LG's new gram series of laptop PC's packages performance in a small footprint
by Jim Bray
LG seems to be on a roll these days. Whether it's smart phones, appliances, televisions or whatever, the company offers innovation and quality that used to be reserved for tech companies from different parts of the world such as Japan, Europe and North America.
It's kind of the way the car market is going as well: South Korean companies used to be known for junk (remember the Hyundai Pony?) but have come a long way in a relatively short time. Heck, I remember when LG was "Lucky Goldstar" (well, I remember Goldstar products) and you'd buy their equipment not in high tech stores but places like Sears or Canadian Tire, where they'd share shelf space with brand names such as Candle or Lloyd's.
Now, LG (and its South Korean competitor Samsung) need apologize to no one. In fact, they're now leading the way in some areas that were traditionally the playing field of older big, established companies. For example, LG is the leader in OLED TV technology today and that's the best type of flat panel TV you can buy. But it's a technology pioneered years ago by Sony – who, ironically, are now buying OLED panels from LG.
Anyway, LG is also working at changing the game when it comes to laptop PC's, and as evidence I present this new LG gram Ultra-Light series that offers a lot of power and performance in a very thin package that looks quite fragile but which does seem to be quite robust.
The gram line was actually introduced to Canadians a year ago, promoted as "the World's Lightest 17-inch laptop" and offering "the power, memory and features necessary to meet the demands of virtually any kind of business, from coding to digital content creation."
Here's how they position it, according to their press release: ""The LG gram for business series is everything small and medium-sized businesses need in today's ever evolving business world," said, Andrew Chlebus, Vice President of Business Solutions, LG Electronics Canada. "It has the versatility for demanding workdays, the agility for changing strategies, the endurance to handle tough conditions, and the stamina to push through to your next move. We like to think of the LG gram for business as more than just a laptop - it's the world's lightest corner office.""
I don't know about that, and I've known some corner offices that had their own lightweights in 'em, but the sample 17-inch model LG sent me to play with is indeed a powerful and pleasant PC to use. I had a couple of minor issues with it – one of which has nothing to do with LG at all (I hate those damn trackpads, whether here or in cars!) – but on the whole it's a fine unit.
Grams, which are available with screen sizes of 14, 15.6- and 17 inches, boast a tiny 0.7-inch bezel and weigh less than three pounds each. LG claims they feature extended battery life that can keep you computing up to 18.5 hours without plugging it back in. That's pretty great life, if true.
I think it is true, or close, anyway. I didn't actually time my use of the gram while off AC power but I could use the gram all day for a couple of days without worrying about losing power (and, of course, it'll warn you in plenty of time that you'd better find a place to plug in). Obviously, I wasn't using it 24/7, but I was on it a lot and found the battery life very impressive.
The 14- and 15-inch models each come in two versions, featuring Intel Core i5 or i7 microprocessors running at "up to 1.30GHz with turbo speeds up to 3.90 Ghz." You can opt for up to 16 gigs of DDR4 RAM, and up to a terabyte of solid-state hard drive storage, which should be enough for most uses for the foreseeable future unless you're dealing with batches of really huge files.
Each gram model uses a Full HD 1920x1080 LG IPS LCD screen, 1.5W stereo speakers and comes with one UFS/MicroSD slot, one HDMI connector, a USB-C slot, and a couple of USB 3.1 ports. There's also a high-def webcam, a 3.5 mm headphone port, a back lit keyboard and fingerprint ID access for those who want a bit of extra security and aren't worried about having their fingertips ripped off.
The 17-inch LG gram model is powered by an Intel Core i7 processor running at 1.30G Hz, with 3.90 GHz available in turbo.
LG's sample sported the 16 gig of RAM, which is great, and while I'd prefer the full Terabyte of storage, the sample's capacity of half that is still twice what my own laptop offers, so it should keep you going for the present. I asked an LG representative if the RAM and/or storage could be upgraded and was told that "you will have to wait until we will have authorized SVC dealers to do so" and that if you dared try yourself, you void the warranty when you open the back cover.
So beware, there be dragons inside that PC!
One thing I really liked about the LG is its body, which feels very robust and doesn't exhibit a lot of flex when you grab it. LG says it's made from a magnesium alloy that's also used in aviation, and that it passed the MIL-STD-810G military standard of durability and reliability, which apparently covers seven factors ranging from shock and dust to extreme temperatures.
Naturally, I avoided trying to destroy the gram just to see how strong it was, though I can say it survived the dust in our home just fine...
The gram is comfortable on the lap and the keyboard is laid out well. Alas, as with nearly all laptops these days, the damn trackpad sits below the keyboard, right where my hands want to rest, and that causes all kinds of havoc to this particular typist as I discover that, thanks to my lousy posture, I'm suddenly typing in a different place than I was a second ago. This is definitely not a shot at LG because they all do it.
Fortunately, you can go under the hood with Windows (the current version is installed, of course) and disable the trackpad, which I did. This is why I keep a portable mouse on hand and, though it requires using a USB slot, it worked out just fine.
I know, I'm a Luddite...
One thing that some might find an oversight is the lack of touch screen capability. This didn't bother me a whit – I have a tablet for when I want a tablet – but I could see it being annoying for some.
And the gram would inexplicably lose network contact with my home network, and thereby the internet, and I'd have to run the Windows trouble-shooter or reboot to get it restored. Naturally, I blame Bill Gates for this.
Bottom line for me is that the LG gram is a very nice laptop computer, with good performance and a body that's both lightweight and strong.
At around $2,600 CDN, it ain't cheap, but it definitely seems to be a case of one getting what one pays for.
Copyright 2021 Jim Bray