The LG gram 14 is a super-light, speedy laptop with top-notch battery life. It lacks that luxury feel, but is a little less expensive than some competition. If ultimate portability is paramount, it should be on your short list.
The LG gram 14 ($1,499) is the larger complement to this year’s 13-inch gram, making up part of LG’s line of ultraportable laptops. Weighing barely more than 2 pounds, but packing a Core i7 processor and more storage than many similar machines, the gram 14 is fast, capable, and posted a 15-hour battery life in our testing. Alas, the chassis materials and keyboard lack a premium feel that we expect at this price, which means the Dell XPS 13 Touch (Rose Gold) remains our top pick for high-end ultraportables, but the gram 14 is a solid option, despite a few flaws.
As we found with its 13-inch sibling, the gram 14 is more solidly built than the first-generation attempt, which felt a little flimsy in its quest for the ultimate in lightness. The gram 14 weighs just 2.09 pounds and measures 0.6 by 12.7 by 8.3 inches (HWD), very light and compact for a 14-inch notebook. The nano carbon-and-magnesium-alloy material used for the body is lighter than metal alternatives, but a bit nicer than plastic. That said, other machines within $100-$200 use much more premium-feeling metal bodies, so it doesn’t feel quite like the luxury product you’re paying for.
Because of the thinner materials, there is a bit of flex to the lid and bottom panel, but only if you consciously push down. The Dell XPS 13 is very similar in size (0.6 by 12.0 by 8.0 inches) but weighs 2.9 pounds, though the aluminum and carbon fiber build feels more high end. One of our favorite ultraportables, the New Razer Blade Stealth, is a smaller 12.5-inch system with a metal body that weighs 2.9 pounds, demonstrating how much weight LG trimmed out of the larger laptop. Overall, despite the lack of metal construction, the gram 14 is sturdy enough.
The keys, on the other hand, do feel flimsy compared with the competition in this price range. They’re not bad—the keys function and respond well—but the plastic used doesn’t feel very high quality, especially compared with the excellent keyboards found on the XPS 13 and HP Spectre X360 13. It does feature adjustable backlighting. I have no qualms about the touchpad, which is consistently responsive and tracks smoothly. There’s no room for heavy-duty speakers or a subwoofer in this laptop, but the sound is serviceable, becoming fairly loud at full volume, so a gathered crowd can hear whatever is playing from several feet away, but voices sound a bit recessed.
As with the gram 13, LG’s screen pedigree shines through with the gram 14. The 1080p touch display delivers great picture quality, boasting vibrant colors and strong brightness. It’s glossy, but doesn’t have a bad reflection problem, and the In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel means you can view it from far to the side or back and not see image distortion. While it looks good, comparable laptops we reviewed in this price range have higher resolutions, such as the Spectre x360 13 (4K) and XPS 13 (3,200 by 1,800). Even the least expensive $899 New Blade Stealth configuration offers a QHD display (2,560 by 1,440), so the gram 14 lacking the sharper resolution and increased digital screen space is somewhat disappointing.
Fortunately, when it comes to ports, the slim design doesn’t lead to a frustrating USB-C-only situation, like we’ve seen with the 2016 MacBook and, more recently, the Huawei MateBook X. The gram 14 supplies a full array of connectors, including a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C port, and an HDMI port on the left, with a micro SD slot, a headphone jack, and another USB 3.0 port on the right. For storage, there’s a 512GB M.2 SSD, which is not only speedy, but also about double the 256GB of storage we usually see in laptops like this. The Rose Gold XPS 13, Blade Stealth, MacBook Pro, and Spectre 13 all include 256GB. You also get dual-band 802.11ac wireless with Bluetooth 4.2, and the gram 14 is supported by a one-year warranty.
This gram upgrades on its 13-inch counterpart’s Intel Core i5 processor, packing a 2.7GHz i7-7500U CPU and 8GB of memory. As such, the overall speed is bumped up, with moderately faster results across the board on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test and the multimedia benchmarks. The 13-inch model we tested costs $300 less, though, so it’s up to you whether the added speed (and other additions, like more storage) are worth it. As for more similarly priced competitors, the XPS 13 and Blade Stealth performed slightly better, while the Spectre x360 13 pulled about even. It’s tough to directly compare PCMark numbers here: Higher resolutions are more demanding and pull down scores and these laptops all have different resolution screens. The gram 14 did come out on top, but its 1080p screen is also pulling the lowest resolution, so take those numbers with a grain of salt.
3D and gaming performance is mostly a wash, as almost every ultraportable uses graphics hardware integrated into the CPU, as opposed to the dedicated cards found in gaming systems and some workstations. Given that the gram 14 couldn’t even average 20 frames per second at 720p (never mind in full HD) on the Heaven or Valley benchmark tests, you won’t be doing any real gaming on this laptop. Something less demanding like Hearthstone, a 2D title, or an old game should run okay, but most modern titles will struggle to play smoothly
Battery life is impressive, with the gram 14 lasting 15 hours and 40 minutes on our rundown test. That’s a several-hour improvement over the 13-inch gram (12:33) and better than the Rose Gold XPS 13 (10:42), Blade Stealth (9:20), and Spectre x360 13 (8:18). Again, higher screen resolution play a part in draining batteries faster, but that doesn’t change the fact that the gram 14 will last you well through a full day of work or travel.
Strong and Light, but Not Luxe
Though it may not have the premium metal build of some of its slightly pricier competition, the gram 14 is fast, full featured, and long lasting. It’s also incredibly light, justifying its ultraportable status despite the larger-than-usual 14-inch screen. The screen is sharp and looks great, and it even manages more storage than most of the alternatives. All of that said, the extra cost of the competition comes with advantages. If I’m buying a high-end ultraportable, I want it to feel like the luxury item I’m paying for, and the gram 14 just feels less solid than it should and the 1080p display is behind the curve. It’s a good option, particularly if weight is your top concern, but the Dell XPS 13 remains our Editors’ Choice for its gorgeous build, excellent keyboard, and superior display.