LG’s latest attempt to blend ultra-thin design with high-end performance may have solved one of the company’s most pernicious problems. The Gram 14, announced today at CES, is similar to its predecessor in many ways. There is now a touchscreen option, but the device is just as thin and weighs the same as the 2015 model, coming in at just 2.16 pounds. That’s still light enough to retain the weight crown for its size class. Yet the real differentiator this go around is battery life. LG claims the Gram 14 tops out at 23 hours on a single charge.
It’s a bold claim, especially considering the flaws of the original Gram, itself a pretty brazen MacBook clone. In trying to bring down the laptop’s profile and weight, LG ended up with a overpriced gadget with abysmal battery life. In our review, we found the Gram struggled to last more than just five hours. Whatever LG has achieved between then and now would have to be a remarkable feat of engineering, because 23 hours of battery life is a more than double the claims of Apple other PC competitors. Of course, the Gram 14 will have to be tested when we get our hands on a review unit, and it may fail to achieve that milestone under heavy use. Still, even 15 to 17 hours would be a stunning feat.
In fact, information revealed in a press release issued only on LG’s South Korean website indicates the company is using a 10-year-old battery benchmark test, MobileMark 2007, to hit the 23.6-hour milestone. A more recent MobileMark benchmark tool for 2014 has a more realistic estimate of about 17 hours of battery life, which is still an impressive jump over the 2015 model.
LG has provided some details as to how it achieved the boost in battery performance while retaining the light and thin frame. The Gram 14 now has a full metal body, which the company says is constructed out of a nano carbon magnesium alloy. The metal is a first for a LG product, and could be one of the company’s secrets behind the device’s longevity.
By producing weight loss in its material design, LG may have been able to squeeze more juice into the product. And it looks like the new 60Wh battery — a 73 percent jump over its predecessor — is evidence the Gram 14 had some breathing room. LG says there’s also a new display technology behind the screen bezel that allows the IPS panel to achieve its brightness and resolution benchmarks while cutting down on component weight.
In the general spec department, the LG Gram 14 and its 13-inch and 15-inch counterparts will pack Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors, up to 512GB of solid-state storage, up to 16GB of RAM, and 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution IPS touchscreens. Each one of the new models contains a Intel HD Graphics 620 chip. There is a microSD card slot, but not a full SD card slot. Of course, these models now come with USB-C charging ports.
Still, we don’t know for sure whether the device will live up to the company’s claim of even 17 hours. LG is also holding off on announcing pricing and availability for the Gram 14 outside South Korea. The original Gram’s biggest issue was that it asked an Apple premium for a device out performed by far cheaper laptops. So the true test here will be whether this latest Gram has finally cracked the right blend of component choice and material design to achieve a battery that lasts — and all for the right price.
Update 8:40PM ET, 1/4: LG press release information from its South Korean website clarifies that the company is using a 10-year-old battery benchmark test to claim its new Gram 14 has 23 to 24 hours of battery life. We have updated the headline and made this fact clear in the body of the article.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said the new Gram 14 does not come with a touchscreen display, when it does. We regret the error.