LG Ultra PC Review: LG Tried To Make A MacBook Air

Hey there, reformed Mac user. What’s up? Need a fix? A methadone for your Mac OS X-cravings that only a gorgeous device can satisfy? You need LG’s Ultra PC: a Windows laptop that Mac owners can “come-down” on. Sort of.

What Is It?

The LG Ultra PC comes in two models, best separated by their processors.

The entry-level model is powered by the 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U processor which is capable of boosting up to 2.6GHz, as well as 4GB of on-board RAM. You get 128GB SSD for all your stuff, as well as a handy microSD card reader for extra storage.

The premium model (the one we tested for this review) is a little more powerful, with an Intel Core i7 4500 chip under the hood which clocks in at 1.8GHz (capable of boosting to 3GHz), 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD as well as the card reader.

Both models pack a beautiful 13.3-inch 1920x1080 (1080p) screen which thankfully doesn’t include touch capabilities. Both also pack in fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi capabilities, two USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI out and Windows 8.1 out of the box.

The Core i5 model will set you back a reasonable $1398, while the Core i7 model will run you $1998. Both are available right now from Harvey Norman.

What’s Good?

First of all, what a beautiful machine. Let’s just take a moment to admire the beautifully flat, thin and light design of the Ultra PC. Don’t be fooled into thinking the machine is going to let you down on usability though. The keyboard is sturdy and well spaced with just enough travel on the buttons (reminiscent of a MacBook keyboard), and the trackpad is big and functional enough for just about everything (you know, excluding gaming or image editing).

It’s just about the best-looking LG device we’ve seen in recent memory from the Korean gadget giant.

The screen is also gorgeous. It’s a jaw-dropping 1080p screen, with an edge-to-edge design and a minimal horizontal bezel. It’s very rare to see an Ultrabook (or Ultrabook clone) with so much screen. You almost feel like the screen is bigger than the chassis itself at times. It’s perfect.

Plus, you’re left without a touchscreen for people who want to clutch the touch-free past until the proverbial daybreak of reason.

The inclusion of a microSD card reader is a nice touch on the Ultra PC, because it means you can easily bounce files back and forth from your phone -- be it photos, documents or media -- just by using the same tiny yet robust storage medium.

The specs on such a small laptop are also amazing. It feels like the entry-level Ultra PC has almost everything you compromise on when you buy something like an entry-level Dell or an HP. It’s almost spec-for-spec the same as the new MacBook Air 13, only with the screen you’ve been dreaming of.

What’s Bad?

Sure it’s great at first, but the Ultra PC has some real problems which might prohibit you from getting the best experience possible from your new laptop.

Sure, it’s a thin and light laptop with loads of power, but that unfortunately results in a terrible battery result on the other side of the equals sign. Idle battery tests (where the computer is left in a low-power state with most of its ancillary systems turned off) garnered a result of just four hours and 14 minutes of juice. A stress test (where the CPU and integrated GPU are stretched by constantly refreshing an OpenGL animation) meant that the device only got one hour and 31 minutes. And that’s a problem.

The Ultra PC runs chips that are in Intel’s ultra-low power Haswell family. It’s the same processor that keeps a similarly-specced MacBook Air 13-inch alive for (in some cases) more than 12 hours. Why in the name of sanity does this one only get four at idle? That certainly needs to be better in future, or you had better make sure you don’t wander away from a power point for too long.

The device is also pretty rubbish for gaming with its integrated Intel HD 4400 graphics. Running benchmarks on Tomb Raider set to Low produced a minimum 13.2 frames per second, while the maximum was still a fairly sad 22.6 frames per second. Other games like Metro: Last Light were barely playable, with sub-10 frames per second reported across the board.

And sure the Ultra PC looks great, but when you go hands-on you immediately notice the ropey build quality. The screen is wafer-thin and worryingly bendy, as is the rest of the laptop, and it’s finished in this nasty matte coating which means you’re going to scuff the crap out of it within a few months.

So taking all this into account, isn’t $2000 a bit expensive for something which has clear faults? We think so.

Should You Buy It?

Unless there’s some heavy discounting of the device in the next few months, we say no. $2000 for a laptop which feels like it should have cost just over half that is an absurd proposition. There are loads of things this laptop needs before it gets a solid recommendation, right down to the finish and build quality of the machine itself.

Sure it’s fast, pretty and for the most part can get the job done, but it’s just too expensive and too flimsy to get over the line.