Lenovo may not be a name that perks up the ears of gamers the way that MSI or Alienware might, but it has a well-deserved reputation for quality, and the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 is bringing that same reputation to gaming. Don’t be put off by Lenovo’s straight-laced, business-friendly image—the IdeaPad Y500 casts perceptions aside with an aggressive design and a modular upgrade system that makes it easy to customize the system for your specific needs.
The IdeaPad Y500 sounds like something of a contradiction—a gaming PC from the traditionally business-minded Lenovo—but the design strikes a nice balance between the two extremes, dressing up the classic Lenovo black with burnished brushed aluminum across the lid, and red accents glowing from beneath each key and speaker grill. It may not be as aggressive or flashy as some of the boutique systems we’ve reviewed, but it’s far from generic.
Measuring 1.4 by 15.2 by 10.2 inches (HWD), the IdeaPad Y500 is smaller and more portable than many of the systems in this price range, which usually opt for 17-inch screens. It’s similar in size to the MSI GX60 1AC-021US, but it’s about a pound lighter, weighing in at 5.95 pounds. A lot of the lighter size and weight is due to the 15.6-inch display, which may not offer as much total real estate as a 17-inch display, but since it has a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, TFT color, 220-nit LED backlight, and 500:1 contrast ratio, you’ll barely notice the difference. Above the display is a 1-megapixel webcam, providing 720p pictures and video for all of your Skype and Web chat needs.
The IdeaPad Y500 benefits greatly from Lenovo’s excellent AccuType keyboard, a style of chiclet keyboard that we’ve consistently praised for its comfort and smooth key movement. In a visual twist to the chiclet keys, each key glows red, making it easy to see in the dark, and adding some edgy style to an otherwise basic design. While the keyboard was fantastic, the touchpad gave us pause. Out of the box, the mouse had occasional issues tracking smoothly, jittering as I drew my finger across the tracking surface. It wasn’t a constant problem, and all of the other features—such as right- and left-clicking and gestures—worked perfectly, but it was enough to be noticeable.
One less common feature on the IdeaPad Y500 is the Ultrabay, in which the drive bay can be equipped with one of four modular upgrades: a DVD drive, a second hard drive, a cooling fan, or (as seen in our review unit) a second graphics card. Given the laptop’s shorter battery life, it would have been nice to have an optional second battery.
This feature makes it easy to reconfigure your system to bump up the storage capacity, enhance the cooling for better performance, or add an optical drive to the mix, but it will cost you a bit. The second GPU (which comes bundled with this configuration) is the most expensive ($229.99 direct), but adding a second hard drive ($189.99 direct), optical drive ($69.99 direct) or removable fan ($29.99 direct) will add a bit to your out-of-pocket expense.
On the right side of the laptop, alongside the UltraBay, are jacks for headphone and microphone, as well as an always-on USB 2.0 port, perfect for charging your phone or iPod while the laptop is in sleep or hibernate mode. On the left of the laptop are two faster USB 3.0 ports, along with HDMI and VGA outputs for connecting to a second monitor or HDTV, Gigabit Ethernet, and a small button for Lenovo’s OneKey Rescue, a built in system recovery tool. On the front, in addition to a few indicator lights, is a multiformat card reader (SD, SD-Pro, MMC, MS, MS-Pro, XD). Inside, your networking needs are met thanks to an Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 adapter providing both 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Unless you opt for the removable DVD UltraBay module, there’s no optical drive on the IdeaPad Y500. The existing hard drive provides plenty of storage space on its own, however, with a spacious 1TB of storage space. Some of this is already occupied by preinstalled software, but you’ll still have a lot of free capacity even if you never remove any of the extras. Included on the drive are Microsoft Office Starter 2010, Lenovo Cloud Storage (a branded version of SugarSync), along with apps for Evernote, AccuWeather, RaRa streaming music, Amazon Kindle, and a link to eBay. Lenovo covers the IdeaPad Y500 with a one-year warranty, with toll-free support and assistance.
The IdeaPad Y500 is outfitted with the same 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM quad-core processor found in the Gigabyte P2742G-CF1 and MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition, but even when paired with 16GB of RAM, the performance isn’t quite on par with those systems. In PCMark 7 the IdeaPad Y500 scored a decent 3,478 points, but the Gigabyte P2742G-CF1 (4,564 points) and the MSI GT70 One-609US (5,182 points) both outpace it. Even in Cinebench, which tests the processor alone, the IdeaPad Y500 scored 6.31 points—still outpaced by the MSI GT70 One-609US (6.41) and the Asus G75VW-DH72 (6.44 points) despite the fact that all three utilize the same model CPU.
Despite the slightly lower performance scores, you’ll still be able to take on all of your needed processing tasks, be it gaming or multimedia editing. The IdeaPad Y500 cranked through our Handbrake video test in 37 seconds and our Photoshop test in 3 minutes 45 seconds.
While those tasks rely mainly on the CPU, the IdeaPad Y500 really does well in graphics-intensive tasks and gaming, thanks in no small part to the second Nvidia GeForce GT 650M added in the UltraBay. In 3DMark 11, it plowed through at Entry settings with 5,614 points, topping all but the MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition, which has a head start thanks to a higher-grade GPU. The dual GPU setup also led to solid gaming performance, pumping out 70 frames per second (fps) in Aliens vs. Predator at middle-quality and 1366-by-768 resolution, and 54 fps in Heaven at similar settings. Dial up the settings to 1080p resolution and high detail, and the scores scrape the bottom edge of playability (AvP 27fps, Heaven 23fps). Pull back a bit of the details and you should be able to enjoy smooth gameplay at 1080p without a stutter.
Though you may not venture far from an outlet with your gaming laptop, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 did fall short in our rundown battery test. Lasting only 2 hours 46 minutes, it fell far short of competitors, whether measured against the long-lasting Gigabyte P2742G-CF1 (4:22) or the shorter-lived Asus G75VW-DH72 (3:02).
There’s a lot to love about the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500, from the sleek design and aggressive looks, to the easy customization offered by the UltraBay modular upgrade system. While it does falter in a couple spots—most notably in battery life and general performance—it still does well in gaming. The Editors’ Choice MSI GX60 1AC-021US had similar spotty performance, but ultimately had better gaming performance and battery life, so it will remain our top pick. However, for the gamer on a budget, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 is worth considering, if only for the ease of upgrading and optimization.
|Processor Name||Intel Core i7-3630QM|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce GT 650M|
|Type||Gaming, Desktop Replacement|
|2nd Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce GT 650M|
|Processor Speed||2.4 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||External|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||1000 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc