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LG Gram 2-in-1 review: A convertible laptop with plenty to like

Convertible laptops usually come with more compromises than the LG Gram 2-in-1 does.

Despite having a 14-inch screen, the LG Gram 2-in-1 (model 14T990) is lighter than most 13-inch notebooks. It spares you the thick display bezels and performance drawbacks that often apply to laptops with 360-degree rotating screens. It doesn’t even suffer from weak battery life or limited ports.

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These qualities literally come at a high price, though, with the LG Gram 2-in-1 retailing for $1,500. While that’s reasonable for a laptop with an Intel Core i7 processor and 512GB of storage, you can’t configure cheaper models by cutting back on storage or CPU speeds.

There are a few design drawbacks. The keyboard runs shallow, and the speakers are some of the worst you’ll find on a high-end laptop. If you can look past those shortcomings, the LG Gram 2-in-1 provides a great combination of screen size, portability, and battery life that just may be worth the premium price.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go to that story for information on comepeting products and how we tested.  

LG Gram 2-in-1: Price, specs, ports

As of now, LG offers only one version of the Gram 2-in-1, with an Intel Core i7-8565U processor, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB solid state drive, and a 14-inch 1080p display. A fingerprint reader is embedded in the power button, and the webcam is a standard 720p resolution with no Windows Hello face recognition.

lggram5 Jared Newman / IDG

The LG Gram 2-in-1 includes a proprietary charger, but it does support USB-C charging.

For inputs and outputs, the LG Gram 2-in-1 has two USB-A ports (one on each side). There’s also a single USB-C port, and it’s not Thunderbolt 3-compatible. Although you can use USB-C for charging, the Gram ships with a proprietary charger, which isn’t as nice as having a pair of USB-C ports and a universal charger. On the plus side, the Gram has a full-sized HDMI output, MicroSD card slot, and headphone jack. There’s also a USB-C-to-ethernet adapter in the box, though it supports only 10/100 Mbps speeds.

The Gram 2-in-1 even comes with a stylus—a hefty aluminum pen that uses Wacom’s AES 2.0 tech, which supports 4,096 pressure points and tilt shading. Flip the screen around into tablet mode, and you can draw or sketch ideas on the 14-inch screen. Unfortunately, the Gram doesn’t include any kind of dock or magnetization for the stylus, and applying moderate pressure to the screen creates a distortion effect around the pen, so serious artists will probably want to look elsewhere.

lggram2 Jared Newman / IDG

The LG Gram 2-in-1 puts its convertible design to use with an included stylus, though there’s nowhere to store it.

Design and display

LG didn’t reinvent the wheel with the Gram 2-in-1’s convertible design, with a screen that rotates 360 degrees into tablet mode. But unlike most other convertibles, the Gram manages to cram in the necessary hinge mechanisms without a comically large “chin” beneath the display. The borders around the display measure about an inch on the bottom, 0.4 inches on top, and 0.3 inches on either side, so the Gram is about as large as 13-inch laptops that don’t have such shrunken bezels.

The key to the Gram’s lightness is its magnesium and nano-carbon metal alloy enclosure, which, if we’re being honest, feels kind of like plastic. It’s certainly more rigid—there’s no noticeable flexing when you hold the Gram by its corners—but the center of the laptop does flex a bit under pressure, especially if you press along the back edge. The Gram might feel classier if it provided more color choices beyond drab gray with black keys, such as the sleek white-on-white option that LG offers for its non-convertible Grams.

lggram4 Jared Newman / IDG

It’s not the thinnest laptop you’ll find, but it’s impressively light at 2.5 pounds.

As for the display, it’s a 1920x1080-resolution IPS panel with Gorilla Glass running from edge to edge. The viewing angles are excellent, with colors becoming just slightly dimmer and warmer when you tip the screen toward your head, but the display's peak brightness of 303 nits is just average.

Keep in mind that on a 14-inch 1080p screen, you’ll notice individual pixels more than you would on a 13-inch screen with the same resolution. The extra breathing room is still nice to have, though, and a 1440p or 4K screen would likely bring serious trade-offs for both cost and battery life.

Keyboard, trackpad, and audio

Keyboard quality is one area where the LG Gram 2-in-1 suffers for its slim figure. While the key layout is spacious, the keys themselves feel mushy and don’t travel much. On a typing test, I averaged 101 words per minute, which is in line with my results for other laptops, but it’s not the most comfortable laptop for prolonged typing.

The bigger problem with the keyboard is the space bar. It's smaller than normal even by 13-inch laptop standards, and is flanked by unusually large Alt keys on either side. Without fully pressing it, the space bar rocks back and forth when I press it gently around the corners. At one point while I was typing the right edge became stuck. Pressing firmly on the center snapped the space bar back into place. We queried LG, and the company said it had not heard of this problem on any other unit.

lggram3 Jared Newman / IDG

The Gram has an unusually small space bar, flanked by unusually large Alt keys.

The LG Gram 2-in-1’s touchpad feels similarly skimpy, with a stiff clicking mechanism and a surface that doesn’t glide as smoothly as it could. It does use Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad drivers, though, so at least the cursor feels responsive, and you can use three- and four-finger gestures to switch apps, show the desktop, or cycle between desktops.

As with the keyboard and trackpad, LG also may have sacrificed sound quality in pursuit of a thin and light design. While laptops generally aren’t known for great speakers, the Gram 2-in-1 has one of the worst systems you’ll find on a high-end laptop, with tinny audio and practically no discernible bass. This could be a deal-breaker if you plan to use the laptop more for media consumption than productivity.

Performance

A 14-inch laptop doesn’t just give you more screen to work with. It also allows for extra space inside the laptop, which can lead to better thermal performance or a bigger battery. The LG Gram 2-in-1’s benchmarks bear this out, with scores that match or exceed those of many similar laptops—including both convertibles and conventional clamshells.

Battery life is the star of the show. The LG Gram 2-in-1 packs in a 72,765 Whr battery. That’s much larger than the batteries in any 13-inch laptop we’ve tested lately. The result is 709 minutes (11 hours, 49 minutes) of looping video playback at a brightness of 255 nits. HP’s Spectre x360 13 (2019) is still the champ, but no other ultrathin laptop comes close.

lg gram 14t990 battery life revision Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The LG Gram 2-in-1’s battery life is excellent, especially for a 14-inch laptop.

On PCMark 8’s Work 2.0 test, which cycles through a series of simulated productivity tasks, the Gram had an average score of 3,564, putting it ahead of several other laptops in its class and only lightly behind the Spectre x360 among 2-in-1s. In real-world use, the Gram’s cooling fan never had to kick into high gear while browsing the web, using the Tweeten Twitter client, and editing documents simultaneously. Lap use remained comfortable throughout.

lg gram 14t990 pcmark 8 revision Melissa Riofrio/IDG

For a convertible laptop, the Gram 2-in-1 shines in productivity benchmarks.

The LG Gram's HandBrake score shows how the CPU handles a longer task--in this case, encoding a movie for Android tablet playback. The 69-minute time is among the best in our comparison set. The Gram edged out some fellow 2-in-1s like the Spectre x360 13 and Lenovo ThinkPad L390 Yoga. Fan noise does become more noticeable under this kind of workload, but it’s not overly loud or whiny. Most of the heat concentrates around the center back of Gram’s underside, so you can still keep it propped on your legs with minimal discomfort.

lg gram 14t990 handbrake revision Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The LG Gram 2-in-1 does okay in Handbrake, and doesn’t get annoyingly loud or hot.

The benefits of a larger laptop are less pronounced in Cinebench, which tests CPU performance in short bursts. Here, the LG Gram 2-in-1 fell into the middle of the pack, with a single-thread score of 158 and a multi-thread score of 533.

lg gram 14t990 cinebench revision Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Cinebench isn’t a strong suit for the LG Gram 2-in-1, but the results are well in line with other laptops.

3D graphics are also a weak spot for the LG Gram 2-in-1, with 3DMark scores of 4,565 (overall), 4,280 (graphics), and 7,185 (physics). As with most other thin-and-lights, the Gram won’t be great for gaming anyway, and it’s clearly not a media consumption laptop given the Gram’s subpar audio quality.

lg gram 14t990 3dmark sky diver revision Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Don’t expect much from the LG Gram 2-in-1 in terms of gaming performance.

Should you buy the LG Gram 2-in-1?

While the LG Gram 2-in-1’s keyboard, trackpad, and speakers are weak spots, this is overall an enjoyable laptop to use thanks to its spacious screen, long battery life, and light weight. It’s probably not a great fit for a desktop replacement, but it’s excellent as a travel companion. The included stylus is a nice touch for drawing, writing, and marking up documents, even if there’s no place to put it. If you’re okay with dropping $1,500 for all that, the LG Gram 2-in-1 could be the convertible for you.

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