LG gram 15 (2018) full review
The quest to create the perfectly thin and light laptop that also delivers on performance goes on and LG has updated its flagship Ultrabook with Intel 8th-gen and more. Here's our LG gram 15 (2018) review.
Price and availability
Combining top-end specs and lightweight design comes at a price and the LG gram 15, like last year's model (Z980) is eye-wateringly expensive. The gram 15 for 2018 starts at $1,749 which is already a lot. However, it goes up to $1,999 if you want the top-end model.
We're reviewing the most expensive LG gram 15 here and while the laptop is available from Amazon in the US, it's a lot harder to find in the UK. As with last year's model, you'll need to get it from Ultraboooks for a whopping £2,279.
It's clear then that isn't a laptop for the masses, with LG telling us it's aimed at business men and women aged 30-40 who need a lightweight and long-lasting device. Presumably, these people have salaries that can cope with the price tag.
This price is still cheaper than the top-end MacBook Pro with Touchbar, which is £2,699 with previous gen Intel and half the storage.
Back in the Windows world and a key rival is the Dell XPS 15, where the old model will save you around a grand and the new 2018 model is still a lot cheaper - if you don't mind something a fair bit heavier that is.
A key rival that has very similar specs and a still lightweight design is the Lenovo Yoga 920 which starts at £1,199 (£1,349 for the closer rival). Then there's always Microsoft's own Surface Laptop at £979, which is also light with decent specs.
Design and build
It's commonplace in the laptop market for new models to come with the same design as previous generations, with new internals. And that's essentially the case here with the new LG gram 15 for 2018.
Overall there are only minor tweaks to the design so you'd have to be pretty eagle-eyed to spot the differences. You can also check out the LG gram 17 for 2019.
On the lid is a 'gram' logo instead of 'LG', the webcam has been moved and power key looks a bit different. The latter is because LG has added a fingerprint scanner and another way to long into Windows.
Tweaks aside, the design of the LG gram 15 is once again all about how much it weighs. But how many grams?
We were amazed at the previous model coming in at 1.08kg, a staggering figure for a full-size 15in laptop. The 2018 model is a shade heavier but still an impressive 1.1kg - LG says you can carry it with two fingers and it's not wrong.
For context, the MacBook Pro is 1.83kg and the Dell XPS 15 is almost double the gram at 2kg. However there are some closer rivals like the Lenovo Yoga 920 at 1.37kg and the Surface Laptop at 1.25kg.
So if you want an amazingly light full-size laptop then the LG gram 15 really is a front runner, and is available in smaller and even lighter models too.
In order to save weight, LG eschews a solid metal build like many rivals. Instead, the gram 15 is made from a 'nano carbon magnesium' - an alloy that feels more like plastic than metal but is supposedly military-grade and passed seven different tests.
The reality is that the laptop is flexible, especially the lid, but this is the trade-off to have the lightweight result. We like the gunmetal grey finish that has a slight texture to it.
Once again, the bezels around the screen are very small making the laptop look modern and sleek, but also feel like a smaller laptop than a usual 15in model.
As mentioned earlier, the webcam has moved and is now above the screen instead of nestled into the hinge below. It's a much more appropriate placement and is so small you might not even notice it.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on the LG gram 15 for 2018 is the same as its predecessor, bar the fingerprint scanner now embedded into the power key. It works really well and is much faster than typing a password.
Overall it's a fairly decent keyboard but it's nothing special. It's a full-size chiclet style keyboard with a dedicated numpad to the right. That will come in handy for some but it does mean the main part is shifted to the left rather than being central, which takes a bit of getting used to.
There's nothing that gets on our nerves too much, but bear in mind that some keys such as enter are quite small and the layout is US. At this price it's no surprise that the keyboard is backlit and you can choose from two different levels of brightness.
Moving onto the trackpad which is the same as before, so it's a reasonable size, suitably responsive and supports multi-finger gestures. It's decent and we're pleased LG has fixed the issue we had before where the trackpad would often confuse two-finger scrolling for zooming - especially annoying when browsing the web.
The display is one area that hasn't had an upgrade, so if you have last year's gram 15 then the experience is going to stay the same.
It's a decent screen and this model is 15.6in, despite the laptop being compact and insanely light as we've detailed. It's still Full HD (1920 x 1080) and although you might want 4K at this price, it's not massively needed and will only drain the battery faster.
The display is an IPS panel so offers good viewing angles and whatever you're doing on the gram 15 looks crisp and colourful. It's also touch sensitive which we find more useful on a laptop these days, especially for scrolling – the feature just isn't ideal here with the bendy lid.
There's only really a couple of small downsides here and that's the reflective coating and the fact it's maximum brightness is 255cd/m which is ok for indoor usage but needs to be a lot higher for harsher conditions.
Specs and performance
One of the headline upgrades here is, of course, the inclusion of a new Intel 8th-generation processor. The LG gram 15 Z980 comes with a Core i7-8550U which runs at 1.8GHz and can Turbo Boost up to 4GHz. Not only is it faster than the previous generation, but jumps to quad-core and eight threads. The slightly cheaper model mentioned earlier has a Core i5-8250U instead.
Once again you get 16GB of RAM (2x 8GB) – it's faster DDR4 2400MHz, too - but now the LG gram 15 comes with a 1TB of storage which is double last year. That's plenty of space for most people and comes in the form of two 512GB SSDs (M.2 SATA).
As you can see in our benchmark results, the new model provides decent gains over last year's. The jump in Geekbench 4 is particularly impressive, although the Yoga 920 with the same chip scores even higher. Still, you're getting desktop-esque performance here from a mobile chip.
As this is a business focused laptop, it's no surprise that you can't do any full-on gaming with it. You're limited to Intel HD 620 which is the same as before. In 3DMark Sky Diver, the score improves by a reasonable amount but it's still not enough to be noteworthy.
Really, the specs here are aimed at performing well and more mundane tasks without using much power – hence the big difference in the regular clock speed and Turbo Boost - so look for a laptop with discrete graphics if gaming is important to you.
Last year's gram 15 put out a great battery performance of 12 hours. A key statistic when looking at a laptop designed for travelling, when you'll be away from power sources with which to charge the device.
This year LG has managed to fit an even bigger battery inside – 72Wh up from 60Wh – and claims the 15in model can last up to 16.5 hours (the 13.3in model a whopping 22.5 hours). That's really impressive, especially when you consider that the laptop is only marginally heavier than before and batteries aren't exactly light.
In our usual video loop test with the screen brightness set to 120cd/m (60 percent in this case), the LG gram 15 lasted a remarkable 15 hours and 48 minutes. Nearly four hours longer than its predecessor is a noteworthy improvement.
However, some cheaper rivals that are only a little bit heavier can outdo the gram 15. For example, the Microsoft Surface Laptop can manage 16 hours in the same test and the Lenovo Yoga 920 goes even further at 16 hours 45 minutes.
It's commonplace for thin and light laptops to come with next to no connectivity these days but that's not the case here. Like the previous model, LG has ensured you get lots of physical ports so you don't get frustrated with having to use various adapters or even changing your accessories.
To this end, the LG gram 15 offers three USB 3.0 ports, full-size HDMI, microSD, headphone and USB-C. This is similar to the previous model but the latter is now used for Thunderbolt 3 meaning you can transfer data much faster or even use it to connect a 4K display.
LG also includes a USB-C to Ethernet adapter and the USB-C port isn't needed for charging with keeps it free. Instead, LG opts for a traditional DC connector.
There are stereo speakers rated at a combined 3W and they're pretty poor, which isn't a surprise for a chassis like this. You'll want to make use of the DTS Headphone X port which provides a surround sound like experience.
LG gram 15 (2018): Specs
- 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) 141ppi IPS LCD Touchscreen
- 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U (4GHz boost) 4 cores, 8 threads
- Windows 10 Home 64-bit
- Intel HD Graphics 620
- 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM
- 1TB M.2 SSD (2x 512GB)
- 802.11b/g/n/ac dual-band
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 3x USB 3.0
- 1x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3
- Ethernet (via included USB-C to RJ45 adapter)
- Kensington Security Slot
- Micro-SDXC card slot
- Stereo speakers (2x1.5W)
- HD webcam
- Dual mic
- 3.5mm headset jack with DTS Headphone X processing
- Tiled backlit keyboard with numberpad
- Two-button trackpad
- 72Wh lithium-ion battery non-removable
- 358 x 229 x 8-15mm
- 1-year parts and labour warranty