LG gram 15 (2016) review

Bigger, thinner and lighter than a MacBook Air

LG Gram 15 review

Either luckily or unfortunately, depending on your outlook, LG makes it simple with a single configuration for its gram 15 laptop. For what you'll soon see listed in detail below, the premium is $1,099 (about £752, AU$1,444).

Whether that's a good deal depends on what the competition is serving up, and just recently HP teased its imminent HP Envy 15 update for a cool $779 to start (with a 1080p screen). While not as impossibly thin as the gram 15, it's wrapped in a luxurious, anodized aluminum shell and sports an oversized glass trackpad.

Outed earlier in 2016, the updated Dell XPS 15 is a little more apples to apples, starting at $999 with a weaker Intel Core i3 processor and more resilient, luxe aluminum frame (also FHD). However, the XPS 15 starts with a 500GB hard drive and 32GB solid-state drive (SSD) and lacks a numpad.

lg gram 15

Both of these machines should put some of your buying priorities in question when stacked against the MacBook-defying LG gram 15. For instance, how much does weight or storage (or a numpad) matter to you in buying a laptop?

Here is the LG gram 15 configuration sent to techradar for review:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.8 GHz)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • RAM: 8GB x 1 DDR3L (1,600MHz)
  • Screen:15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD
  • Storage: 256GB SSD (SATA3)
  • Optical drive: None
  • Ports: 1x HDMI-out, 1x USB-C, 2 x USB 3.1, 1x USB 2, 1x microSD reader, headphone jack, included USB-C to RJ45 Ethernet adapter
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac (2x2) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 720p HD webcam with dual microphones
  • Weight: 2.16 pounds (980g)
  • Size: 14.08 x 8.99 x 0.66 inches (357.6 x 228.4 x 16.8mm; W x H x D)

lg gram 15

To match or come close to this spec, the Dell XPS 15 would end up costing $1,199 – which, for another 100 bucks, would net you way more storage, a slightly stronger chip inside paired with dedicated Nvidia graphics. (All UK configurations come starting with a similar setup at £1,199.)

Unfortunately, HP hasn't yet issued its full configuration details for the new Envy as of this writing. But, since it's starting so low already in comparison, it shouldn't take much to get it up to speed with LG's gram.

Of course, none of these comparisons account for how the gram 15 feels and performs as well as what else it brings to the table beyond incredible portability and style.

lg gram 15

Performance

The Skylake-generation Intel chip inside this machine shows just how far the firm has come in developing systems on a chip. The LG gram 15 can handle everything I threw at it short of intense 3D games.

With this laptop, I'm able to hold a five-person group video chat within a graphics-and-audio-heavy gaming web app with more than a few PDFs open – not to mention a few more browser tabs with Google Docs – on battery power without issue. (Love you, Roll20.)

Benchmarks

Here's how the LG gram 15 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,758; Sky Diver: 2,888; Fire Strike: 630
  • Cinebench CPU: 250 points; Graphics: 30 fps
  • GeekBench: GeekBench: 2,651 (single-core); 5,774 (multi-core)
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,460 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours, 6 minutes
  • Battery Life (techradar movie test): 4 hours and 19 minutes

lg gram 15

These numbers generally fall in line with the Intel Core i5 Ultrabooks that we've seen come through the techradar offices, save for the most important one: battery life. LG promises up to 7 hours of juice out of the device's 4,495mAh battery, but the longest I encountered outside of either of our standard tests was about 5 hours tops.

LG's laptop isn't rivaling any MacBooks with numbers like these, much less competing Windows 10 notebooks. (That said, the Dell XPS 15 battery life is likely to be even worse, judging from our measure of the 4K version.)

We've seen laptops encounter this problem before: they reach new heights in material design only to take a hit in a crucial area. More often than not, that's battery life. Naturally, this puts the gram 15 squarely in the middle of that conundrum I've seen too many laptops before it face: why bother being so light and travel-friendly if you can't last all that long?

lg gram 15

While a valid question, it's not as severe a case here as I've seen before. Five hours of battery life will get you by on most US flights, after all. Regardless, a gram 15 weighing just as much as the MacBook Air would have been impressive in its own right and could've led to longer battery life.

Instant Boot is how all laptops should work

It's one thing to slap an SSD inside a laptop for faster boot times, but LG took it one step further with an Instant Boot feature. This allows the device to awake to a ready state instantly, regardless of whether the laptop is asleep or powered off before opening it.

You don't look at any loading screens, no BIOS logos – just an LG logo for a moment and Windows 10 is asking for your password before you can strike a key.

lg gram 15

This isn't a dealmaker or breaker of a feature, but LG is certainly blazing a trail that its rivals don't seem to be hot on yet. The faster you can get me into my work or weekly game night with the guys online, the better.

Web chat much? Better like your chin…

Speaking of gaming online, there's one major drawback with the gorgeously thin bezels surrounding the laptop's 15.6-inch screen: there's no room for a webcam. That left LG to place it within the device's hinge.

While it produces a sharp 720p HD image that friends tell me every week during gaming sessions on Roll20 looks shockingly good over a stream, nothing can make up for that angle. If you plan on web chatting a lot and aren't the biggest fan of your chin, then this alone could rule this laptop out for you.

lg gram 15

Since it's not all that important to me, I'm willing to look past it, especially as the webcam's quality is actually rather impressive compared to most laptop shooters.