Light As A Feather

LG gram 17.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The gram 17 is the latest member to LG’s lineup of unbelievably light notebooks. It was first unveiled at CES 2019 and it stole headlines for being the lightest 17-inch notebook in the world. Despite its massive 17-inch display, the gram 17 weighs just 1.34kg. To put this number into context, consider that no other 17-inch notebook that is on sale now that is even under 2kg. Consider also that at 1.34kg, the gram 17 is only slightly heavier than most 13-inch ultraportable notebooks. In short, it’s an engineering marvel.

Like the smaller gram 13, 14, and 15 notebooks, the gram 17’s astounding weight was achieved using ultra-light materials in its construction. The chassis is made using a blend of magnesium and carbon fiber. It feels like plastic to the touch and flexes a little if sufficient pressure is exerted. To assuage wouldbe customers, LG says the gram 17 meets the stringent U.S. MIL-STD-810G standard, meaning it’s shock, dust, temperature, and vibration resistant to a high degree.

As for thickness, you are looking at a measurement of 17.4mm — impressive for a notebook in its class. It also allows the gram 17 to have a good assortment of full-sized ports including three USB-A (USB 3.1 Gen 1) ports, a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, one HDMI port, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack.

While the gram 17 is supremely light, it still has a quite a large footprint. Super-thin bezels help reduce overall dimensions but there’s only so much nip tuck you can do to a 17-inch notebook to make it small. But to be fair, the gram 17 is substantially smaller than other 17-inch notebooks but not quite small enough that you can fit it into any bag. Thankfully, despite the tiny bezels, LG had the sense to keep the webcam above the display.

Speaking of the display, it uses an IPS panel and has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels and a 16:10 aspect ratio, which translates to more vertical space. In practice, what this means is that you can see more of a website, document, spreadsheet or project work at a glance. The display is sufficiently vibrant and gets quite bright. However, it is also incredibly glossy and prone to glare and refiection.

The gram 17 is only offered in a single configuration and it comes with a quad-core Core i7-8565U processor, 8GB of memory, and 512GB SSD. This configuration should serve most users adequately but I think a handful of users would want more memory and possibly more storage. Fortunately, the gram 17 can be upgraded, since it uses standard M.2 SSDs and SO-DIMM memory slots, but users would need to make a trip down to the LG service center if you do not want to void your warranty.

Performance is not the gram 17’s strong suit. In benchmarks, it consistently underperformed against other ultraportables with similar specifications. This is because only one of its two SO-DIMM slots is occupied. Consequently, it runs in single-channel mode, resulting in negative performance impact, particularly on graphicsintensive workloads as the integrated GPU has to rely on system memory for frame-buffering. Another component hampering performance is its slower SATA-based SSD. Most ultraportables these days have dual-channel memory and are equipped with much faster PCIe-based SSDs.

Battery life, however, is excellent and the gram 17 lasted over 7.5 hours when running a variety of productivity workloads at full brightness. To put that number into context, that’s only an hour less than the HP Spectre X360, a notebook with comparable specifications but a much smaller 13-inch display.

It’s fair to say that the gram 17 trades performance for portability. While other 17-inch notebooks are more powerful, they are also far heavier, bulkier, and have poor battery life. Whether or not the trade-off  is worth it is down to your needs. Unless you often find yourself doing really heavy workloads like video editing or 3D graphics design, you’d find the gram 17 to be sufficient for most duties. Certainly, it is just about as capable as any ultraportable. Moreover, you have the option to increase storage and memory size.

In the end, the gram 17’s specialty is really its weight. It offers a substantially larger display — nearly 80% more in outright screen area — with no increase in weight over much smaller 13-, 14-inch notebooks. If you have always wanted a larger notebook but stayed away because of the associated weight, the gram 17 is practically a godsend.

My Reading Room
The gram 17 is the only member of the gram lineup to feature USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports.
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The keyboard is pleasant to type on but LG could have made the trackpad larger.
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An engineering marvel, a 17-inch that only weighs as much as most 13-inch ultraportables!
My Reading Room