“The LG Gram 17 is one of the best 17-inch laptops you can buy.”
- Exceptionally light
- Fast when set to performance mode
- Excellent display
- Very good keyboard and touchpad
- Outstanding battery life
- Feels a little flimsy
- Too expensive
Sometimes you want a larger display than you’ll find on the typical 15.6-inch (or 16-inch) laptop. Maybe you’re a heavy multitasker and want to position more windows on your display without feeling cramped. That’s where 17-inch laptops come in, and while there aren’t that many to choose from outside of gaming laptops, there are a few good options to consider.
One such option has been LG’s Gram 17, which like all Gram laptops aims to pack as much machine into as light a chassis as possible. The 2021 version ups the display ante with a 16:10 aspect ratio that adds even more vertical space for getting your work done.
I looked at the LG Gram 17 configured with a Core i71165G7, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and a 17-inch 16:10 display with a WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) resolution. This configuration retails for $1,800, meaning it’s solidly in premium territory and takes on a potent rival, the excellent Dell XPS 17. Does the LG Gram 17 have what it takes to compete?
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The LG Gram 17 lives up to its promise of packing a large display into a light chassis. It weighs just 2.98 pounds, which is remarkably light for such a large laptop. By comparison, the Dell XPS 17 weighs 5.53 pounds with touch and its 97 watt-hour battery option (the Gram 17 has an 80 watt-hour battery). Even the non-touch XPS 17 with the 56 watt-hour battery weighs 4.65 pounds.
In overall dimensions, the Gram 17 is 14.97 inches wide by 10.24 inches deep by 0.70 inches thick, compared to the XPS 17 at 14.74 inches by 9.76 inches by 0.77 inches. As another comparison, the HP Envy 17 is 15.71 inches by 10.2 inches by 0.76 inches and weighs 6.02 pounds (note that the Envy 17 has a 17.3-inch display). Clearly, LG accomplished something special here.
The LG Gram 17 doesn’t have the same sense of solidity that other laptops enjoy.
How did it manage to make the LG Gram 17 so light? The key is the magnesium alloy used in the laptop’s chassis. That’s a light metal to begin with and LG doesn’t use a lot of it. This affects the perceived build quality, with an extremely bendable lid and a keyboard deck and chassis bottom that give off quite a bit of flexing. Magnesium is a strong metal, and so it’s not that the LG Gram 17 isn’t robust, but it doesn’t have the same sense of solidity you’ll get from the XPS 17 or even the midrange priced Envy 17.
The aluminum used in the other laptops weighs more and feels more robust. LG did run the Gram 17 through MIL-STD-810G military testing, so there’s some objective data that it can take a beating. I’ll also note that even though the base is exceptionally light, the lid opens with one hand and is only the tiniest bit wobbly in use.
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Aesthetically, the Gram 17 is about as conservatively designed as you can get. It’s all black with just a simple “gram” logo in chrome on the lid. Otherwise, there are no embellishments and the laptop’s lines are simple. It’s not a bad-looking laptop by any means, but it also lacks character. The Dell XPS 17 and the HP Envy 17 are more noticeable and, I daresay, quite a bit more attractive. The Gram 17 does enjoy small bezels, so it looks modern in that respect — and of course, those small bezels help keep the chassis size manageable.
Despite its thin frame, the Gram 17 enjoys a nice mix of connections. On the left-hand side are a full-size HDMI port and two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support (one of which is needed to power the laptop), to go with a 3.5mm audio jack. On the right-hand side is a Kensington lock connection, two USB-A 3.1 Gen 2 ports, and a microSD card reader. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 provide wireless connectivity.
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My review unit was equipped with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-1165G7, which is common on premium laptops and tends to provide solid productivity performance. I’ve noticed that performance can vary across laptops with this same chip, and so I was curious to see how the LG Gram 17 would perform given a larger chassis that should provide plenty of room for cooling. LG provides a utility to adjust performance versus heat and fan noise, and it has a noticeable effect. Most manufacturers provide such a utility today, and not all of them have a significant impact on performance — I’ll only mention them if they impact our benchmark results. HP is another vendor whose “performance” mode makes a meaningful difference in some (but not all) of its Envy and Spectre laptops.
In its “optimal” mode, the Gram 17 is in line with much of its Tiger Lake competition. In Geekbench 5, it did well on the single-core test and fell behind some of the competition — such as the Samsung Galaxy Pro 360 — in the multi-core test. Switch to performance mode, though, and the Gram 17’s score jumped to 1563 and 5,473. In our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, it was behind the pack but again did slightly better in performance mode at 197 seconds. Switching to Cinebench R23, the Gram 17 was again at the low end in optimal mode but was the fastest Tiger Lake laptop in our comparison group in performance mode (,375 in single-core and 4604 in multi-core).
The LG Gram 17 was a competent performer.
Finally, in PCMark 10, it wasn’t a leader in optimal mode and its performance mode made no difference in the score — something I’ve seen with other vendors’ performance tuning utilities. An example is the HP Spectre x360 14 that also showed no improvement in PCMark 10 in its performance mode, although it was significantly faster in that mode in all the other benchmarks. The Gram 17 did well in the Essentials portion (web browsing, videoconferencing, etc.) but fell behind in the Productivity and Content Creation portions.
Overall, the Gram 17 was a competent performer that will handle all your productivity tasks with ease. Switch to performance mode and you’ll hear the fans spin up more often (they’re not terribly loud), but you’ll get a meaningful boost in performance. I’ll note, though, that you’ll get much better performance out of the Dell XPS 17, which matches its larger display with a much more powerful CPU and GPU combination. The Gram 17 is best for productivity users who want a larger display, as opposed to the XPS 17 which is intended to provide a larger canvas to creative professionals.
|Geekbench (single/multi)||Handbrake (seconds)||Cinbench R23 (single/multi)||PCMark 10||3DMark Time Spy|
|LG Gram 17 2021
|Dell XPS 17 (Core i7-10875H)||1315/7959||109||N/A||N/A||5801|
|LG Gram 16 (Core i7-1165G7)||1394/4137||213||1394/4137||4827||1390|
|Samsung Galaxy Pro 360
|HP Envy x360 15
(Ryzen 7 5700U)
|HP Envy 15 (Core i7-10750H)||1274/5542||139||N/A||N/A||5123|
The Gram 17 isn’t a gaming laptop, given its Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. It achieved an average score in the 3DMark Time Spy test in optimal mode and a much stronger 1802 score in performance mode. In Fortnite, the utility’s impact was even more pronounced. It managed a paltry 12 frames per second (fps) in 1080p and high graphics, and 13 fps in epic graphics in optimal mode. That’s way behind the rest of the Tiger Lake competition.
Switch to performance mode, though, and it jumped to 29 fps and 19 fps, which is much more competitive. Of course, those aren’t impressive scores either, and so you’ll be limited to older titles or running newer titles at low resolutions and graphical detail.
Display and audio
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A large, expansive display doesn’t do much good if it suffers from poor quality. Fortunately, LG chose a quality panel for the Gram 17, starting with its 16:10 aspect ratio that, in a 17-inch display, offers a great deal of real estate.
According to my colorimeter, the display exceeds our 300-nit threshold at 343 nits, making it bright enough for most inside lighting conditions. The contrast was close to our preferred 1000:1 ratio at 930:1. The Dell XPS 17’s 4K display is superior at 491 nits and 1,530:1, while the Gram 17’s smaller sibling, the Gram 16, was close at 313 nits and 830:1. The Gram 17’s results are well in line with what’s expected from a premium laptop today.
In terms of colors, the Gram 17’s display hit 88% of AdobeRGB and 100% of sRGB, which is better than the 75% and 95% premium laptop average and close to what creative types desire for photo and video editing. The XPS 17 was once again much better at 98% and 100%, respectively, while the Gram 16 was the same as the 17-inch model. The Gram 17’s color accuracy was good at a Delta E of 1.3 (less than 1.0 is considered excellent), while the XPS 17 came in at 0.37 and the Gram 16 an inferior 2.67.
Overall, this was a delightful display to use for everything most users will throw at it. Productivity was enhanced by the aspect ratio, good contrast, and above-average brightness while viewing photos and video was an enjoyable experience thanks to the wide and accurate colors. Anyone who wants to do occasional photo and video editing — keeping in mind the performance deficit compared to a laptop like the XPS 17 — will find this display to do well in a pinch.
The audio is nice and clear, with pleasant highs and mids and just a touch of bass. At the same time, the two downward-firing speakers don’t get very loud, and there’s just a touch of distortion at maximum volume. You’ll be happy with the occasional YouTube video, but for Netflix binging and music, you’ll probably want a pair of headphones or Bluetooth speakers handy.
Keyboard and touchpad
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The keyboard has comfortable spacing with large keycaps and includes a numeric keypad, with a light touch and sufficient travel. The typing feel is marred only by a slightly abrupt bottoming action — I usually appreciate some bounce at the end of a keystroke, but here there’s just a little too much. I could type at full speed on the keyboard but got the impression I might get fatigued after long typing sessions. The Dell XPS 17’s keyboard has a more comfortable action as does HP’s keyboard on its Spectre and more recent Envy laptops.
The touchpad is large but could be larger given the copious amount of palm rest available. It’s a Microsoft Precision model, which is universal at this point, making Windows 10’s multitouch gestures accurate and precise. The keyboard layout, specifically the inclusion of a numeric keypad, pushes the touchpad off-center, which takes some getting used to. If you use the touchpad as a guide for finding the home row on the keyboard, you’ll need to adjust your practice or find yourself typing the wrong letters. The display does not support touch, which I always miss on a laptop.
Windows 10 Hello support is provided by a fingerprint reader built into the power button, which is the best place. You can power on the Gram 17 and log in with one touch, and that’s so much more convenient than hunting for a fingerprint reader sitting somewhere on the keyboard deck or — worse yet — embedded in the touchpad. The reader was fast and accurate throughout my testing.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Somehow, LG managed to pack in 80 watt-hours of battery capacity and still maintain the Gram 17’s light weight. That’s a fair amount of energy, and so I was hopeful that LG’s usual excellent battery life would apply.
And that’s exactly what I found. Starting with our web browsing test that loops through a series of popular websites, the Gram 17 lasted for 13.25 hours, which is a very strong result. The Dell XPS 17 managed less than half as long at just under 6.5 hours, while the Gram 16 was a bit stronger at 13.8 hours. In our video test that plays a Full HD Avengers trailer until the battery runs out, the Gram 17 went for a spectacular 21 hours, compared to the XPS 17 at just 9.3 hours and the Gram 16 at an even better 24.4 hours.
On a single charge, the LG Gram 17 will get you through a full workday and well into the evening.
I also ran the PCMark 10 Gaming test that stresses the CPU and GPU, and the Gram 17 almost made it to five hours. That’s one of the longest results in our database and is just seven seconds less than another leader, the Gram 16. We didn’t test the XPS 17 in PCMark 10. The result was likely a combination of the large battery capacity and the optimal setting that didn’t run either the CPU or GPU at full speed.
Finally, in the PCMark 10 Applications test that’s the best indication of productivity battery life, the Gram 17 achieved just under 14 hours. That’s a strong score that’s in the top tier of laptops we’ve tested, but not as strong as I expected. The Gram 16 hit 17.8 hours, for example.
Overall, the Gram 17 is a long-lasting laptop despite its large, high-resolution display. It will get you through a full workday and well into the evening, and you’ll probably have a few hours left over the next morning.
LG accomplished its objective of creating a large-screen laptop with good performance and outstanding battery life that doesn’t weigh a ton. You’ll want to switch to performance mode for the most speed and you’ll endure a bit of fan noise, but it’s worth it. For the most part, this is a laptop that lives up to its promise and then some.
Whether it’s for you, though, comes down to whether you’re okay with a metal chassis that demonstrate a fair amount of flexibility. LG passed the Gram 17 through military-level testing for durability and it survived, so that means the laptop is likely plenty robust. Still, you won’t get that warm and fuzzy feeling of durability as you handle the Gram 17.
Are there any alternatives?
The Dell XPS 17 offers the same 16:10 aspect ratio display that’s also higher quality, and you’ll get a faster laptop with a more potent GPU. It’s also much heavier and doesn’t even approach the Gram 17’s battery life. To fully leverage the XPS 17’s power, you’ll also spend hundreds more.
Next, you could consider the slightly smaller LG Gram 16 if you don’t need quite so much screen real estate. It also offers great battery life and suffers from the same flimsy feel, but it’s another lightweight offering that offers a lot of power and longevity without the weight.
The XPS 15 and the MacBook Pro 16 are also speedier laptops with smaller displays and might be good options. Again, if you don’t need the largest display, then these two machines should be on your list.
How long will it last?
The Gram 17 doesn’t feel like it’s as robust as the premium laptops it competes against, but if you trust the MIL-STD-810G rating, then you might be comfortable with the laptop’s longevity. It’s certainly equipped with up-to-date components. You won’t like the one-year warranty, though.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The LG Gram 17 puts a large and lovely display into your hands without weighing you down, and you’ll love the spectacular battery life.