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Lifewire / Andrew Hayward
Fantastic battery life
Loads of ports
Large screen on a light laptop
Feels a little flimsy
Frustrating keyboard layout
Not the best screen
Occasional humming sound
No Windows Hello on base model
The LG Gram 15.6-inch is an all-day workhorse that's easy to cart around and generous with ports, making it a very good option for getting things done.
Even in the realm of lightweight, ultraportable laptops, the LG Gram 15.6-inch(15Z980) feels like a bit of an anomaly. It's a larger, wider notebook given the 15.6-inch display, but at just 2.4 pounds it is shockingly light. It's a flyweight in a category ruled by featherweights, and while it doesn't have quite the dense, durable-feeling form of some competitors, the lightness sure sets it apart.
Pair that with the large screen, fantastic battery life, and loads of ports, and you have a computer that's built for productivity and portability alike. But does LG's laptop (2018 model reviewed) really stack up to the likes of the Apple MacBook Air and Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 in terms of value and overall experience? Read on to see what we thought.
Weight aside, the LG Gram 15.6-inch doesn't make the strongest impression in the category. It's a relatively minimal design that's not too fussed-over, but doesn't give the impression that it was chiseled out of a solid brick of aluminum like a MacBook Air or Pro. In fact, it's made from nano carbon magnesium, which must be how LG kept it so darn light.
LG assures us that its Gram line has passed several military-grade durability tests, and we have no reason to doubt them—but to the touch, the laptop just doesn't feel as strong as a MacBook or Surface Laptop. It's incredibly thin metal all around the exterior, to the extent to which a firm press on any surface just gives a little too much to feel comfortable. Likewise, the screen hinge isn't nearly as secure as other laptops we've tested in this category. Our tested version didn't come with the optional touch display, but we imagine it would be tricky to use with this much give to the display hinge.
The LG Gram 15.6-inch is only about one-third of a pound lighter than the MacBook Air, yet with that weight spread across a wider surface, the difference feels even more significant.
In any case, that's the trade-off for the incredible lightness, which really is amazing. The LG Gram 15.6-inch is only about one-third of a pound lighter than the MacBook Air, yet with that weight spread across a wider surface, the difference feels even more significant. This is an easy laptop to cart around or pop into a messenger bag—although it is quite wide at 14.1 inches. That's the nature of the beast with a larger screen, but just make sure that you have a bag that can handle it.
When it comes to ports, the LG Gram 15.6-inch leaves little behind. It's decked out. On the left side, you'll find a USB 3.0 port, USB-C port, and an HDMI port, along with the port for the included power cable—although you can also charge via USB-C. Look over on the right side and you'll find two more USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack, and even a microSD slot. Compared to those aforementioned Apple and Microsoft laptops that stick with one or two USB or USB-C ports, the LG Gram comes across as incredibly generous.
Right out of the gate, we were consistently typing in '---' when we tried to hit backspace, and the problem continued for days.
Getting our hands on the keyboard, some frustrations quickly emerged. Given the wide 15.6-inch display, LG had a lot of space to work with for the keyboard, and so it added in a full keypad to the right of the QWERTY keyboard. The problem here is twofold: some of the most-used keys, like backspace, are smaller than on many other keyboards. And to complicate matters, the keypad is scrunched right up against the keyboard without a break.
Right out of the gate, we were consistently typing in "---" when we tried to hit backspace, and the problem continued for days. Eventually, we started learning from the harsh experience of having to essentially double-delete characters, so it's likely that you'll get used to the keyboard's quirks. Typing on the keys feels great, at least: they're soft and quiet, and enabled speedy input when not fighting those odd layout issues. On balance, it's very usable and responsive, but still tries to cram too many keys into the available space. The trackpad, meanwhile, works fine but definitely feels a bit small on that wide body—Apple's extra-large trackpads are spoiling us.
The entry-level model we reviewed comes with a meaty 256GB solid state drive (SSD), which is double the SSD storage we typically see in a base model laptop. While 128GB might be cutting it close for some users, the boosted tally provides plenty more space for game downloads and storing local media.
There's little reason to worry about getting the LG Gram 15.6-inch laptop up and running quickly. It has Windows 10 pre-installed, so you'll simply follow the onscreen prompts to enter your Wi-Fi info, check for updates, select a few options, and ultimately find yourself ready to roll on the desktop. It shouldn't take more than a handful of minutes.
The LG Gram's 15.6-inch screen is good, but not great. It's certainly large: the widescreen panel stretches out longer than the 13-inch screens seen on a lot of ultraportable computers, and the extra real estate is absolutely noticeable. It gives you enough extra space to comfortably multitask, such as having a web browser and a document side-by-side, or a Slack window in full view to distract you from whatever you're supposed to be doing for work.
Pair that with the large screen, fantastic battery life, and loads of ports, and you have a computer that's built for productivity and portability alike.
The downside is that this 1920x1080 IPS LCS panel isn't nearly as high-resolution as some of its rivals, such as the MacBook Air (2560x1600) and Surface Laptop 2 (2256x1504)—both of which also benefit from squeezing their pixels into smaller respective frames. The LG Gram just doesn't have the pin-sharp allure of those screens, plus it looks dimmer and doesn't come across as vibrant as a result. It's solid, and 1080p can certainly get the job done, but there are much better-looking screens in this category.
With an 8th-gen Intel Core i5-8250U at 1.6Ghz and 8GB RAM onboard, the 2018 LG Gram runs on the same chipset as the Surface Laptop 2 and Dell XPS 13. It provides solid power for everyday tasks, and we didn't run into any noticeable slowdown while moving around Windows 10, surfing the web, typing up documents, and loading up apps. It's not a powerhouse CPU, however, and creative professionals looking for a machine for photo or video editing, for example, will surely want more processing power and RAM to play with.
In benchmark testing, the Cinebench score of 1,173 was higher than the 1,017 we registered on the entry-level Surface Laptop 2 (and higher is better), and the 975 seen on the 4K screen-equipped Dell XPS. The PCMark 10 score was higher, as well, with 3,085 on the LG Gram and just 2,112 on the Surface Laptop 2.
LG assures us that its Gram line has passed several military-grade durability tests, and we have no reason to doubt them—but to the touch, the laptop just doesn't feel as strong as a MacBook or Surface Laptop.
With an integrated Intel Graphics UHD 620 GPU inside, the LG Gram isn't built for intense gaming needs. However, it does OK with modern 3D games at low-to-medium settings. As has been the case with other laptops we've tried, battle royale shooter smash Fortnite defaulted to settings that looked nice but led to a very choppy frame rate in action, and we ultimately had to turn off all effects and hit low settings on nearly everything to make the game run smoothly. Switching to Rocket League, the car-soccer game ran decently with mid-to-high settings, but again we trimmed down a few settings for a speedier frame rate.
As an aside, while the LG Gram often runs near-silently, there are extended periods of time in which there's an audible hum coming from the back. It's not the typical, very loud fan noise that pops up while gaming or heavy multitasking from some computers, but it can be a bit grating. We noticed it while charging the computer, but also while running on the battery—with no consistency on that front. It's a mild annoyance, but it's one we noticed whenever it emerged.
You won't see the speakers when the LG Gram is standing up as normal, but you'll hear them loud and clear. The stereo speakers are tucked underneath the laptop at the left and right edges near where your wrists rest, and thanks to the slight elevation from the rubbery feet on the bottom of the laptop, they're given enough space for the output to shine. Audio playback sounds robust and clear—not quite to the level of Apple's current MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, but very close. We were pleased with it.
The LG Gram had no problem connecting to a few different networks, including a home Wi-Fi network, the Google Wi-Fi network at Starbucks, and a mobile hotspot. The connection always seemed speedy and downloads ran at a steady clip. Testing it on a home Wi-Fi network during peak evening hours, we saw a download speed of about 30Mbps and an upload speed of 13Mbps. We tested the network on an iPhone XS Max immediately after and saw comparable speeds there, as well. You can connect to both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks with ease.
Interestingly, the LG Gram also has an Ethernet-to-USB-C dongle included in the box. That'll be handy if the Wi-Fi is on the fritz, or you're at a hotel or conference center that somehow doesn't have Wi-Fi in the year 2019.
The battery is undoubtedly one of the key highlights of the LG Gram 15.6-inch (2018) experience. This massive 72Wh cell is estimated to provide upwards of 19 hours of uptime, according to LG—but as is usually the case with laptops, that estimate isn't reflective of typical use cases. Even so, with max brightness, the fact that we could get about half that amount still makes for a long-lasting experience.
With our typical workflow of browsing the web, chatting on Slack, typing up documents, and streaming a little bit of media, we typically saw 8-9 hours of uptime at 100 percent brightness. That means it's built for a full-on workday, which makes it a great option for productivity. In our video rundown test, in which we constantly stream a Netflix movie at 100 percent brightness, the LG Gram 15.6-inch lasted for 9 hours, 14 minutes. With locally-stored video, you're sure to get a whole lot more out of it.
With our typical workflow of browsing the web, chatting on Slack, typing up documents, and streaming a little bit of media, we typically saw 8-9 hours of uptime at 100% brightness.
The LG Gram 15.6-inch comes with Windows 10 Home preinstalled, and if you've used Windows over the years, then you should be pretty comfortable here. Windows 10 has lightly evolved the PC operating system with feature enhancements and tweaks without losing the classic, familiar DNA within, and it's the OS of choice for computer gaming and apps of all shapes and sizes. It's easy to use and understand, and runs well with the Intel Core i5 and an SSD onboard.
Unfortunately, this entry-level model of the LG Gram 15.6-inch isn't able to take advantage of Windows Hello biometric security, as the camera above the display doesn't have the needed sensors for scanning your face. We missed the near-instantaneous facial recognition of the Surface Laptop 2, and having to type in a PIN number each time we opened up the lid. Pricier models of the laptop offer a fingerprint scanner, however.
Originally priced at $1,249, the entry-level LG Gram 15.6-inch (2018) can now be found for about $999 as of this writing. LG has rolled out newer 2019 versions that look identical and have the same core features, but upgrade to the latest generation of Intel Core processors. You should see a little bit more speed in benchmark testing, although it's unclear whether there's any noticeable difference during regular usage.
In any case, $999 is a more appealing value for a computer that doesn't pack as much polish as some rivals, but wins out when it comes to elements like battery life, screen size, and minimal weight. For some users, that's sure to be an appealing combination. Note that you can spend quite a bit on upgrades with the LG Gram 15.6-inch, including opting for versions with a faster Intel Core i7 processor, additional RAM, a fingerprint sensor, and even a touch display if desired.
The LG Gram 15.6-inch and Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 are similarly equipped, in terms of having the same processor and integrated graphics chip, although they vary quite a bit from there. As noted, the LG Gram's claim to fame comes with the resilient battery and large screen for such a lightweight computer.
The Surface Laptop 2 can't match those specs, but it goes for a higher-end feel between the more durable-feeling design, the Alcantara material finish around the keyboard, Windows Hello camera support, and the higher-resolution touch display. All told, the Surface Laptop 2 is a more appealing device, but the LG Gram's long-lasting capabilities make it a workhorse option for those who don't care as much about bells and whistles.
Well-built for productivity.
There are better all-around ultraportable laptops in this price range, and we had some issues with the feeling of the build, the keyboard layout, and the merely good display quality. However, if you're in the market for an incredibly light laptop with a big screen and a battery that lasts and lasts, it's hard to ignore the LG Gram 15.6-inch (2018). You get a very capable computer for the price, and it's a notebook that can legitimately last through a full workday even at max brightness.
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