The LG Gram 16 is one of the few large-screen ultrabooks currently available in stores, a computer that offers the lightweight construction, portability, specs, and capabilities of an Evo certified ultrabook, but paired with a larger display. This was made possible with the introduction of 16-inch 16:10 panels in 2021, and this Gram 16 is among the first portable products to get this sort of screen.
Now, most people might not want a large screen on their ultraportable laptop, as that also translates in a larger footprint and an overall larger device to carry around. However, some of you will surely appreciate the convenience of working on this sort of screen, which offers extra space for your applications, but still in a slim and lightweight product. And that’s the LG Gram 16, which weighs just 1.2 kilos (2.6 lbs), plus .3 kilos (.6 lbs) for the charger. Combined, they’re about the same weight as a 13-inch MacBook Air and its charger.
What makes the Gram 16 especially interesting is that despite its lightweight, it still offers the IO, the inputs, the performance, and the battery life you should expect from a thin-and-light ultrabook in 2021, so doesn’t compromise on these ends, unlike some of the other ultra-lightweight laptops that we’ve tested in the past.
So what’s the catch then? Well, the Gram 16 is an expensive laptop, lacks in audio, and is not as sturdily built as I’d perhaps want, but these aside, it’s a good ultrabook. We’ll get in-depth in the review down below.
Specs as reviewed – LG Gram 16
||2021 LG Gram 16 16Z90P
||16 inch, WQXGA 2560 x 1600 px, 16:10 aspect ratio, IPS, non-touch, glossy, LG Philips LP160WQ1-SPA1 panel
||Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7, 4C/8T
||Intel Iris Xe
||16 GB LPDDR4x -4266 dual-channel (soldered)
||1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD (SK Hynix PC601 1TB HFS001TD9TNG-L2A0A)
||Wireless 6 Gig+ (Intel AX201) 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.1
||2x USB-A gen2, 2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, mic/headphone, HDMI 2.0b, microSD card reader, Lock
||80 Wh, 65W USB-C charger
||356 mm or 14.01” (w) x 243 mm or 9.58” (d) x 16.8 mm or 0.66” (h)
||2.62 lbs (1.19 kg)+ .64 lbs (.29 kg) charger and cables, EU version
||backlit keyboard, HD webcam, stereo bottom speakers, finger sensor in the power button
Design and first look
The LG Gram 16 is entirely built out of magnesium alloys, with a clean design and a rougher texture to the materials, the kind the offers excellent grip and fends off smudges and scratches fairly well Many of the magnesium alloys that I’ve touched in the past felt somewhat like plastic, but this doesn’t not, thanks to this texture of the materials.
The entire thing is surprisingly lightweight for its size, and you’ll immediately be able to tell that when you get this out of the box. It just feels surreal.
Despite that, the build isn’t bad. The laptop doesn’t creak or bend when grabbed or even when picked up from a corner, but the lid-cover and the keyboard-deck do flex noticeably, and it’s the kind of flex that might bother you with daily use. That being the case, I’d be extra careful when having this in my backpack and make sure to place it on some sort of protective sleeve. LG doesn’t include one, so you’ll have to buy it on the side.
Aside from this annoying flex, I have very little to complain about the quality and ergonomics of this laptop. I’m a big fan of the very clean design and subtle LG and Gram branding elements, and I also like the huge screen with minimal bezels, but still enough room at the top for a camera. No IR, just a standard HD camera, and there’s also a figner-sensor baked into the power button.
Speaking of the design, LG offers this series in either this black color that we have here, or in a more common silver model. I prefer this one, but the silver should be fine as well, especially since it’s paired with a black keyboard, much like on a MacBook. Other OEMs tend to put silver keys on their lighter color schemes, and those have awful contrast and reliability with the white backlighting. Not the case here.
As far as the practicality goes, this laptop is surprisingly well anchored on a desk, thanks to its small, but very grippy rubber feet on the D Panel, and fairly friendly on the wrists as well. The edges and corners are only mildly blunted, but thanks to the very slim profile of this laptop and the spacious arm-rest, your wrists will rarely come in contact with that front lip.
The hinges are solid as well and do a good job at keeping the screen as set up, while allowing to lift it open and adjust the angle with a single hand. I would have liked for the display to be able to lean back to 180 degrees, that’s very useful on a portable computer, but the screen on this Gram 16 only goes back to about 150 degrees.
As for the IO, that’s lined on the edges, and overall richer than I would have expected on this sort of a thin laptop. There are two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, two USB-A ports, a full-size HDMI connector for video, a headphone jack, a micro SD card reader, and a Lock, for security. My single gripe, and it’s minor, is that both USB-C ports are on the left edge, so you can only connect the charger on that side; it would have been convenient to have them split left and right.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is full-size with properly sized and spaced keys and a narrower NumPad section, paired with a large glass clickpad.
This types much like most of the other ultrabooks, with limited stroke depth and somewhat shallow feedback, but is overall OK once you get used to it. You will, however, notice that the chassis flexes when you press the keys in the middle of the deck, and that I found to be rather annoying during my time with the laptop. On top of that, I also found this keyboard to be louder than on most other ultrabooks, especially the Space key.
The keys are backlit and the white LEDs get bright and uniform enough. I did observe a fair bit of light creeping out from underneath the Shift/CapsLock, Enter/SHift and the arrow keys, and perhaps LG could have been more careful with that.
By default, the keyboard is set to never switch off automatically, but there’s an option to change that in the LG Control Center app. Once it does, a gentle swipe over the clickpad will reactivate the lighting, just the way it should, and I also appreciate that LG put a physical LED indicator in the CapsLock key.
For mouse, LG went with a large glass surface with Precision drivers. It worked flawlessly during my time with the laptop. I will also add that this is positioned centered on the laptop’s chassis, and not aligned to the left under the Space key, a detail I know some of you will appreciate. The clickpad is also solid and doesn’t rattle with taps, and the physical clicks are smooth and fairly quiet.
For biometrics, there’s a figner-sensor integrated within the power button, which is a recessed key in the top-right corner of the deck. No IR camera, though.
As mentioned already, there’s a high-res 16-inch 16:10 screen on this LG Gram 16, with small bezels all around and an excellent-quality panel, perfectly suited for daily use and even creative work, thanks to the wide color-gamut coverage.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with a X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: LG Philips LP160WQ1-SPA1;
- Coverage: 99.7% sRGB, 83.7% AdobeRGB, 98.5% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.12;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 326.67 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 23.96 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1334:1;
- White point: 7800 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.24 cd/m2;
- PWM: No (to be further tested).
Our sample required calibration out-of-the-box, but ended up well-balanced and uniform in both luminosity and colors afterward. I also haven’t noticed obvious light-bleeding on our sample.
However, there are a few aspects you should keep in mind here. First off, LG went with a glossy-plastic finishing on top of this panel, which paired with the only average maximum brightness, leads to a lot of annoying glare and reflections in bright environments or outdoors. So you’ll want to keep this inside, and in the shade.
There’s no touch support either, despite the glossy finishing, and no layer of protective glass that would have otherwise structurally reinforced the lid, but would have also added in extra weight. However, LG does offer the Gram 16 2-in-1 series in some regions, very similar to this clamshell model, but with a 360-degrees touchscreen instead.
That aside, I’ll also mention that this doesn’t get very dim at the lowest brightness setting, and that might also be an issue for those of you that like to use the laptop at night, in the dark.
Finally, don’t forget this is a standard 60 Hz panel with response times in the 40+ ms GtG, so not ideal for any sort of gaming.
Hardware, performance, and upgrade options
Our test version is the standard configuration available for the 2021 LG gram 16, with the Intel Tiger Lake Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16 GB of LPDDR4-4266 memory, a fast 1 TB SK Hynix SSD, and the Intel Iris Xe graphics chip embedded within the Intel processor.
This is also a retail unit identical to the ones available in stores and we’re running our tests on the latest software available as of mid-August 2021.
Hardware-wise, this LG Gram series is based on the 11th gen Tiger Lake Core platform that powers many other ultraportables of this generation, and the Core i7-1165G7 configuration is the one available in most regions. It’s paired with a fast SK Hynix NVMe drive, 16 GB of LPDDR4s memory, and fast wireless.
The components are soldered on the motherboard, with the exception of the SSD, which is upgradeable. There are two M.2 slots inside, so you can easily add another SSD to expand your storage space, if you want to.
Getting inside to the components takes some work, as all these crews are hidden behind plastic caps and underneath all the rubber feet on the back of this laptop. Careful they’re also of different sizes. Once the screws are out, you’ll also need a suction cup to pry out that back panel, and be extra careful with it, it’s very thin and flimsy feeling, so don’t break it!
Specs aside, for the most part, this LG Gram 16 is meant for daily use and multitasking, which it handles smoothly, quietly, and cooly.
It can also run some workloads, though, such as perhaps Photoshop for photo editing or some programming software, but don’t expect a whole lot in performance from this implementation.
LG offers three power profiles to choose from in the LG Control Center control app, with Optimal meant for daily use and Performance as a higher-power option. As you’ll see down below, this profile allows the CPU to run at ~16-18W of sustained power in demanding loads, which makes this LG Gram 16 a lower-power implementation of the Tiger Lake hardware, not on par with the most powerful designs out there.
Oh, and as long as we’re talking about the software, I don’t like that LG preinstalls a bunch of separate apps on this laptop for general control, screen control, updates, troubleshooting, etc etc. I’d prefer having one centralized control app instead. They do include a fairly useful app called Virtoo by LG that helps you easily transfer files from your phone to the laptop, and it works both with IPhones and Android phones.
Performance and benchmarks
To look at the performance, we’ll start with the Cinebench R15 loop test which looks for sustained CPU performance in multi-threaded loads.
On Performance, the i7 processor kicks in hard at 30+W of power, but then it quickly drops and stabilizes at around 18 W for the reminding of the test. The CPU keeps rather hot during this time, at roughly 90 degrees C, with the fans spinning quietly at 37+ dB.
On Optimal, the CPU fluctuates between 10 and 18W of sustained power, with quieter fans. The performance is throttled when the CPU hits 90 C, causing the drop in power. Details below.
To put these findings in perspective, here’s how the Core i7-1165G7 in this laptop compares to other Intel 11th gen implementations at various power settings, as well as some AMD-based ultrabooks.
It’s competitive against the Intel models at similar power levels, but the i7-1165G7 can deliver higher sustained scores in beefier products with more advanced thermal designs, such as the Razer Blade Stealth. As for the AMD models, the 6C and 8C Ryzen 5000 U processors run circles around the i7-1165G7 even in more power-efficient packages, and we would have gotten the same results if LG would have implemented AMD hardware on this Gram 16 series. That’s not an option for now, but hopefully will be with the future 2022 Gram 16 update.
We also ran the 3DMark CPU profile test, for a broader look at the CPU’s performance here.
We then went ahead and further verified our findings with the more taxing Cinebench R23 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95, on the Performance profile.
Finally, we also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit failed the test, which suggests that the GPU performance drops once the heat builds up. That’s no surprise and is in line with the CPU stress findings that show how the CPU gets power-capped in sustained loads after the initial burst of power.
With that in mind, we also ran some benchmarks, on the Performance profile.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 4981 (Graphics – 5625, CPU – 10382, Combined – 1888);
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid: 15223 (Graphics – 20068, CPU – 6429);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 1762 (Graphics – 1608, CPU – 3868);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 2796;
- PassMark10: Rating: 4023 (CPU mark: 11091, 3D Graphics Mark: 3713, Disk Mark: 23167);
- PCMark 10: 4839 (Essentials – 10138 , Productivity – 6726 , Digital Content Creation – 4512);
- GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1535, Multi-core: 5166;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 746 cb, CPU Single Core 207 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 1796 cb, CPU Single Core 527 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 4938 cb, CPU Single Core 1356 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 75.55 s.
These are solid single-core CPU scores and fair multi-core CPU and GPU scores for the kind of hardware available in this laptop.
This Gram 16 performs closely to other ultrabooks based on Tiger Lake hardware, such as the Dell XPS 13, or the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, or the Asus ZenBook 14 UX425. It’s not faster in most cases, despite it being a larger product, and that’s because it’s internally the same design as the more compact LG Gram 14, the direct competitor of all those ultrabooks.
As far as gaming goes, we’ve shown you in previous reviews that the Iris Xe chip can do 30+ fps in casual titles at FHD resolution and low graphics settings. Thing is, the screen on this Gram 16 is 2560 x 1600 px, so nearly twice the number of pixels over an FHD resolution, thus the performance is greatly impacted and almost cut in half. So you should not realistically expect to run games on the screen’s native 1600p resolution on this laptop, the hardware can’t handle this kind of chores.
Furthermore, with the i7-1165G7 only running at only 16-18W sustained in games, this implementation only delivers roughly 60-70% of the gaming performance this chip would be capable of in a more complex design.
Nonetheless, if you’re willing to switch to FHD and accept that slight fuzziness that derives from running the screen at a non-standard resolution, here’s what you’ll get:
|FHD, lowest settings
||LG Gram 16,
Core i7-1165G7 16+W
|IdeaPad Flex 5,
Ryzen 7 5500U 24W
Ryzen 5 5500U 15W
Core i7-1165G7 19W
|ZenBook Duo UX482,
Core i7-1165G7 25W
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)
||68 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
||75 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||83 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
|Dota 2 (DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
||51 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||53 fps (41 fps – 1% low)
||49 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (44 fps – 1% low)
||64 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, no AA)
||33 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
||24 fps (21 fps – 1% low)
||23 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||26 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||32 fps (26 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||68 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||47 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||48 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (47 fps – 1% low)
||83 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
|NFS: Most Wanted (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||60 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (49 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (Vulkan, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||23 fps (12 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||26 fps (15 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||35 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Low Preset)
||41 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||36 fps (31 fps – 1% low)
||44 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||34 fps (14 fps – 1% low)
||24 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||22 fps (12 fps – 1% low)
- Dota 2, NFS – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock, Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The Gram 16 gets a basic thermal module with a single fan and a short heatpipe.
Air comes in through the back edge and from the bottom, which is only partially open over the CPU, and closed over the fan, despite that textured grill suggesting otherwise, and is then blown out through a very narrow exhaust placed just under the screen. This is not an ideal design and actually causes the bezel and the screen area around it to heat up with demanding loads, reaching temperatures in the high 40s and 50s. In all fairness, though, I doubt you’d be getting this laptop for demanding loads or games.
Everything’s fine with daily use and multitasking, with the fans keeping idle with light use and barely kicking in with multitasking, and pleasant internal and external temperatures. I’ve seen some reports of this laptop heating up when charging, but I haven’t noticed that to be an issue during my time with this unit.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Optimal Mode, fan idle
*Gaming – Performance mode – playing NFS: Most Wanted for 30 minutes, fan at 33+ dB
For connectivity, there’s WiFi 6 Gig+ and Bluetooth 5 through an Intel module on this laptop. It performed well with our setup and the signal and performance remained strong at 30-feet, with obstacles in between.
Audio is handled by a set of stereo speakers that fire through grills placed on the underside. Due to their placement, they’re fairly easy to muffle while using the laptop on the lap, so keep that in mind. The audio quality is OK for ultrabook speakers, but they don’t get very loud (74-75 dB at head-level in our tests) or rich, greatly lacking in the bass department. You’ll most likely want to use headphones if you care about sound quality here.
As for the camera, it’s HD-quality, so not much, and placed at the top of the screen. It might be disabled by default, and you’ll need to press Fn + F4 to deactivate Secure Mode for it to work.
There’s a large 80Wh battery inside this LG Gram 16, which is fair sized for this sort of a laptop. LG could have even included a bigger battery, but chose a consistent internal design between the different screen sizes available for the Gram series.
Here’s what we got in terms of battery life, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~60 brightness).
- 11 W (~7+ h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Optimal + Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 8.5 W (~9+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Optimal + Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 7 W (~11 h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Optimal + Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 12.5 W (~6+ h of use) – browsing in Edge, Optimal + Better Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
Other reviews mention longer runtimes, so perhaps you can squeeze more by opting for other power settings. I haven’t looked into them.
LG pairs the laptop with a compact and lightweight 65W charger that plugs in via USB-C, a fair match for this configuration. It’s a dual-piece design with long cables. For some reason, though, a full recharge took 3+ hours on our sample, without any quick charging, and I was expecting it to charge much quicker.
Price and availability- LG Gram 16
This 2021 version of LG Gram 16 is widely available in stores in most regions of the world.
It’s currently listed at $1599 MSRP in the US, 2100 CAD in Canada, 1499 EUR in Germany, and 1299 GBP in the UK, all in the configuration tested here with the Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512GB / 1TB of SSD storage. It’s especially pricey in North America, but somewhat more competitively priced for what it is here in Europe.
Various discounts might apply at the time you’re reading the article, so follow this link for updated prices and configurations in your region.
Final thoughts- LG Gram 16
There aren’t many full-size laptops that offer the kind of portability, premium craftsmanship, display quality, and daily-use experience you’ll be getting with this LG Gram 16, and that’s why this will be a good choice for a higher niche of potential buyers out there.
The ultra-light construction and the high-res and color-rich 16:10 display are the key selling point of this series, but LG made sure this laptop doesn’t grossly compromise on anything else either. Some things could be improved though, such as the mediocre audio quality and the panels used for the main chassis and the lid, which are flexing too much for my liking, and it’s up to you whether you can live with these shortcomings or not.
However, before deciding on this laptop I’d also carefully consider that it’s mostly meant for daily use and multitasking, and not really powerful enough to tackle challenging work. That might push away some of you that are looking into this for creative work on the go, given the larger screen and awesome panel quality, but it’s best to only get this with realistic expectations.
Finally, LG sure asks a pretty penny for this product in comparison to a standard ultrabook with similar specs. The premium build, the format and that screen are sure worth a premium, but in the end, it’s up to you to decide whether this is competitive in your region or not. As far as I can tell, it seems to be more fairly priced against the other options here in Europe than in the US/Canada, which is rather surprising, as most OEMs actually sell their products for less over there.
As for the competition, the Huawei MateBook D16 and the Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro are other portable 16-inchers you might want to consider, surely not as lightweight as the Gram, but also significantly more powerful. Furthermore, there are some 15-inch models with standard 16:9 screens you could consider as well, such as the Acer Swift 5 15, Asus ZenBook Pro 15, Schenker VIA 15, or the Samsung Galaxy Book ION 15, all of them different blends of performance and portability. Finally, this list of the lightest laptops currently on the market should also come in handy in your search. Up to you to choose what best fits your needs, but in general, the lighter you’ll go, the more you’ll have to compromise on specs and performance.
This wraps up our review of the 2021 LG Gram 16 16Z90P, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this product, and whether you think it’s a solid buy or not.
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