About the author: Joe reviews hardware based on how it fits into his life. Joe is a sales professional that manages a team, travels weekly, a part-time professor and gamer. He is a father and husband who also has the privilege of being GWW’s President.
Lenovo is not known for building gaming PCs. I addressed this more than a year ago with the the Y510p. A laptop running an Intel Core i7 processor with two Nvidia GT 750m GPUs. Lenovo marketed that laptop, which was popular among the hardcore, as an “entertainment” and “multimedia” machine. The hardcore crowd knew there was enough under the hood to take on the challenge of games such as Skyrim and The Witcher 2. When I came upon the Y50 laptops and read that Lenovo labeled the series as “gaming” machines, I was beyond curious. How would these laptops perform? I took two Y50s and ran them through a few stress tests.
The two models I have are distinguished in only one way: the display. The UHD model has a 4K screen, while the other has a 1080p display that is not as bright nor as crisp as it’s spiritual older brother, the Y510p. All of the Y50s, even those that I have not tested, vary only by storage space, display, and memory size. The distinguishing component for any gaming laptop is a discrete (non-integrated) graphics card. All of the Y50s use an Nvidia GTX 860M. This 4GB graphics card is a true performer but it also demands a lot of power. These laptops won’t last more than 3 hours without being plugged in. This is in line with other gaming laptops.
For this article, and the companion video, I’m testing the Y50 UHD with a display capable of 4K resolution and the same laptop with a 1080p screen.
The primary challenge for any gaming laptop manufacturer is design. They have to cram a lot of powerful components together into a device that is portable and not prone to overheating, while being visually appealing. Many manufacturers, such as ASUS and MSI, think they know what gamers want. Their gaming laptops offer strong, bold design chassis that are polarizing. They really only attract the eye of the hardcore gamer, and consequently have priced their laptops closer to $2,000. Certainly there is value in attacking a narrow section of the market, but that’s not what Lenovo have done with the Y50. Starting at $1,399.99, the Y50 is not polarizing.
The Y50 is encased in a black aluminum chassis with a sprinkle of red in the corners and inside the USB ports. When you open the lid you’ll find a lot more red: the keyboard and speakers are accented with red coloring. The keyboard has red lighting underneath which can be toggled on or off. The keyboard is excellent: it’s large and has strong resistance when pressing any of the keys. The display is angular and sharp but lacks the brightness of the Y510p from 2013. Also different from last year’s model is the integrated battery; it’s no longer designed to be user-replaceable.
Have I mentioned the Y50 is powerful? Well, it is. Let’s start with the common factors between these two models. The CPU is a fourth-gen Intel i7-4710HQ, which operates at 2.5GHz with a turb boost available up to 3.5GHz. The RAM is 16GB operating at 1,600MHz. Lastly, the graphics card has 4GB of dedicated RAM supporting an Nvidia GTX 860M. The GTX implies a lot of horsepower is behind the Y50, and that’s true. But these are laptop components and really don’t compare to what a desktop PC can produce. The biggest reason is power. A solid desktop gaming rig is powered by at least 600W, whereas the Y50, and other gaming laptops, max out at 300W. Battery life is affected heavily by gaming, but I managed to get just over 3 hours of life out of one charge without any gaming. The activities I did included typing, browsing the web, and watching Netflix in windowed mode. The integrated Intel 4600 graphics card is used for these activities and others that aren’t graphically intensive.
The other standard components include a dual-band Intel wireless card, Ethernet port, 720p HD camera, media card reader, HDMI out, one USB 3.0 port and 2 USB 2.0 ports that are “always-on.” The built-in JBL speakers are stronger than I expected - but I mostly game with an Afterglow: Fener anyhow.
The glaring difference between these two Y50s is the ultra high-definition screen of the Y50 UHD. It’s hard to express the quality of this screen without showing it. If you’re a numbers-person, you’ll appreciate the resolution: 3840×2160. There are some random issues you’ll encounter with Windows unable to readjust particular apps or images, leaving them very small on the screen. This is uncommon - it happened only a few times and was mostly temporary. Speaking of numbers, I ran the Y50 laptops through 3D Mark performance tests and got some strong results. Comparing the scores to two desktop-gaming rigs, I feel it’s impressive the y50’s performed as well as they did.
Specifications - Differences in Green
The Y50 is a well designed powerhouse that can play most new games on high settings. For less than other over-styled gaming laptops, you get top-tier components and the backing of a trusted brand. Whether you choose the 4K version, touchscreen, or the 1080p model, you’re getting very good gaming performance; and value. The 4K model offers a very appealing display with the trade-off an OS that sometimes can’t render the text correctly. You’re likely buying this for gaming as your primary function, in which case you should be quite satisfied.