Looking Good: LG Gram 15 First Impressions

Posted on February 24, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 8 Comments

Looking Good: LG Gram 15 First Impressions

Preternaturally thin and light, the LG Gram 15 was one of the happy surprises of CES 2017. And now I’ve got one in for review.

As you may recall, we awarded the LG Gram 15 as the Best Ultra-Portable PC at CES this year. And for good reason: When you pick it up for the first time, you seem to be holding an engineering sample, an empty case with no electronics inside. But no, it’s really that light—just 2.16 pounds, according to LG—or “impossibly light,” according to my hands. And my brain.

And to be very clear here, this is for a PC with a 15.6-inch screen. That low a weight simply shouldn’t be possible. And yet there it is.

Given this miracle of engineering, one’s mind turns naturally to how LG was able to achieve such a thing. Surely, they cut corners somewhere. Both literally and figuratively.

The body itself is made of a magnesium alloy that is perhaps a step up from plastic. It’s thin and light, yes, and it flexes just a bit if you force the issue. But it seems well-made.

The innards are certainly serious enough: A 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-7500U microprocessor—the only chipset offered—with integrated Intel HD Graphics 620, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB SATA3 SSD should be enough to satisfy the needs of most users, for sure.

The screen is bright and crisp. It’s a Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS unit with less bezel in all directions—and not just on the left and right—than virtually any PC I’ve used. There’s a 720p webcam as well, though it’s sadly mounted on the bottom of the panel, below the screen, a la the Dell XPS 13.

The keyboard and touchpad seem decent in early usage. As you might expect of such a thin and light machine, the keyboard has a bit of flex under my heavy hands. But so does the touchpad, which is sort of unusual.

The expansion is semi-amazing given its svelte form factor: LG provides full-sized USB 2 and USB 3 ports, plus a headphone jack and microSD card reader on the right side of the device, plus another full-sized USB 3 port, a full-sized HDMI port, and a USB-C port on the left. Most of what you want seems to be present and accounted for, and LG even includes a USB-C-based Ethernet adapter right in the box, a nice touch.

But there are a few minor issues buried in those lists, as you may have noticed. These won’t impact some users—perhaps even most users—but they’re worth knowing about.

So let’s go back through that list again and pick out a few key pieces.

The SSD is SATA3, which is older technology, and slower than a modern PCIe-based unit. The screen is “only” Full HD in a day and age when many PCs are hitting QHD/4K resolutions. And that USB-C port doesn’t provide Thunderbolt 3 capabilities for expansion. It’s “just” USB 3.1.

I’m actually fine with all of that, and I don’t believe any of these issues will materially impact the performance and usability of the device. In fact, some of that will combine to help LG deliver decent (but not exceptional) battery life—a rated 7 hours—and what is possibly the only truly ultra-portable 15.6-inch laptop on earth.

Beyond all that, I do have two minor niggles up front.

First, the Gram 15 does not utilize USB-C for its power connector. Instead, it features a proprietary power connector of the sort I thought we were done with. (This may be because the device doesn’t have Thunderbolt 3 innards, but I’m not sure. Update: I’m told this is not the reason. –Paul)

Second—and this will certainly not be an issue for many—the LG Gram features a numeric keyboard, which I don’t like. The keyboard is described as full-sized, and it seems to be. But I’d rather see the keyboard centered in the base, with perhaps a home row on one side instead of the numeric keypad. And some of those keys are oddly shaped as well. I guess I’d get used to it.

LG is pricing the Gram 15 at $1500, which is in premium PC territory, of course. If you value portability above all else, and many do, this device may indeed justify that price. I’ll find out and report back in my full review.

 

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