Product Listing

LG Gram 15: When light meets sexy

By Bryan Chan & Kenny Yeo - 5 Sep 2016

Introduction

The Gram 15 marks LG's return to the local notebook scene.

When every gram matters

Last year, LG announced a rather unique notebook called the LG Gram 15. This ultra-thin and light 15-inch notebook first made its first appearance at CES 2016 in January earlier this year, and it stunned show-goers with its amazing weight, or lack thereof.

Weighing less than a kilogram, the LG Gram 15 will put most 13-inch and even smaller 12 and 11-inch notebooks to shame. But more importantly, it means that users no longer need to compromise between display size and portability. For a long time, some users had to shun 15-inch notebooks just because they were too heavy. The LG Gram 15 changes that perception forever.

 

Say hi to magnesium

The LG Gram 15 achieves its incredibly light weight thanks to a blend of magnesium alloys. 

Here are the numbers that matter: The LG Gram 15 sports a full-sized 15-inch display, but weighs just a scant 980g. How light is 980g?

Consider for a moment that most 15-inch notebooks struggle to even come close to 2kg. Also, most 13-inch Ultrabooks today are only around 1.2kg to 1.3kg. In fact, at 980g, the Gram 15 is even lighter than a 11-inch MacBook Air! That's how light 980g is. Here's a commercial from LG that further emphasizes this fact in an amazing comparison:-

The Gram 15 achieves its incredible weight thanks to its extensive use of magnesium alloys. Magnesium is significantly lighter than aluminum, but still strong enough to be used in notebook construction. And in the case of the Gram 15, LG uses three different types of magnesium alloy: carbon magnesium, rare-earth magnesium alloy, and easily formable magnesium. These are the same types of alloy used in high-end sports cars.

That said, the Gram 15 does feel insubstantial, and almost a little plasticky even (we had this same feel when Sony first started using carbon fiber in its notebook body). There’s also a significant amount of flex in the panels, most notably behind the display, but LG assures us that they have tested the Gram rigorously and the flex is nothing to be overly concerned about. Flex aside, the display also wobbled as we typed on it. It seems that all that lightness has come at cost of rigidity and sturdiness.

At its thickest point, the LG Gram 15 is just 16.8mm thick.

As for thickness, the Gram 15 measures in at 16.8mm thick at its chunkiest point, which is very respectable considering it has a 15-inch display. Speaking of the display, the 15-inch display uses IPS technology and supports Full HD resolution (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). With a pixel density count of roughly 147 pixels per inch, it’s not quite as sharp as some of today’s notebooks that have fancy Retina or QHD displays. Nevertheless, colors are sufficient pleasant and images are pretty crisp. However, we found the glossy display to be too dim, even at the brightest setting. It’s not going to be a big problem if you are using it indoors, but it might suffer from glare when used outdoors, especially under bright sunlight.

The Gram 15's display is sharp and crisp, but it's dim even at the highest brightness setting. Notice also the very thin bezel and the positioning of the webcam at the hinge.

In keeping with the times, the Gram 15 is offered in gold - a trendy choice for today’s notebooks. Admittedly, gold might not be to everyone’s taste, but at least it’s more exciting than plain old black. Furthermore, the shade of gold that LG has chosen is quite neutral and doesn't overly shout for attention.

Another way in which LG was able to keep the Gram 15 so compact is the use of extra slim bezels. It’s not quite as slim as the ones found on Dell’s XPS notebooks with InfinityEdge displays, but it comes really close. And as a result of the thin bezels, LG has got no choice but to place the webcam on the notebook hinge. Webcam users should take note as this makes for very unflattering view angles, but it's a design choice that had to be made.

 

Hardware & Other Features

Despite the Gram 15’s petite dimensions, LG hasn’t skimped on its internals. For a start, users will be able to choose between a Core i5 or Core i7 processor, and up to 512GB of speedy SSD storage.

Our review unit is the top-of-the-line model that comes with a dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U processor (2.5GHz, 4MB cache), 8GB of DDR3L RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. Unlike some of the newer notebooks, which have faster PCIe-based SSDs that support NVMe protocol, the Gram 15 has to make do with a slower SATA-based SSD. That’s not a big deal since only the fussiest users will be able to tell the difference in day to day usage scenarios like web browsing and reading emails.

Graphics are handled by the Intel HD Graphics 520 integrated GPU. With 24 execution units, it’s one of Intel’s mid-range integrated graphics solution. Intel’s newest generation Core processors have much improved graphics performance, but don’t mistake the Intel HD Graphics 520 for a gaming GPU. It’s capable of running some of the latest titles, like Overwatch, but don’t expect fireworks. Be prepared to turn the resolution and graphics settings down to a minimum if you want to get any kind of playable frame rates.

On the right, there's a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, a microSD card reader, a headphone/microphone combo jack, and finally a Kensington lock slot.

On the left is a USB 3.0 port, a full-size HDMI port, and a USB Type-C port. The two smaller ones on the right are for the internal microphone.

One of the most amazing things about the Gram 15 is that despite being so thin, LG has somehow managed to cram in most of the ports that most users would need. It has two USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0 port, a full-sze HDMI port, a micro-SD card slot, and finally a USB Type-C port that supports USB 3.1 Gen 1 speeds (up to 5Gbps) and power charging. There is, however, no SD card reader (only a microSD one) and that will surely frustrate photography enthusiasts. Wireless connectivity is good too, the Gram 15 has the Intel Wireless-AC7265 adapter, which supports Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi up to 867Mbps.

An interesting feature of the Gram 15 is that it has an integrated DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) from Cirrus Logic, which is supposed to help improve audio performance by providing your output a cleaner signal. In our experience, we found that it gives the headphones that we normally use a rounder and fuller sound. The built-in speakers could be better though.

The keyboard feels a little flat, but its certainly usable. The bigger problem, however, is the size of certain keys. The "Enter" and "Backspace" keys, for instance, are far too small.

One thing that might annoy some users is that the keyboard is not backlit. While not absolutely necessary, backlit keyboards generally look nicer and they can be handy especially if you need to work in dimly-lit environments, like on a plane. 

The keyboard feels a little flat to type on, but most users will get used to it quickly enough. And considering how thin the Gram 15 is, it’s actually quite commendable for its tactile feel. It even has a proper number pad for number crunchers. Unfortunately, the “Enter” key is especially small, and so is the “Backspace” key. Most users will definitely need time to get used to the size of these two keys. Fortunately, the trackpad is wide and spacious, and is responsive to inputs. It also has a very reassuring and solid feel.

8.0
  • Design 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 8
  • Mobility 9
The Good
Incredibly light and compact for a 15-inch notebook
Full-sized USB and HDMI ports
Integrated DAC for better audio
Sharp display with vibrant colors
Reasonably priced
The Bad
Some flex in the body
Magnesium panels feels a bit plasticky
Some keyboard keys are too small
Dim display and only Full-HD resolution
Below average graphics performance