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LG Gram 14 review: Compact, lightweight and long-lasting

sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
lg-gram-14header.jpg
8.0

LG Gram 14

Excellent
Like
  • Slim and light
  • Impressive battery life
  • Responsive keyboard
  • High-quality IPS LCD screen
Don't Like
  • Enter key is too small
  • Speaker location could be better

When you think of LG products, laptops probably don't spring to mind. But in fact, LG has a laptop range called Gram, currently comprising five models in the UK -- two 15-inch, two 14-inch and a 13-inch. Here I'm looking at the entry-level 14-inch model (14Z980-G.AA52A1).

LG has entered a crowded market, but the Gram has a couple of features that should help it stand out: impressive battery life and sub-1kg weight.

At first glance, the LG Gram 14 looks like a pretty standard laptop. The slate-grey chassis, sitting on a desk, might draw attention because of the lower-case, reflective silver 'gram' moniker, but it's otherwise unremarkable.

lg-grammain.jpg

The 14-inch LG Gram 14 runs on 8th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. The screen is a Full HD IPS LCD.

Images: LG

Pick it up, though, and it's a rather different story. As its name suggests, the Gram is remarkably light, weighing just 995g. That puts it on a par with the very lightest of ultraportables -- even the superbly slim and light Dell XPS 13 weighs in at 1.21kg, for example, and has a smaller 13-inch screen.

Build quality is generally good despite the light weight. The weakest point is the lid, which exhibits a fair bit of flex. Because of that I would probably want to carry this laptop in a protective sleeve, but elsewhere the nano-carbon chassis seems tough. LG says that seven MIL-STD 810G tests have been passed -- for shock, low pressure, high and low temperatures, dust, vibration and salt fog.

The LG Gram 14 is compact for a 14-inch laptop too, measuring just 16.5mm thick with a desktop footprint of 324.4mm by 211.8mm. I measured the side screen bezels at just over 5mm, the top bezel at 9mm -- wide enough to accommodate a webcam -- and the bottom bezel at an impressively shallow 12mm.

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There's no convertible functionality here: the screen hinge stops at about 130 degrees, so it's not even possible to lay the screen flat on a desk to share content.

My review sample didn't have a touch screen, and nor does the other 14-inch model. In fact, only one of the 15-inch models has this feature. The screen is very reflective, which was something of an issue for me. Pumping up the brightness doesn't help. Still, colours pop and the IPS LCD is well up to displaying video content as well as text across its Full HD (1,920 x 1080) panel. Viewing angles on both the vertical and horizontal planes are excellent. If LG decides to produce a 360-degree rotating model with this screen, I can see a place for it among those who like to use tent, presentation and tablet modes.

The speakers are a slight weakness if you want to enjoy or share audio. They are located on the base, which means that output was muffled when the laptop was sitting on a desk, and muffled even more with it on the lap. Sound quality is a bit lacking in bass tones, but volume is impressive and doesn't distort even when maxed out.

lg-gramkeyboard.jpg

The keyboard is generally good, although the single-height Enter key takes some getting used to.

Image: LG

The keyboard has large, well-spaced keys that are nicely sprung and responsive. Working at full touch typing speed was not a problem for me. The only notable issue is the Enter key, which is only one row tall. I consistently hit the row above it for a while, before getting used to it. It's an irritating blot on an otherwise very comfortable keyboard.

lg-gramfingerprint.jpg

In a nice design touch, the fingerprint reader is incorporated into the power button.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

A two-level backlight provides plenty of illumination for working at night. A fingerprint scanner is discreetly located in the on/off switch that sits at the upper right corner of the keyboard -- a tidy design idea that makes fingerprint login as ergonomic as it could possibly be.

The other neat design element is the orange colour for Fn and some other key functions. It's unusual and rather engaging.

The touchpad can be disabled with a Fn key combination, and a tiny white LED on the relevant Fn key shines all the time the touchpad is functional. I tend to bemoan laptops that don't have an indicator -- it's all too easy to forget the touchpad has been disabled and think something is broken -- so this is welcome.

As noted, there are two 14-inch models of the LG Gram currently available. My review sample was the less expensive of the two, with the only difference in the core specifications being the processor:

  • Intel Core i5-8250U, Windows 10 Home, 14.0-inch IPS LCD 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
    £1,049 (inc. VAT)
  • Intel Core i7-8550U, Windows 10 Home, 14.0-inch IPS LCD 1,920 x 1,080 non-touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
    £1,199 (inc. VAT)
lg-gramsides.jpg
Image: LG

Ports and connectors are a little on the sparse side. The right edge has a USB 3.0 port, a headset jack and a MicroSD card slot, while on the left there's a further USB 3.0 port, a single USB-C port, a full size HDMI connector and a round pin power input. Ethernet connectivity is catered for by a provided USB-C to RJ-45 converter.

As noted at the top of this review, the two standout features of this laptop are its weight and battery life. LG has equipped the Gram 14 with a generous 72Wh battery, and claims up to 21.5 hours of life. My usual test conditions involve using the laptop with everyday workloads to see how it fares.

In the interests of approximating real-world conditions, I bumped the backlight up to 75 percent from its default battery-power setting -- which is actually zero percent. In a typical three-hour session of writing, browsing, streaming and email the battery slipped from fully charged to 81 percent. On that basis I'd expect to get through a typical working day on a full charge, but the claimed 21.5 hours seems like a stretch in the real world.

Conclusions

The LG Gram 14 has two key features: excellent battery life and sub-1kg weight. Its general compactness and high-quality IPS LCD screen are also plus points. It's a shame the otherwise good keyboard is let down by an Enter key that's too small, and that the speakers are located on the underside of the chassis rather than somewhere they can project outwards.

There is a lot to like here, and I'm looking forward to seeing more laptops from LG.

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