Though impressively light and well-specified, the LG Gram 17 is marred by some thermal management issues that hobble the CPU
- Incredibly light for a 17in laptop
- Good keyboard and speakers
- Bright, colourful WQXGA display
- Some thermal throttling issues
- The display could be more colour-accurate
- A bit wobbly
Making something light is easy. Just make it small. The world is full of 13in laptops that don’t weigh much more than the average pineapple (1kg apparently) but 13in is a little on the small side for serious work. LG’s Gram series has no truck with the whole light = small argument and offers a range of 14in, 16in and 17in machines that weigh next to nothing, despite their large displays.
Make no mistake, the Gram machines are all utter lightweights: the Gram 14 weighs just 999g, the Gram 16 tips the scales at 1.2kg while the Gram 17 reviewed here exerts a force of only 1.35kg under gravity. It’s the last two that are the most impressive because they are both fully-featured, grown-up laptops that have all the bells and whistles you usually find in laptops that weigh half as much again.
LG Gram 17 (2023) review: What you need to know
With great weight comes great structural integrity and the reverse is just as true. If you want a laptop that you can use to fend off an attacking wild animal then the LG Gram 17 is not your best bet because it is a little flimsy and a little bendy. At the end of the day, if you want a laptop that’s rigid, has a 17in display and weighs less than 1.5kg you’ll have to pick two out of three.
Where LG hasn’t scrimped is with the internal components. Its Samsung SSDs are top quality while the display and speakers are all from the higher-end parts bin. The temptation to reduce weight by reducing the size of the battery has been resisted too, so you get a beefy 80Wh unit. Add to this a comprehensive array of I/O ports and a large, high-quality keyboard and the LG Gram 17 has a strong claim to being the pinnacle of ultraportable development.
LG Gram 17 (2023) review: Price and competition
Configuration tested – Intel Core i7-1360P CPU, Intel Iris Xe GPU, 32GB RAM, 2TB SSD, 17in 2,560 x 1,600 IPS non-touchscreen; Price: £2,049
The 2023 Gram 17 lineup starts at £1,799 for a machine with a 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM. Pay £100 more and you get 32GB of RAM, while £1,949 lands you 2TB of storage but only 16GB of RAM and the full-fat 2TB, 32GB model we have on review will set you back £2,049.
The benchmark in the thin-and-light category is the 13.6in M2 Apple MacBook Air. Prices start at £1,149, while the entry-level model of the new 15in M2 Apple MacBook Air can be picked up for £1,399. If you want a model with a Gram 17-matching 2TB of SSD storage you’ll need to part with north of £2,549, making it a much more expensive option. The MacBook Air’s battery life is spectacular, though.
Looking out of the Microsoft window, the new Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro has the best display – an OLED affair – we’ve ever seen on a laptop, is a very light and compact affair and prices start at a reasonable £1,349. It’s available with either Core i5 or Core i7 13th Gen P-series processors.
Running neck and neck with the Galaxy Book3 in the desirability stakes is the new 14.5in Asus ZenBook 14X. Its OLED touchscreen is almost as good as that fitted to the Galaxy Book3 but the sound system is better and the Sandstone Beige model is a genuine work of art. It’s not bad value at £1,499 either.
If you can live with a 12th gen CPU then the Huawei MateBook 16s can be picked up for just £1,099 with an Intel Core i9-12900H chip, a 16in 2,560 x 1,680 resolution touchscreen and a 1TB SSD. That’s a lot of laptop for the money but it does weigh nearly 2kg. This offer may not last long as a Raptor Lake update has just been announced.
LG Gram 17 (2023) review: Design and build quality
The fact that LG has made a proper, grown-up 17in laptop that weighs a mere 1.35kg should help anyone retain their capacity for amazement. It’s an extraordinary achievement, all the more so when you consider that the far smaller 13.6in M2 MacBook Air weighs only a smidge less at 1.34kg.
Of course, the LG Gram 17 is rather more wobbly than the MacBook Air. Actually, it’s a lot more wobbly. I’m pretty sure that I could break both the base and the lid if I gave them a really brutal twist and I’m a stranger to the gym. Wanting LG’s press team to continue to talk to me precludes me from putting the Gram 17 through this particular test but you get the idea.
That said, according to LG, the plastic and magnesium Gram 17 has still passed seven different MIL-STD 810H tests so it hasn’t got an entirely glass jaw and – deliberate acts of violence aside – it should shrug off the slings and arrows of daily laptop use.
Physically, the LG Gram 17 looks much the same as the 2022 model. It’s a black and angular affair that speaks the language of restraint and sobriety. One of LG’s press images shows a model with a white base but that’s the only mention I can find of it so it’s safe to assume there’s a Henry Fordian colour choice: black or, if you prefer, black.
I’m impressed that LG continues to endow the Gram 17 with a good selection of ports. On the left, you’ll find two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack and an HDMI 2.1 video output, while on the right there are two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports and a MicroSD card slot. Granted, the Gram 17 is 6.5mm thicker than the MacBook Air at 17.8mm but I’ll take that frankly irrelevant extra bulk in exchange for enough I/O ports to make my laptop genuinely useful in any circumstance.
Opening up a Gram 17 is not advised. You have to pry off the rubber feet to access the screws and removing the base plate – a wafer-thin sheet of magnesium alloy – without bending it is a fraught business. Once inside, all you can do is access the two 2280 SSD slots (occupied in my review sample). The RAM modules and everything else are fixed in place.
The brace of 1TB PCIe 4 Samsung-made SSDs in my review unit proved to be impressively quick, registering sequential read and write speeds of 2,799MB/sec and 2,750MB/sec respectively, which is very quick for this category of laptop. The Intel AX211 Wi-Fi 6 card proved well up to snuff and, as you’d expect at this price, delivers support for 6GHz Wi-Fi 6E.
LG Gram 17 (2023) review: Keyboard, touchpad and webcam
Considering the amount of flex in other parts of the LG Gram 17, the keyboard deck is surprisingly stable. It’s not entirely solid but there’s no more give in it than I’ve encountered in other laptops that don’t have the excuse of weighing less than Suella Braverman’s sense of compassion.
While the smaller LG Gram 16 makes do with a 4 x 3 numeric keypad, the 17 gets a proper 4 x 4 affair with usefully large plus, minus and Enter keys at the far right, which is a boon for anyone number crunching. There’s absolutely nothing out of the ordinary or remarkable about the layout, which is as it should be.
The black-and-white colour scheme is a model of clarity and there’s a three-stage white backlight to keep you going when the lights dim. The keys themselves are pleasant to the touch and have a firm and positive action and a nice amount of travel, about 1.7mm in my estimation.
The trackpad is actually quite large (130 x 82mm) but it looks smaller than it is because there is a lot of free space surrounding it on all sides. The surface is perfectly smooth, though, and the corner click-actions are precise and well-damped.
Sitting above the Gram’s display is a good 1080p webcam that captures crisp and detailed images with decent colour registration. It also supports Windows Hello IR facial recognition. When I first opened up the Gram 17, I thought the rather strangely profiled power button had gained a fingerprint reader but I was wrong.
The LG Gram 17 comes preloaded with a software suite called LG Glance, a useful bundle of webcam-based security protocols that uses the camera to recognise when you’re not in front of your laptop and blurs the display for privacy or warns you when someone is looking over your shoulder. There’s also a handy option to pause video playback when you look away and a security shortcut that cuts off the webcam and microphone in the interests of privacy.
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LG Gram 17 (2023) review: Display and audio
For such a light laptop the impressive thing is how much screen there is. With 17in between the corners, the LG Gram 17 is in a bantamweight league of its own. The 2,560 x 1,600 16:10 IPS panel is crisp and bright – 177.6ppi and 385cd/m2 to be precise – and has a matte finish to keep reflections at bay in a nod to the Gram 17’s out-and-about usage expectations.
The display is capable of reproducing an impressive 100.2% of the DCI-P3 gamut, while the black luminance is on the lower side for an IPS display at 0.27cd/m2, giving a very healthy contrast ratio of 1,430:1. For general use, it’s a good effort but it isn’t the most colour-accurate display I’ve come across.
LG ships the Gram 17 with a DCI-P3 ICC colour profile that you can activate using the LG Smart Assistant control panel. Measuring the colour accuracy against the DCI-P3 profile gave a Delta E variation of 3.02, which is rather high. Reverting to the standard Windows colour profile, the variation dropped to 2.9 vs sRGB which is below the magic number 3, but only just.
The speaker system, meanwhile (a 2 x 2W affair) has been tuned with quality rather than absolute volume in mind. Maximum volume measured against a pink noise source at a 1m distance is a pretty meagre 66.3dB(A) but there’s a surprising amount of bass in evidence and plenty of detail.
The low-ish volume means you can happily leave the volume set to the maximum without having to worry about the sound getting raucous. I’m listening to the new Everything But The Girl album, Fuse, as I write this and it sounds very good on the LG Gram 17 thanks to a rich and resonant soundscape that belies the basic specification.
LG Gram 17 (2023) review: Performance and battery life
When it comes to performance it’s very much a game of two halves because the LG Gram 17 suffers from thermal throttling issues that only become apparent in some benchmark tests or tasks, namely ones that take a long time to run and continually use all the Core i7-1360P’s 12 cores.
Our in-house 4K multi-media test is a punishing affair that takes about 20 minutes to run and offers the CPU no chance to cool or recuperate. The Gram 17 scored 163 points in this test, which is worse than the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro we tested with a less powerful Intel Core i5-1340P and only 8GB of RAM. The difference is that, after only a few minutes, thermal throttling kicked in and the CPU utilisation dropped to around 40% and stayed there.
The Cinebench R23 multi-core test tells a similar story, scoring 9,159 on the Samsung but only 8,069 on the nominally more powerful LG. Those tests were run with the LG’s cooling system in High rather than Normal mode, but this didn’t make much difference.
However, if you look at the GeekBench 5 and 6 scores, tests that run in a much shorter time and pause momentarily between jobs for the CPU to cool, they show the LG to be, as expected, faster than the Samsung with multi-core scores of 9,575 and 10,445 to the Samsung’s 8,699 and 9,772. In both the Geekbench and Cinebench single-core tests, the LG gave the Samsung a pasting because heat didn’t become an issue.
In everyday use, you don’t really notice the throttling because few tasks will cause it to kick in as aggressively as this, and the sorts of jobs that do – like rendering video files or gaming – arguably have no place running on an ultraportable like the LG Gram 17. This LG then is more of a Usain Bolt than a Mo Farah: quick in a sprint, more pedestrian over a distance.
Graphics performance proved immune to any thermal issues with the Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark running at 49.9fps at 1,920 x 1,080, a healthy advantage over the Galaxy Book3 Pro’s 24fps, with no noticeable difference between the first and last of ten test runs.
And, fortunately, the thermal issues never caused the outside of the Gram 17 to get overly warm (no part of the exterior rose above 38°C) and, even when the fans were running at full speed, the noise they made was barely noticeable.
And the flip side is that, when it comes to battery life, the LG Gram 17 performs very well. In our standard video rundown test using VLC with the display set to 170cd/m2 and flight mode engaged, the 80Wh battery kept the lights on for 10hrs 12mins, which is a good result for a Windows laptop, though a long way short of the MacBook Air’s 17hrs.
LG Gram 17 (2023) review: Verdict
The Gram 17’s two failings – the rather high Delta E on the screen and the thermal throttling – preclude an unqualified recommendation but, if you don’t plan on using it for colour-critical work or to run really CPU-intensive programmes, you’ll likely never notice either problem.
And, as an example of a fully-functional large-screen lightweight laptop, the LG Gram 17 is very good. It has a big, bright colourful screen, a good keyboard, a tuneful sound system and excellent battery life. And just to repeat, it only weighs 1.35kg.