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LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: A lightweight in more ways than one

Tom Bruce
1 Dec 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,350

This ultraportable from LG weighs less than a kilogram. It’s definitely light but at what cost?

Pros 
Lovely display
Super lightweight
Good mix of ports
Cons 
Poor active cooling abilities
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Over the past two years, LG has sent us a number of laptops from its lightweight Gram range. And, while they’ve all been excellent in their own ways, none of them has lived up to the Gram name as much as this latest entry, the 2020 LG Gram 14. Weighing in at under 1kg, it’s one of the most portable Windows 10 laptops on the market today.

Portability isn’t everything, mind you. The LG Gram 14 is a beautiful laptop, and a strong performer in most respects but, as it turns out, its slender chassis is more of a hindrance than a help.

READ NEXT: The best laptops you can buy today

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: What you need to know

This is the smallest LG Gram laptop we’ve been sent so far. Whereas the standard LG Gram has a 15.6in display and the LG Gram 17 uses a 17in panel, the LG Gram 14’s display measures – as you might have guessed – only 14 inches from corner to corner.

The LG Gram 14 (model designation 14Z90N) comes as one of two variants in the UK. You can buy it with a 10th-Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD, or with a 10th-Gen Intel Core i5-1035G7, 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. Whichever model you go for, you’re getting a sleek and incredibly lightweight Windows 10 Home laptop with a 14in FHD (1,920 x 1,080) non-touch display. Both models have a maximum memory capacity of 24GB RAM.

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: Price and competition

The model I’m reviewing here is the Core i7-1065G7, which has 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD and costs £1,350 from the likes of Amazon UK and Argos. Meanwhile, the Core i5 base model comes with 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD and goes for around £1,200.

For £1,250 – £100 less than the i7 LG Gram 14 on test here – you could bag yourself the stunning Samsung Galaxy Book Ion instead. At 970g, it’s even lighter than the LG Gram 14 and, although it only packs a Core i5 CPU, it actually outperforms the LG in certain areas, most notably with its exceptional battery life and its brilliant QLED display.

If you like the look (and don’t mind the price) of the LG Gram 14 but fancy something with a bit more firepower, then you’re spoiled for choice. Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3, Lenovo’s Yoga C940 and Dell’s XPS 13 (2020) are all decked out with the same Intel Core i7-1065G7 found inside my LG Gram 14 review unit, and they’re similarly priced too. Admittedly, they aren’t quite as portable as the Gram, but they aren’t far off, and all three outperform it thanks to their superior active cooling capabilities.

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: Design

Unsurprisingly, the LG Gram 14 looks an awful lot like the LG Gram 17 (2020), only smaller. This unit measures 323 x 210 x 17.8mm (WHD) and weighs a mere 999g. Its magnesium alloy chassis is coated in a dark silver finish which has a rough, almost scratchy feel to it. That’s not a bad thing; it’s a classy-looking machine, and that coating does a fine job of warding off unwanted fingerprints.

The overall build quality is sturdy and the lid’s hinge can be lifted smoothly with a single finger, but there are some weak points. The areas to the right and left of the touchpad can be depressed without much effort at all. And, as I found with the last LG Gram I tested, the lid is particularly flimsy – it can be wobbled about like a piece of cardboard. Then again, you can’t expect the LG Gram 14 to be rock solid when it weighs less than a kilogram.

Although the LG does look sleek from almost every angle, the bezels surrounding its 14in display are a bit chunky, especially when you compare the LG with rival machines like the Dell XPS 13 and Samsung Galaxy Book Ion. LG’s logo sits below the display, and the forehead bezel houses a 720p webcam.

Despite its slender profile, LG has managed to fit a decent selection of ports onto the Gram 14. On the left edge, there’s a USB-C 3.2 Gen 1/Thunderbolt 3 port, an HDMI output, one USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 slot and a power port. Over on the right, there’s another USB-A port, a Kensington Lock slot, a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD slot.

On the underside, there are five rubberised feet that prevent the laptop from sliding around, and they also give it a little bit of desk clearance to help it stay a little bit cooler. The stereo speakers are located on the bottom too, although they aren’t anything special. Lastly, if you wanted to upgrade the memory of your LG Gram, you can pop off the bottom plate and add an additional 8GB RAM to get it up to 24GB.

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: Keyboard and touchpad

The backlit, chiclet-style keyboard is a real treat to type on. There’s not too much travel and it’s fairly quiet too. Each key has a subtle matte finish that gives your fingers a little extra grip – a small thing but appreciated nonetheless. My only complaint is that, due to space limitations, the Backspace and Enter keys are shorter than I’m used to.

A whole host of shortcuts are built into the keys of the top row, from the LG Control Center launcher to Reader Mode (it turns the screen dark and warm) and Flight Mode. The power button, which is the upper-rightmost key, doubles up as a fingerprint reader. It’s reliable too, unlocking the laptop instantly every time.

The diving board touchpad is recessed ever so slightly into the chassis and, like the keyboard, it’s faultless. The surface is smooth, but not too slick, and it’s responsive to the slightest touch. Palm-rejection works well most of the time and the left and right clickers both depress evenly without feeling spongy.

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: Display

The display doesn’t disappoint, either. The LG Gram 14 has a 14in LCD IPS display with an Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, giving it a pixel density of 158ppi. It delivers a peak luminance of 339cd/m2, which is by no means blinding, but more than enough for typical indoor use.

For the majority of the time I spent with the Gram 14, I had the brightness turned down a notch or two from the maximum for the sake of my vision. The display’s 1,330:1 contrast ratio is pretty typical of laptops in this price range. It isn’t jaw-dropping, but colours and textures have plenty of pop to them.

Calibration testing revealed that the LG Gram 14’s display can reproduce 96.7% of the sRGB gamut, with a gamut volume of 99.4%. That’s a great result, on par with all of the Gram 14’s key rivals, and most colours on the spectrum appear vibrant and natural. An average Delta E of 2.69 tells us that the Gram 14’s colour accuracy isn’t perfect but unless you need to edit photo and video to a professional standard, this display will do you proud.

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: Performance and battery life

And now for the bad news. My LG Gram 14 review unit runs on a 10th-Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU with a base frequency of 1.3GHz, and this is backed by 16GB DDR4 RAM. That’s a powerful setup for such a slender laptop, yet the LG Gram’s diminutive nature prevents it from making the most of it.

In our 4K media benchmark tests, the LG Gram 14 lagged notably behind several machines packing the same internal components, including the Dell XPS 13 (2020), Lenovo Yoga C940 and Microsoft Surface Laptop 3.

Even the Samsung Galaxy Book Ion, which weighs just 970g and runs on an Intel Core i5-10210U, managed to edge ahead of the LG. Why? It all boils down to a lack of active cooling; when the CPU is taxed too heavily, it’s forced to throttle down to a lower clock speed so it doesn’t overheat.

On the plus side, the minimal cooling means that the LG Gram 14 is one of the quietest laptops I’ve ever tested.

Without a dedicated GPU, the LG Gram 14 isn’t exactly a gaming machine. Its i7-1065G7 CPU does have integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics, however, and it can handle less demanding titles. It can run DiRT Showdown in 1080p at just under 30fps, which makes it playable enough. You can forget about playing the latest Triple-A games on higher settings, though.

What the LG Gram 14 lacks in raw power, it makes up for with SSD speed. In our AS SSD disk speed test, its 512GB drive achieved read speeds of 2,916MB/sec and write speeds of 2,063MB/sec. These results make it among the speediest SSDs we’ve tested in a lightweight laptop.

Finally, there’s the battery life of the LG Gram 14. In our standardised video playback test, the Gram 14’s 72Wh hour battery kept it ticking along for 10hrs 17mins. That’s not as good as the Lenovo Yoga C940 or Dell XPS 13 (2020) but it is over 2hrs longer than the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. Then again, the Samsung Galaxy Book Ion lasted more than 13hrs. The Gram 14’s battery life is good, then, but not as good as you can get for this sort of cash.

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) review: Verdict

Apart from its lack of active cooling, there’s no real reason not to recommend the LG Gram 14. It’s a sleek and extraordinarily lightweight machine with a premium build and gorgeous IPS FHD display. If you can forgive the throttling issue, it’s a decent performer too.

The main reason I wouldn’t buy it and why I think you shouldn’t either is that there are better options out there. The LG Gram 14 sits in an unhappy middle ground between power and portability.

Want something ultraportable? The Samsung Galaxy Book Ion weighs even less than the LG Gram 14 yet outperformed it in our testing, has better battery life and it has one of the most stunningly bright displays on any laptop we’ve tested at Expert Reviews. Meanwhile, should you require a laptop that can take full advantage of that Core i7 CPU, you’re best off with a machine like the Lenovo Yoga C940 or Dell XPS 13 (2020).

LG Gram 14 (14Z90N) specifications
ProcessorIntel Core i7-1065G7
RAM16GB
Additional memory slots1
Max. memory24GB
Graphics adapterIntel Iris Plus
Graphics memoryShared
Storage512GB
Screen size (in)14
Screen resolution1,920 x 1,080
Pixel density (PPI)158
Screen typeIPS
TouchscreenNo
Pointing devicesTouchpad
Optical driveNo
Memory card slotmicroSD
3.5mm audio jackYes
Graphics outputsHDMI, USB-C (Thunderbolt 3)
Other ports2 x USB-A (3.1),
Web Cam720p
SpeakersStereo
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
BluetoothBluetooth 5
NFCNo
W (mm)323
D (mm)210
H (mm)17.8
Dimensions, mm (WDH)323 x 210 x 17.8mm
Weight (kg)0.99kg
Battery size (Wh)72
Operating systemWindows 10 Home

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