LG Gram 14 review: A bigger-screen laptop that weighs less

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The Good The LG Gram 14 is amazingly light for a 14-inch laptop with a powerful Core i7 processor. The champagne gold color helps it stand out in a crowd.

The Bad Missing some key features for a laptop in this price range, including a touch screen, higher resolution options and a backlit keyboard. Battery life is unimpressive, and the body on our review unit was creaky.

The Bottom Line LG takes on the major premium laptop players with the expensive Gram 14. It's light and highly portable, but suffers from some first-gen missteps.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 7

The LG Gram 14 makes a good first impression as a powerful, slim, midsize laptop. The biggest selling point is that it's very light, especially considering this is a 14-inch laptop with a powerful Intel Core i7 processor. But after a closer look, you'll notice that it has some head-scratching omissions. For example, it lacks a touchscreen and backlit keyboard, and its display resolution tops out at 1,920x1,080 pixels -- all surprising for a current Windows laptop with a decidedly premium price.

Of course, the most surprising thing for many laptop shoppers may be that LG is selling laptops at all. The electronics maker is known for everything from televisions to appliances, but yes, it's also a computer manufacturer. But that fact might not be generally well-known to American shoppers, because the brand has previously only sold its laptops in other territories.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Now the company is wading into a very crowded computer market by releasing a series of high-end ultrabook-style laptops in the US for the first time. The LG Gram line (stylized with a lower-case "g") includes three fixed-configuration models, one 13-inch and two 14-inch, each with slim, lightweight bodies, Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processors, and 1,920x1,080-pixel displays. The LG Gram 13 and LG Gram 14 models sell for $899 to $1,399 in the US. LG already sells similar, though not exactly alike, configurations in Australia (starting at AU$1,399) and other regions, but not in the UK.

We tested the highest-end $1,399 configuration of the LG Gram 14 (so named because its weighs only 980 grams, or 2.16 pounds). It's lighter than a 13-inch MacBook Air, which hits 2.9 pounds and even the new Lenovo Yoga 900 (2.84 pounds), but it's still not the lightest laptop we've tested (that would be the amazingly light 1.9-pound Lenovo LaVie Z ). This high-end configuration of the LG Gram 14 includes a fifth-generation Intel Core i7 processor (LG says newer sixth-gen chips are coming at some point, but for now it's a generation behind), a big 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM.

That makes it expensive, but not outrageously so. Dell's excellent slim XPS 13, where the closest comparable configuration has the same 1,920x1,080 non-touch display with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM (but with newer Intel sixth-generation Core i5 CPU instead of a fifth-generation Core i7), costs $1,150.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A 13-inch MacBook Air with a Core i7 and same storage and RAM hits $1,449 in the US. The MacBook makes for an especially apt comparison, as the LG Gram series has a very Apple-like look and feel, from the minimalist exterior to the familiar-looking island-style keyboard. It's a style others have aped before, and one colleague who saw the LG gram suggested that it looked like LG's interpretation of Samsung's interpretation of Apple's iconic MacBooks. Perhaps it's laptop design by way of inception.

Despite the relatively high price and missing features (the same could be said of our hypothetical high-end MacBook Air configuration), I found myself liking the LG Gram better the more I used it. It turns out that having a slightly larger screen without the extra weight usually associated with that is pretty valuable, and I ended up casually grabbing the system for on-the-go meetings over other laptops that might have more of the bells and whistles I'd want, but were heavier and harder to cart around.

Like Microsoft's experimental new Surface Book , it still feels like an early draft. Iron out some design and build quality quirks, add higher screen resolutions, touch options, a backlit keyboard and current-gen CPUs, and this could be a real competitor in the premium laptop race.

LG Gram 14

Price as reviewed $1,399
Display size/resolution 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 display
PC CPU 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-5500U
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 5500
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0

Design and features

With so many premium 13-inch and 14-inch laptops to choose from, the LG Gram's biggest selling point is how light it feels. Especially considering the Core i7 processor inside, it's extremely portable at 2.16 pounds (980 grams).

But it also feels insubstantial and indifferently machined. The chassis, made of carbon magnesium and lithium magnesium alloys, offers little heft and leaves the body with a lot of flex. The bottom panel of our test unit was decidedly creaky at one joint where two panels didn't fit perfectly together, and the four rubber feet on the bottom didn't all sit flush on the table. These may be an early review sample quirks, but it isn't what you'd expect from a $1,400 laptop. The screen hinge also wobbled with every move or even with heavy typing, adding to a sub-premium feel.

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