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LG Gram 17 (2020) review

This impressively lightweight giant offers less-than-impressive performance

LG Gram 17 (2020) review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The LG Gram 17 is lighter than most 17-inch laptops, but its middling performance gives us pause.

For

  • Bright, colorful 17-inch display
  • Extremely portable
  • Good port selection
  • Fast SSD

Against

  • Underwhelming battery life
  • Subpar benchmark performance
  • Lackluster webcam
  • Uninspired design
  • Lid and keyboard flex
  • Relatively expensive

The LG Gram 17 is the latest example of laptop manufacturers bounding forward with Moore’s Law, giving us exponential computing power at surprisingly portable sizes. Such is the case with the LG Gram 17, a feathery machine that weighs less than 3 pounds.

LG Gram 17 Specs

Price: $1,499
CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7
GPU: Intel Iris Plus
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Display: 17-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel
Battery: 7:10
Size: 15 x 10.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 2.98 pounds

There’s a lot to like about the LG Gram 17: it packs a gorgeous 2560 x 1600-pixel display into an incredibly lightweight package, making it a top pick for next-gen multimedia mavens. But there's a reason why it didn't land higher on our best laptops list. 

The latest Gram 17 is lacking in the performance department, and it’s more expensive than competing laptops. That’s not to say you won’t get your money’s worth, but our LG Gram 17 review will show that this year's model can feel like a step (or two) backward.

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Price and availability

The Gram 17 is available at a variety of retailers (starting at $1,499). The unit we reviewed has a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 2560 x 1600-pixel display. For those with deeper pockets, there’s also a pricier $1,849 model you can buy directly from LG; this config comes with a beefier 1TB M.2 SSD for double the storage.

Sure, the Gram 17 offers plenty of power for the price, but it’s not the only player in town. Check out the best gaming rigs of the year, which include a few other 17-inch powerhouses. 

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Design

When it comes to design, the Gram 17’s standout feature is clearly the miniscule weight: just 2.98 pounds, to be exact. That’s no easy feat for a 15 x 10.3 x 0.7-inch magnesium-alloy chassis, and a true rarity for 17-inch laptops. In fact, this featherweight design was the very first thing I noticed as I took the Gram 17 out of the box; it feels incredibly light in hand. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Pound for pound, the LG Gram 17 is an impressive feat of mobile tech. It’s even lighter than the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (3.4 pounds); the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro (4.3 pounds) and Dell XPS 17 (5.5 pounds) feel downright chunky in comparison. 

LG didn’t reinvent the wheel with their design strategy, and once you get past that ultra-scrawny build, there’s really not much to look at. (Other than the simplistic “gram” logo on the lid, and below the keyboard deck.) The bland gunmetal gray chassis doesn’t offer much in the way of aesthetics — until you pop open the lid, that is. I temporarily forgot about those minimalist design choices (which I don’t hate, by the way) when I caught sight of the gorgeous 17-inch 2560 x 1600-pixel display, which is surrounded by a pleasantly thin black bezel. 

Touch-typists will appreciate the full-size backlit keyboard — complete with full numpad — and the power button doubles as a fingerprint reader. (In my testing, it only took a few seconds to set this up; it’s a convenient alternative to signing into Windows with a password or PIN.) You can adjust the brightness of the keyboard deck, which contrasts nicely with the orange-colored shortcuts in the upper row. 

The F1 key is paired with a useful shortcut to the LG Control Center, which gives you quick access to system settings, power management, and Windows security.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Take note: there’s a lot of flex on this laptop’s lid and keyboard deck, which may speak to the long-term durability of the chassis. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Constructed from magnesium alloy, the full-metal body of the LG Gram has passed various “military-grade” tests for shock, low pressure, extreme temperatures, dust, and more.

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Ports

When it comes to ports, the Gram 17 equips you with all the basics, and a little more. On the left side, you’ll find a Thunderbolt 3 port, USB 3.1 port, HDMI input, and a standard AC jack for power. (The Thunderbolt port can be used to charge the device, too.) 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the right side, there are two more USB 3.1 ports, a microSD card slot, a headphone/mic jack, and Kensington lock slot. 

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Display

The second-most outstanding feature of the LG Gram 17 is without question the beautiful WQXGA IPS 2560 x 1600-pixel display (sorry, no touchscreen panel here). Colors are sharp and bright across the board, making it a pleasure to watch YouTube videos, Netflix shows, and Disney Plus cartoons. The 16:10 aspect ratio is welcome for web browsing, since it cuts down on your scrolling time with a bigger workspace.  

To put the display through its paces, I queued up Fantastic Fungi, a nature documentary with lots of detailed time-lapses and intricate close-ups; the outdoor landscapes were vivid, rich, and true. Be warned, though, the screen is a bit reflective. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The LG Gram 17’s display didn’t deliver any benchmark surprises. It clocked 104% of the sRGB color gamut, according to our colorimeter test. Not too shabby, but the Gram 17 is outclassed by the XPS 17 (132%), MacBook Pro (114%), and the premium laptop average of 119%. 

The panel gets relatively bright at 332 nits, but it's still dimmer than the XPS 17 (505 nits), MacBook Pro (429 nits), and the average laptop (379 nits).

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Keyboard and touchpad

One unsung benefit of gigantic laptop screens is the additional room for a full-size keyboard in the chassis (which includes a dedicated numpad on the right). 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you plan on using your notebook for lots of word processing, you won’t be disappointed in this regard; the keys are all properly sized, and there was a satisfying clickiness to them as I used the Gram 17 to write this review. (Meta, I know.)

The island-style keys are more shallow than other 17-inch laptops we’ve tested, but I acclimated in a day or so. There’s a pleasant bounciness to the keys, and low travel. I reached 65 words per minute with a 94% accuracy rate on the 10FastFingers.com typing test, which is somewhat slower than my usual 75-wpm average. Overall, I had a comfortable typing experience, with no major keyboard quibbles. 

The surface of the 4.8 x 2.8-inch touchpad is silky smooth, and highly responsive to my swipes, gestures, and two-finger scrolls. Its fully-centered positioning is conducive to accidental swipes from your palm, but less so if you have a proper wrist rest. 

The aforementioned fingerprint reader (hidden by the power button in the upper-right hand side of the keyboard) is a useful and simple addition.

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Audio

While much of this machine was custom-tailored for media consumption, the dual bottom-firing speakers come up short. Listening to music on the Gram 17 is hardly a nail-scratching experience, but you won't get the same sonic depth as other laptops in this category, such as the 16-inch MacBook Pro or XPS 17. 

To be fair, subpar speakers are an expected compromise for this kind of portability; there’s not much room under the hood for those audio components. And LG does include some audiophile goodies with their built-in DTS-X Ultra software, but you can really only take advantage of this feature with external speakers or headphones. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While bass-heavy tracks streamed over Spotify were lackluster at best (even at full volume), I will say this about the Gram 17’s speakers: they’re pretty perfect for acoustic songs. Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” had a nice reverberating twang as the tune switched between guitar and harmonica melodies. Nevertheless, you might want to plug in some quality cans for a better audio experience (particularly if you want to enjoy a bassline of any kind).

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Performance and graphics

Thanks to the Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU and 16GB of RAM, the Gram 17 had no problem loading up 30 separate Google Chrome tabs (including 10 YouTube tabs, playing music videos simultaneously). So I opened more YouTube tabs, a few Facebook videos, and then Spotify. 15 YouTube tabs (playing 1080p videos at once), five Facebook tabs (playing CNN news clips simultaneously), and one Spotify playlist later: still no lag. Impressive.

The Gram 17’s U-series processor might not be ideal for gaming, but you could definitely use this laptop to play less resource-hungry titles. Its score of 15,626 on the Geekbench 4.3 test one-upped its predecessor by a slim margin (14,039, 8th Gen Core i7). But with a score of 3,439 on the Geekbench 5 test, the Gram 17 couldn’t touch the XPS 17 (7,740, Core i7-10875H), MacBook Pro (7,201, Core i9-9980HK), or even the average laptop (4,041). 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Gram 17 was no champion in our Handbrake video transcoding test, either, but that’s typical of 10th-Gen Ice Lake CPUs. It took 23 minutes and 59 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution, while the previous model took 19:18. The XPS 17 (8:41) and MacBook Pro (8:00) performed this task even faster; the average premium laptop takes 18:39. 

Not every benchmark test was a bummer. The Gram 17's speedy 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD took just 5 seconds to duplicate 5GB of multimedia files — a transfer rate of 1,128.4 megabytes per second. This actually outpaces the MacBook Pro (1,017.9 MBps), XPS 17 (620.6 MBps), and Surface Laptop 3 (282.7 MBps); the category average is 683.8 MBps.

The Intel Iris Plus graphics in the Gram 17 are better than the integrated graphics of yesteryear, but you’ll still want a discrete card to run more demanding games. Case-in-point: during testing, Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm played at just 12 frames per second, which isn't even close to our 30-fps playability threshold. Less demanding games, like Dirt 3, should work at 1080p on High settings.

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Battery life

As a rule, 17-inch laptops have a nasty habit of being energy hogs, thanks to those huge high-res panels. The Gram 17 only lasted 7 hours and 10 minutes on the Tom's Guide battery test, a noticeable decrease from the nearly 12 hours of runtime its predecessor offered. 

In contrast, the XPS 17 (which has a 4K display) endured for 9:05, while the MacBook Pro clocked in at 10:55. Even the Surface Laptop 3 (8:00) lasted longer, though it failed to hit the category average of 9:33.

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Webcam

Nowadays, there’s no excuse for a grainy low-res webcam (especially if you’re shelling out more than $1,000 for the machine it's attached to). Unfortunately, this looks like one department where LG cut some corners. 720p videos were noisy, hazy, and barely acceptable for Zoom calls. If you’ll be using this laptop for video conferencing from home, you might want to invest in an external 1080p webcam for the purpose. 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Heat

During our heat test, which involves playing a 15-minute, 1080p video, the Gram 17 had no issues dispersing extra warmth. The hottest part of the laptop (above the F9 key) reached our 95-degree Fahrenheit comfort threshold; the underside remained cool, at 90 degrees. The touchpad was even cooler, at 77 degrees.

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Software and warranty 

LG throws in a few useful utilities, including the aforementioned LG Control Center, where you can adjust power management settings, screen color temperature, and security settings. The LG Update Center is a separate app for downloading drivers, patches, and other system updates. 

The Gram 17 comes with a handy guide for how to use the laptop, and a dedicated troubleshooting app for...well, troubleshooting. You’ll also find a preloaded suite of Cyberlink apps for editing videos (PowerDirector 14, ColorDirector 5) and photos (PhotoDirector). 

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Gram 17 ships with an obligatory one-year standard warranty.

LG Gram 17 2020 review: Verdict

The LG Gram 17 from last year was a step in the right direction, but the 2020 model feels like a step backwards (though not to an extreme degree). All criticisms aside, the two main selling points of this machine are extreme portability (at just 2.98 pounds) and a large, vivid screen. And the LG Gram 17 excels in both of these departments. 

It’s hard to make a perfect laptop these days, and when it comes to the 17-inch category, there are bound to be a few shortcomings for power users. But if you’re looking for a featherlight laptop that can handle word processing, internet research, watching movies, and more, you’ll have no problem bringing this thing along on your next road trip. 

TJ Fink

As a freelance writer, mobile tech journalist, and molecular mixologist, TJ has over a decade of extroverted storytelling under his belt. As a full-time human, he's also passionate about everything outdoors; he'll never stop exploring this beautiful planet. When he’s not coddiwompling through the Catskills, TJ can be found sipping Negronis in his living room and crafting Dr. Seussian poetry inside a tattered moleskin.