LG Gram 17 (2021): A 17-inch ultra-lightweight productivity powerhouse
LG has been in the laptop business for a long time but their earlier models never appealed to the masses. It wasn’t until 2015 when LG started making its presence felt with the Gram series, productivity-focused laptops that offered premium business utility albeit at a premium price.
The Gram 17 17Z90N is an upgrade on the last year’s Gram 17 and now comes with the latest Intel processor with an Intel Evo stamp that pushes it to the coveted ‘excellent’ category. Why? Read on for more.
Take nothing away, the last year’s Gram 17 was already a quality device with a big screen but it struggled in graphics performance. While heavy graphics duty was never its forte due to a lack of a dedicated graphics card, even the in-built Intel Iris Plus graphics was weak and struggled a lot during moderate content creation tasks.
The new LG Gram 17
This year, however, LG has come back with a better Gram 17. It has not changed what was already splendid in the Gram 17’s last year edition namely its display and has worked only on those angles which raised some questions last year.
The first thing to catch my attention was its weight which is unbelievable for a 17-inch laptop. The Gram 17 weighs less than 3 pounds. Considering the battery performance and caliber of the laptop, keeping its weight so low improves the portability factor.
If you are a person who is always on the go and needs a rough and tough device that can take some heavy bumps or falls, Sorry!, the Gram 17 is not for you. Its lightweight body is made of Magnesium Alloy that is quite flexible and has cleared some high standard durability tests but still feels a bit flimsy due to its thin and sleek build. Unlike most other laptops, it leans towards a square shape with sharp edges and has a huge screen under the lid.
When you open the lid, the Gram 17 greets you with an overly impressive 17-inch WQXGA display that has 99 percent DCI-P3 colour coverage. Where LG scores the most with the laptop is with this 16:10 aspect ratio IPS panel which is a beauty to behold. The screen carries an uncanny and unfamiliar tall and square look due to the aspect ratio which allows more browsing and navigation space to the user. The viewing angles are great and besides productivity, it is a pleasure using the laptop as your personal entertainment device. The clarity and crispiness of the images displayed on the QHD panel kept me away from my TV, using the LG Gram 17 as my personal entertainment unit.
The Gram 17’s screen has a peak brightness that is above 400nits but I sadly missed HDR. The colour reproduction scores are consistently close to 100 percent with different color space measurement. This make the laptop a nice fit for beginners for multimedia and content creation. However, considering the premium price we are asked to pay for the laptop, we believe you are not over expecting if you ask for a touch input, which sadly the screen doesn’t provide.
A standout feature of the laptop is the feeling I got from its premium keyboard. Although these are no mechanical keys like in some gaming laptops or the velvet coated keys offered by Surface Pro, I liked the punchy response from the backlit keys of the Gram 17. Typing was a pleasure and the inputs are registered even when the keys are struck lightly or partially.
The Gram 17 2021 edition sees LG equip it with the latest 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor that has 4 cores and 8 threads. The hyper-threading enabled the processor to rip through the heaviest productivity tasks. The processor comes with a 4.7GHz max turbo frequency and is fully configurable to operate at a frequency as low as 1.2GHz with a low TDP of just 12 watts.
I had no issue working on a huge database in Excel and had multiple Chrome tabs opened in the background while Dharia went on singing Sugar and Brownies on one of the tabs in loop. CPU utilization rarely reached amber levels due to the excellent multi-threaded performance of the Intel 11th Gen Core i7- 1165G7. Here is how the Gram 17 performs in the PCMark Productivity and Storage benchmarks.
Graphics & Gaming
In other benchmarks the laptop performs very well too, in some cases, gives even some gaming laptops a run for the money. Here are the scores of Fire Strike: 3,707; Time Spy: 1,118 Cinebench R20: 1,382 GeekBench 5: 1,418 (single-core); 4,532 (multi-core).
What the last year Gram 17 lacked in graphics performance, this year it more than makes up for it with Intel Iris Xe operating at 1.3 GHz. Capable of handling some entry-level content creation tasks with ease. The laptop comes with 16GB LPDDR4X memory operating at 4266 MHz speed and an Intel Evo tag. Harnessing superior processor, RAM, and connectivity performance, the Evo platforms arms the Gram 17 with excellent productivity, connectivity and battery performance.
I loved how the laptop handled medium resolution photo editing fantastically but noticed the heat was too much while editing 4K images. Videos editing on high resolutions is also where the Gram 17 started faltering with the mouse pointer freezing intermittently. Transcoding videos is much faster on Dell XPS and the Mac. Here are the results from Handbrake.
Iris Xe can handle a bit of casual gaming on medium resolutions but you shouldn’t expect more than 30fps on any latest title on this productivity-focused device. The heat buildup happens only when the laptop is taxed as the ventilation is inadequate with the laptop opting for a thin chassis. Overall, working on the laptop is smooth but it is built solely for productivity. 3DMark Night Raid shows the mediocre gaming performance of the Gram 17.
As for storage, premium pricing gets you premium storage features with the laptop equipped with a 1TB NVMe SSD or double that with 2 x 1TB PCIe M.2 NVMe SSD. Either way, it is fast and dependable. Coupled with the high-frequency RAM, the laptop offered excellent boot speeds and day-to-day operation. The use of NVMe SSD has allowed me to have an empty slot for future storage upgrades. Additionally, the presence of Thunderbolt ports would let you connect high-speed external SSDs or even discreet graphics cards to boost performance further.
At the sides, there are two Thunderbolt 4 ports. One is for charging as LG has ditched the barrel charger and the other can be used for 8K displays and connecting discreet graphics cards. There is a full-sized HDMI and dual USB 3.2 Type-A ports on the side and a handy microSD card reader along with a headphone jack. The port selection is minimal but conforms to the latest standards.
Besides the wired connectivity the Gram 17 comes with Bluetooth 5.1 and Wi-Fi 6.
The Wi-fi is equipped with 2×2 MIMO support that allowed me to go over 40 MBps speeds consistently from my Linksys router even from my terrace where the signal is barely available. Personally, I missed the LAN port as there is nothing more consistent than wired connections and though most would be satisfied with Wi-Fi, there is no harm in going wired while attending video calls on a work from home scenario. A nagging issue I found is with the Bluetooth connectivity in respect to a mouse as the cursor always seemed to be on high adrenaline and refused to stay put. This happened with multiple mice and seems to be an issue with the Bluetooth driver.
The battery performance of the LG Gram 17 is excellent. It packs an 80Wh battery and the output matches the advertised 19 hours of screen on time when on 50 percent screen brightness. The extreme battery performance has a lot to do with superb optimization of Intel Evo and configurable TDP of the processor. The numbers are higher than last year’s Gram 17 and longevity on a single charge is the biggest USP of the laptop. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on, the number however would be lesser.
The laptop is available at a steep price of around 1900 dollars for the 2TB storage version on Amazon.
Take away the extra storage and you still have an amazing beast of a laptop priced around 1700 dollars. The overall performance of the laptop is pretty consistent and you would be happy as long as you make an informed purchase with the type of user applications in mind. It is fast and snappy for office use and comes with a premium and minimalistic look.
There is however a driver support issue which might be a problem for some. Few users have also complained of random freezing and restart issues. If there is something LG needs to rework on the next version of the Gram 17 is the speakers. Even a reasonably priced headphones have better performance at high volumes than the speakers of this laptop. The dual 2-watt speakers are good at only at producing notifications without distortion.
- 17″ WQXGA (2560×1600) IPS LCD display with DCI-P3 99% color gamut
- 11th generation Intel core i7-1165G7 Processor
- 16GB LPDDR4X 4266mhz RAM
- Intel Xe Graphics
- 2TB (2 x 1TB) PCIe M.2 NVMe SSD
- Two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, two USB-A 3.2 ports, a full-size HDMI port, a microSD card reader, and a 3.5mm audio jack
- up to 19.5 hours battery life
- HD webcam, back-lit keyboard and Amazon Alexa Built-in
- 14.97 x 10.24 x 0.7 inches, 2.98 pounds