ProsAmazingly-low weight; packed with features, mind-blowing battery life
ConsMaterials not quite as premium as the competition; bulky AC adapter
The name LG should be well known to just about every technology enthusiast. It's one of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world, so not surprisingly, it has a huge portfolio of products to choose from. From dishwashers and refrigerators to smartphones and TVs, it can equip practically every aspect of your daily life. Over the past couple of years, LG has made a very big push into the computing space, releasing a wide range of monitors and laptops at aggressive pricepoints, while offering some very high-end specifications. Nowhere is this more evident than in its Gram line of laptops. What started off as a bit of a publicity stunt (the first laptop under 1 kilogram), the Gram line now encompasses a wide range of laptops for nearly every use case.
What separates the latest Gram laptops from the original Gram is not so much weight (in fact, some are over 1kg now), but quality. While the first Gram was designed to be light above all else, LG has really refined what it means to be a Gram model. With the LG Gram 13 (2018) that we're testing, you get an Intel quad-core CPU, a simply gigantic battery, lots of high-end extras, plus that namesake low weight (ours hit the scale at 2.13 pounds, or 965 grams).
We purchased our LG Gram at retail, shortly after it was released in February of 2018. While most of the products reviewed on this site are provided by manufacturers, this was one we actually needed for our business, so we went out and bought it! Read on to see what our long-term impressions are.
Description and Features
LG currently sells three versions of the LG Gram 13, a white model with a Core i5 and standard 13.3 screen (13Z980-U.AAW5U1), a grey model with a Core i5 quad-core, touchscreen, plus fingerprint reader (13Z980-A.AAS5U1), and a grey model with a Core i7 quad-core procesesor and the same touchscreen and fingerprint reader (13Z980-A.AAS7U1). LG also markets a number of 14" and 15" models, with the main differentiator being screen size, although the highest-end 15" model adds Thunderbolt 3. Of note, all Gram models use a 1920 x 1080 panel, so going up in size doesn't provide more room to work, it just makes the image bigger.
Our 13" model weighed 2.13 pounds, as we mentioned, which happens to nail the weight listed on LG's spec sheet exactly. It's nice to see LG isn't playing games with the weight, given that it's one of the main selling points of the laptop. Luckily, it's also fairly compact, thanks to its thin bezels; it comes in at 12.0" x 8.3" x 0.6". While it's constructed of metal allow (LG calls it nano carbon with magnesium), it a pretty good approximation of plastic from our perspective, but that's just fine if it contributes to the low weight. As much as nice brushed aluminum and carbon fiber does for aesthetics, we're a whole lot impressed with how much laptops made of these materials typically weight: 3 pounds. We'll take a 2.1 pounds "plasticky" laptop over a 3 pound block of aluminum any day.
Of course, you're not buying this laptop based on the weight alone, and it has a well-rounded spec list. Its ports are the best you'll find on any laptop today, including USB 3.0 Type-A and Type-C on the left side, plus a full-size HDMI port (hallelujah!). On the right side there's another USB 3.0 port, along with a microSD card reader (again, amazing in this day and age!), plus a single audio jack. Internally, the LG Gram keeps up with the best ultra-slims out there, offering Intel's game-changing ultra-low-voltage quad-core CPUs. You get either a Core i5-8250U or Core i7-8550U. They differ primarily in their boost speeds, as both are quad-cores with Hyperthreading. We're particularly impressed that LG is able to equip its two higher-end LG Gram 13 with a touchscreen despite their compact dimensions.
Also on the spec list is a backlit keyboard, which really does add a whole lot of usability when in dim lighting conditions, as you often are while traveling. Alas, the backlight proved to use a good deal of battery life, cutting hours off the runtime when on. We tended to turn it off except when absolutely necessary. The keyboard itself was quite usable, although travel was understandably fairly limited. That bothered us less than the odd layouts some competitors use, so overall, we were very pleased with the keyboard. The one bad key placement was the power button in the upper-right hand corner where the delete key would usually sit (instead, it sits inward one spot). We were constantly reaching up to the power button to delete, and while it's thankfully recessed so you don't actually end up shutting the system off accidentally, it still should have been placed elsewhere, for example, outside of the main keyboard area like most laptops do it.
One of the less impressive aspects of the Gram design is something LG probably pulled out of the standard parts bin: the charger. At 345g (12 ounces), it adds a lot of heft to the full Gram package (bringing the travel weight up to nearly 3 pounds), and it also uses pretty substantial cabling, meaning it's not that easy to fold up into a small package. The adapter itself is reasonably slim, so at least it can slip into a laptop bag without too much trouble, but we've seen more impressive power adapters from a variety of manufacturers, particularly Lenovo. Our hunch, however, is that to get the huge LG 72Wh battery charged up in a decent amount of time, LG simply can't rely on an ultra-small adapter like its competitors can, as they often use batteries that are half the capacity.
All in all, we're quite impressed with the LG Gram's design, so let's turn to the next page for our in-use impressions.