LG Gram 14 review: This thin, light 2-in-1 boasts exceptional battery life

The Gram strikes a nice balance between performance, weight, and battery life.

Credit: Ben Patterson/IDG

Performance

Overall, we were pleased by the LG Gram’s performance results. It’s no screamer, but it ably handles everyday productivity tasks and even some CPU-intensive chores, all while keeping its weight to a minimum and maximizing its on-battery power. We compared it to a handful of laptops with 10th-gen CPUs, along with a few 8th-gen predecessors. 

PCMark 8 Work 2.0 Conventional

Our first benchmark measures how well a given laptop can perform everyday computing duties such as web browsing, word processing, spreadsheet work, and video chat. Generally speaking, a PCMark 8 score higher than 2,000 means you can expect ultra-smooth Office performance. The LG Gram chalked up a score well above 3,000, as did the other, similar laptops included here. 

lg gram 14t90n raas8u1 pcmark8 Ben Patterson/IDG

The LG Gram chalks up an impressive PCMark 8 score, but so did the other laptops in our roundup.

Because most daily desktop chores demand only a single processor core, it’s worth noting that a six-core CPU won’t necessarily snag a better PCMark 8 score than a budget-minded dual-core chip. In other words, if you’re primarily shopping for an Office laptop, spending hundreds more for (say) a six-core Ice Lake CPU would be a waste of cash.

HandBrake

In our next benchmark, we use the free HandBrake video encoding tool to convert a 30GB MKV video file into a format suitable for Android tablets. It’s a CPU-intensive task that’s way more demanding than PCMark 8. Because it often takes more than an hour to complete, it also shows us how a given laptop handles heat over time.

lg gram 14t90n raas8u1 handbrake Ben Patterson/IDG

The LG Gram snags third place in our HandBrake benchmark, just a hair behind the HP Envy 13.

The LG Gram’s showing in our chart—in third place, just a whisker behind the HP Envy 13 and its quad-core Core i7-8565U processor—is pretty much what we expected. Remember, the Gram’s Comet Lake Core i7 CPU represents only a slight bump over its 8th-gen Whiskey Lake counterparts, so it’s expected to see the Gram in a virtual tie with the Envy and its 8th-gen Core i7 chip. Snagging first place is the Lenovo Yoga C940-14 and its cutting-edge Ice Lake processor.

Cinebench

While HandBrake is a fairly lengthy benchmark, Cinebench, which involves tasking a laptop to render a 3D image in real time, is like the 100-yard dash, generally taking only a few minutes to complete. Because it’s over so quickly, Cinebench tells us a lot about how a given laptop deals with quick bursts of intense CPU activity.

lg gram 14t90n raas8u1 cinebench Ben Patterson/IDG

We’re guessing that the LG Gram’s middling Cinebench score is a concession to the laptop’s 72 watt-hour battery.

The LG Gram’s Cinebench performance falls smack-dab in the middle of our chart, falling behind the HP Envy 13 and its 8th-gen Whiskey Lake Core i7 processor, as well as the Ice Lake-packing Lenovo Yoga C940 and C740.

So, why the performance gap (which, by the way, isn’t a massive one)? We’re guessing it has to do with the LG Gram’s massive 72 watt-hour battery, which is far bigger than the batteries in the Envy or the two Yogas. With a battery that large in such a slender chassis, something’s gotta give in heat management. It’s likely that LG dialed down the Gram’s CPU a tad in favor of better battery life. We’ll see if that decision paid dividends in a bit. (Spoiler: It does.)

3DMark Sky Diver 1.0

While the LG Gram isn’t a gaming laptop, we still put it through its graphical paces with 3DMark Sky Diver. Laptops with discrete graphics cards enjoy a distinct advantage in this test, while laptops with integrated graphics cores—such as the LG Gram—typically lag well behind. I only say “typically” because newer Ice Lake CPUs boast Intel’s new integrated Iris Plus graphics cores, which can sometimes rival entry-level discrete graphics cards such as Nvidia’s GeForce MX250.

lg gram 14t90n raas8u1 3dmark Ben Patterson/IDG

Because of its integrated Intel UHD Graphics core, the LG Gram delivers a meh 3DMark 8 Sky Diver performance.

No surprise: The Gram sits right next to the Lenovo Yoga C740, another Comet Lake 2-in-1 with integrated Intel UHD graphics. Up at the top of our chart is the HP Envy 13, with its discrete GeForce MX250 card. Just below the Envy, however, is the Yoga C940, which lands in a strong second place with its integrated Iris Plus GPU. 

What do the Gram’s Sky Diver results mean from a practical standpoint? Well, you’ll probably end up looking at a slideshow if you try to play Fortnite at anything but its lowest graphics settings, but the integrated UHD will do the job just fine when it comes to light photo and video editing.

Battery life

Now, here’s the LG Gram’s moment to shine. We test battery life by looping a 4K video using the stock Windows Movies & TV app, with screen brightness set at about 250 nits and the volume dialed to 50 percent, with earbuds plugged in.

Battery tests cannot replicate what anyone will experience in real life, given all the variables in system settings and activities. That said, the video rundown test is an accepted method of gauging the laptop’s longevity on a common and fairly lightweight task. Your mileage will vary.

lg gram 14t90n raas8u1 battery life Ben Patterson/IDG

Here’s where the LG Gram’s (moderate) performance compromises pay off: great battery life.

As you can see from the chart, the Gram scored the second-best battery drain score (828 minutes, or 13.8 hours) in our comparison, bested only by an extraordinary result from the similarly configured ASUS ExpertBook, which has otherwise lagged in overall performance. The Gram’s 72 watt-hour battery is the largest of those in our roundup, followed by the ExpertBook’s 66-watt-hour battery and the Lenovo Yoga C940’s 60-watt-hour battery. 

So, how did the ASUS ExpertBook snag a better battery-drain score than the Gram with a smaller battery? Well, ASUS was clearly aiming to maximize battery life as much as it could in a 2.2-pound design, and it did so by significantly dialing down the laptop’s performance (as we saw in its HandBrake and Cinebench results). LG went in a different direction. The Yoga C940 boasts better performance than the ExpertBook or the Gram while sticking close to the Gram’s battery-drain score, but at 2.97 pounds, it’s significantly heavier than both.

Bottom line

In the end, it’s all about priorities. We think the LG Gram strikes a nice balance among exceptional battery life, an impressively lightweight design, and solid quad-core performance. We have some minor quibbles, such as the lackluster audio, but we think the LG Gram makes an excellent choice for mobile professionals looking for a versatile and light 2-in-1 system that gets things done without skimping on battery life.

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Ben Patterson

PC World (US online)
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