with this machine, but if you want a superlight Windows laptop that performs well and has a giant screen the gram 17 is tough to beat.
Here’s What We Like
- Shockingly lightweight
- Fast hardware with a sharp display
- Great keyboard and trackpad;
And What We Don't
- Battery life, while great, is nowhere near LG's claims
- Bad out-of-the-box network driver
- Could use more USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports