I also like that the display was really bright and colorful. Images from a sample 4K video on YouTube looked straight up gorgeous. Plus, I could place the Gram 17 on the table in a hotel room, and still clearly see characters from my favorite TV shows from the bed about six feet away.
Keyboard and trackpad
Because it has such a sharp profile compared to rival 17-inch systems, the Gram 17 also has far less depth to offer in its keyboard. That isn’t to say that the buttons here are quite as shallow as the Macbook Air’s, but don’t expect the cushy travel you get from most systems this size. There’s still some depth here and the snappy feedback makes typing more comfortable.
Since there’s plenty of room on the deck itself though, LG saw fit to squeeze in a numpad and as well as a handy power button at the top right corner that also housed a fingerprint sensor for convenient logins. Yet, the company made some curious decisions in the layout. Specifically, the Enter and Backspace keys are smaller than usual. Because of that, these keys require a little more reaching than I’m used to, and instead of hitting Enter, I ended up inserting a lot of quote marks. I also found it hard to reach for the delete key, which sat all the way to the top right of the backspace button.
The trackpad, on the other hand, benefitted from the extra space. This glass-covered surface is generously sized and I never ran out of room while scrolling through pages or pinching to zoom, and the cursor was consistent and responsive.
Performance and battery life
Oddly, with such a roomy chassis, you’d think that LG would find enough room to squeeze in a more powerful graphics card. But, because the Gram 17 is so thin, there isn’t a lot of room for a sophisticated cooling system that needs to accompany those. Instead, it comes with an Intel UHD 620 GPU. Now I’m not the most hardcore gamer or video editor — my most demanding task was running the occasional game of Overcooked, so this held up for most of my workloads. Those expecting more beef will likely be disappointed.
The laptop’s CPU is an eighth-generation quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, and it performed decently for the most part. It had no problem with my usual workload, which includes multiple browser tabs while sneaking in a few episodes of The Good Place on Netflix in the background. But the computer did stutter when I tried to jump between folders while unzipping three folders at the same time. Though, that’s more a product of the slow SSD than the CPU — on our disk speed benchmark, the Gram 17 was only about half as fast as the competition.
It’s not an apples to apples comparison, but consider a recent notebook of a similar size like the Macbook Pro 16. It packs a six- or eight-core i7 or i9 chipset with AMD’s Radeon Pro graphics options, so you’ll have plenty more power for demanding tasks. Other 17-inch laptops tend to be gaming laptops and are often complete tanks like the Alienware Area 51m, and pack much more muscle into heftier frames. At $1,700, the Gram 17 also costs about a thousand bucks less than these two laptops. It’s also a completely different kind of machine. You’re better off thinking of it as a thin-and-light mainstream laptop with a big screen than a large notebook packing powerful guts in a thin-and-light frame. It’s almost like a bigger Surface Laptop 3, which starts at $999 and uses AMD Ryzen processors.
Since most 17-inch laptops tend to just sit on your desktop, battery life usually isn’t a priority for these machines. Yet, the Gram 17 managed to clock almost 13 hours on our battery test. That’s about an hour longer than the Macbook Pro 16, but a half hour shorter than the XPS 15. The Alienware Area 51m meanwhile lasted a hilarious 1.5 hours.
I’m truly impressed by what LG was able to do with the Gram series, even as I struggle to understand why someone would need to lug around such a large screen. The best uses for big displays are demanding tasks like video or graphics editing, and those processes require more muscle than the Gram 17 offers. Ultimately, the Gram 17 seems more like a way to show what laptop makers could do if all they cared about was shaving off inches and pounds.