Meet the Gram, LG's first laptop for the US

by Jack @ UNIXPlus September 28, 2015

While it's widely known for everything from televisions to smartphones to appliances, Korean electronics giant LG is also a computer manufacturer. But that fact might not be well-known to American shoppers, because LG has previously only sold its laptops in other territories.

Now the company is wading into a very crowded computer market by releasing a series of high-end ultrabook-style laptops in the US for the first time. The series kicks off with three fixed-configuration models, one 13-inch and two 14-inch, each with slim, lightweight bodies, Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors, and full HD IPS displays. The LG Gram 13 and LG Gram 14 models will sell for $899 to $1,399 in the US. LG already sells similar, though not exactly identical, configurations in Australia (starting at AU$1,399) and other regions, but not the UK.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

We had a chance to spend some hands-on time with the highest-end configuration of the LG Gram 14 (so named because it weighs only 980 grams, or 2.16 pounds). It's lighter than a 13-inch MacBook Air, with hits 2.9 pounds, but not the lightest laptop we've tested (that would be the Lenovo LaVie Z).

This $1,399 configuration of the LG Gram 14 includes a fifth-generation Intel Core i7 processor (newer sixth-gen "Skylake" chips are coming to some laptops this fall, but the performance difference should be minimal), a big 256GB SSD flash drive and 8GB of RAM. A 13-inch MacBook Pro, in comparison, starts at $100 less, but gives you half the hard drive space and a slower Core i5 processor, but also a higher screen resolution and an advanced force touch trackpad.

It's an apt comparison, as the LG Gram series has a very MacBook-like look and feel, from the minimalist exterior to the familiar-looking island-style keyboard. It's a style others have aped before, and one colleague who saw the LG Gram suggested that it looked like LG's interpretation of Samsung's interpretation of an Apple MacBook. Perhaps it's laptop design by way of inception.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

Taken on its own, the LG Gram's biggest selling point is how light it feels. Especially considering the Core i7 processor inside, it's extremely portable. It also feels a little insubstantial, as the chassis, made of carbon magnesium and lithium magnesium alloys, offers little heft, and leaves the body with a lot of flex. The bottom panel of our test unit was a little creaky at one joint, which may be an early review sample quirk, but isn't what you'd expect from such an expensive laptop.

Rather than grey, black or silver, the laptop's body has a warmer look, with a color LG calls Champagne Gold, which is not too far removed from the gold now offered by Apple in its iPhones and 12-inch MacBook.

Inside, the minimalist interior tray houses only a large island-style keyboard and a glass-topped touch pad. Typing is smooth, although the center of the keyboard tray has a lot of flex under the fingers. The touch pad excelled at multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

The display on each LG Gram laptop is a 1,920x1,080 IPS screen, albeit without touchscreen capability. The display on our test unit was very bright and looked great from off-axis angles, but it's also a low resolution for something in this price range, where better-than-HD resolutions are common. Eliminating touch can save on weight, thickness and cost, but it's also an expected feature in higher-end laptops today. Fortunately, Windows 10 works better than Windows 8 ever did when it comes to systems without touchscreens.

The new LG Gram series is available now, at Microsoft Stores and on Amazon. We're currently testing performance and battery life on the LG Gram 14, and will report the results in our upcoming full review.


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Jack @ UNIXPlus
Jack @ UNIXPlus