Incredibly light. Display is clear and crisp. Varied port selection. More than 12 hours of battery life.
Build verges on flimsy. A bit slower than its contemporaries. So-so keyboard.
- Bottom Line
The LG gram 13 is a featherlight midrange laptop that won't kill your budget. A competent performer, it's worth considering if you value portability and battery life above all else.
LG's gram line is a series of ultra-lightweight laptops that put portability first, bringing enough speed and features to get the job done without weighing you down. The refreshed LG gram 13 ($1,099.99) comes equipped with one of Intel's newest-generation processors, making it faster and more power efficient than ever. Weighing barely more than 2 pounds, the gram 13 is tough to beat as a breezy travel companion, even when stacked against other top ultraportables, and it's pricing won't put too big a dent in your budget. That said, it doesn't stack up to the quality or speed of the Editors' Choice Late 2016 New Razer Blade Stealth, which packs superior construction and performance while remaining small and light for $150 more.
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The LG gram comes in three sizes, and having reviewed the 14-inch and 15-inch versions of the past couple of generations, the 13-inch model is the slimmest and most portable iteration. As its name implies, the gram line is made first and foremost with weight in mind; the gram 13 is about as portable as a laptop gets. It's one of the lightest laptops on the market, weighing just 2.01 pounds, thanks to a nano carbon-and-magnesium-alloy body, which feels nicer than plastic without adding more weight. However, the consequence of the weight is a less-than-premium feel. It feels a bit hollow and not exactly sturdy, flexing in at a few points just from normal use and holding.
At 0.6 by 12.1 by 8.3 inches (HWD), the gram 13 is quite easy to slip into your bag for the commute or work trip, or to carry with you during a work day. The Razer Blade Stealth is a little thinner and heavier at 0.52 by 12.6 by 8.1 inches and 2.9 pounds, but its anodized-aluminum build feels much higher quality. Another option is the ultra-thin HP Spectre 13, which has a classy aluminum design and comes in at 0.41 by 12.8 by 9.03 inches and 2.45 pounds. The difference in weight among them is somewhat negligible, given that they all fall within a pound of one another, so it may be worth trading off for the better build and components, depending on your needs. Those alternatives are a little more expensive, though, and the gram 13 is the lightest option if you're looking to keep your bag as travel-friendly as possible.
The 13.3-inch touch screen has a full HD resolution, and the picture is crisp. It shouldn't come as a surprise that LG built a high-quality display, and the lack of glass over the screen further accentuates the clarity, though it can appear glossy in direct lighting. The top and side bezels are very thin, which makes the display look more immersive and bigger for its body size, though the webcam is located within the hinge itself as a result. With a camera situated that low, you need to be mindful of how you angle the screen or where you sit in front of the laptop during video chats, to avoid accidental close-ups of your nostrils. The HP Spectre 13 has the same 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, but no touch technology, while the Razer Stealth we reviewed features a vibrant indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) touch display with a higher QHD resolution (the less expensive, Intel Core i5-equipped New Blade Stealth still includes a QHD-resolution screen).
Though the display is above average, I can't say the same for the keyboard; it was merely adequate. There's some flex in the deck, though it's not egregious and only in the middle of the keyboard. The keys themselves are decent to type on, but feel a bit insubstantial, and the key action just isn't satisfying. The gram 13 does include key backlighting, with five levels of brightness, and it will automatically detect ambient light and toggle the backlight on or off accordingly. The touchpad tracks smoothly and responds consistently to taps and clicks. There's a fingerprint sensor in the top-left corner of the touchpad, but it doesn't get in the way, due to its tiny size and the location. Fingerprint ID isn't a necessary feature (or an expected one at this price), but the security and log-in option is nice for those who use them.
For storage, there's a 256GB SSD on board. That's not a ton of room, but reasonable for this category of laptop and enough for documents and music, while lots of photos and video will start to fill it up faster alongside your programs. The Razer Blade Stealth and the HP Spectre 13 units we reviewed also included 256GB SSDs, and since solid-state storage is expensive, getting more than that will be pricey across the board.
LG doesn't let the slim chassis get in the way of connectivity. The gram 13 is well-outfitted with ports. Its left side holds a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C port, and an HDMI port, while the right side has another USB 3.0 port, a microSD slot, and a headphone jack. That covers the basics and then some, as not all systems that focus on portability come with USB-C or HDMI. Other features include dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, and what LG calls Instant Booting, which gets you fast startup times, whether from sleep or fully off. Normal SSD boot times are fast, so I wouldn't say it had a drastic effect, but it does start up very quickly. LG supports the gram 13 with a one-year warranty.
Solid, but Not Leading Performance
The gram 13 has a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U processor and 8GB of memory, granting it respectable speed, but it's not quite as fast as some of its contemporaries. The Razer Blade Stealth, the HP Spectre 13, and the Asus ZenBook 3 all pack Intel Core i7 processors and posted higher scores in the PCMark 8 Work Conventional general productivity test, and the gram 13 lagged behind these three in the multimedia tests as well. They are a little more expensive, so there's some trade off, but the price discrepancy is not made up purely of component upgrades, given the differences in build quality and display resolutions.
In terms of the 3D and gaming tests, the gram 13 fell slightly behind the other systems, but it's negligible since they all utilize integrated graphics and not dedicated gaming cards. That means gaming is beyond the ability of any of these laptops, as slim forms and lower prices were prioritized over 3D capability. The benchmark results generally followed the same pattern with these tests as it did with general productivity—the gram 13 trailed the others, though not dramatically so—but it's essentially a wash. You can play low-strain or older game titles on an ultraportable, but the gram 13 and the others fell well short of the playable 30-frames-per-second mark for any moderately demanding game.
Battery life is definitely a strong point, lasting 12 hours and 33 minutes in our rundown test. That's a very solid showing for the average laptop and still one of the longest among all ultraportables, which are built to prioritize time on the go, away from a charger. The Core i7-equipped Razer Blade Stealth lasted 9:20, the HP Spectre 13 for 8:36, the Asus ZenBook 3 for 12:07, and the 2016 Apple MacBookfor 11:37, which means the gram 13 has the longest-lasting battery in its price range and even beyond.
Above All Else, Light and Long Lasting
For such a lightweight laptop, the new LG gram 13 is a competent performer that can save you a couple of hundred extra dollars, compared with some of the competition. Its selection of ports is very useful, especially for the form factor, and the display is crisp and clear. There are compromises for the lower price, though. While the build quality isn't exactly weak, it's not as sturdy as the Razer Blade Stealth or the super-sleek HP Spectre 13; those machines are both faster while also remaining under three pounds. The Razer Blade Stealth in particular boasts more RAM, a better-feeling keyboard with customizable, individually backlit keys, and a higher-resolution display for $1,249.99, and the toned-down Intel Core i5 model with the same top-notch build is available for $899.99. The Late 2016 Razer Blade Stealth remains our Editors' Choice midrange ultraportable for these reasons, but for an always-on-the-go user, the LG gram 13 is worth a spot on your short list, especially if you want to save a little cash.
Matthew Buzzi is a junior analyst on the Hardware team at PCMag. Matthew graduated from Iona College with a degree in Mass Communications/Journalism. He interned for a college semester at Kotaku, writing about gaming. He has written about technology and video game news, as well as hardware and gaming reviews. In his free time, he likes to go out with friends, watch and discuss sports, play video games, read too much Twitter, and obsessively manage any fantasy sports leagues he's involved in. More »
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