LG Gram 17 review (2021): key specs
Model number: 17z90p
Weight: 1.35kg (2.98lbs)
Dimensions: H x W x D = 26.01 x 38.02 x 1.78 cm (14.97 x 10.24 x 0.7 inches)
Processor: Intel Core i7-1165G7 (2.8 GHz, Turbo up to 4.7 GHz, L3 Cache 12MB, 28W)
System memory: 16GB LPDDR4X 4266MHz
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Screen: 17 inch IPS WQXGA 2560 X 1600
Sound: Stereo Speaker 2.0W x 2, Max 5W (Smart Amp) Operating System: Windows 10 (64-bit)
Ports: 1 x HP-Out (4Pole Headset, US type), 1 x HDMI, USB 3.2 Gen2x1 (x2), USB 4 Gen3x2 Type C (x2, with Power Delivery, Display Port, Thunderbolt 4)
Want a Windows laptop that’s extremely light, but also extremely powerful? Then LG Gram is definitely a range you should be looking at.
This ultralight device has long been among our top picks of the best lightweight laptops. First introduced in 2017, LG has continued to update the Gram annually, and this time last year we called the 2020 version “just about the best 17-inch laptop out there for non-gamers”. This new version for 2021 improves on that model yet further.
There’s added screen real estate thanks to a new 16:10 ratio, new 11th Gen Intel CPUs to boost speed and performance, and Thunderbolt 4 ports for faster data transfer. Incredibly, LG has achieved all this (and more) while still keeping the laptop super-light and portable.
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The 2021 range comes in five models, all running Windows 10 Home. There are two 2-in-1 laptops, with 14-inch and 16-inch screens respectively. And there are three traditional laptops, with 14-, 16- and 17-inch screens.
We got our hands on the latter. The LG Gram 17 (17z90p) is the largest of the LG Gram range and yet still weighs just 1.35kg (2.98lbs). Can a laptop be THIS big and THIS light, while still performing well under pressure? We put it through its paces to find out.
LG Gram 17 review: Design
When we took our LG Gram 17 (17z90p) out of the box, there were two things we noticed. Firstly, the weight, or more accurately lack of it. It just doesn’t feel like it could be a powerful computer, because despite its imposing size (380.2 x 260.1mm / 14.97 x 10.24 inches), it's so amazingly light.
Secondly, its flatness. This laptop, which is made from a magnesium alloy used in military aircraft, is so thin (17.8mm), and the top so geometrically rectangular (thanks to a ‘hidden hinge’ that makes it look near-borderless), that it looks strikingly two-dimensional from above.
Given this, and the device’s light weight, you wouldn’t expect to be able to open it with one hand. But as long as you lift from the dead centre, that was pleasingly possible for us. At which point, you’re presented with a gorgeous screen that genuinely evoked a ‘wow’, due to its combination of large size and colourful, high-resolution display.
Below that, the keyboard is not end-to-end; indeed it only takes up around 36 per cent (10.5 x 34cm) of the total area (26 x 38cm). And yet it’s full size, and backlit. The keys are large, well spaced and easy to identify, with single letters printed in clear block capitals. And – hurrah! – there’s a number pad too. There’s also a fingerprint reader on the power button that worked well in practice.
The keys themselves are flat and offer a key travel of 1.65mm, which produces a satisfying tactile click. (That’s an increase from 0.15mm in the previous model, for those keeping score.) They’re nice and quiet in operation, too, which was an unexpected plus. Our only niggle is that the arrow keys are a bit small and not really suitable for gaming.
The touchpad, meanwhile, is nice and big (8 x 13cm), and again offers a satisfying click. For the record, this has been rescaled from a 16:9 ratio in the last version to 16:10, which means it offers 11 per cent more surface area. The result is that moving your cursor around the large screen is nice and smooth, and less of a strain on the hand, compared with some smaller trackpads we’ve used.
LG Gram 17 review: Screen and speakers
The screen is one of the big wins for this laptop. To anyone used to a smaller display, the 17in diameter feels huge and epic, particularly because the thin bezels maximise the available screen space. And yet there’s zero loss of quality. The WQXGA IPS Display does a superb job at presenting images and video in pixel-perfect precision, text is razor-sharp, and colours are vivid, rich and nuanced.
With a resolution of 2,560 x 1600 (not 4K, but not far off), you get the high levels of visual detail you need if you work in image manipulation, 3D or video editing software, while for the rest of us it means great picture quality for our entertainment content. In fact, that’s evident simply by gazing at those panoramic landscape shots that Windows uses as screen backgrounds: despite having seen them before on other laptops, we actually spotted small details here we hadn’t previously noticed. (And yes, we definitely should get out more...).
Note that as with all 2021 LG Gram models, the screen is 16:10, rather than the standard 16:9 ratio. That means you’ll get slightly bigger black bars on widescreen TV shows and movies, but on the positive side you’ll see more of, say, a web page or a spreadsheet, because the screen is a little taller. Two other things to be aware of are that screen is not flippable (you’ll need the 2-in-1 version of this laptop for that), and nor is it a touchscreen.
Audio, too, was impressive. The sound quality of the 2020 LG Gram left a lot to be desired, so the brand has stepped up and upgraded things for 2021, with two 2W speakers and a MAX 5W Smart Amp. These delivered deep bass notes, crystal clear trebles and a decent level of loudness: 60 per cent was more than sufficient to fill a room with our tunes, or to watch movies with others. It’s not quite up to the standard of the HP Spectre x360 14’s Bang & Olufsen speakers, but not far off.
Sadly, these speakers are recessed into the bottom of the chassis, sending the soundwaves in exactly the wrong place. That’s fine on a 2-in-1, where you can put the device into tent formation, but is not great on a standard laptop, as none of us have ears in our laps.
LG Gram 17 review: Performance
These days, more and more demands are being made on our laptops, from videoconferencing to 4K streaming. So manufacturers have to constantly keep pace by upgrading the processors used in their hardware. And LG have done just that, by treating 2021’s LG Gram range to the latest ‘Tiger Lake’ 11th Generation Intel Core processors, along with Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics.
In the LG Gram 17, you’ll find the i7-1165G7 processor that’s appearing in all sorts of ultrathin laptops at the moment, including the Dell XPS 13 and the HP Spectre x360 14. You get 2.8 GHz speeds (and Turbo up to 4.7 GHz) and 16GB system memory. Everything’s been configured as part of the Evo program, which means LG has worked closely with Intel to make sure the two companies’ tech works harmoniously and gets the best out of each other.
The new laptop features LPDDR4X 4266MHz memory, which LG says processes 33% faster than the previous 3200MHz type. Also debuting this year is a new ‘LG Up-Down Air’ thermal solution, which is said to allow two times faster thermal circulation than conventional products. While maintaining the previous model’s cooling system, the new design now discharges heat in two directions, promising better performance over a long term.
LG Gram 17 review – benchmark scores
Cinebench CPU (Multi Core) test: 4625
Cinebench CPU (Single Core) test: 1425
Geekbench 5 Single Core score: 1519
Geekbench 5 Multi-core score: 5513
Geekbench 5 Open CL score: 18402
PCMark 10 score: 4,917 points
So what does this all mean in practice? Well basically, we found that the LG was capable of handling pretty much anything we could throw at it.
It was happy for us to open multiple tabs while browsing. We streamed both music on Spotify and watch video on YouTube and Netflix. We downloaded software, uploaded images, wrote articles using Microsoft Word, edited images in Photoshop, and entered numbers into spreadsheets. And we performed many of these tasks concurrently, such as streaming music while watching a YouTube video with subtitles on mute. At no point did the LG noticeably slow down, and nor were there any freezes or crashes. It just, well, did the job.
While this isn't a gaming laptop, if you're willing to throttle the frame-rates a little, our experience suggests you can play most games on this, even AAA titles. And aside from handling our own personal workflow, the Cinebench and Geekbench 5 benchmarking test we ran (see boxout) gave impressive results, suggesting that LG has really upped its performance game since 2020.
LG Gram 17 review: Battery life
LG makes the bold claim that the 80 Wh lithium-ion battery inside the LG Gram 17 can last up to 19.5 hours from a single charge. Of course, ‘up to’ is a relative term. But using the laptop across a full working week, we found that battery life was certainly sufficient for an mixed working day of word processing, video conferencing, surfing the web and listening to Spotify. Plus the battery indicator suggested there was still between 1.5 and 3.5 hours left in the tank at the end of our 9-5.
One of the most common uses of laptops on battery is to watch movies and TV shows while on long journeys. So we ran a downloaded HD movie from Netflix on repeat, with the sound going through headphones, to see how long the LG Gram 17 would last. It held out for a staggering 15 hours 16 minutes, which is significantly more than we’ve found in ultrabooks at a similar price point. This surprised us so much, in fact, that we ran the same test two more times, just to make sure we hadn't made a mistake, and got similar results.
LG Gram 17 review: Connectivity
Despite being an ultrathin laptop, the LG Gram 17 offers a decent array of connectivity options. On the left you’ll find an HDMI port, then two USB-C slots, and then a mic/headphone jack.
You can use either of these USB-Cs to charge the laptop, and the other to charge up your phone, etc, simulaneously. It’s a shame, though, they couldn’t put the USB-C slots on opposite sides, as this means you have no choice but to power the LG Gram 17 from the left.
On the right, meanwhile, there’s a Kensington lock slot, two USB-A slots, and a microSD reader. The new 2021 LG gram supports Thunderbolt 4 and data transfer speeds of up to 40 GB/sec, not to mention display connections up to 5K.
LG Gram 17 review: Verdict
The market for ultrathin laptops is so hot right now, the consumer is spoilt for choice. And the LG Gram 17 (17z90p) is one of a number of devices at this price point that offer high build quality, a beautiful screen and speedy performance.
But there are a few things that make this laptop really stand out from the crowd, and the most obvious is the combination of lightness and size. This really is an astonishingly big display for something this feather-like, and if you're expecting to be travelling a lot once lockdown eases, but you need a nice big screen to do proper work on, then this is probably your best bet right now. Particularly given the astonishingly good battery life.
Of course, the LG Gram 17 won't be for everybody. It's not a 2-in-1, and it's not a touchscreen, so if either of those things are important to you, you'll need to look elsewhere. The same goes if you prefer a deeper 3:2 screen ratio to 16:10, or you just don't like Windows and would prefer a Chromebook or Mac. And while it's fine for casual gaming, we wouldn't recommend it as a gaming laptop per se.
But beyond those considerations, this ultrabook is leading the pack when it comes to lightweight laptops. Having received a significant upgrade from its 2020 incarnation, the LG Gram 17 is now the one to beat, if other brands wish to stay in the game.
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