We review many, many laptops and often the differences are subtle--we make note of distinctive curves, an interesting hue and factoids like display resolutions for a given class of machine. The LG Gram 15 stands alone, or nearly so, and likely will for some time. It's a whisper of the future when big screen laptops won't significantly add weight to your bag or make your legs feel numb with pressure after an hour. Why? The Gram 15 is a 2.16 lb. (0.98 Kg) 15.6" laptop. That's simply insane! That's half the weight of the already light Dell XPS 15. In fact, the LG in its box with charger weighs a little less than the XPS 15. It's as light as the LG Gram 14 of 2015, as if LG wants to outdo even itself. The next closest competitor is Samsung-- ah, that rivalry continues. The Samsung Notebook 9 in its 15" form weighs 2.9 pounds. Everything else in the 15" space weighs 4.1 to 6 pounds.
We all want this; light weight and portability are raison d'etre of laptops. But there must be a catch, right? As per usual with the very few paper-light portables, screen resolution is 1920 x 1080...that's actually a perfectly fine resolution but some of you are specs mavens and want 2K or even 4K. That's not gonna happen because those extremely high resolution displays strongly impact battery life, and there's no place for a big, heavy battery here. There's no touch screen either--it weighs several ounces more and is thicker. So what you're left with is pure notebook without the fancy frills sometimes associated with higher end machines. It doesn't Yoga, flip bend or contort like 2-in-1's. It's akin to the XPS line in that respect, and not the HP Spectre x360 15". Battery life has taken a hit in the past with the LG Gram 13 and Gram 14, but this time we have a little more room for battery, so things are looking up, at least a bit.
Specs at a Glance
This is not a quad core powerhouse laptop with high end dedicated graphics. Those are readily available in 15" sizes, so it's easy to get confused. This is a 15" Ultrabook, and that means Intel 6th generation dual core Skylake Core i CPUs with integrated graphics. Skinny and light is a different market from powerhouse laptops. That said, we're thrilled LG managed to fit Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs here rather than the slightly underpowered Core M.
The laptop is available in two models with your choice of a Core i5 or Core i7, and both models have 8 gigs of RAM. The Core i5 has a 256 gig SSD and the Core i7 has a 512 gig SSD. Both have dual band WiFi 802.11ac (the older Intel 7265 card, but it behaves well here), Bluetooth and a 1.3MP webcam. The Core i5 is the easier to swallow at $1,099. The Core i7 is $1,499. I'd lean toward the Core i5 unless you really need 512 gigs of storage. The performance difference isn't great between the two CPUs.
No suffering here--this isn't a 12" MacBook with a lone USB-C port. LG has managed to fit 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 USB 2.0 port (why not go with 3 USB 3.0 ports, LG?), a USB-C port for all sorts of peripherals, a full size HDMI port, microSD card slot and a 3.5mm combo audio jack. A USB-C to gigabit Ethernet adapter is included in the box. Well done, LG! To be fair, the 2.9 lb. 15" Samsung Notebook 9 has virtually the same port selection. Good going to you too, Samsung.
Design and Ergonomics
In a world where folks love to accuse every Ultrabook of looking like a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro (justified or not), the LG Gram 15 truly is an unabashed Mac laptop clone. If the 12" MacBook grew to 15", this would be it (only heavier and more rigid). That means 1) you'll have to be OK with being a card carrying member of the clone wars, 2) you're getting a really pretty machine. It's slim, it's minimalist and clean, there are no gratuitous contrasting colors or finishes. Or you might think of it as a somewhat larger but much lighter version of the 13" MacBook Air. Oh, and you have to like gold, or "New Gold" as LG calls it... champagne is apparently now a dirty word. Gold is the only color available, but happily it's a very nice looking gold that adds a premium touch and is worlds better than the white LG Gram 13 that looked like plastic.
All of the LG Gram laptops are made of magnesium alloy because it's darned light but quite strong. It is however more flexible than aluminum, and its very lightness can make it seem cheap if you associate lack of heft with cheap. If you're in the market for the lightest laptop you can buy, don't expect that weighty feel that many of us instinctively equate with quality. Sony went through the same bout of criticism with some reviewers and shoppers--their carbon fiber high end laptops were wonderfully light but flexy because carbon fiber flexes without breaking. The LG's bottom section is reasonably rigid for a machine this light, but you can flex the display panel if you grab it with two hands and twist lightly.
The LG Gram 15 in no way looks or feels cheap, though the dead space inside allows for enough bottom panel play to create creaks if you pinch it along the sides. Why pinch your laptop? When it's this light, it seems natural to pick it up tightly by an edge and carry it around. Samsung's even thinner 0.57" Notebook 9 does not creak, ahem. Of course, Samsung's is made of aluminum that's more rigid so it won't move as much under pressure. The Samsung Notebook 9 is still more flexible than heavier Samsung models.
The laptop has scant quarter inch bezels, which should thrill the hordes of borderless screen aficionados Dell has created with their XPS line. The bezel is black so it really disappears, which is more attractive than the 15" Samsung Notebook 9's equally skinny but more noticeable silver bezels. The Samsung is a very attractive notebook, but I'd have to say LG's is even prettier. As with the Dell XPS 13, the webcam location is a casualty of the no-bezel look. It's located on the bottom barrel hinge on the LG, so it's really a 1.3Mp chin-cam. You won't look great, trust me.
Despite the metal casing and slim 0.66" build, the notebook never got uncomfortably hot on the bottom. When really working the machine hard by playing Civ V for an hour, the space just above the keyboard got hot (110F). That's not a place you'd normally touch, but we test every inch with a temperature gun. The area between the T and Y keys was higher than human body temperature at 105F when gaming. Otherwise the keyboard deck is slightly warm with normal use. The fan is quiet, and even when running at max speed, it was unobtrusive and didn't fight with game audio.
Deals and Shopping:
LG Gram 15 Video Review
LG makes fine monitors and TVs, so we'd expect their premium laptop's display to please us. My first thought when I saw the display was "nice!". The 15.6" gloss IPS panel has wide viewing angles and strong brightness of 300 nits (Samsung manages 350 nits in their competitor). That said, I don't work outdoors, so 300 nits is searing enough under office and home lights. I was surprised, given how great the display looks, to discover that color gamut is a little below average for an Ultrabook in the thousand dollar and up category that averages 95% of sRGB and 75% of Adobe RGB. Our Spyder 4 Pro colorimeter measured the LG as having 83% of sRGB and 65% of Adobe RGB. That's still better than the MacBook Air's mediocre TN panel, but for the price I expect near 100% of sRGB. Contrast is good at 680:1 and the display looks lovely when viewing photos and videos.
LG includes Reader Mode that reduces blue light for less eyestrain. It's designed for use in warmly lit and dim interiors, and you can enable it by pressing the Fn key and F9. In fact, the computer will remind you to do that if the ambient light sensor detects low light. Be warned that the display will look yellow when Reader Mode is enabled.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard isn't backlit. Neither is the 15" Samsung Notebook 9's, though the 13.3" Notebook 9 does have backlighting. Why? I have absolutely no idea. I can't believe that backlighting adds that much weight, thickness or is that hard on the battery, but there must be a reason both Samsung and LG omitted it for the 15" models. Beyond that, the LG Gram 15 stands out with its number pad. That's not a terribly common feature on 15" laptops, especially Ultrabooks. There's no added space between the main keyboard and the number pad, which requires a bit of adjustment. I'm not particularly fond of the trackpad being dead center on the deck rather than being centered under the spacebar, but I know some of you actually prefer it this way.
I expected the short travel keyboard to be a chore, but happily I rather enjoyed typing on it. If you're used to desktop and ThinkPad keyboards with very long travel you probably won't like it, but if you've been using thin Ultrabooks for a while, it feels perfectly good. Key damping is effective and the required key force feels perfectly matched to key travel.
The trackpad is a very well-behaved Elan trackpad with an abundance of available settings. I really enjoy the trackpad--it's good enough to not make me miss my Mac. Surprisingly, the ubiquitous two-finger tap to right-click is assigned to middle-click, but that's easily changed in the Elan tab of the mouse control panel.
Performance and Horsepower
This is an Ultrabook with 15 watt dual core Intel 6th generation Core i5-6200U and i7-6500U CPU options. It's in the same performance class as the 15" HP Spectre x360 and Dell Inspiron 15 7000. This is not a quad core laptop like the Dell XPS 15 or the HP Omen. It has Intel HD 520 graphics and 8 gigs of DDR3L RAM that's soldered on board (not upgradable). It has a 256 gig or 512 gig M.2 SSD that uses the SATA3 interface. Though not as fast as PCIe SSDs, our 512 gig benchmarked above the pack among SATA3 SSDs.
Despite its impossibly non-powerful, non-hunky look, it performs as well as any Ultrabook on the market and is powerful enough to be your main machine if your daily routine involves MS Office, streaming full HD video, editing photos in Photoshop and occasional video editing. It's not a gaming beast, nor is it a CAD workstation, though it can handle entry level CAD. It's fine for casual games and older, less demanding games like Left 4 Dead 2, Civ V, and Skyrim and Bioshock Infinite on low settings. Our only minor disappointment is the fact LG used single channel rather than dual channel RAM, which means a small performance hit.
The battery story here is cheerier than with previous, smaller LG Gram laptops. The 35 Whr battery is smaller than you'd normally see on an Ultrabook, but the lower resolution display, lack of a touchscreen and good power optimizations mean that battery life is meh, but not horrid. With brightness set at 40%, we averaged 6 hours of productivity work and streaming video. If you play games, edit 1080p video or run lots of tabs in Chrome (a battery hog of a browser), battery life will be lower.
The laptop ships with a very light and compact standard laptop style 45 watt charger with two lengths of long cord. It in theory supports charging via the USB-C port as well.
It's rare that we review a laptop that's unlike everything else on the market. The Samsung Notebook 9 comes pretty close, and the 12" MacBook might if it weren't so small. That makes it hard to offer many points of direct comparison, or to say where the LG Gram 15 fits in the grand scheme of things. I will say that this is a harbinger of laptops of the future--they will continue to get lighter as material science evolves. I can tell you that it's an absolute joy to use a full size 15" laptop that's only 2/3 the weight of smaller 13" Ultrabooks. It's finally comfy to carry, not a weight on the lap and it begs to be taken anywhere and everywhere. If you want a big screen lightweight laptop and can live without a touch screen and aren't offended by the lid's flex, it's worth considering. Battery life could be better, but then we've seen worse... including LG's older Gram 14. We live in interesting times. Oh, and do check out our review of the Samsung Series 9 too; it's heavier at 2.9 lbs. for the 15" model, but that's still wildly light and beats the Gram 15 on a few metrics.