The new gram notebooks are slightly improved versions of last year’s models. There’s much to like about them, but there are also a couple of issues that are a cause for concern. Let’s begin with the not-so-good stuff since I’m the kind that likes to hear the bad news first.
Like its predecessors, the new gram notebooks suffer from the same problem of chassis flex and plasticky feel. But like I said before in the review of the gram 15 last year, this is one of the trade-offs of using magnesium alloy. The alloy itself feels like plastic and flexes when put under pressure. Compared to other premium notebooks, the gram notebooks do feel like they are less well put together, even if they are not. That said, LG has assured us time and time again that extensive tests have been carried out to ensure that the notebook is sturdy enough for everyday use, and there is now even a video to prove it. Nevertheless, it doesn't detract from the fact that the way the gram notebooks feel still leaves much to be desired.
Another issue that we have with the new gram notebooks is the display. Full-HD resolution displays aren't a deal-breaker, but they do look less sharp and slightly fuzzy, especially when compared to rivals like Dell’s XPS 13 and Lenovo’s Yoga 910 that have ultra-high resolution QHD (3,200 x 1,800 pixels) and 4K displays (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) respectively. In addition to the Full-HD resolution, the gram notebooks’ displays were also a tad dim. That said, the displays do have some redeeming qualities. The Reader and Daylight modes are quite useful, and colors themselves do look sufficiently natural and vibrant.
But perhaps the most pressing issue about the new gram notebooks is its below average graphics performance. Looking at the scores achieved across 3DMark, Far Cry 2, and Tomb Raider, it is clear that the gram notebooks were not as fast as ASUS’ ZenBook 3 and ZenBook 3 Deluxe - both of which are also powered by Intel’s new Kaby Lake processor. But perhaps more worryingly, the gram notebooks were not as fast even when compared to the HP Spectre and Dell XPS 13 - both of which are powered by older Intel Skylake processors. On the other hand, general computing performance seems to be all right for the gram notebooks as their PCMark scores were quite good.
Pricing is another thorny point for the new gram notebooks as prices have gone up significantly across the board. For example, the gram 15 notebook we tested is priced at S$2,399, which is actually quite decent for a notebook with its design, features, and specifications. However, a similarly spec’ed gram 15 notebook would have cost just S$1,899 last year. That’s an increase of S$500, which is over 26%. In other words, a lot. In fact, the price increase puts the new gram notebooks in the same pricing bracket as other premium notebooks like Dell's XPS notebooks, HP's Spectre notebooks, and Lenovo's flagship Yogoa notebooks.
Here’s a rundown of the pricing of the various gram SKUs:
|LG gram 13|
|Intel Core i5-7200U||8GB||256GB SSD||S$1,899|
|Intel Core i7-7500U||8GB||512GB SSD||S$2,199|
|LG gram 14|
|Intel Core i5-7200U||8GB||512GB SSD||S$2,199|
|Intel Core i7-7500U||8GB||512GB SSD||S$2,499|
|LG gram 15|
|Intel Core i7-7500U||8GB||256GB SSD||S$2,399|
|Intel Core i7-7500U||8GB||512GB SSD||S$2,599|
Fortunately, this is where the bad stuff ends. There are lots to like about the gram notebooks, but their portability trumps all. In case you have already forgotten, the gram 13 is 870g, while the gram 14 and 15 are 970g and 1080g respectively. That’s amazing and they feel almost unreal in your hands. The gram 13, in particular, is crazy light for a notebook and feels more like an oversized tablet.
But more importantly, the gram notebooks do not sacrifice on connectivity nor battery life like some of its rivals. No need to worry about getting adapters and dongles because all gram notebooks have full-sized USB Type-A and HDMI ports. The only downer is that they don’t support Thunderbolt 3, but that shouldn’t be considered an absolute deal-breaker, in my opinion, since devices that can take full advantage of Thunderbolt 3 are still few and far between. More importantly, the larger batteries outfitted to the new gram 14 and 15 notebooks make them the longest-lasting notebooks that we have ever tested.
Overall, the new gram notebooks are easily the lightest and most portable notebooks that we have ever tested. Some old problems still remain, but if portability is your utmost priority, the gram notebooks are pretty hard to beat. They offer a lot of portability, but with relatively very little compromises.
That said, our pick of the trio has got to be the gram 14 because it offers the best blend of performance and portability. It is just about the right size, slightly bigger than the gram 13, but not too big as to become cumbersome like the gram 15 could be. But perhaps more crucially, it benefits from having a larger 60Wh battery, giving it a whopping battery life of over 9 hours in our intensive test - or over two times as long as other comparable notebooks. If you have to constantly be on the move, this is the ideal notebook for you.