It’s not often that I encounter a piece of technology that invokes a need to write about it. Especially in the consumer space, as most technology is a bit more of this or a bit less of that, but otherwise, you find the same technologies perhaps cobbled together in a slightly different way. Too often to ensure that an advertiser gets a better cut.
But the LG Gram 17 laptop, the 2022 edition, is a step forward, in my view.
For the last 25 years or so, I’ve clung to the notion that IBM/Lenovo* laptops, spearheaded by the ThinkPad brand, were the best, and that it was not worth the effort of exploring elsewhere. A habit bolstered by lab tests in my old stamping ground, PC Magazine. And because researching a new laptop is not the work of an hour’s googling: it can take me weeks.
But the last three Lenovo laptops I’ve bought have been disappointments in different ways. My previous machine was a Yoga 730. Its battery life was miserably short, no matter how I configured it. Given that my need to schlep a laptop around the world on soul-crushing long-haul flights has diminished to zero, you might not imagine that short battery life was a problem. But it does still need to be mobile, even within the house, and the 730 couldn’t manage more than an hour or so before it started to demand power. And that’s because it was very noisy and ran hot. Where all that energy was going was inexplicable because even light web browsing could trigger a bout of 747-style roaring and a very hot lap.
Before that was another Yoga which essentially fell apart, the back coming off the screen. Then the display itself started coming loose while the keyboard was thin and unpleasant. It ended up with gaffer tape around its edges in a bid to keep it in one piece. After less than three years use, it was dumped.
And the one before that? I can hardly remember it but it didn’t inspire.
No more Lenovo
I was glad to see the backs of them. Unless you actually need the reversible laptop feature, it’s an unnecessary expense and complication, in my experience; I found I didn’t use it to anything like the extent I expected to.
Of course, my 10-year-old ThinkPad – a bog-standard laptop – is still going strong but looks and feels its age: the screen is low-res by comparison to today’s machines, and modern software near brings it to its knees. So I upgraded it to Linux Mint and don’t let modern software near it, apart my Firefox browser. And it works fine in that limited role (despite the glitchy graphics chip for which I should have returned it inside its warranty period all those years ago). It wasn’t cheap when I bought it but then neither were the Yogas: both cost four-figure sums.
So I’ve finally learnt the lesson of clinging too long to a brand that I trusted but no longer do. When specifying a replacement, I wanted a bigger screen than the standard 15-inch diagonal to allow me to work with a pair of browser windows, or a browser and something else. And I wanted a bit of style and light weight because, even using it mainly within the home, weight is an issue. Have you sat with a laptop actually on your lap for any length of time? A 4Kg behemoth gets heavy quickly. I also didn’t want to pay the earth.
Looking for laptops
So on researching the 17-inch laptop market, because that’s about as big as laptop displays get, I found that there are two distinct segments. Most are gaming laptops: they are big, heavy and expensive, and include a hefty dollop of ugliness for free. I do a little light gaming but most modern laptops can handle that. So no thanks.
Then there are premium 17-inch laptops made by the likes of Dell. Very nice but very expensive: well over £2,000. Fine if the company is paying the bill but I’m not in that fortunate position.
LG Gram impressions
Then I stumbled across the LG Gram, which seemed a bit too good to be true. In most walks of life, anything that seems so usually is. But after weeks of prevarication and more research, I realised it was in a class of its own. I took the plunge.
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. You can easily find technical specifications elsewhere so here I just want to focus on the user experience.
It’s slim and light, feeling far lighter at around 1.3Kg than a machine this size ought to do, and certainly significantly lighter than the 15-inch Yoga 730. The keyboard is large with full-sized keys and sufficient depth to type comfortably; I’m a heavy typist. The display is bright and reproduces colours well, making photo editing a joy.
Audio is pretty good – for a laptop. My expectations were not high as you can’t assume that flat speakers crammed into a thin plastic box will sound anything hifi, and of course they don’t, but it’s not bad, considering.
It connects with everything I need it to connect to as well so there’s no shortfall there, and the camera is HD so Zoom calls look good. Or rather, I look as good as I ever will (no laughing at the back, please!).
And it handles my gaming needs with aplomb: the fans deliver a bit of white noise but nothing like the Yoga 730’s racket. And it not only does it not get hot, battery life, which is plenty long enough, seems hardly affected.
In summary, it’s the first laptop I’ve bought and used in at least 10 years that I’m entirely happy with. After three months of ownership and use, I’m still finding it a joy to use. It wasn’t the cheapest machine out there but if you can stretch to the £1,300 I paid for it (deals do come up from time to time), you’re unlikely to be disappointed unless you have heavy-duty requirements. Recommended.
* IBM sold its hardware division to Lenovo in 2005