1. ananimus's Avatar
    Howdy y'all. I'm a bit surprised to see how little excitement there was about the LG Gram series out there, as well as some of the reviews panning it. Having bit the bullet on one, I though I'd share my impressions after my first week toting it around.

    Pros:
    • Impossibly light and looks/feels great
    • Fantastic battery life
    • Solid performer
    • (Likely warranty-voiding) Upgradability
    • Port/feature selection


    Cons:
    • So gloss, much glare
    • Miss my two-finger forward/back gestures
    • Nose-cam
    • Dinky arrow buttons, even if the "new normal"


    Use case: In general I hop from meeting to meeting. I use a monster desktop and my phone for most day-to-day tasks at work. But this was mostly due to my old laptop being a 5 lbs. beast with a battery that wasn't up to snuff. I wanted something extremely portable that didn't sacrifice oomph. Something I could take meeting to meeting that could also be a workstation replacement in a pinch when I have to travel for work. My top priorities were portability, battery life, and performance. Y'know, basically everything. I considered several ultraportables including the drool-worthy Dell XPS 13 variations as there's plenty in the "I want it all!" space these days.

    In the end I landed on the LG Gram 13 (7th Gen i5, silver/touch edition) just as I prepared for a one-month international work trip. This was after much back and forth with the XPS, and so far I'm quite pleased with the decision.

    In general, as many reviewers note, there is a noticeable difference in feel. The XPS is slightly heftier though these are both light machines. To me that extra weight savings for the Gram is a win. It's like carrying an old paper, college notebook; subtle, but nice. It's *just* heavy enough to remind you you're holding something (if that makes sense). Light enough that the addition of a basic neoprene sleeve case is noticeable.

    Of course there's a difference in perceived sturdiness and how you take that will vary. I find the main deck feels quite rigid. The screen does indeed flex when you try, but... so what? I suspect in some ways they designed it to "bend and not to break." It's easy to be deceived by its insubstantial feel, but I've tossed this around quite some traveling this past week and it's doing well. The screen also glides open with one finger and doesn't bounce much at all when tapped gently with a finger. All in all, the build feels wonderful and balanced in the hand.

    The performance is also solid. To be fair, my rig is rigged. I picked up mine with the base 256 GB and 8 GB RAM through a hefty sale. But, lo! You can upgrade this puppy!

    As is known in the darker corners, if you're willing to void your warranty, the M.2 SATA III SSD is upgradable. The base RAM is soldered on board, but there's also a 2133 MHz DDR4 SODIMM slot amazingly open for upgrading with up to an 8 GB module. (This also bumps the RAM to dual channel which is otherwise only single channel, sadly.) Between the initial discount and some careful shopping for upgrades, I have a full 1 TB SSD and 16 GB of RAM total at the cost of a near-entry level XPS 13.

    Back on performance, some completely unscientific tests: It hasn't stuttered or balked at all yet, snapping between many applications and sleeping/waking without hesitation. I also have to write lots of physics simulations for work. Just to see how it would stand up on the road when needed I ran a script that sucks up half of the 16 threads on my desktop workstation while finishing in 60 seconds. Running the same script on the Gram got the CPU spun up to max. The fan kicked in high and I watched the projected battery life crying for mercy. But it still finished in under 90 seconds and immediately settled back down. Nice! Though now I wonder how sloppy that code was...

    On battery life, it really does easily get 9-10 hours of real world use at 50% brightness when you set aside the brutal test above (which I'd normally be plugged in for). That is, things like Office, browsing, Netflix, code writing (not necessarily executing, depending what it is). Practically speaking that meant going a couple of days when I didn't need it too much. Often I just leave the charger and other cords behind!

    On cords, the choice of ports strikes a great balance between today and tomorrow. 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB C (not full Thunderbolt), full HDMI to mitigate carrying an adapter for most of today's screens, 3.5 mm headphone/mic jack, lock port, dedicated AC, and a microSD slot which is nice for reading the cards from phone/tablet/other modern gadgets. They include an unannounced USB-C Ethernet adapter as a nice surprise. The AC adapter feels kinda insubstantial but is very light and has a long (10 ft?) cord.

    A fingerprint scanner comes with the touch version and, besides my color preference, why I went with the touch model. It's a nice add, but if you're impatient and tap a millisecond too soon as it wakes, it'll sometimes reject you. Keyboard has "enough" travel after a little adjustment time, and is selectably backlit. It has a webcam of the terrible, awful, nearly useless, hinge-mounted nosecam sort. Seriously, LG and Dell should be slapped for this. I don't need it much, but bear it in mind if important to you.

    The screen is gorgeous. The contrast is extreme in my book, with really deep blacks. Looks great but takes getting used to coming from an older display tech. It's pretty nice but contrast isn't adjustable that I can tell which can be rough watching dark Netflix scenes in a bright room.

    There are some noteworthy caveats beyond the nose-cam: One, the gloss. Much gloss. So glare. This can be pretty annoying though the overwhelming brightness usually suffices. (Anyone have tips on actually good anti-glare films for touchscreens?) Likewise I sometimes find that stunning IPS is hard to get dim enough for watching evening Netflix in the dark comfortably as I really like dim night viewing. Windows 10's Night Light thing helps with that, plus LG offers their own similar Reader Mode function.

    The trackpad is an Elan device, not certifiably a Windows standard driver. It works very well and is customizable. I put this in cons only because the one thing I can't reset the gestures for is to recover two-finger forward/back swiping that I had on my old laptop. There's a Fn-F5 switch for disabling the pad in case of bad palm rejection. This must be a throwback to old, junky Elan drivers (I know my last laptop suffered with this when I first got it 6 years ago). But it's never been an issue for me. It just feels and works great.

    The keyboard layout is standard fare, but I want to zing all laptop manufacturers for something: Dinky arrow pads. Seriously, the half-height arrow keys? I don't think things suffer much if they're full height and extend below the space bar line. And hey, could we put back the Home, End, Page Up, Page Down dedicated keys as a vertical column of buttons on the right-hand side? To me it looks like there's room, but maybe the ports interfere. Obviously I'm still adapting from a slightly larger machine and the rest of the world's already used to it. But when you edit on the road, dinky arrow buttons and hitting Fn-based nav keys suck.

    All in all, I think it's a really nice option that half of 'net reviewers curiously shy away from. Potent, crazy portable, allllll the battery, and I think sturdier than it's given credit for. Aces all around.
    09-03-2017 11:21 AM

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