It seems like LG's getting the hang of this laptop thing. The company's latest system, the LG Gram 14 2-in-1 (reviewed at $1,499), is unbelievably light but rugged enough to take a bump or two. Thanks to its Whiskey Lake CPU, it's a serious workhorse, churning through the productivity flotsam. And with over 11 hours of battery life, this machine can handle both work and play with ease. It can transform into a variety of forms suited to different uses, and a pen is included. The Gram is a great choice for mobile professionals looking for one of the best Surface Pro alternatives -- if they can deal with a somewhat-dim display and weak audio.
LG Gram 2-in-1 Price and Availability
The $1,499 LG Gram 2-in-1 is available at Best Buy and Amazon and comes equipped with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-8565U processor with 16GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 SATA SSD and an Intel UHD 620 Graphics GPU.
This is one seriously light laptop. It's not Lenovo Yoga Book C930 light (10.3 x 7.1 x 0.4 inches, 1.7 pounds), but at 2.5 pounds, the 12.8 x 8.3 x 0.7-inch Gram 14 2-in-1 is definitely one of the daintier notebooks I've reviewed. It's certainly lighter than the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 (2.7 pounds, 12.1 x 8.8 x 0.6 inches), Lenovo Yoga C930 (3.1 pounds, 12.6 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches) and HP Spectre Folio (3.4 pounds, 12.6 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches). That airiness stems from the Gram 14 2-in-1's magnesium-alloy chassis. I found myself constantly applying more force than necessary and having to adjust midlift.
Supreme lightness aside, the slate-gray notebook doesn't stand out in the crowd. That's not a bad thing, especially if you're working in a buttoned-up type of atmosphere. With its rounded corners and the Gram logo stamped in the middle of the lid, the laptop's stately design will fit into any environment.
Opening the lid, which was cool to the touch, reveals more unassuming gray magnesium alloy. Instead of a demarcated depression, the keyboard keys simply reside in the center of the keyboard deck. It's a modern look that makes the keys look like they're floating over a sea of unwavering gray.
Another Gram logo sits directly below the Left Ctrl key, while the touchpad takes its place below, centered beneath the G and H keys. The Power button, which is pulling double duty as the fingerprint reader, hides out in the Function key row, right above the stubby Backspace key.
With its twin 360-degree hinges, the Gram 14 can transform from laptop to tent, tablet and stand mode and back again with minimal effort on your part.
Well here's something I didn't expect: The seemingly frail Gram is tough as nails. It passed seven MIL-SPEC-810G tests, which means the barely there system can withstand drops, shocks and extreme temperature. It also survived several days of traveling in my backpack.
Although the Gram is fairly slim, it still has sufficient room to house a number of ports. You get a USB 3.1 port on the right along with a headset jack, a microSD card slot, a secure lock slot and a button for sleep.
On the left sits another USB 3.1 port, a USB Type-C port, a full HDMI port and the power jack.
Unfortunately, this 2-in-1 doesn't offer Thunderbolt 3 support, so you won't enjoy the port's faster transfer speeds for docks and other peripherals.
You'll get beautiful color and crisp detail from the Gram's 14-inch touch screen, but it's not as bright as I would have liked. Regina Hall's bright red pants and royal-blue striped shirt popped on the 1920 x 1080 display as I watched the trailer for Little. I could even see Benjamin Franklin's visage on the folded bill Hall held in her hand as she shoved a kid to the ground.
The panel's captivating color comes from its ability to reproduce 128 percent of the sRGB gamut, topping the 117-percent premium laptop average. This screen is also more vibrant than those on the Spectre Folio and C930, which measured 119 and 100 percent, respectively. However, the LG's display was no match for the Surface Laptop 2's screen, which delivered 176 percent.
As lovely as the Gram's color is, the brightness leaves much to be desired. The display averaged only 253 nits. That's well below the 322-nit average as well as the results from the C930 (273 nits), Folio (313 nits) and Surface Laptop 2 (321 nits).
Made of strong, scratch-proof Corning Gorilla Glass, the Gram's display is plenty durable. It's also mighty responsive. The panel kept pace with my fingers as they pinched and zoomed and created random doodles.
If you want to take clean notes or make detailed sketches on the Gram's screen, you'll need a pen. Luckily, LG bundles its Stylus Pen to help you handle the finer details.
The Wacom AES (Active Electrostatic) 2.0 Pen offers 4,096 levels of press and has tilt-detection technology. Both features helped make for a more natural writing experience for me. It wasn't an apples-to-apples comparison with traditional pen and paper, but it was smooth and fluid, and the pen adjusted instantly to how much pressure I exerted when making different strokes. Unfortunately, there's nowhere to dock the Pen, even though both the pen and the laptop are constructed from metal, so there could easily be a magnet.
The pair of speakers mounted to the Gram's bottom aren't the worst, but they're far from the best. Even with an assist from DTS software, the Gram barely filled our medium-size test lab. The bass guitar and piano competed with each other as I listened to Bruno Mars' "Perm," making for distorted instrumentals and overpowered vocals.
Keyboard and Touchpad
"Shallow, but not bad." That's what Avram Piltch, our resident keyboard master, had to say about the Gram's island-style keyboard. With this machine's key travel of 1.2 millimeters (between 1.5mm and 2mm is ideal) and actuation of 69 grams (60 g is our minimum), I tend to agree.
The keys definitely bottomed out as I typed the review. However, after more than 2 hours of typing, my fingertips weren't sore, as I've experience on other laptops. And I easily hit my usual 70 words per minute on the 10fastfingers typing test.
But I do have two requests for LG on the keyboard front: Make the backlighting brighter, and don't shrink the Backspace and Enter key down so much. I could barely see the keyboard's glow in a dim setting, and I made a few more errors than usual, thanks to the smaller keys.
Gestures like pinch zoom, two-finger scroll and three-finger swipe were a breeze on the 4.1 x 2.5-inch touchpad. And I never experienced any cursor jump when typing. The bottom corners of the touchpad were a little mushy, but I could still reliably left- and right-click.
Sometimes, all you need is a shot of Whiskey Lake. Armed with a 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-8565U processor with 16GB of RAM, the Gram tore through most of our tests. It certainly had no problem streaming an episode of Black Mirror on Netflix with 20 additional open tabs in Google Chrome, some of which were running Twitch streams, TweetDeck and YouTube videos.
The laptop continued powering through our tests, scoring an impressive 15,943 on the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test. That's well above the the 12,856 premium laptop average. Kaby Lake chips like the Core i7-8550U and the Core i7-8500Y contained in the C930 (14,739) and Folio (8,090) are outmatched. The Surface Laptop 2 and its Core i5-8250U lagged behind, scoring 12,744.
However, the tables turned on the Gram during the Excel spreadsheet test. The notebook took 1 minute and 25 seconds to match 65,000 names and addresses. This was enough to beat the 1:31 average and the Folio's 3:37. But both the Surface Laptop 2 (1:15) and C930 were faster, with the latter clocking in at just 4 seconds.
The Gram regained its footing on the file-transfer test with its 512GB M.2 SATA SSD taking 13 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files. That's a transfer rate of 391 megabytes per second. This result is short of the 526.8-MBps average, but with curve breakers like the MacBook Pro 13 around, that's to be expected. The Gram is still better than the 339.3, 318 and 203 MBps put up by the C930 (256GB NVMe SSD), Folio (256GB SSD) and Surface Laptop 2 (256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD), respectively.
During our video-editing test, the Gram transcoded a 4K video to 1080p in 21 minutes and 17 seconds, which is slightly faster than the 21:52 category average. The Gram greatly outpaced the Folio's 49:45. However, the C930 and Surface Laptop 2 posted faster times of 20:45 and 17:30.
Although the Gram packs a significant punch on the processor front, the system's Intel UHD 620 Graphics GPU doesn't offer much in graphical performance -- at least not with current AAA titles.
Still, the Gram managed a playable 51 frames per second on the racing game Dirt 3, a score that falls below the 74-fps average but well above the results from the C930 (37 fps) and Folio (28 fps). However, the Surface Laptop 2 produced a much higher result, achieving 82 fps.
You can get through a full workday and then some with the Gram. The system lasted 11 hours and 28 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi). That's almost 3 hours longer than the 8:31 premium laptop average. The Folio came in second, at 10:18, with the Surface Laptop 2 posting a time of 9:22 and the C930 clocking in at 8:09.
Despite having only two small vents, the Gram stayed pretty cool. After the system ran a full-screen HD video for 15 minutes, the touchpad, middle and bottom of the system measured 80, 97 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. The middle was slightly warmer than our 95-degree comfort threshold, but after over 2 hours of use, I didn't feel any ill effects.
The Gram's 720p webcam is surprisingly sharp, as evidenced by its ability to capture the individual locs making up my various-sized braids.
The color, unfortunately, was super washed-out, reducing my beautiful hot-pink turtleneck to a bright, but not accurate dusty rose.
Software and Warranty
LG pre-installed only a few branded pieces of software, but what's there is really helpful. You get Control Center, which allows you to configure display, power, sound, firewall and instant boot from one easy-to-navigate console. LG Easy Guide compiles helpful tutorials and FAQs, while Update Center ensures that your laptop has all the latest software updates. And in case you have any difficulties, there's the Troubleshooting app to lend a hand.
The company also included a few third-party apps from CyberLink, including PowerDirector, PhotoDirector, PowerDVD 14 and Power Media Player. And since this is a Windows 10 laptop, there's some bloatware, such as Netflix, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Township and Cooking Fever.
With its barely there dimensions, formidable performance, excellent battery life and convertible versatility, the Gram 14 2-in-1 proves that LG belongs in the conversation about premium laptops..
However, for the money, I was expecting a brighter display, especially since the overall colors are so vivid. And the laptop's audio definitely can be improved upon. For $1,299, you can get the Lenovo Yoga C930, which offers comparable performance and a better display, although you'll take a major hit in battery life. But if you're looking for a powerful, versatile, lightweight system that can go most of the day and some of the night, you'll be hard-pressed to do better than the LG Gram 14 2-in-1.
Credit: Laptop Mag