LG Gram 14Z980 Review

LG Gram (14Z980) review: Weighing only a kilogram, you'd expect the LG Gram to be light when it comes to performance – but this compact portable packs in plenty of power.
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Verdict

Looking for an on-the-go device with enough power to dabble in the likes of Photoshop? Then, right now, you'll struggle to find a better option than the LG Gram.

Pros

  • An ultra-portable machine weighing just 1kg
  • Speedy processing power
  • Superb battery life

Cons

  • 256GB storage isn't plentiful
  • Some might expect a dedicated GPU at this price

Key Features

  • Review Price: £1199
  • 14-inch Full HD, IPS
  • 8th-gen Intel Core i5-8250U
  • 8GB RAM (DDR4 2400MHz)
  • 256GB SSD
  • Weight: 1kg

What is the LG Gram 14Z980?

Think your diet was intense? Laptops have been slimming down and shedding flab all year, as manufacturers attempt to cram beefy components into ever more compact shells. Even the already slender Apple MacBook Air has lost a few grams. Set on being the new king of portables, however, is the outrageously light LG Gram 14Z980. 

With the most hefty laptop weighing in at 1.09kg, LG’s Gram range is seriously light. And as our review of the LG Gram 15Z980 proved, this portable is no lightweight when it comes to power, capable of running the likes of Photoshop and other processor-intensive software without issue. That said, the 15Z980 is the top-end model of the LG Gram, boasting an 8th-gen i7 CPU and and a 15.6-inch display.

The LG Gram 14Z980 reviewed here may not offer as much power as the 15Z980, but it’s certainly no slouch. And since it will save you a few hundred bucks, this may just be the best value option of the lot.

Related: Best Ultrabooks

LG Gram 14Z980 – Design and build

Weighing a fraction under 1kg, the LG Gram 14Z980 is super-light. Picking it up with two fingers is easy enough and you’ll hardly feel it when stowed in a bag.

With such an ultra-portable form, I never once hesitated taking it to a coffee shop. In fact, I’d actually pick it ahead of other laptops for office duties so I didn’t have to suffer another back-busting commute.

Being ridiculously light isn’t the Gram’s only party trick, however. Thanks to the super-thin bezel surrounding the screen, it’s also incredibly compact. Not only does this mean it’s easy to transport, but it’s also refreshing to use a laptop that takes up so little space on my desk. There’s no risk of accidentally knocking over a cup of coffee here.

LG Gram 14Z980

The LG Gram 14Z980 is only 16.5mm thick, making it incredibly easy to stash in a bag

The full-metal body feels premium, and since the device has passed several MIL-STD 810G military standard tests, it will survive quite the battering too. Being shock-resistant, you don’t need to worry if it comes crashing off the desk. This laptop should handle most accidents, whether it involves extreme temperatures, significant vibrations, or being exposed to your dust swamp of a bedroom.

Admittedly, if you flick the Gram’s display you’ll certainly see some wobble. Apply pressure and there’s even a noticeable amount of flex in the screen. However, I never got the impression that the device was about to break or snap. This laptop is as sturdy as you could wish for given its featherlight weight.

Aesthetically, LG has kept things simple – which isn’t a complaint. The ultra-skinny bezel, polished finish and silver lettering on the back all combine for a laptop that oozes class. Personally, I think Apple’s MacBook Air range looks slightly more suave, but few other ultra-portable laptops can match the Gram.

LG Gram 14Z980

With a microSD card slot, headphone jack, HDMI and USB-C port, the LG Gram 14Z980 puts the MacBook Air port selection to shame

But while Apple takes the gong for style, the LG Gram is a triumphant victor when its comes to its offering of ports. Despite its compact size, the Gram has three USB 3.0 ports (including USB-C), a microSD card reader, a HDMI port, a headphone jack and an Ethernet port. Okay, so the Ethernet port uses a USB-C connection, but you get an adapter in the box (something you don’t get with a MacBook) so that’s less of a problem. 

You’ll find the speakers on the underside of the LG Gram. Nevertheless, audio still sounds good when playing Netflix or Spotify. Well – it’s good for a laptop. I still preferred to use my headphones. You can crank up the volume to a decent degree, too.

Related: Apple MacBook Air 2018

LG Gram 14Z980 – Keyboard and touchpad

Despite its size, the Gram is afforded plenty of space for the keyboard. The keys are pleasingly chunky in width, with sizeable spacing between each one. You needn’t worry about your fingers cramping or accidentally hitting the wrong key.

Each key offers a decent amount of travel, too. It’s a genuine pleasure to type on the Gram’s keyboard. It can’t quite compete with the Dell XPS 15’s keyboard for that satisfying crunch, but the LG Gram is currently my vice captain for bashing out reviews.

LG Gram 14Z980

This back-lit keyboard is a joy to type on. The orange Function keys add a splash of colour to the design

Unlike the LG Gram 15Z980, you don’t get a number pad with the 14Z980 – although, personally, I’m not too disgruntled about this. What’s more annoying is that the Enter key has been reduced down to a single row. There have been a few occasions when I’ve accidentally hit the “#” key when wanting to start a new line, which has been mildly annoying. Then again, both the Apple MacBook and Dell XPS also commit this sin, so I can’t criticise LG too harshly.

It may be a minor addition, but I really like LG’s decision to add a splash of colour to the keyboard by way of the orange Function keys. This makes it far easier to find the volume and brightness shortcuts at a glance. Plus, it gives the keyboard a more flashy look. 

Becoming the standard with laptops, you get a fingerprint sensor on the power key, allowing for speedy sign-ins with Windows Hello. Don’t worry, security sceptics – this is entirely optional.

LG Gram 14Z980

The LG Gram 14Z980’s touchpad is as responsive as you could wish for

The touchpad, meanwhile, is smooth to the touch, ultra-responsive and an all-round joy to use. You could argue that LG could have easily made the touchpad bigger, but I like its size. I’ve found larger touchpads frustrating in use due to accidental swipes with my clumsy hands.

Related: Best laptop

LG Gram 14Z980 – Screen

It’s difficult to find a weak point with the Gram, and since LG knows a thing or two about making screens, the display certainly doesn’t let this portable down.

The Gram’s display is punchy and vibrant. I really enjoyed watching animated shows like BoJack Horseman and Big Mouth on the LG Gram, as the colours popped out like they would in a comic book. HD movies look fab, too.

With a visual colour temperature of 6666K, the Gram isn’t far off the 6500K sweet spot that offers the most natural and realistic colours. It’s just a little on the cooler side, but that’s barely noticeable to the naked eye.

LG Gram 14Z980

Colour stands out vividly on the LG Gram’s Full HD IPS display

If you’re watching content with plenty of shadows and dark scenes Daredevil, for example the LG Gram 14Z980 offers a decent amount of detail with a 823:1 contrast ratio. That’s nothing spectacular, but neither is it anything to be ashamed of. It’s essentially the standard to expect with laptops these days.

With a peak brightness of around 292 nits, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem working outside. There’s a lot of glare in our testing room, but I was still able to see Full HD content without issue. However, I did notice that the screen was quite reflective when viewed from certain angles.

LG Gram 14Z980

The LG Gram’s screen seems pretty reflective, but you shouldn’t have any issue viewing it from the front

The LG Gram isn’t just great for the likes of Netflix and YouTube; it’s also fantastic for design work. With an sRGB gamut coverage of 94.9%, colours are incredibly accurate for digital images. Photographers should be wary, though: the Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 colour gamuts came in at 67.5% and 70.6%. While these certainly aren’t bad scores, pro photographers should be aiming for something closer to 80%.

LG Gram 14Z980 – Performance

This model of the LG Gram 14Z980 houses an Intel Core i5-8250U processor with a base clock speed of 1.6GHz. For around £150 (at the time of writing), you can upgrade to an i7. That said, this Gram already showcases excellent processing speeds.

These are helped by a healthy helping of RAM: 8GB, which can be upgraded to a whopping 16GB. Not that you’ll need to. I rarely noticed any stuttering, with the Gram speeding through basic tasks with ease.

Spec Option 1 Option 2 (Tested) Option 3 Option 4 Option 5 – LG Gram (15Z980)
Display 13.3-inch Full HD, IPS 14-inch Full HD, IPS 14-inch Full HD, IPS 15.6-inch Full HD, IPS 15.6-inch Full HD, IPS
CPU 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U 8th Gen Intel Core i58250U 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U
RAM 8GB (DDR4 2400MHz) 8GB (DDR4 2400MHz) 8GB (DDR4 2400MHz) 8GB (DDR4 2400MHz) 8GB (DDR4 2400MHz)
Storage 256GB SSD 256GB SSD 256GB SSD 256GB SSD 256GB SSD
Battery Up to 22.5 hours (4-cell lithium) Up to 21.5 hours (4-cell lithium) Up to 21.5 hours (4-cell lithium) Up to 19 hours (4-cell lithium) Up to 19 hours (4-cell lithium)
Weight 0.96kg 1kg 1kg 1.09kg 1.09kg
Price £1149 £1199 £1349 £1249 £1499

Even with a screen-cluttering number of tabs open, the Gram keeps trucking along nicely. In addition, it always remains quiet – which was very welcome indeed, since I’m used to disturbing colleagues with thunderous fans.

In terms of actual benchmark results, I was surprised by how well the LG Gram 14Z980 scored. Its CPU proved to be satisfyingly speedy. With a PCMark result of 3170, it wasn’t far behind the processing power of the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 (3438), or Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (3309), which both have the power to pander to creatives. Geekbench churned out some equally impressive results for the LG Gram 14Z980, coming in at 4085 for the single core and 11,888 for the multi-thread.  

Device Geekbench single-core Geekbench multi-core PCMark 10 3DMark Ice Storm
LG Gram 14Z980 4085 11,888 3170 67,216
LG Gram 15z980 4687 12,282 3149 64,544
HP Envy x360 13 3305 7030 2626 46,434

With the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU, the LG Gram 14Z980 is capable of simple media tasks such as editing photos and videos. Its very respectable 3DMark Ice Storm score of 67,216 trumps even the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 (49,587). Most indie titles shouldn’t be an issue – don’t expect to be able to play the latest blockbuster video games, though.

You get a 256GB SSD, no matter which LG Gram model you opt for. This isn’t a lot of storage: if you’re a creative professional or a student who likes to save a lot of films onto their laptop, you’ll likely want to buy an external hard drive. On a more positive note, the read/write speeds are pretty decent at 550.6 MB/sec and 504.9 MB/sec respectively.

Related: Best Intel processor

LG Gram 14Z980 – Battery life

You’d think a compact, almost-weightless laptop with super-specced gubbins would have a measly battery life. Nope – LG has done the unthinkable by squeezing a claimed 21.5 hours out of the device’s four-cell lithium battery.

Did that figure hold up in our battery tests? It did. We played 4K video on a loop while the Gram’s brightness was set to 150 nits, and it took a whopping 12 hours for the battery to fall from 100% to 5%. That’s enough juice to watch all three extended versions of The Lord of the Rings films in one sitting. 

I didn’t have the time to test it for normal use to see whether it lasted the full 21.5 hours, but judging from the 4K looped-video test, LG’s touted figure certainly seems plausible, as long as the brightness is toned down drastically.

LG Gram 14Z980

The ‘Gram’ lettering on the back of the laptop’s case tops off a rather suave and professional design

Why buy the LG Gram 14Z980?

It’s hard to find a flaw with the LG Gram 14Z980. It offers solid performance, a sharp display and a stupendous battery life. Okay, so gamers and creatives may have liked a dedicated GPU, but to compensate you’re getting a machine so incredibly light and compact that it’s an absolute breeze to carry around.

Weighing in at 1kg, this device is even lighter than the new MacBook Air. And since the LG Gram 14Z980 costs the same price as the entry-model Air, it’s potentially a seriously good alternative to Apple’s offering.

It’s impossible to say which is the better laptop of the two, as Trusted Reviews has yet to test the MacBook Air. That said, the Gram’s superior selection of ports and meaty benchmark results mean that students, casual browsers or office goers certainly won’t be disappointed if they opt for the LG Gram 14Z980 as their on-the-move powerhouse machine. 

Verdict

This ultra-portable laptop is an all-round star. For those wanting to travel with as little weight as possible, but with enough power to dabble in the likes of Photoshop, there’s no better option currently available than the LG Gram.

Score