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LG Gram 17 (2021) review: Still the benchmark for 17-inch portability

sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
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8.0/10

LG Gram 17 (2021)

Excellent
Pros
  • Exceptionally lightweight for a 17-inch laptop
  • Excellent wide-gamut IPS screen
  • Good keyboard with separate number pad
  • Large 16:10 touchpad
  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports
Cons
  • Moderate battery life
  • Small Enter key

LG's range of Gram laptops has expanded considerably for 2021, with a new 16-inch model and convertible 14-inch and 16-inch devices, all powered by 11th-generation Intel Core processors. The 17-inch Gram 17 exemplifies LG's three core values across the range: a premium screen, long battery life, and light weight. Does it deliver on all three criteria, and does it improve on last year's model?  

First up, the Gram 17's weight is astonishing: a 17-inch laptop just shouldn't weigh 1.35kg (2.98lbs), but it does. Every time I picked up my review unit, the surprising lack of weight messed with my mind. What this means in practice is that if your backpack can take the size (380.2mm x 260.1mm x 17.8mm / 14.97in x 10.24in x 0.70in), you should have no problem carrying this laptop around on whatever travels you can undertake right now. 

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The 17-inch LG Gram 17 is powered by 11th-generation Core i5 or i7 processors with 8GB or 16GB of RAM and 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of SSD storage. The screen is a 16:10 IPS panel with a resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels (177.6ppi).

Images: LG

That said, you might need to add some protection. The base is solid enough, and LG says the magnesium alloy chassis has undergone MIL-STD-810G testing, including drop tests. Still, there's enough flex in the lid to suggest that a protective sleeve is essential. 

LG has introduced 2-in-1 convertibles to the Gram range this year, but the 17-inch model is strictly laptop-mode only, and the screen hinges back about halfway between 90 degrees and flat on the desktop. This is not a deal-breaker for a large-screen laptop lacking a touch-screen option. 

The screen has minimal bezels all round, which are slightly narrower than on last year's model. The resolution is 2560 by 1600 (16:10 aspect ratio, 177.6ppi). That's a lot of viewing space, and I happily worked with two documents side by side -- returning to my smaller everyday laptop screen was a wrench. For the record, the screen-to-body ratio is 83.4%, compared to 82.5% for last year's model. 

The quality of the IPS screen is good too -- bright and sharp, although very reflective, with a wide colour gamut (99% of DCI-P3). Stereo sound comes from a pair of 2W speakers with grilles on the underside of the chassis. This can muffle the sound if you work with the Gram 17 on your lap, although sound also outputs up through the keyboard. There's enough volume, although bass tones -- as so often -- are a little lacking. 

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The backlit keyboard includes a separate numeric keypad, but the single-height Enter key takes some getting used to. The large touchpad matches the screen's 16:10 aspect ratio.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet
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The power button incorporates a fingerprint reader, but the Gram 17's HD webcam does not support facial authentication via Windows Hello.

Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The chassis provides plenty of space for the backlit keyboard and a separate number pad, and the QWERTY keys are particularly large. Keys have ample travel, and the action is bouncy. As ever when I use a keyboard with a number pad, it took some time before I learned to hit the Enter key accurately every time, and in this case its relatively small size did me no favours. Otherwise, typing was a comfortable, if not entirely quiet, experience. There is a fingerprint scanner built into the power switch, allowing for 'one-touch' biometric login. 

The touchpad is enormous (131.5mm x 82.6mm) and its aspect ratio matches that of the screen, making it easy to manipulate the cursor in a single sweep. 

The LG Gram 17 is an Intel Evo-branded laptop, powered by 11th generation Intel Core processors. There are four models listed at the LG's UK website at the time of writing. The entry-level £1,149 (inc. VAT) model runs on a Core i5-1135G7 processor with 8GB of RAM, while the remaining three, including my review unit, are based on a Core i7-1165G7 with 16GB of RAM. My £1,559 (inc. VAT) review unit had 1TB of SSD storage, while other variants have either 512GB or 256GB. In the US, my review configuration costs $1,799.99. 

All four 17-inch models run Windows 10 Home and use Intel's integrated Iris Xe Graphics

lg-gram-17-2021-sides.jpg

Left edge (top): HDMI, 2x USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, 3.5mm headphone jack. Right edge (above): MicroSD card slot, 2x USB 3.2.

Images: LG

LG is reasonably generous with ports and connectors. On the left edge there are two USB-C ports with USB4 and Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI port and a 3.5mm headset jack. On the right edge you'll find a pair of USB 3.2 ports and a MicroSD slot. You can power the laptop via either of the USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports using the supplied 65W AC adapter, or plug in a Thunderbolt 4 hub -- perhaps one with an RJ-45 port for wired network connection – and power it that way. 

SEE: Windows 10 Start menu hacks (TechRepublic Premium)

LG quotes up to 19.5 hours of life for the Gram 17 running on its 80Wh battery. However, my everyday workload test, involving writing into web apps, streaming media and web browsing, saw the battery fall from 100% to 63% in a typical three-hour session, suggesting more like eight hours. Fortunately, charging is pretty fast: when I spotted the battery had dropped to 37% I plugged in, and in half an hour it was up to 61%. 

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Image: LG

Conclusions 

LG's three pillars of the Gram laptop range -- a premium screen, long battery life and light weight -- are two-thirds met. The 17-inch IPS screen is a pleasure to work with, and the 1.35kg weight is remarkable, but battery life doesn't match LG's claimed 'up to 19.5 hours' -- although all-day life (~8 hours) is achievable. 

The keyboard is easy to use once you're familiar with the layout, and the 16:10 touchpad works well. If you want a top-end processor, RAM and storage configuration, then this laptop isn't cheap -- £1,599/$1,799.99. That said, in the world of 17-inch laptops, the LG Gram 17 undoubtedly sets the standard for portability. 

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